back to article It's enough to get your back up: Eight dual-bay SOHO NAS boxes

For a great many people, there is only one place to look when talking about storing data somewhere other than their local storage in their PC, notebook or tablet – and that’s to the cloud. Seagate STCT200 dual bay NAS box Best of both worlds: a dual-bay NAS can either double up on capacity or be configured to mirror data …

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RAID-0 FFS?

Please, there is only one application for a RAID-0 box and that is a temporary store for massive video files, etc, while you work with them. You should make that very clear in any proposed test. If you value your data then RAID-0 has no place at all!

Also worth pointing out for the more technical commmentards to consider, you can get an HP ProLiant Gen8 G1610T micro server for under £200 and slap FreeNAS on it, and if you want some more performance also stick in a small SSD for the ZFS Intent Log to give you a reasonable comprimise in performance vs. storage cost.

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Re: RAID-0 FFS?

Agreed. But also, remember that RAID <> backup.

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Re: RAID-0 FFS?

I can't think of any reason to use RAID-0 in a NAS box.

It's useful where performance is critical but data integrity is not - eg, the working copy of something large.

So unless you have SATA-3 or better access speeds, it's worse than useless. No SOHO NAS has that.

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Re: RAID-0 FFS?

FWIW, CoolerMaster Force 500 is a midi-tower case with 8 bays and its dirt cheap (I think I paid AUD 42 a couple of years ago) and you can install the ATX motherboard of your choice. I have one in the garage which runs as a media / TV server, backup server, ISCSI, time-machine, dhcp, PXE... etc. It gives quite a bit more flexibility to re-use old drives when you have more bays. I have an old desktop core2duo m/b in it with dual gig-ethernet on board.

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Re: access speed

What you need in access speed depends on what you are doing, i.e. the balance between your computer's ability to process data and the storage systems ability to provide/accept it.

Most cheap NAS can achieve about 1/2 of a HDD speed if you have Gbit networking and if your budget is limited you might be happy enough just to let it run overnight, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RAID-0 FFS?

Those 1610T's were going for an absolute steal on ebuyer at one time £119 I think with cashback, sadly the offer has now finished.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RAID-0 FFS?

The HP ProLiant Gen8 G1610T does at least have ECC support, a reasonable CPU and a cheap price; however you will need to pay extra for enough ECC RAM to make it usable with FreeNAS 9.3 ZFS and only 4 drive bays may be restrictive e.g. my FreeNAS use 6 drives.

I think that all consumer and SOHO NAS should be regarded as potentially little better than RAID0; some could eventually cause data corruption if non-ECC RAM is used, which is probably the case.

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Re: RAID-0 FFS?

I can't think of any reason to use RAID-0 in a NAS box.

For much of the target market I'd say that Raid-0 is probably the preferred solution, steering away from it based on purely general concerns strikes me as a lazy knee jerk recommendation. As with any choice of technology the specifics of the requirements (should) alter the evaluations.

Most home users are going to want high capacity, small size, low power draw, low noise and low cost. Those are all requirements that steer you away from redundant storage. Your typical home user has no need for high availability so provided you have a backup Raid-0 is perfectly adequate. If you don't have a backup no form of Raid is appropriate since your real problem lies elsewhere.

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Re: RAID-0 FFS?

@mad physicist Fiona

I do agree, most of my NAS is used for streaming media, though I would hate to loose it, backing it up is not an option. I buy NAS on exactly what you say 'high capacity, small size, low power draw, low noise and low cost' the little DNS 320l does me at 35gbp(Amazon special) though I don't use RAID 0 it is set as two independent drives.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RAID-0 FFS?

RAID is no backup, but any backup schema requires reliable storage, and RAID0 is designed for speed only.

Moreover, given the derelict state of most low-end backup software available, for most people, unluckily, "backup" means just a copy of the actual data. - thereby RAID0 just doubles the chances of a total failure, while RAID1 will not.

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Re: RAID-0 FFS?

RAID <> backup.

This is a serious question. It's something I've never really understood.

If you have to have a backup in any case, what is the point of RAID in a normal home environment? Aren't you just doubling the cost for a bit of convenience that the vast majority of people don't really need?

I just use standard NAS in my house, with backup across the network to a USB disk (nightly rsync, running on a RPi). I really don't see what I gain from RAID apart from extra complexity to go wrong.

But I'm happy to be educated.

(I think we need a "?" icon, for people who are asking questions.)

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Re: RAID-0 FFS?

A couple of points regarding this:

1. My philosophy has always been "The more backups the better". Using RAID 1 does provide a backup, although there can be issues with it. But for the most likely scenario of a drive failure you do get one of your backups in a transparent form with almost no performance hit compared to a single drive NAS box, and the advantage that your data continues to be available when that drive fails. And replacing the failed drive is generally very straightforward. But it would be crazy to rely on it without further backup, and here I would suggest three possibilities - firstly a directly connected batch-backuped USB drive (once a day or so) using rsync or the like (many NAS boxes have an easy-to-use packaged version of rsync with a good UI), Secondly a second NAS box which is also backed up to using the same approach. And thirdly a cloud backup if you want - again many NAS boxes have pre-packaged clients for the leading cloud storage providers.

2. I cannot see the point of using RAID 0 on a NAS box - your data is so at risk to a drive failure and if the performance issue is so important you should be using a directly connected (USB3, ESATA, Thunderbolt) drive anyway. What is the point of using network-attached RAID 0? It is just crazy and doesn't make any sense at all to me. Why put all of that performance at the end of a network cable? Even at Gigabit speeds you won't get any faster speed from RAID 0 than you will from RAID 1, as the performance graphs in the review clearly show. So just forget about RAID 0 on a NAS box!

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Re: RAID-0 FFS?

"If you have to have a backup in any case, what is the point of RAID in a normal home environment?"

RAID is for fault tolerance, backup is for disaster recovery.

Disks are relatively unreliable things and will break sooner or later. RAID gives you a bit of breathing space. Hopefully when a disk breaks, you will be able to get hold of a replacement and slot it into the array with little or no downtime or performance loss. Just relying on a backup may involve days of downtime waiting for drives to be delivered and restored.

Even though she has no idea what I'm babbling about, RADI (and UPS) are vital components for a high Wife Acceptance Factor. Indeed, the ability to play crappy rom-com films at a moment's notice (while I'm away) is pretty much business critical.

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DJV

Cloud vs NAS

NAS for me. The day I trust the cloud 100% to hold my data is when it's there to show a single photo of my ashes and I am past caring!

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Happy

Re: Cloud vs NAS

Naah, you're overly dramatic.

Cloud has its place - as an encrypted off-site backup copy for the on-site NAS box dedicated for backup.

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Another question.

What is the amount of bias against arm processors in the intel software?

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Macs can be problematic

I bought a Buffalo NAS a few years ago only to find it wasn't compatible with MAC's AFP. Buffalo were unapologetic (Apple's fault for changing the protocol) and Apple had the same "we implemented the spec. correctly and the other 99.9% of the world is wrong" excuse it has for everything (e.g. iCal invites, mail attachments, etc). I managed to get it working by using a different file manager, but it's a bit of a pain.

I also have a QNAP 410NAS. This has a time machine function which worked OK except that every few weeks I got an error message along the lines of "the time machine backup is corrupt and needs to be replaced". It was a pain because of the time it took to back up the 300GB of crap I've got and also because I lost backups. I bought a Time Capsule and gave up with NAS backups. The QNAP is also very slow. It takes about 20 mins to upload a ripped DVD on wired SMB and isn't much faster on FTP - which is way slower than the 25MB/s quoted. I'm not a tecchie, but my internet research blames either NAS OS or Mac OS or both. The NAS also doesn't cope very well with the Mac's attempts to write hidden files to shares when copying - so after 20 mins of trying to copy a DVD to a share it often comes back with a write error. FTP works OK (and makes me feel like an engineer again!).

I must stress that, apart from the hidden file thing, these problems are a three or four years old, so might have been fixed by firmware updates. The message is that Mac owners need to do a bit of extra research before buying NAS.

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Facepalm

Re: Macs can be problematic

Or, in other words, if you're a Mac user and don't buy the appropriate Apple product to go with it, a shitstorm of compatibility issues shall dog you to the end of your days.

We all knew this anyway....

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Re: Macs can be problematic

If you are not using the NAS for sharing (i.e. it is a backup copy and/or space for keeping very large files) then try to use it as an iSCSI target, and then have the block storage formatted in Apple's own file system. That way the (stupid IMHO) use of alternate data streams for photo metadata, etc, are all supported.

Down side is the extra faffing to get that running and that you can't really access those files on any other machine.

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Re: iSCSI

Hmmm. That's some research to save for those long dark teatimes between contracts. Thanks.

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Re: Macs can be problematic

It's worth noting that the "a few years ago" point is important: from 10.9 onwards, Apple has adopted SMB2 as its default file sharing protocol (it still supports AFP, but it is no longer the default option).

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Re: Macs can be problematic

Apple has moved over to SMB for everything except network Time Machine backups now in their latest OSes. Although their SMB implementation isn't perfect either, however they can't use that excuse any more. Instead you just hit a wall of silence until the next OS upgrade and hope they've done it better.

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Re: Macs can be problematic

iSCSI would be a nice idea but there is no iSCSI initiator baked into OS X and all of the third party ones cost :(

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Re: Macs can be problematic

I really can't say (no Mac yet) but shouldn't you be able to drop down to the (FreeBSD) shell and set up iSCSI initiator there. Come to think about it, if I knew this I'd charge too. ;-).

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Re: Macs can be problematic

I've had a Thecus, ReadyNAS and Synology - none of them had problems with AFP.

I use the Synology with Time Machine, zero issues.

Of the three, I'd highly recommend the Synology - stay away from Thecus, the software is crap.

In general, all of these use the open source netatalk software - any incompatibility is because the vendor is not upgrading the package. Synology & ReadyNAS both have huge communities which often find & solve issues faster than the vendor. IMHO, the size (and sophistication) of the community is key when shopping for a NAS - Synology, Qnap and ReadyNAS all have huge communities, with lots of people creating hacks to use the boxes in different ways.

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Re: Macs can be problematic

But with all these comments said... wouldn't it be lovely if a reviewer tried out whether Time Machine backups work... Or if the manufacturers would put something into their spec sheets...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Macs can be problematic

Mac OS isn't FreeBSD - even if it does have some parts which were derived from FreeBSD.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS_X

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin_(operating_system)

And FreeBSD didn't get a native iSCSI initiator until very recently (10.0), although there were userspace options before then.

https://www.freebsd.org/doc/handbook/network-iscsi.html

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Re: Macs can be problematic

I use a Synology DS214play with two NAS-rated 4TB Seagate drives. Time machine backups from multiple machines work fine. No problem playing transcoded video over WiFi on the AppleTV either.

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HDMI-CEC

Several NAS boxes have HDMI and run XBMC (Kodi). Do they support CEC, if not how is the media centre controlled?

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Re: HDMI-CEC

Kodi can be set up to listen on a port, there are controller apps such as Yatse that can be used on a tablet or phone.

How Kodi is launched in the first place is an interesting question though. Maybe you have to launch it via the web interface? If Kodi hasn't been pre-configured to use a controller app or you don't have one then do you have to plug in a USB mouse?

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Re: HDMI-CEC

Kodi is CEC enabled.

To get around the need for having an IR receiver, I use the Constellation for Kodi on iOS (iPad and iPhone), with regards to starting Kodi, I also have an app that allows me to control the mouse and start items pinned to the task bar.

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Comparative reviewing

Quietness (active and idle), power consumption (active and idle): those are the four factors I'd like to know about when comparing NAS boxes. I'm not that interested in raw performance -- and nor are you if you're even considering cloud-based alternatives.

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JC_

Re: Comparative reviewing

Also, does it have stupidly bright LEDs that are annoying when watching a movie?

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Alert

Re: Comparative reviewing

I'd like to know how often the vendor will release software updates and what their roadmap is for EOL, especially considering El Reg's SOHO-peless "campaign" on updates to home/home-office networking kit for critical security flaws.

I've got four ReadyNAS Duo v1 (Sparc) units - the last update was Oct 2014 which works out at 3-4 years from launch. I don't know if they'll push out any more updates - I'm guessing probably not but I was surprised to see the last update come out.

People might grumble at "only" 3-4 years but this is pretty good in comparison to my Netgear home router which was EOLd about 6-9 months after launch. I'm currently running a Beta firmware from Tech Support to fix the ADSL problems I had but the various beta updates were never released.

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Power

I should have liked to see a comparison of the power consumption of these units, measured both at idle and in use, and some account of the power-saving measures that can be enabled.

NAS units tend to be left switched on 24/365, so the power consumption while idle is important.

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I have a Synology 214se, a lower end version of the 214. I use it for pictures, movies, and general file storage. I've been quite happy with it, especially for the price (about $150, disks are extra, I used a pair of 3TB's). Firmware updates are still happening, and there are quite a few applications that can be loaded on it.

Speed is not a factor for me, but quiet and power consumption are. It's nearly silent. It also goes to sleep after about half an hour - disks spin down, and it goes to just a single blue light. But it does wake up quickly when prodded over the network, and then the files are promptly available again.

The Synology sits in my attic (it's air conditioned space), attached to a UPS. I set it and forget it.

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I have just picked up a Lenovo IX2 DL for under £60 from Amazon, that will do for me.

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Would have been really nice to know if any of these do iSCSI and whether they have apps for backing themselves up to cloud storage services.

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Pint

Yes it would since following the Rule of Three, especially on the cheap, would be a really, really good thing! Still a nice article to keep in my evernotes.

Icon >> author!

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Updates

Another thing which would be worth knowing would be how good are the manufacturers at getting out fixes when a Heartbleed happens.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Updates

Well, Synology seem to put out updates regularly.

As to whether that's bug fixes or feature improvements...

I can say that our work 214 has been running happily non stop for about 3 years with nary a problem though we only use it for file storage and none of the extras.

Given me confidence enough that if I bought a NAS for home use, I'd look at Synology

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Re: Updates

I've got a Synology 212j, the lowliest of the low, running virtually continuously for almost 4 years, (overseas, in the Doomsday Bunker). One of two off-site backups of all the documents & such that are precious to me, plus surveillance camera there. Easiest to set up of any I've tried (a short list), and if I can set it up unaided anybody reading this can. Great apps for everything I might want and much that I don't. Rapid, frequent bug fixes, security and feature updates. Never a hitch of any sort. Hasn't got the horsepower for trans-coding, but they certainly have others which do, and that's not what I bought it for.

Also very quiet & low power consumption. No way to dim the LEDs, but that's what black tape is for.

edits: spelling

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Re: Updates

"Given me confidence enough that if I bought a NAS for home use, I'd look at Synology"

I'm currently looking at something to replace my 8-bay Synology NAS. Their updates have caused connection dropouts, and I'm not the one that's hurt the most. Reading the forums, some have had their boxes entirely borked.

As things stand, it's not workable at all. Not happy Jan.

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Holmes

Specs I Would Like To See

1) Noise in use and at idle

2) Power consumption in use and at idle

3) Disk formatting in mirror mode - i.e. if the NAS breaks are the disks readable by another computer or are they in a proprietary format.

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Just wondering...

were my computer to fall foul of one of these nasty 'ransom-wares' that encypt my files, would I still be able to access data that was backed-up to one of these NAS drives?

I'm assuming I could, since they run a different OS to my PC, but I'd like a second opinion. Also, does any of this ransom-ware cause my PC to instruct any connected NASs to delete/encrypt data? Cheers!

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JC_

Re: Just wondering...

Cryptolocker targets network shares that are mapped to a local drive, so \\MyNas\MyFiles would be fine but Z:\MyFiles would be toast.

However, as people have pointed out, RAID isn't backup - it just helps availability. What you need are copies of the files over time, so as CryptoXXX creates encrypted, current versions, the old copies are untouched and can be used in the restoration.

At home we use CrashPlan for this. When Cryptolocker first broke out, they reportedly came up with a utility to make restoring from a point in time (i.e. pre-infection) a bit easier.

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Re: Just wondering...

The second one is a case of setting up the share so that it allows read access for guests but it requires a user/password to have write access. Don't save the password on the computer, it means you have to type it every time you connect but it also means that ransomware can't fish the password out of the password store when it tries that share.

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Re: Just wondering...

The one with btrfs should support snapshots to allow a roll-back to a past point in time. Not sure I would choose that over ZFS mind, but then all file systems have sucked donkey balls in my experience. As a previous commentard reminds us RAID != Backup, and of course an on-line file system is not a backup.

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Anonymous Coward

i was really hoping for an actual summary

Having worked for two of the firms listed, it would have been nice to see something other than a bunch of bar charts as a summary. Can't say I understand the decision to review only two bay NAS, nor RAID 0, nor using a pair of 6T drives which are clearly above the bang:buck sweet spot.

As regards the iSCSI suggestion mentioned earlier, i'm reliably informed that having >1 machines access iSCSI will result in immediate corruption (unless you have a cluster aware FS (VMFS etc) FS..

*hoping for an edited in summary*

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Re: i was really hoping for an actual summary

Isn't that what LUN masking is for though?

If you set the default to RO for all Initiators, then you have to deliberately set the LUN mask to RW for >1 Initiator to risk iSCSI corruption.

Steve

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