We firmly believe in the importance of keeping your important files backed up, and we also think you can never have too much storage space, so we were pleased to get our hands on the Yellow Machine from Anthology Solutions which boasts a massive 1000 Gigabytes (1 Terabyte) of storage space (and is also available in a 1.6 Terabyte version).
The Yellow Machine is more than just a network storage device though: it also can act as the entry point to your home or small office network with a built-in 8 port Ethernet hub, firewall and proxy server.
And did we mention that it looks nice?
Read on for the rest of the review……
By taking the Yellow Machine out of its box we can see immediately where it gets its name from: it is definitely a yellow machine.
As far as appearances are concerned it look to be a cross between a Shuttle mini PC and a retro toaster, we like it.
Physically it is 5.5″x 7.9″ x 12.1″ and it feels heavy for its size which isn’t surprising considering it contains 4 hard drives. Not that its 17.5lb weight is a problem as you aren’t going to be moving this thing around much.
The front is minimalist in a Tivo sort of way, LED indicators, no on/off switch, and the only button is the “mode” button which actually does nothing 99% of the time.
The little LED lights are power and ready which are green most of the time, a red fault LED that confusingly blinks during startup and shutdown even if there is no fault, and a bunch of blue LEDs that indicate status of the hard drives and network interfaces.
The back of the Yellow Machine seems very well designed, with little labels telling you not to mess with the power supply. There is the main on/off switch, a serial port for connecting to a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), and the network ports (8 LAN ports and a WAN port that is used if you setup the Yellow Machine to act as your gateway/firewall).
The bottom isn’t that exciting, but there is a cooling fan so make sure the Yellow Machine can breathe down there.
Of course we have to open it up!
Getting inside is similar to opening up many PC cases: unscrew 5 little screws at the back and slide off the yellow portion of the case.
(as I write this I am listen to Jimmy Buffett being streamed from the Yellow Machine… be grateful you can’t hear me singing “why don’t we get drunk and unscrew”).
The case is very solidly put together and we were impressed by the build quality.
Inside the case is the power supply, motherboard, and 4 Seagate Barracuda 250GB IDE hard drives.
The case is designed so it is easy to replace a hard drive in case of failure and we would recommend keeping a spare around if you are as unlucky as we are with hard drive failures.
Setup is simple: connect up the power cable and connect an Ethernet cable between your PC and the Yellow Machine. Make sure your PC is setup to automatically get an IP address (full instructions are provided for the non-techie), and flip the power switch on the Yellow Machine.
A couple of the LEDs will flash for about a minute while it starts up and then you just connect to the Yellow Machine with a web browser: The instructions say to use Internet Explorer 6 or higher but we were obstinate and chose to use Firefox…. everything worked fine.
Once you connect you go through a few well documented configuration screens then power off the Yellow Machine. Everything is now ready for you to setup the Yellow Machine in its final location (either replacing your router or just connected to an Ethernet hub as a storage device.
Get you main PC back on its regular internet connection, start up the Yellow Machine, and it should appear automatically under “My Network Places” (on a Windows XP PC). By default the hard drives are setup in a RAID 5 format which means they are all linked together as one big drive and there is enough backing up going on that one of the four drives can fail without you losing any data: as a result of this you end up with 650GB of usable space.
We also had no problems finding the Yellow Machine hard drive from our Linux (Ubuntu) PC and our Mac.
Using the Yellow Machine as our router for a few days exposed no problems, it worked perfectly.
Copying files across was quick enough: as an example copying just under 3000 music files across the network from a media PC took 36.5 minutes for 9,288 MB: a transfer rate of 4.24 MB a second. Copying a 356MB TV program took just 76 seconds, or 4.68 MB a second, acceptable but slower than transferring to another PC where we got 7.7 MB a second.
Reading from the Yellow Machine was just as fast with the files coming back at an average of 4.34 MB a second, again the PC was quicker but not significantly so. Streaming video from the Yellow Machine wasn’t a problem either: we were able to watch two different TV programs being streamed from the Yellow Machine simultaneously on two PCs.
If you want one box that will act as your router, network storage, backup server, and firewall then the Yellow Machine is a great solution.
It is simple to setup and we encountered no problems with it.
We can see using a Yellow Machine as a central data store and backup solution in a small office, or as a media server and backup solution for a high-tech home.
The only things we would change with the Yellow Machine would be to offer Gigabit Ethernet instead of 10/100 (10/100 is ok now for most users but in a couple of years it will be a bottleneck in a high-tech home), and to offer a version with a built in 802.11g wireless router (or 802.11n when that is really out and adopted).
Price wise a Terabyte is still costly but prices are coming down all the time and we think the Yellow Machine is worth the $250 premium over competitors that are pure network storage devices without all the extra bells and whistles.
Good web based configuration screens
Loads of storage space
Works well as a router/firewall
Wireless users still need a separate wireless router
No Gigabit Ethernet
Overall Rating: 9/10
You can buy the Yellow Machine directly from Anthology Solutions. As of 10/27/05 the price is $1299 for 1 Terabyte (which gives you 650GB storage with RAID 5) or $1999 for 1.6 Terabytes. A 2 Terabyte version should also be available soon.