Western Digital is marketing this capacious WD ShareSpace to the home and small-office crowd. Both audiences will appreciate the low price tag, but this box’s several shortcomings and slow speed will leave both audiences wanting.
The ShareSpace is housed in a generic-looking gray steel cube. Loosening two captive screws in back and removing the three-sided housing exposes the motherboard and four of Western Digital’s environmentally conscious 2TB Caviar Green drives. The four platters on each drive spins somewhere between 5,400 and 7,200 RPM (Western Digital declines to state the actual speed), and each drive has 32MB of cache. The array comes from the factory in a RAID 5 configuration. Although the hardware also supports span (JBOD), RAID 0, and RAID 1 modes, RAID level migration is not supported. The more fault-tolerant RAID 5 + Spare and RAID 6 arrays are not supported, nor can you configure the drives in multiple volumes or limit the number of drives used in any given configuration.
The drives are mounted on plastic rails that hold the drives tightly in place. It takes enough force to dislodge them that we at first thought the drives were secured by screws. The plastic bands we tugged on to remove the drives are too flimsy to support the force required to reinstall the drives, so we resorted to using our thumbs to push them back in. Hot swapping is not supported. Although these are off-the-shelf SATA drives, Western Digital’s documentation indicates the ShareSpace won’t operate with drives produced by any other manufacturer. A peek at the motherboard reveals a 500MHz Marvell 88F5281 system-on-a-chip, a Marvell 88SX7042 four-port SATA controller, and 128MB of DDR2 SDRAM soldered in.
Turning our attention back to the front panel, we find a power switch, LED indicators for power and drive status, and a USB 2.0 port. Pushing a button above the USB port will automatically copy the contents of the first partition of a USB storage device plugged into the front port (any subsequent partitions are ignored). You can also configure the system to back up the contents of the ShareSpace to a USB storage device attached to the front port. There are two more USB ports in the rear, along with a gigabit Ethernet port, a jack for the external power brick, and a very quiet 100mm fan; there is no provision for eSATA.
The ShareSpace’s feature list covers the basics, but omits a couple of important considerations. You can configure the software to send you email alerts for a broad range of events that are also recorded to the system log. Events include abnormal shutdown, fan failure, overheating, SMART messages for individual drives, RAID error messages, hard drive failure, and so on. Consumers will appreciate the inclusion of the iTunes server for music and the DLNA-certified TwonkyMedia media server for music, videos and photos. Western Digital’s Downloader tool enables you to schedule and queue multiple Internet downloads, throttle download speeds to reduce bandwidth consumption, and resume partial downloads. But this feature’s overall usefulness is hindered by the absence of an integrated BitTorrent client.
Western Digital includes a license to install its WD Anywhere Backup software on up to five client PCs, but you can’t schedule when those backups take place. The backup software can be configured to either work in the background or only when the client is otherwise idle, which is fine for the client, but the system doesn’t permit you to schedule the ShareSpace’s resources.
You can access files stored on your ShareSpace remotely from the Internet using Western Digital’s MioNet service. Create an account on the MioNet site and then start the service on the ShareSpace. When you log in, you can drag and drop files to copy them in both directions. The service is free for the life of the drive; expanding it to remotely control a client PC costs $8 per month or $80 per year.
We benchmarked the ShareSpace on a gigabit network using a Linksys WRT610N router and an SMC Networks SMCGS24 switch. Our client was a home-brew rig consisting of a stock-clocked Intel Core i7 860 and 4GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3 memory installed in a Gigabyte P55A-UD6 motherboard. We used the 64-bit version of Windows 7. As you can see from the charts, the ShareSpace is one slow NAS box. Writing our collection of small files to the device consumed one minute and 36 seconds and writing our single large file took nearly five minutes. Read tests were better, but the ShareSpace fell far behind the Synology Diskstation DS409+ we used for comparison. Power consumption, on the other hand, was quite low: averaging just 32 watts while idle and 39 watts while writing. Aggressive pricing is the ShareSpace’s other saving grace: We found the box selling for just $1,000 on the Web.
Western Digital 8TB WD ShareSpace
Agressive pricing; large capacity; DLNA compatible; quiet; low power consumption.
Best scores are bolded. We used the contents of Maximum PC's November 2007 CD for the small-file testing and a single 2.79GB file for the large-file testing. All scores are averages of three transfer trials.