Freedom9 freeStor 4020 NAS
Originally designed for Intel by a networking company in Taiwan called Lanner, we have the star of the show with us here right now. It's the Freedom9 freeStor 4020 which expands on all the previous hardware backup solutions we have looked at so far in this guide. For one, it is a network attached storage (NAS) device - basically that means it connects to your local area network, which enables a lot of extra features over a typical storage device that is connected via USB or Firewire or e.SATA. It's an actual computer system based on a Linux operating system, which makes it very powerful in its abilities and is perfect for SOHO or small businesses.
The freeStor 4020 allows for very flexible storage options. It supports up to four SATA hard drives (IDE is not supported) and there are a lot of officially supported (tested to work) drives but most should work just fine but 750 GB drives are apparently supported only in RAID 5 + hot spare configuration. Installation of the drives is as simple as screwing each into the provided drive racks and sliding them into the system. They then easily connect to the PCB board inside the system with a little push - then lock them into place, in case anyone decides it would be fun to try pulling the drives out. You can setup your drives in RAID 0 for best performance but that doesn't provide any redundancy or if you need redundancy (and that would be recommended for a device like this) you can choose from RAID 1, 5 or 10, depending on how many drives you intend on using.
We tried setting up three drives in RAID 5 and it was a very quick and simple process. Once you've connected the freeStor 4020 to your LAN, just login and visit the appropriate section of the web interface. It's a simple interface and everything is well documented and works well. From there you can control the system completely, setup which files and folders you want to be shared on the network and so on.
It comes with two USB ports on the back of the system which allows you to add extra storage to the system from a USB pen drive, for example. The system is even able to act as a print server which is handy if you don't want to keep one of your other computer systems on in your house, all of the time. As you can see at the back, there is a single 60mm Sunon fan which provides the hard drives with cooling - it's quiet and seems to provide good cooling inside the case. The fan at the bottom of the unit is the power supply fan. Speaking of which, the PSU is Seventeam 204 watt maximum unit with a total of 168 watts on the 12v rails, which is used for the hard drives. Considering most 7,200 RPM SATA hard drives don't draw more than 25 watts of power, the PSU should be able to provide a more than adequate power supply.
One of the most impressive aspects of the freeStor 4020 system is the software which it comes with. The included Disk Safe Express software (doesn't work in Windows Vista yet but a new version should be out soon) allows for very impressive backup of data and recovery of your system. The software will monitor your data and you can schedule it to backup, say, every day at 3.00am. It will even detect what data has changed since the last backup and make a copy of it. You can even choose to do a complete system backup which takes a full system backup.
I think many of us have been in the situation where we have installed some new software or overclocked the system too far, reboot and then discover in horror that your MBR or some Windows system files have been corrupted. Simply hook the freeStor 4020 up to your computer via network cable and as long as your motherboard supports it (boot from LAN), you can be up and running very quickly. This will allow you to continue working and recover your data stored on the freeStor 4020 later.
Since this is not actually a review but more of a look at the product as a backup solution in this guide, we're not going to provide a rating but we are going to give it out TweakTown "MUST HAVE" Best Features Award as it is the best backup solution we've ever used. It's not cheap at around $650 USD but as we always say, you get what you pay for and you're getting a lot with the freeStor 4020.