My company is considering Network Attached Storage (NAS) as a low-cost, low-overhead storage solution for our remote offices. What's your impression of the Quantum Snap Server 12000, the Maxtor MaxAttach NAS 6000, and the Dell PowerVault 755N?

Choosing the best storage solution means finding the feature set that best fits your organization's storage requirements. I researched the three servers you're interested in and wrote the following short evaluations.

Quantum Snap Server 12000. The Snap Server 12000 is Quantum's most recent Snap server entry in the NAS market. Whereas earlier Snap solutions fit the needs of the small office environment, Quantum developed the Snap Server 12000 for the larger and more profitable enterprise storage market. The Snap OS is based on Linux and provides both Common Internet File System (CIFS) and NFS compatibility at the share, file, and directory level. The Snap Server 12000 ships with 12 80GB EIDE hard disks, which you can configure in various RAID flavors, including RAID 5, RAID 1, and RAID 0, as well as Just a Bunch of Disks (JBOD). The server has N+1 power supplies, hot-swap fan capability, and 10/100/1000 Ethernet. The server also has a 4-year 7 * 24 onsite warranty option. The Snap Server 12000 costs about $15,000 and would be well suited to a remote-office environment.

Maxtor MaxAttach NAS 6000. Like Quantum's Snap Server 12000, this is Maxtor's first real attempt to break into the enterprise storage market with a NAS server. The MaxAttach NAS 6000 server is a step above the Snap Server 12000 in scalability and cost (starting at nearly $30,000 for 1.9TB). The MaxAttach NAS 6000 ships with 12 disks totaling 1.9TB. The disks are hot-swappable EIDE disks that connect to a SCSI-to-ATA backplane. The base unit uses a hardware RAID controller and has an external Ultra 160 SCSI port. You can attach a maximum of two expansion units to provide a total of 5.7TB of storage. The product runs an optimized version of Windows 2000 Server and provides CIFS and NFS security support.

I'm surprised that Maxtor didn't use SCSI disks on the 6000; I think this omission will limit the server's acceptance in the mainstream enterprise storage environment, in which 10,000 and 15,000 RPM SCSI disks are the norm. Overall, though, this server appears to be a good fit for the remote and midsized corporate environment.

Dell PowerVault 755N. With the PowerVault 755N, Dell has essentially transformed the PowerEdge 2550 server into a headless NAS server, giving you all the capabilities of Win2K Server without the Client Access License (CAL) requirements. The PowerVault 755N has the N+1 power supply and gigabit Ethernet options that come with the PowerEdge 2550, and the 755N supports an optional Dell Remote Access Card (DRAC) and as many as two Adaptec Ultra-2/High Voltage Differential (HVD) SCSI cards. The PowerVault 755N server uses a hardware RAID controller and has 10,000 RPM SCSI disks ranging in capacity from 18GB to 73GB. To expand your total capacity, you can add optional PowerVault 210S SCSI storage arrays. Dell offers 4-year 7 X 24 service plans for the PowerVault 755N. The server has a starting price of about $10,000 and would suit most corporate environments.