Going with the smaller guys, sometimes you lose out

My backup solution for years consisted of storing the media on a large hard drive and backing it up on DVD’s. That all changed in 2006, when I found some spare time away from work, I set up a small RAID 1 (mirroring) solution using Debian.

I’m not one to love the idea of having six computers in my home office and updating them, validating nothing broke each week or month. It becomes a task similar to doing bills over time. My other major concern is, what happens if something did happen to me? How is my non-technical wife going to manage technical affairs?

So, while I decided my mirror RAID was sufficient, I didn’t think it would be large enough to last me through all of 2007. I did what any geek would do and ordered larger drives. However, this time I slowly begin convincing myself that I should take a look at the wife issue as well. I looked into several off the shelf and free RAID solutions with colleagues.

The RAID product I decided to go with was Server Elements NASLite-2 CDD. One, it was relatively inexpensive for the ease of use provided. A couple of guys were building something out of open source software and selling it, how can you not support such a good initiative?

I purchased a RAID solution from Server Elements, called their NASLite-2 CDD product. It is a decent RAID solution you can install via CD or a USB key (note they are two different products). I followed the install instructions in the manual; entered my key, set up the network, saved config, reboot, visited a website, got my unlock key, entered it, saved, reboot.

Alas the product is set up! But then after reading on how to configure the software product, I discovered that it will only support hardware RAID! I thought to myself, I must be wrong…but it was around 2am in the morning…

Obviously, I combed the website, and full documentation and was taken back by the fact that it didn’t make a large claim anywhere that software RAID was left out.

I emailed the company; Ralph and I exchanged a few emails:

Ralph,

I understand your response is typical of a major corporation or business. Please do remember your customers. They do not read every page of the manual prior to purchase. Do you? While I do agree looking at it now, that the statement not to support software RAID is in the manual. I feel that your response is a poor way to handle customer service by asking any potential customers to read 26 pages prior to purchasing software.

Your website is not as clear as you think, it states dependable hardware RAID support. No where does it state NASLite-2 only supports hardware raid as you mentioned in your response to me via email.

Mark

Ralph Hargis wrote:

Sorry Mark,

In the manual, chapter 7 “A few words about Raid”, is prior to any setup and unlocking instructions.


The manual (which is freely downloadable) , and the website are *very* clear that NASLite-2 only supports hardware raid.



On Dec 31, 2006, at 3:28 PM, Mark Hurley wrote:

Ralph,

How is someone suppose to know that software RAID is not supported prior to unlocking the software? Your instructions in the manual tell you to enter they key and unlock the software prior to setting up the drive configuration.

Honestly, I purchased from you guys, because I believe in supporting the smaller outfits out there. Is there nothing I can do to prove to you I am not using what was purchased in order to receive my full refund?

Thank you,

Mark

Ralph Hargis wrote:

Hello,

I’m very sorry, but all sales are final once the software has been unlocked.



On Dec 30, 2006, at 1:57 AM, Mark Hurley wrote:

I just ordered NASLite-2 CDD, and was interested in setting up RAID 5. The NASLite Product Comparison displays that RAID Storage is listed as a feature.

Closer inspection seems to indicate in the manual that you only support hardware RAID?

If hardware raid is only supported, I will set up my own Debian server with software RAID. Can I get a refund?

If I am not following direction properly, I apologize.

Mark

Note: I left a message on your website also, I was not sure if it worked or not, so I am copying you both directly.


Virus/SPAM scanned by McAfee e500 Webshield Appliance v3.2



Virus/SPAM scanned by McAfee e500 Webshield Appliance v3.2

I am sorry that I loss out here. It was $29 that they refused to refund me (all sales are final). I truly am not going to use their product. I believed that it supported software RAID. The software has been erased and GNU Debian has been configured instead.

The point of this post was not to slam the product or Ralph. The install and admin menu were simple enough to use. The website, again very straightforward. But after the configuration of license and unlock code, I can share no other review with you. That is where I stopped and emailed Ralph.

Be careful and extra diligent even with smaller establishments! I was reading last week, how people are continually frustrated with the larger companies. I do not think this attributes to just larger companies. It attributes to companies of all sizes and consumers of all types. Ralph is naturally firm on his (all sales are final), I’m sure due to his experience on selling software. It is not easy to separate the whining customer from the ethical person the same as it is not easy to separate the company (of any size) who is out for your money vs. the one who has been taken of advantage in the past by the wrong customers.

No further responses from Ralph. I am not going to press the issue any further with Ralph or Paypal. BTW…here is a link to the company, Server Elements. Please remember to download the manual and read all the print and purchase a hard disk controller (RAID 0/1/5/etc) with your hard disk drives.

I wish a Happy New Year to Ralph and all of you!

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46 responses to “Going with the smaller guys, sometimes you lose out

  1. Why would you think that “dependable hardware RAID support” implies software raid support?

  2. Hi Warren,

    The Basic System Requirements on the webpage for NASLite-2 CDD do not state a RAID controller is needed:
    * Pentium or better processor
    * PCI bus
    * 64M or more of RAM
    * 1 or more fixed disk drives
    * Appropriate bootable media
    * CD-ROM drive
    * Conventional floppy disk drive (configuration storage only)
    * PCI or on-board network interface adapter
    * BIOS capable of booting from CD-ROM

    I saw it was “Linux Powered”, supplied the basic system requirements, and thought I was set.

    Claiming “Dependable hardware RAID support” on the top part of the page does not make it a requirement if that same page has a separate list of basic system requirements. If it is, it is in the wrong section of the webpage, in my opinion, It is only a list of reasons why I should use NASLite-CDD.

  3. I don’t know what the fuss is about to be honest?
    Quite clealy there is no mention of Software raid.

    Basic system requirements means just that Basic. Naslite does not need Hardware Raid to function at a basic level.

    The manual and forums are there for a reason, you should have took a little more time to read about your purchase, pre purchase.

  4. “The RAID product I decided to go with was Server Elements NASLite-2 CDD.”

    NASLite is a _NAS_ solution, not a RAID solution. In fact, RAID support was just recently added whereas NASLite as a product has existed for years. You did not do your homework which is why you are sitting with a product you have no use for. Sorry to say.

    Happy new year!

  5. I think you had an initial misunderstanding of what you were buying. NAS by default does not equal RAID. It never has. Most people run a NAS without using a RAID per se of any sort. NASLite has always been oriented toward that.

    I’ve used NASLite and others for a long time, and to be honest, I’m not sure what point there is in expecting their to be software RAID.

    By design, NASLite and products like it (NAS Devices) are simple SAMBA sharing devices, not RAID devices. They advertise themselves as RAID devices because they aren’t. They are simply a NAS that can use the right Hardware RAID support.

    Moreover, because SoftwareRAID performance over a NAS delivers NO performance benefits, and therefore, you only inherit the risks of a controller-less RAID state which is just waiting to wipe out your data, I’m not sure what the point is. Software RAID-1 and RAID-5 are virtually worthless performance wise and over a NAS not worth dealing with. And Software RAID-0 may get you a single larger mount point, but you don’t get any performance benefit because your bottleneck in network bandwidth is so much smaller then even a single drive could saturate.

    I’m not campaigning for NASLite. By the same token, you’re out $29 because you didn’t solicit your question in any of their open forums (available to all users) or google. I tried both (googling NASLite Software RAID; checking their forum for Software RAID) and turned up numerous pages on their site and elsewhere that documented this.

    So, in any way associating any fault for a product doing exactly what it says it will do is a bit silly. It’d be like someone saying “damnit! Norton AV wiped out my folder of cracks/hacks/etc.” Of course! Their website says it will!

  6. Chris you made some very good points. I do not think I made any attempt to associate fault with the product. In fact, I even went so far as to mention to order a RAID controller with the hard drives if they (family/friends/co-workers) still wanted this as a ‘hardware’ RAID solution.

    If I felt unsure about the support of software RAID, you can bet I would have asked on the forum. 🙂

    It was my error and confusion to make any assumptions as a new customer. But lets face it, new customers do this every day with products they intend to buy. Asking someone to read a 26 page manual for a $30 product is not what I would call good customer service.

    I emailed Ralph, not to change his mind concerning my matter, but to try to make him understand customers will make mistakes, and hopefully he will see that going forward. You can also see that I stated that I was not pressing Ralph any further. It was a reflection. A shoppers experience. Sometimes you pick the lesser known names out there with the intent that they will have better customer service. I see by the forums and website that they seem to excel in that area.

    I asked for a refund, quite simply because I spent money on a product which does not suit my needs. And yes, I understand the website also contains an ‘all sales are final’. Which when I did see this, I stopped pressing the issue.

    I also went online to shop around for a RAID controller. It does raise the price considerably for what I had in mind.

    I know you spoke about performance. I was not looking for something that was speedy, software RAID would not be even considered. Only something that would be slightly better than a single disk failure. For me, this was still going to be complimented with another off site solution to protect against fire/theft/water, etc.

    NAS…does not mean RAID. Completely understand. But my requirements were both of these, including a few others.

    Still if anyone feels strongly about the hardware RAID controller and not using Linux’s software RAID, I would love to hear your constructive feedback to which one you support and why.

    Thank you for your comments. Happy New Year!

  7. Well Mark,

    You seem to feel that your customer rights were violated since you were not awarded a refund. That’s rather one-sided since you are clearly violating the vendor’s rights by not honoring their terms. Setting aside the fact that software raid is not implied as supported, in the small print it’s stated that online sales are not refundable and are final. Perhaps you should pay closer attention to the description. By definition hardware raid requires a card with a dedicated bios that can manage the raid independent of the driver itself. If all or part of the raid function is handled by the driver, then it’s called software raid, even if a hardware (fake raid) card is included.

    I understand your gripe, but it’s probably not appropriate in this case. Naslite is a superb piece of software and with some effort on your part you may find that the price as pretty low for the performance you get.

    Personally, I’ll not use software raid on a server. It’s fine for a workstation but a server should use hardware raid exclusively. That is if you value the files you store on it.

    Happy 2007
    LB

  8. The product is still not being questioned. And since when did the vendors rights become a concern here? I have no choice BUT to honor their terms. This seems a bit one sided to me…giving the fact I was a potential customer.

    On another page, I am more interested in your server vs. workstation suggestions.

    I ran Linux software RAID 1 for about six months this year, while practicing simulated failures on another similar server. No issues.

    The reason I was so interested in the software RAID on Linux, was because of the lower investment involved. During this discussion, I priced RAID 5 cards on NewEgg and the least expensive was around $73. The ‘ACARD AEC-6897 64-bit/66MHz PCI IDE 4-Channel ATA133’.

    I’m not saying that is too steep, but we are talking about a home office machine that I want redundant disk devices in case one should fail. Performance is not a concern. Daily access to this server is very little if at all.

    I copy photos from the digital camera after a weekend with the family, and want to know, that it is better protected than a single spinning disk that just stops working. (A second tier off site will be introduced to handle fire/theft/water/etc)

    My thoughts were a software raid solution for a small up front investment.

    When discussing the idea with several colleagues, friends and business owners. Several products and solutions came to mind. The first pick was to try a software raid solution on NASLite. While I know that to not be supported now, I am still looking for a reliable, but somewhat inexpensive backup plan for myself and others.

    Thank you very much for your feedback, it was both insightful and helpful!

    Have a great 2007 as well!

    Mark

  9. This is what you said Mark:

    “Obviously, I combed the website, and full documentation and was taken back by the fact that it didn’t make a large claim anywhere that software RAID was left out.”

    Site does say “HARDWARE RAID” and not software raid!

    Then you went and said in email:

    “Honestly, I purchased from you guys, because I believe in supporting the smaller outfits out there. Is there nothing I can do to prove to you I am not using what was purchased in order to receive my full refund?”

    and then, when you didn’t get what you want, you went as far as to blog this as if you were taken by the vendor. All that while ignoring the purchase terms that they put forth.

    It is not one sided at all Mark. 😉

    With experience you’ll find that software raid is not for the faint of heart. Just google for it.

  10. IMHO…it is crazy to expect someone to read an entire manual before purchasing software. I still stand firm on this one. Also, customers tend to make assumptions before buying any product.

    Still…I appreciate you taking your time to respond Luis. 🙂

  11. Wow, Mark…quite the little hornet’s nest here! Did you check IP addresses on your “helpful” commenters; I’d be interested in knowing if they all come the same one, and if it resolves to the company. *grin*

    I do so love a thin-skinned vendor, don’t you? More interested in the “all sales are final” holy war than in making things right for someone who made an honest mistake. And then start a thread about in their own forum (a decidedly self-selected hometown audience) when you DARE to comment about it on the Net?

    Great stuff, Mark.Great stuff, Mark. I hope to get a good “welcome to the blogosphere” post out of this!

  12. Feel free to check my IP, I am in no way affiliated with Server Elements. I did see the link to this blog on their forums however!

    You assumed NASLite supported software RAID although there was no information pointing to this fact whatsoever. I dont believe in having to read a 30 page manual to see what you’re buying but in all honestly, do you really expect Server Elements to list all features that is NOT supported by NASLite?

    I am not sure if its an updated version but reading the NASLite 2 CDD product description it now says:

    “Dependable hardware RAID support”

    Can’t really make it more clear than that imo! Given your specified needs for a backup solution I think you’ll be better off with a tape based solution or something similiar. NASLite is fantastic as far as performance is concerned but as you claim to not be interested in write speed etc, you’re prolly better off with some other solution.

    Best of luck!

    – SB

  13. “Feel free to check my IP, I am in no way affiliated with Server Elements. I did see the link to this blog on their forums however!”

    Same here. Avoiding responsibility for your actions is what got me going Mark. Here we have a small vendor with a well documented solution that works as advertised. Let’s not stone them to death quite yet. Taking responsibility for your choices is not optional since someone always has to absorb the consequence.

  14. Great way though to get some traffic for such a small outlay.

  15. i.l. castro-haro

    the title of this blog entry is loaded as it implies that the author was unfairly treated and misled. not so. the product’s webpage is pretty clear in re: features. no need to read through the manual. i don’t assume a feature exists if it isn’t noted.

    if software raid support was so crucial the author could have emailed server elements and/or searched their forums (doing so kicks up a few hits).

    in parting – a word to ken. just because we don’t agree w/ mark’s position doesn’t make us shills or plants. nasty assumption that. also, naslite does not support anyone through a messy divorce, unwed mothers or drilling in the anwar (just wanted to cover a few non-features of the product).

  16. How come Mark and Ken post from the same IP?

  17. To be honest I don’t see what the problem is. You made a mistake and that is something that you are responsible for not the company.

    It’s up to you to check that the software is fit for your purpose prior to purchasing it. If you had asked and received a response prior to purchasing the software then you would probably not purchased it but you didn’t so the mistake was made by you.

    If you purchased a copy of Photoshop, Installed and registered it and then said that you want to return it for a refund as it does not do document editing then Adobe would probably tell you the same thing. You shouldn’t presume that as something is not stated as being not supported that it is.

    At the end of the day you purchased, received, installed and registered a piece of software and then realised that it was not suitable. It’s a bit late by this time.

    For the record I use NASLITE at home. Like you I am a normal customer and not linked to the company. Before deciding that this was the software for me (I used FREENAS previously) I checked the manuals and read the forums. I decided to go ahead anyhow. I later purchased a hardware raid card on ebay for a few pounds (I’m in the UK). Second user raid cards that are supported by NASLITE are readily avaliable and inexpensive. Both in the UK and US.

    Moral of this story. RTFM and don’t be so cheap.

  18. 1) I did make a mistake. People do, consumers do every day.

    2) Consumers who purchase products, appreciate the flexibility companies extend to them, by allowing them to return merchandise when it does not solve the consumers needs (even after they purchased it).

    3) I had registered the product and within an hour or two emailed the company (Ralph). I was actually quite respectful and did not demand or become irate when he said “Sorry”.

    4) Yes, as a customer who had the product registered for a few hours expect a company to refund due to a mistake.

    5) Yes, I do realize that “All Sales are Final”; but certain exceptions may exist that are not documented either. In other words, does it hurt to ask?

    6) With a mentality of RTFM — good luck expanding your customer base. I hope your opinions are not a reflection of the company selling the product.

    7) I wasn’t being cheap, as you eluded to. If I was, I would have pressed the issue further. Please read my blog back at the top, and you will clearly see I said when I posted the blog that I was not pressing the issue any further.

    You sound like a satisfied customer that is good to hear. Thank you for your comments!

  19. > How come Mark and Ken post from the same IP?

    LOL…how come only Mark and Ken are willing to identify themselves via home URL? I am certainly friends with Mark, but I can assure you, we’re not the same person.

  20. I went through the same thing with Ralph albeit about another issue: software activation. Whenever a company does not wish to issue a refund when their website or requirements are not 100% clear they show their true colors. Small, medium or large. You build your software company and it’s reputation via solid products and excellent customer service. The question here is not about the product. This author like myself sees a company that should be responsive about a reasonable request. Not simply a very standoffish “I’m very sorry, but all sales are final once the software has been unlocked”.

    Customer service 101. You either understand it or you don’t.

  21. > LOL…how come only Mark and Ken are willing to identify themselves

    Doesn’t it occur to you Ken that not everyone cares to have a soapbox like you and Mark do? The little poke I had at you earlier was in humor but your response only emphasizes your goal. I’ve identified myself by the email I’ve provided. What else would you suggest I do? Start a blog?

  22. *cracking up*….

    You are priceless, Hollywood! I love it. Did you get your handle from Top Gun, or the Hollywood Squares?

  23. BTW, Hollywood…my reply above was in jest as well! (I realized after I posted that that may not have been clear.)

    You’re free to not have a soapbox, and Mark and I are free to have one. What a cool place, this IntehWeb! *grin* But reputation (and the associated identity challenges, even for pseudonyms) are important IMO when you want to be taken seriously in a debate. Thus my point about no URL.

  24. Hi Mark,

    I’m with you. Customers do make assumptions, and I did too, and would’ve placed an order (As, I need s/w raid too.) Anyway, I’ll go for openfiler now.

    BTW, nice post. Once again, I agree with your views! Also, whether small or big; companies that aim to grow, should always understand that customers may make mistakes! Err is human!!

    ./Siva

  25. Hi Mark,

    I happen to agree with you too. i know this is a old post, but I wanted show my support.

    Companies need to be very clear as to what are features and what are requirements. They are very different things. If I see “supports hardware raid” I tend to think “oh good, I *can* use hardware raid if I choose to”, but stating “requires hardware raid” is a whole other thing.

    If I buy a new car that says “air conditioning” on the window sticker, I shouldn’t have to read a 26 page manual to see that the A/C can’t be turned off, even in the winter. I know that’s not exactly a fair analogy but I’m sure that’s how you feel.

  26. Keith — You hit the nail on the head. I *can* use hardware raid.
    BTW…I have been using my S/W RAID solution all year, with positive results. It would be interesting to take some time over the holidays and see what is out there a year later.
    I appreciate your support. Everyone who believes with or against me is welcome to comment.

  27. The mistake in this case was on your part which you’ve clearly already admitted to Mark. However, the attitude (policy?) displayed by Mr Hagis in this matter does not seem to be an isolated unfortunate event. Reading their forums there have been recent issues where customers did not get their activation code although it was sent according to Mr Hagis. Rather than just resending the email, Ralph seem to prefer posting smtp logs showing he is right and suggesting the customer provides a “working” email address this time. Customers, such as ourselves, will suffer from his inverted “the customer is always right” attitude but in the long run the company this character represents is the real loser.

    – Mike

  28. I’ve dealt wit both ralph and tony when setting up my naslite server. What i got is top notch support with more than fair dose of courtesy. But then, i did ask for support and not my money back because i was sleeping at the wheel. You have to be careful what you expect mark. Will microsoft accept software back? Not likely. Why then expect a small outfit to do that? Get your head out of your behind and stop being a victim. Do you have a brain in your head? Can you make decisions? You did, so accept the results. You are not a victim.

    I hate this attitude of entitlement that people flaunt today. It hurts business and ultimately you the consumer because it will eventually limit the choices available to you. But then maybe that’s what you want mark.

    I totally disagree with your expectations and consider your rant unreasonable.

  29. Mike — Yes I admitted I made a mistake. Thank you for your comments. I do not wish to comment on the further issues surrounding their company as I was not dealing with them first hand.

    K Farley — Are you trying to say that Server Elements should be compared to Microsoft? Sorry, but the customer service at Microsoft has been better to me with issues I have had to deal with in the past. Hey you brought it up…

    I don’t believe that Ralph and Tony are bad people, but in order to benefit from a larger customer base, they have to learn to be more customer friendly.

    Your post seems to attack my beliefs more than support your own. This only reduces your creditability with me and I have a problem taking your comments serious.

    Care to start over?

  30. In most cases Microsoft is not a choice. It is crammed down without any input from you the customer. Not sure what comparing Server Elements to Microsoft means to you but I think it proves my point. You expect to be compensated for your mistake by a small outfit while expecting to be on your own from Microsoft. You see how that hurts small business? It takes time and effort to deal with people like you and that ultimately costs money.

    Look, if you order the wrong thing at a restaurant will you expect the restaurant to absorb the cost? That wouldn’t be fair now would it, since all they did was prepare for you what you ordered. Why then is it so hard to accept the fact that you may have ordered the wrong software and leave it that. All Server Elements did was sell you what you ordered, so expecting them to absorb the cost would be unreasonable.

    Naslite is well documented and the forum is pretty active. There really is no reason to claim ignorance. Have a question about something, then ask. That’s what I did and am happy with my choice. But even if i decided not to use Naslite, I would have honored the all download sales are final policy that they have.

    Maybe it’s just difference of opinion but I just can’t see the merit of your rant.

  31. Mark,

    I almost made the same mistake as you, however thanks to your blog you have saved me 30 bucks. I have never liked hardware raid because if a controller dies, usually one cannot just place the old drives on a new controller and call it good like u can with software raid. I have been using FreeNAS for a few months now using software raid (JBOD), however I was looking at some other solutions, just because I like to tinker.

    I tried searching their website tonight using the terms software raid, raid, software, etc and I was simply amazed at the fact that their was no results because they have put those words in the forum software as common words and therefore cant be included in a search… FreeNAS indicates software raid, I like FreeNAS, I am just not a big fan of freebsd (I know RedHat inside and out)..

    Furthermore when going back and forth between NasLites HCL pdf and Newegg, I was just overwhelmed with the nonsense of finding a compatible HW raid card then going to that vendors website to make sure the drives I wanted were on that vendors HCL, screw all that nonsense, software raid is for the little guy that wants inexpensive raid…

  32. K. Farley you said:
    In most cases Microsoft is not a choice. It is crammed down without any input from you the customer.

    Even in our difference of opinion concerning Server Elements we agree on something!

    I disagree however that Server Elements refunding me my money would have caused them any loss. There were absolutely no material goods exchanging hands.

    I often shop and buy from smaller companies to support them over large companies whenever it is possible. But in some cases it doesn’t pay off because smaller companies fail to understand the value in customer service. Hence, my title on this blog posting.

    Big or small, companies compete on all levels. As a small business owner, to me I would rather have a happy potential customer come back and visit again, then create a dissatisfied customer experience. One of the greatest marketing tools for smaller companies is word-of-mouth.

  33. Dale S,

    Interesting, if you post a blog entry I would like to read about your success with software RAID.

    I have been running Debian Linux (stable) for over a year utilizing RAID 5, and have been quite successful.

    I have never tried FreeNAS. The file server I made is quite simple, and I keep it as minimal as possible. Software RAID is an excellent choice in my honest opinion.

    Thank you for your comment.

  34. Now that is a pretty ignorant statement Mark. How can you say that there were absolutely no material goods exchanging hands. If you got a download link and a serial number as did I, then you have received the goods you payed for. That’s what Server Elements committed to provide to you so what is your issue? What is it that you pay for when you buy software? A box with a CD in it? It’s very simple in my opinion. They offer to give you access to their software for a nonrefundable fee. You agree and pay. They send you the stuff and everyone is happy. Accept you decided you don’t like the rules after you accepted them. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me but I think that’s in poor form Mark.

    Doesn’t matter to me if you understand what I’m saying or not. I just thought it’s funny that you think you have been scammed. Really now!

  35. I am totally with you, Mark. I didn’t have pleasant experience with Serverelements either. Ralph’s customer services style is in no way of helping their business. Comparing Serverelements to Microsoft is simply nonsense. Microsoft doesn’t take Paypal, is serverelement gonna stop taking Paypal too? Before they actually become Microsoft, they should stop thinking they are one. The fact is, they are not even close. And btw, all Microsoft reps I have dealt with are much nicer than Ralph.

  36. It does not appear that serverelements’ customer service has improved at all. I was at their forum the other day. There was a cusotmer having trouble getting download link, and was apparently pissed by Ralph’s attitude. He decided not to use their product after the download. The software was not activated (and this is according to Ralph himself). Not only serverelements refused to refund, they went on calling the cusotmer cheater on their forum and disclosed his email address. Forgive my ignorance, but I don’t see any cheating there. Customer did not activate the software, and serverelements got the money. Where is the cheat? If they didn’t want to refund, simply say that all sales are final regardless of activation. That’s all. Calling a paid customer cheater certainly brings their customer service to a whole new level. I am glad that I did my homework before diving in. It puzzles me though that they don’t care how much potential sales they are losing by doing such things.

  37. James/Yogesh,

    Appreciate your comments. While my dealings with ServerElements occurred over a year ago, I had hoped they would have grown or learned something with respects to better customer service.

  38. Mark,

    I understand your point. I also assumed incorrectly that a software raid is included in the NASlite2. I also bought it but most likely not going to use it. I did not try to contact these guys but I was actually disappointed by NASlite overall. 30$ is not a big deal after all – part of my learning process on this issue so I am not sweating it. NASlite2 targetting of old P1 or 486 machines is a bit out of touch but laudable from a IT-recycler perspective so the limitations are imposed by the minimum configurations.

    I am with you on making assumptions on the product functionality and I agree with another poster that this is the price one pays for not reading fine prints. On the other hand the product does not come with any demo and has some rather ridiculous constraints but I guess this is the serverelements business model so that’s fine too.

    The part I really want to get at is my experience on building a NAS/RAID5 solution.:

    I also wanted to build a RAID/NAS box in a WINDOWS/LINUX environment, getting the best perfomance I can with minimum spending. I thought initially that FreeNAS would fill the bill but then I noticed the relatively slow samba on BSD (maybe around 6MB/s over a 100MB) with a PIII-700/256MB RAM. I thought I can do better than that. I got a cheap ebay lsi megaraid i4 511 card and with nas2 I got actually 4MB/s. To top the decrement in performance, if the card actually dies I have to get a second similar one to recover the data – not really good perspective. Also unique NIC support when I actually wanted 2 NICS on 2 different subnets .

    Comparing FreeNAS and NASlite2 I do believe that FreeNAS is superior from various point of view such as WEB interface, software raid, SMART drive control/reporting (not sure about UPS support), multiple NIC support, better security. NAS has probably going some performance boost out of very low end computers which is not bad actually but is rather limited otherwise. For example on my machine NAS2 would lock up and would not be able to do any administration without a reboot induced by power button. I also had a little trouble in the beginning with FreeNAS when I installed.

    I am not familiar with BSD though so I kept trying with a Linux based solution. I eventually decided I am going to use the good ol’ Slackware and do the right thing i.e. a full install. I ended up with a full install of Slack 12 on software raid 5 out of generic ide cards. I am getting about 17MB/s over 1Gbs card from a RAID5 over 4 PATA 320GB WDC with xfs filesystem. I have now UPS shutown (apcupsd), smart spindown (ngflushd), 2 NICs, custom samba, ssh, and normal linux distro to support other crazy things I may want out of this machine that I got for the rather high price of 70$.

    Again I believe the capability of my setup is equivalent to the FreeNAS but superior to NAS. I can actually appreciate more the FreeNAS solution that beats my current setup in term of interface.

    I read some concerns about long term stability and associated risk of data loss but I can not comment as I had no trouble in the week I had Freenas up. Naslite was also good and stable for about 2 weeks I had it up but the hardware raid is inferior to the software raid and the single NIC was a real turn off for me. I trust Slackware as I know it and been using it for ~10 years now so I would be surprised if I will be getting any problems.

    This pretty much sums up my experience and hopefully may be of interest to you or anyone else reading this blog. One can always google various aspects and decide for himself.

    Regards,
    Ovidiu

  39. I read the original blog entry and detected none of the whining or dissatisfaction that others are accusing Mark of. He downloaded the product by error, requested a refund, dropped the issue when no refund was provided, posted the experience. I think this falls under the “It never hurts to ask” rule.

    I will add my voice of support to the others who have noted FreeNAS as viable solution to your NAS needs, Mark. I have been using it for months in an all XP office, 10 users, software raid 1 for data storage. I have a new but modest computer running FreeNAS and get perfectly adequate transfer rates over my 100 Mbps LAN (about 30 to 40 Mbps). FreeNAS is still in beta stage, but I have found the product to be perfectly stable. In the 3 months it has been running, I have never had a system crash. The real shortcoming is documentation, good but not great. A major strength is the help forum. You will find a fair amount of criticism about FreeNAS on the web, it is mostly written about previous versions which must have been much less reliable then its current form.

  40. Thank you for your comments. What I find most interesting is the progress of FreeNAS. While I set up a Debian RAID 5 server at home using an older PC, I am always contending with the notion of switching off that older PC and on to something more energy efficient and quieter. A fan-less RAID 5 device or relocating that server are some options I am considering.

  41. After reading the blog post and the responses, I have to side with Mark. Don’t know why some of the folks here are crucifying the guy.

  42. Mark,

    I am sorry to hear that you have wasted time and money. And I appreciate that you share your experience with others. I bought NASLite earlier. The fancy status page on their website fooled me. I thought there would be same type of admin pages for configuration and management. There weren’t of course. The pretty page is status only. I can only blame myself for not reading the ‘fine print’. But posting the fancy status page is somehow deceiving, unscrupulous users tend to fausely assume there was a webgui. And their ‘No refund whatsoever’ policy really sucks. That’s why it’s important that someone is willing to share his experience with others, so people who do their homework before purchase won’t make the same mistake. They have total control over their own forum, any negative opinion will be put to death. But they can’t control the internet.

    As to the performance that Serverelements people like to boast about NASLite, I can say that it’s about the same as other free alternatives, no real advantages as I can detect. If you need blazing fast file server, go get powerful hardware which makes real difference. NasOS won’t turn a slow machine into a fast one. No magic driver can turn a Focus into a BMW M5.

  43. Well I ended up going with NASLite. There wasn’t any trial so I just had to purchase it($29us). Turns out that it is almost utter crap. Most of the time after enabling and formatting a drive, after you restart to actually start using the disk, it doesn’t recognize that the disk is enabled and formatted so it just ignores it.

    Everything must be done through a telnet interface. It has a really nice web interface but you can’t change ANY settings through it. You can only view the status ( disk temp, proc usage, disk usage, network settings). I couldn’t even find an option to set the network to DHCP. I wish there would have been a trial so I didn’t waste the 30 bucks. I’m probably going to move my system over to freenas asuming I can get it working with my VIA VB7001G motherboard.

  44. Naslite is nothing more than a Linux kernel plus a Samba server and NFS server, all open source. The user interface isn’t much easier to use than command line. And the small foot print that Serverelements people so proud of makes little sense on modern hardware. Why would anyone spend money to take their BS is beyond me. What’s wrong with a minimum install of Linux and then enable Samba and NFS? Besides, in case you are not comfy with Linux command line, there is always Openfiler which has a nice web GUI to handle everything, including software RAID. Learn your lesson, and stay away from those people and those product that actually worth nothing.

  45. I haven’t used Naslite 2 for over a year as I had big problems with NFS on Macintosh systems (lots of files with looooooong names). SE refused initially to acknowledge any problems (as it’s 99% Linux open source, maybe they just didn’t know ;-))

    Finally they admitted to 1 problem but not the major ones.

    I’ve just tried to revive a machine that some old files I’d like to access. Apparently it’ll cost me $4.49 to “reactivate” my old details.

    As Nick above points out, why spend the money? Just stay well away………..

  46. I bought their USB version, and when the motherboard died, I needed to move the license to another machine which does not support USB boot. I was told that I had to shed another $30 to buy their HDD edition. Load of crap.
    They used to be good to their clients, but it’s been getting much worse after they had NASLite2 out. Maybe because they think that they are big players now and don’t need to give a shit to customer services. But AFAIK, SE is still a two men shop.

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