back to article Thecus N4310 4-bay: A NAS-ty beast for the budget-conscious

When The Reg did a roundup of four bay NAS units a few months back, it was mentioned that it was intended to put the latest Thecus model, the N4310, up against some of its competitors. The company was finalising some firmware tweaks before launch, though, so it wasn’t available in time. But now I’ve got my hands on one to see …

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Re: Unclear

" It performs better and has a whole lot more features installed than you might think looking at the price tag and even comes with power redundancy (if you buy a second power adaptor)"

Yes.

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Quick RAID

AFAIK most vendors allow access to the RAID set while it is still syncing, they just don't brag about it. But then, if you don't have much to brag about....

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This Vs a HP MicroServer?

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K
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Pint

This has "dual" PSU's and supports USB 3... what do you think?

Yep, HP Microserver ;) I have one sitting under my desk, still the best available, and a side benefit it makes an awesome foot rest.

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This or HP MicroServer

This Vs a HP MicroServer?

HP MicroServer without a doubt. About same price (especially if MicroServer has one of the frequent cashback offers available). However with the MicroServer you can have more memory, your choice of "firmware". 4 drive bays plus optical. Has PCI-e slots so you could add cheap raid card and populate the 5.25" bay with 4 x 2.5" drives (or optical + 2 x 2.5"). It has USB socket on motherboard which is nice for booting FreeNAS. CPU is only Turion but does fairly decent job.

If you don't want to tinker then I'd say Synology or QNAP are probably better choices than Thecus.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with xcase other than satisfied customer for getting most out of storage bays on some systems with limited bays

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Re: This or HP MicroServer

You can pick up an N54L for about £170. That's the model that was current about 2 years ago. I have the N40L, which is the previous model to that, and have absolutely no problems with performance.

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Re: This or HP MicroServer

At home & smaller sites, I use http://www.freenas.org/ & old Desktop (here, dualcore/8Gb ram), with some new drives ...

Not having a go @ HP, I like their gear, mostly ...

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Glad to see somewhere else has discovered the other uses of the HP microservers.

I bought a second so I could put some wood across and make a shelf.

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Re: This or HP MicroServer

FreeNAS makes no sense (or worse, will corrupt your data, due to way ZFS cache works) without fair amount of ECC memory. Few old desktops support this.

EDIT: Looking at HP website I do not see MicroServer supporting ECC memory either HP MicroServer seems to support ECC memory, from

The server supports dual-rank, PC3-10600E/PC3-12800E (DDR3 ECC) DIMMs operating at 1333 MHz or 1600 MHz speed.

.. now very tempted to build a FreeNAS myself :)

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Re: This or HP MicroServer

My "old" desktop mb's, are usually only 9-10months old, but yes HP gear has the ECC bits, also Intel, AsRock, Asus, others available, but I should have mentioned that ...

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Paris Hilton

Sir

and what speed is the LAN port? Are we to assume 1Gbps or what?

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Re: Sir

The article reports apeeds of up to 90 MB/s, so it must be gigabit. Fast ethernet tops out about 12 MB/s.

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Anonymous Coward

Those DC input jacks hardly inspire confidence, looks like something you'd pick up at a street market or on ebay.

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wait for it...

The article keeps implying this unit is cheap, however the price isn't mentioned anywhere. Golf clap to the author.

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Facepalm

Re: wait for it...

£235 unpopulated RRP - from the bottom of the last page of the review, where it usually is.

Unless Ed is remarkably swift of finger and updated the page after your comment...

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Re: wait for it...

Readers using the mobile version of the site don't see the price.... but thanks for the info.

And, El Reg, could you please work on that? Thanks again.

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Re: wait for it...

Mobile version - noted - added to task list.

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Re: wait for it...

That was it. I was, and am currently, viewing it on my mobe.

My apologies Ed, I figured the content would be constant across platforms.

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Re: wait for it...

The price wasn't displayed when I opened the link from thereg tweet on my iPhone using the Twitter app. The summary box (with the price) wasn't displayed, so I'm guessing an issue with the mobile specific site?

Using Safari on iOS directly though opens the same site as a desktop browser and the price is displayed.

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Re: wait for it...

@Josh Cain

"That was it. I was, and am currently, viewing it on my mobe.

My apologies Ed, I figured the content would be constant across platforms."

What do think this is, Microsoft?

:p

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h3

Re: wait for it...

There is no reason something like this shouldn't be able to have the decent atom that supports ECC etc if that HP Windows 8.1 tablet sells tor £75.

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Had a Thecus, don't bother

All the firmware problems seem familiar - I had a Thecus NAS a few years ago, never again. Their software is awful, the community forums were poor & unsupported by the company. Buy a Synology or a QNAP if you can spring for it, otherwise just roll your own.

Cheap dedicated NAS hardware is often just that, cheap.

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Re: Had a Thecus, don't bother

I have had Thecus and support was not that bad, but still crappy much like other NAS-in-a-box offerings.

Really, if you have the technical know-how (which usually is the case of El Reg readers), then a cheap server like HP ProLiant Gen8 G1610T MicroServer, some more ECC memory, and a copy of FreNAS will give you a much better box.

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Re: Had a Thecus, don't bother

I agree - it's a Thecus so save your money and buy something that works. My experience of owning a Thecus N2200Plus was dire, although the European support team were excellent. Despite many, many firmware updates many of the features just didn't work. Why they were included in the GUI in the first place is a mystery. It then started to drop the raid 0 array for no apparent reason and you couldn't remount it without tech support accessing the NAS.

I replaced it about a year ago with an ASUSTOR AS-604T which has been so stable I keep forgetting about it.

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Re: Had a Thecus, don't bother

Like some other commenters, I have decades of experience with Unix/Linux and have 'rolled my own' NAS in the past. But I just don't have time to do so right now, either with setup or maintenance. Also, most DIY NASs consume far, far more electricity than these purpose built boxes. Both Synology & QNAP offer very, very good products, much better than cheaper low-end stuff like Thecus. They are in a different category, really, closer in capabilities to 'enterprise' products with consumer grade easy of use, quiet and energy efficient.

I've had NAS boxes from Thecus, Linksys, Buffalo, Netgear, WD and various cheap 'generic' brands. I now have a Synology, it's by far the best so far, even better than a previous DIY using data-center level hardware. Like someone else said, it's so good I just forget about it - it's virtually silent as well.

TL;DR: If you want something that just works, don't want to spend hours putting together the perfect HW, more hours (days?) getting all working and then yet more time maintaining the thing (while it uses vastly more electricity), just get something from Synology or QNAP.

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Re: Had a Thecus, don't bother

So you didn't even look @ link for http://www.freenas.org, just to have a look, Just going with "what you know", well nice, If your PC or NAS is using too much electricity, put a appropriate PSU in it, NOT the 950W thing you might need for windows & a graphics card, some HDD's.

If 'free" is a issue, try TRUENAS from same people, it's their commercial Version, you can pay money to somebody for those ...

Of the fact, that people who use it say, its "Plug&Play", extremely easy to use & setup, like a Modem or Router ...

I will admit some using it concern me, Dept of Homeland Security, Us Government, Disney, Reuters amongst others... ( Why don't they Pay A NAS manufacturer )

Year 43 working on PC's & System for me, I try to learn something NEW every day, cause the day you stop learning is the day you die ..

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Re: Had a Thecus, don't bother

Sorry, but I'm happy pay to avoid having to spend time doing menial tasks or maintaining things - that's buying back time I can use for more productive things.

My time to usefulness on the Synology was about 30 minutes - please explain how putting together a bunch of hardware, replacing a PSU and installing Freenas is going to take a similar amount of time.... Never mind trying to install all the other features you get with a Synology (like archiving security camera footage).

PS - If after 43 years you don't understand the value of time and you consider setting up PC hardware & open source software a learning experience, well, I don't know what to say.

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Re: Had a Thecus, don't bother

Every Day, something changes, if you are too "busy" to notice, not my problem, I believe people learn something new every day, even from something done a thousand times (ask the misses), cause the day human stop learning is the day we die ...

And I am NOW a Pensioner, ALL DAY to play with PC's & bits, so yes it is still FUN for me, I enjoy having 4 PC's within reach, I like having Boxes of Real OLD PC's/Laptop/HomePCs to fiddled with, don't need emulators ...

So building a NAS in a couple of hours, is nothing, I know I can repair it, build it, if it was a store purchase, anything is problem it goes back to factory ..

If you are in PC's for bit, having parts about is not usually a problem, So I believed a 300/350 watt PSU is not a impossible find, but even 250W depending on drives ..

You see I thought this El Reg, a IT site, so maybe people here, may be able understand some of these concepts, & realise that while being too much for Home User, maybe some IT staff might be better looking @ something that will TEACH them something ...

So have you ever set a FreeNAS, do you know how easy it is ? Doesn't seem so, OK I can see, you need something from a packet, another Modern IT Pro, more than a few mouse clicks, they are lost, busy, haven't got time ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Had a Thecus, don't bother

One of those J1900 Mini itx boards makes a great starter point for a DIY NAS.

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Pass

It supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and 10 and JBOD arrays.

Snore. Nothing fancier? ZFS? LVM? Bueller?

Multiple RAID volumes are also supported but because it uses the EXT4 file system the maximum for any volume is 16TB.

Ext4 supports volumes up to 1 exabyte, but only with a larger block size. So what is actually unsupported is using a non 4kb block size on ext4. 16TB sounds a lot, but its not - buy this, put 4TB disks in it, wait 3 years, upgrade the disks to 8TB disks and you are over that 16TB limit.

Price: £235 (unpopulated) RRP

Just shy of £60 per bay..

I am probably slightly beyond the target audience - too tight and too demanding. My current home storage server has enclosures with 32 bays (just 16 populated atm) for around 28TB of ZFS storage, for which I paid roughly the same as the Thecus..

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Re: Pass

I don't know if its still the case, but fsck-ing ext4 with large arrays needs lots of memory, more than 2GB usable, and that is a problem on small NAS.

You are better off with XFS for a lot of those NAS, but ZFS (and not on LVM as Thecus do - doh!) is much better (subject to much more memory though).

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lenovo ts440 with xeon e3-1245 v3 with 4 x empty Hot Swap drive bays including delivery = £308 from ebuyer or this NAS?

I'd go for the xeon powered machine any day, install esxi, freenas and consolidate all home servers to one plug socket (freenas, dns, media server, windows machine etc).

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yes...HP Microserver N36L ( you can get them for pennies on flebay )

Run Open Media Vault..

Does all the normal NAS stuff..and more..

and thanks to a DVBS2 card does TV with multi channel record, live pause..

and it doesn't have some crappy 9v power brick..

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Drive trays?

Do I read that right ... there are removable drive trays into which the disks must be installed (screwed in?) before they can be inserted?

It's not beyond the wit of man to build drive bays that accept bare drives, and they would probably be cheaper as well as more convenient for the user.

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Re: Drive trays?

It's not beyond the wit of man to build drive bays that accept bare drives, and they would probably be cheaper as well as more convenient for the user.

Personally for things like this I much rather screw the drives in place. With lowish end hardware like this I've had too many bad experiences with clip in trays - they may work well enough on day one but invariably there are plastic components that are turning brittle come year five. I'd expect to run an array such as this for at least ten years (demoted to backup store towards the end) so I'd happily a moment's inconvenience for those years of extra life.

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Re: Drive trays?

problem is drives aren't a standard size they come in loads of different thicknesses. It could be done but everything would need to be held in place by springs and the drives would just vibrate themselves to death.

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Re: Drive trays?

Until the button to eject said disc breaks whilst the disc is inserted upside down.

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Re: Drive trays?

problem is drives aren't a standard size they come in loads of different thicknesses.

These are 3.5" SATA hard drives. There is a standard size and although there are now some thinner versions in lower capacities any drive worth putting in a NAS is typically going to be high-capacity and so the full 1" thickness.

There *are* caddy-less drive receptacles for SATA drives, and they do work very well in practice. I just haven't seen one in a NAS.

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RAID6

It supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and 10 and JBOD arrays.

Got any timings for RAID6 mode?

I wouldn't say that this thing really has enough bays for RAID6 -- especially not with a hot spare -- but it'd still be nice to know how fast it is.

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Re: RAID6

Yes, I worry when reports like this profile RAID-0 without dire warnings about how that is not really "RAID" because it lacks the redundancy pert of the acronym...

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Re: RAID6

"I wouldn't say that this thing really has enough bays for RAID6 -- especially not with a hot spare -- but it'd still be nice to know how fast it is."

And RAID 5 is statistically unwise for drives over 2TB, with all real SAN vendors dropping support. There is no good RAID solution for large drives at home. The really worrying part is that nobody warns amateur users of large drive data loss issues.

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Re: RAID6

Rebuild times for classical RAID (including smarter ones like ZFS) is a bit problem with modern drives because the capacity has increased way beyond the read/write speed, so you can be looking at days or even a week or so. That is not, in its self, a problem but both the longer time and the huge amount of data means you have a much greater chance of another disk croaking (or discovering bad sectors) during this process.

This is why you really, REALLY, should be scrubbing your RAID array every week/fortnight. This forces the disks to read every sector and then to fix/remap bad sectors while you still have parity, so when you lose a disk in RAID-1/5/10 you have a sporting chance of a successful rebuild.

Better still, look to dual parity like RAID-6 or ZFS' RAID-Z2

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Mushroom

Re: RAID6

> The really worrying part is that nobody warns amateur users of large drive data loss issues.

Are you kidding? The FUD in this regard is constant and pervasive.

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@JEDIDIAH

Clearly you know little and/or have never used any significant number of single-parity RAID before. Maybe you got lucky, but others know that sinking feeling when a RAID rebuild throws up errors due to bad sectors on what you had hoped were the remaining good disks.

Of course "RAID is not backup" as everyone here should know, but unless you have a 2nd RAID or some serious money in a tape system you will have a tedious and probably incomplete data restore to face you.

By the way, that is one of the nice things about ZFS: it tells which files are corrupt, not that sector 1284529784 has an error and you have to either spend ages on your file system of choice to identify what that impacted upon, or go down the "nuke it from orbit" route of a fresh start and complete restore.

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Large drive data loss

The loss of data on large drives can usually be restored from... various places on the internet.

The question is, where do the backups go? If you have no other storage, my guess is that you'll be doing JBOD with per-drive volumes and separate backup disks - maybe two mirrored drives + two mirrored drives for backup? RAID5 is hardly an option with so few slots.

Oi, El Reg, all this commercial punting is one thing, but is there a chance of getting some stats on a core2 or AMD low-end desktop chip doing this sort of job with FreeNAS or something like that? Are they in the same ball-park for performance or do the NAS appliances have some secret sauce to make things wonderful?

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So, while the spec sheet lists things like itunes compatibility, etc. - has that been tested? My BlackArmor has the same checkboxes (ticked as well), but it failed to work properly even after multiple firmware updates over time.

That was the biggest mistake i made - not waiting for in-depth reviews on NAS boxes...

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Or if you want something that just works and doesn't chew power get a Netgear ReadyNAS.

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I've had 2 x 8TB 4bay ReadyNAS units running for close on 3 years serving the family's needs for movie and MP3 storage, plus PC/Mac backups. They're on 24 hours a day and (*touch wood*) I've only had one drive blow out on me, simply replaced on the fly without shut down. They've been patched to allow root access over SSH and I've even run a web based torrent client directly off one off one of the units! They're absolutely superb and very hackable units running Linux.

Looking to buy another NAS unit and I'm after another ReadyNAS based on how well the current two I have, have been.

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One of the keys to "inexpensive home nas" is the running cost.

how much does this cost per hour of streaming video compared to the likes of the Drobo 5N for example?

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