Hands on: Thecus N4310 NAS
6 January 2016 | 0
Entry level storage has come a long way from where it was a few years ago. No longer is it just a dump for data till you figure out what to do with it, storage is now intelligent, connected and affordable.
The Thecus Network Attached Storage (NAS) N4310 is a four bay device that supports a panoply of file systems, sharing protocols and internet connectivity.
Its vital statistics are a 1Ghz AMCC APM86491RDK processor supported by 1GB of DDR3 RAM, with a PCI-e enabled Ethernet port (10/100/1000 BASE-TX Auto MDI/MDI-X, WOL supported), as well as two front and two back USB 3.0 ports. There are dual power inputs too for redundancy. The four drive bays support full sized 89mm (3.5”) SATA disks.
It is a neat package of just 135 x 170 x 217 mm, and easily sits on or under a desk, or nestles in a rack. It is quiet and unobtrusive.
Set up is easy, as the drives are easily installed with four screws a piece and once in their individual trays simply slide into the enclosure to be secured by the locking levers. Depending on the RAID configuration, the drives are hot swappable.
Once powered up and plugged into the network, or via USB, a simple utility Thecus Intelligent NAS, detects the device and kicks off the set up. Choose your RAID configuration based on how many and what size drives are installed, and that is pretty much it.
The RAID options are numerous, Modes 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and JBOD, with auto-rebuild supported, hot-swap, hot spare supported, with RAID Level migration and expansion. There is also RAID volume encryption AES 128-bit with hardware integration.
In terms of network options, there are static IP or dynamic IP address, TCP/IP and AppleTalk, over TCP/IP IPV6 and IPV4. File protocols cover SMB/CIFS, HTTP/HTTPS, FTP, AFP, NFS. Trivial File Transfer Protocol (TFTP) users can download and upload files with TFTP programs. BitTorrent is supported, as is NZB client (via NZB Module) and WebDAV/WebDAV SSL. There is a wide range of IPP printers supported with printer server.
However, one of the critical uses of NAS in both the business and consumer context is for data back-up. The N4310 supports client incremental data back-up via the Thecus Backup Utility. It can also create ISOs to burn to optical disc, as well as read ISO image from optical disc and write to NAS. It also supports Mac OS X Time Machine. Data Guard provides remote/local Back-up. Block Level Data Access is via iSCSI Target/Initiator Supports Microsoft/Mac OS X/Linux initiators and Thecus NAS targets.
Also in the business context, LDAP and Windows ADS are support, making it easy to integrate the N4310 into anything from a SOHO to an enterprise environment.
In entirely unscientific tests, a 168MB ISO file was transferred back and forth while the N4310 was connected via Ethernet on a 100Mb/s standard network. The file copied in under 16 seconds, giving transport speeds averaging around 11MB/s. The test rig was equipped with 2 x Seagate 7,200rpm 4GB drives in RAID 1 configuration. The result is probably more of a reflection of network speed than the N4310, but it demonstrates that the device is capable of taking full advantage of network standard speeds. Direct read/write speeds of up to 100MB/s and 75MB/s respectively are claimed with RAID 5 and 4 disk configuration.
Overall, the Thecus N4310 is a device of two sides. First of all, its set-up and initial configuration are so easy as to be accessible for anyone who understands the concept of NAS, whereas the shear level of support in connectivity and protocols means that an advanced user can do some pretty sophisticated stuff too. However, it is the last trick in the N4310 bag that is the icing on the cake. As part of the set-up, the device can be configured for Dynamic DNS with a range of services, to allow it to be accessible via the Internet — essentially creating your own cloud storage.
While there do not appear to be many stockists in Ireland (Misco.ie do carry some), the Thecus devices seem to be very competitively priced compared to similar offerings.