The Macworld office is a noisy place, with people shouting to others to turn Sharing on or to find a lost CD. But now that Primary Storage has invented the Max, it needn’t be like this. The Max is a network-storage device that can hold commonly used files, archives, MP3s or CD-ROMs.
PC users in professional environments almost universally use servers. Companies with Macs don’t always have servers, because peer-to-peer networks have been the Mac way. It’s not that we can’t have servers, we just don’t have to. The Max offers fast and easily accessible storage across the network, without the hassle of a fully fledged server.
The box looks like a big black PC – its heart is a Pentium processor. But don’t be put off, because this is no PC. It does have an operating system (Linux), but you never have to see it. It discreetly works with little or no interference. All administration is done through a browser, and it’s surprisingly easy to do. You can archive to CD or backup to tape, keep track of volumes and users, twiddle with network settings and even format the drives. You can do all this, but in reality you’ll probably only look at settings on the initial setup. Then you can safely ignore them unless you need to backup.
Max’s specifications are impressive. It includes a CD/DVD drive, a separate CD burner, a tape backup, dual hard drives for storage, and dual hard drives for archiving CDs and DVDs. There are various configurations available, but we looked at the base model, which uses four 40GB drives. Primary will also custom build whatever’s required.
Just pop the CD in the drive, and it will automatically make a disc image and then pop the CD out again. It’s a far better solution than traditional jukebox CD archives, and if you think a network solution is slower than inserting a CD, you’d be wrong. Apart from finding a CD in the first place – which can be a challenge in itself – once mounted on a computer, the server image is as quick as having the CD in the drive.
Running Max under OS X is not as straightforward as we would like, but that’s down to OS X more than anything else. The problem is connecting using SMB (Samba), which acts strangely when you use unusual characters such as the euro or @ symbols. This problem isn’t limited to this server: all Samba servers do it. It can result in lost data and odd behaviour. The solution is to connect using common Internet file system (cifs) by typing cifs:// before the IP address of the server. If still using Mac OS 9, simply use AppleTalk instead. Most other operating systems are supported by Max also.
Having a box like this to administer could be daunting, but it’s simple. Shared storage is convenient, especially in the offices such as Macworld, where issues are archived on CDs. It means an end to shouting across the room, or sending emails to everyone in the building to find a missing disc. If you work in an office full of Macs (or Windows machines) then this will make life much easier.
Min specs: Ethernet network