Seagate has been in the world of storage for a very long time. They have been a leader and a follower as far as new technology in concerned but they have always catered towards to upper end of the consumer food chain. Their enterprise offerings are some of the best you can buy. Seagate?s external and network attached offerings are a combination of their own internal experience and technology gained from their acquisition of Maxtor a few years back. Today we have one of their DAS [Direct Attached Storage] devices in the lab for testing. The BlackArmor WS-110 is a Professional/Prosumer level product that features both USB 2.0 and e-SATA connectivity. While the BlackArmor looks great on paper will it be able to keep up with the storage and speed demands of Prosumer or Professional workloads? Read on to find out.
The box the BlackArmor WS -110 arrived in was well done; it has a large image of the product on the front while the back and sides contain plenty of information to inform potential buyers of what the WS-100 is capable of and what you can expect.
Inside the WS-100 is protected inside a plastic bag and what appears to be a pair of recycled paper product end caps. The rest of the loot that comes along with the WS-110 is kept inside a cardboard box that resembles a puzzle more than a container.
Seagate provided just about everything you would need to use the WS-110 except for an e-SATA cable. To us this was a serious omission and should have been a stock accessory. In the box you will find the WS-100 drive, a power adapter, a stand [for standing the WS-110 upright] rubber feet for the bottom of the WS-110, a USB 2.0 cable, a warranty statement, and a quick setup guide.
The Power Adapter that Seagate threw in can be adapted for other country power standards by sliding off the plug and putting on the desired type. Unfortunately no additional adapters were provided. This is not completely unexpected as many companies only provide the adapters for the country of sale. Dropping in a few of the more common adapter types would have been nice but does not diminish our opinion of the product.
Starting with our evaluation of the WS-110 we will begin showing the ?trash? left over by the products we test. This will be the items that cannot be re-used and will have to be placed in the trash can or a recycle bin. As you can see there are a few items left over from the BlackArmor WS-110. These bags are not reusable and while plastic recycling is available in my area it is not in all areas. The rest of the packaging can be reused for storage of the WS-100 is you wanted or to store other small items.
The two paper end caps can also be recycled easily.
Design and Features
The BlackArmor WS-110 is not an aesthetically pleasing device. It is sadly large and bulky. Seagate has tried to add some flare into it by giving it a dark grey color and some angled surfaces but in the end it still looks like a lump sitting on your desk. Even standing it up using the included stand does not make much difference. This is one of those products that you will probably want to hide behind your monitor or under the desk.
The front of the WS-110 is sloped down and has a Seagate logo on the front. This logo lights up blue when the WS-110 is plugged into the power and a computer. On the sides of the WS-110 you will see perforations; these are in place for the stand we talked about. The tabs on the stand clip into the slots on the side. This helps maintain stability in the stand.
The back of the WS-110 is where all the business happens. Here we find the two connectivity ports [mini-USB and e-SATA] as well as the power port and a slot for an anti-theft locking device.
The BlackArmor WS-110 that we tested had a 1TB drive inside although you can purchase a 2TB version if you need more storage.
Seagate has a nice habit of placing all the software you will need to use their external drives directly on the HDDs. This prevents the searching for CDs that often happens when you need to reinstall the software. The software included on the drive is the Seagate BlackArmor backup. This software has a host of utilities that allow for multiple recovery and protection options for your WS-110.
As an added bonus my existing Seagate Manager software [v2.1.13] also recognized the drive and allowed me to setup an encrypted partition and to even use the backup and Sync utilities. I have not tried with any of the newer versions of the Seagate Manager software as they will not install on 64-Bit systems.
Setup and Use
While the Seagate FreeAgent | Go software [Seagate Manager] has issues installing on a 64-Bit system, the BlackArmor Backup utility had no issue what so ever.
Once I connected the drive I double clicked on the setup Icon andwas greeted with the friendly BlackArmor Backup installation startscreen. After clicking the Install BlackArmor Backup link I was off and running.
The BlackArmor Backup utility is a very impressive bit of software. BlackArmor Backup is actually powered by Arconis which is one of the better user end backup products available. It not only includes normal backup features but complete disaster recovery and even a ?sandbox?style feature that can allow you to try software, patches, etc without worrying about losing data. We will cover each of these features in better detail below.
Backup and Restore
From the home screen you can see everything you can do with the BlackArmor Backup [and it is quite a lot] but as this is primarily a backup program we will cover that first. For back up you have a couple of options. The first is the One-Click Protection while the other is to create a custom backup.
The One-Click backup is very simple to use and setups up a backup of your system volume and MBR [Master Boot Record] in a matter of a few clicks [a lot more than one]. To start you need to choose your destination, this can be local or on a network share. For our purposes we use the BlackArmor WS-110. Although there is an options tab they only option you have is the length of time between refreshing the backup.
The other and longer method is to create a custom backup using the backup wizard. This method allows you to choose only the items you want to back up and to leave out items you do not want.
Click for larger Image
The backup wizard walks you thought each step to setting up your custom backup. From the selection of files you want to backup (including general selections like documents, finance, images, etc). From there you select a target for your backup again you can select a network share or a local drive.
Next you setup the schedule for the backup, you can set this up for single run, manual, even based, and of course the usual repeating time frames [daily, weekly, and monthly].
BlackArmor backup also allows you to choose the type of backup youwant and even setup a schedule to perform a full backup after a certainnumber of incremental backups.
You can also choose to exclude files that you do not want backed up or that might affect the successful completion of the backup.
Under Backup options you have a rather large amount of choices to custom tailor the backup to your liking. A few of the more important options are archive protection, file level security, notifications, and Error handling. With archive protection you can encrypt your backup file with up to256-Bit AES encryption. File level security allows you to maintain the security levels for easier restoration.
After that it is a simple walk through adding comments to your backup and then a quick overview of what you have setup.
This is a great tool to tell where you are in terms of protection. It will show you how protected you are and what steps are recommended to enable the broadest range of protection. It shows you at a glance how much data you have versus how much available storage you have. It also shows how much space is allocated towards the Secure Zone for Try and Decide.
Setting up the secure zone is very easy. You only have three steps to walk through and you are ready to use the Try and Decide feature.
Try and Decide
Try and Decide is an interesting feature; it allows you to setup a portion of the WS-110 to be used as a temporary storage point for system changes. This way you can try out a new application, check a downloaded file, or even an update without committing to the changes to the actual OS. This can be very helpful in maintaining system stability.
There is a down side though, while using Try and Decide you cannot run ChkDsk or defragment (including real-time defragmentation). Seagate also recommends performing a true backup and creating restore media before using the Try and Decide feature.
There are a couple of small but useful utilities that allow you to clone an existing drive or to add an additional drive to your existing setup.
This feature does exactly what it says, it allows you to search for specific items on your system. You can expand this functionality by integrating with Windows Search or with Google Desktop.
For our performance testing I wanted to measure not only the theoretical bandwidth but also to see how the drive would perform in the real world. For this I used Everest as well as Sisoft Sandra for my synthetic tests and then AutoGK (with both source and destination on the WS-110) , a Virtual Machine, HD Video Playback (1080p), large file transfers and of course the backup of a large amount of data.
My backup used a custom range of data from two internal and a singleexternal drive. I selected a full backup profile complete with 256-bitAES encryption and also included the file security information. To addin an extra kick I required verification of the backup and only used the normal compression.
So we see, not surprisingly, that the e-SATA connection is considerably faster than the USB 2.0 connection.
I was impressed with the speed of the backup software; I was able to back up roughly 74 GigaBytes of data in roughly two hours. This is with 256-bit encryption, file security and normal compression. Not too shabby at all.
My other real world testing went very well and show that the WS-110 could be used to house Virtual Machines, HD video, and also as a target and source for video Transcoding.
The Seagate WS-110 will set you back $139.99 for the 1 Terabyte model which is very good considering the size, performance and flexibility of the WS-110. This actually makes it a better value than the 500GB Freeagent Go at $119.99. I know I would not have a problem with getting the extra speed and capacity for a mere $20.
Seagate offers a five-year warranty on the WS-110; they offer online support as well as a technical support number. You can also visit their forums to find the answers to a few more common questions.
I have to say that I am impressed with the BlackArmor WS-110. It really is a step up over your average consumer external drive. The fact that it is compatible with existing products [Seagate Manager] can work with 64-bit systems and has the mass of features that it does makes it excellent for just about any need. I found that it worked great as a work space drive, I was able to place large video and still image files there without cluttering up my main HDD. The e-SATA connection meant that I was able to maintain acceptable speeds for my editing needs. I was also able to run a complete Linux VM on the drive while still using it for my editing.
The backup software is nothing short of amazing. The extra features and full range of backup options certainly makes the WS-110 excellent as a backup option. I particularly like the option to run incremental backups on a schedule with a full backup being automatically run without the need to setup two different schedules. The compression and encryption options combined with the advanced open file capabilities mean you will have a very good means for protecting you data.
Whether you are a basic user or a prosumer the inexpensive yet powerfully functional BlackArmor WS-110 Direct Attached Storage device comes with our highest recommendation for your backup and storage needs.