External Data Storage: The Netgear SC101 enclosure

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Netgear SC101 network enclosureThe Netgear SC101 (Storage Central) is a networked external hard drive enclosure for up to two IDE hard drives (ATA6 or above) which connects via an RJ-45 cable (standard network cable) to your wireless router, wireless modem or switch.

It is cosmetically quite a clean, modern looking case and considering it can house two drives is quite compact.

The hardware setup is very easy with access to the SC101 case being screwless (There is a small catch on the front of the unit that when twisted allows the case to be opened).  Once you have opened the case, the only hardware setup is the insertion of either one or two IDE hard drives (ATA6 or above) of your choice and connection through the available 40-pin IDE cable and the four pin power supply cable.  It is then simply a just a case of shutting the unit up and connecting to the power supply and router.  So far so good!!

Netgear SC101 Network Enclosure openThis is where the problems start, the software installation and its stability.  The SC101 software is available through the Netgear site (here) and includes a SCM software utility for connection and management of drives and a firmware (Netgear Storage Central Manager) and firmware for the network hard drive enclosure.

Although not a deal breaker, this is where issues arise from.  Ideally if you have a network drive, you don't really want to have to install software on every computer you want to access the drives, a simple ftp access would have been much simpler and user friendly.

The Storage Central Manager utility appeared to us to be inherantly flawed.  When we tried to install our SC101 on an XP home desktop system, the installation failed twice for no apparent reason, before the software would install "correctly".  After this the drives could be formatted and mounted on the system with very little hassle (although the software update facility caused the system to crash) and we decided not to run a RAID setup due to the different sizes of the IDE drive that we had available.  At this point we still liked the SC101 and thought that maybe we had an isolated problem to do with the desktop we were using and the initial install software.

Netgear SC101 NetworkingAll was well for a week, until one day we powered our desktop on and there were no drives from the SC101 available!  No number of reinstallations of the SC101 SCM software allowed access to the drives, and access to the drives was never regained through the desktop computer. Luckily the drives were still accessible through a laptop that we setup using the SCM software and files could be retrieved.  It seems to us that the software that is used to run the drives is very unstable on certain systems (the closest answer we could get from customer support for the problem with compatibility with the desktop system was that there was a conflict with certain SCSI drivers utilised by certain mainboards, which although an answer, did not really solve our problem!).

At this point we decided to cut our losses and decided to use other forms of external enclosure as the SC101 seems to be far too unstable as a backup device and we just could not take the risk.

I am afraid that I really would not recommend the Netgear SC101 (Storage Central) to anyone even when taking into account the cost of the unit, which is fairly cheap for this type of product, the instability far out weighs the potential money saved.