Buffalo TeraStation 7120r Enterprise review

£5556
Price when reviewed

Buffalo Technology has always been content to serve up network storage to consumers and SMBs, but now it wants a piece of the enterprise market. Its latest TeraStation 7000 Series aims to offer bigger businesses scalable and cost-effective storage solutions.

On review is the flagship TeraStation 7120r Enterprise, a 2U rack appliance with a 3.4GHz Intel Xeon E3-1275 CPU and 8GB of DDR3 memory. The latter can be upgraded, but the existing DIMMs must be replaced – the motherboard only has two slots.

The Enterprise model has all 12 of its hot-swap bays populated with 2TB WD Enterprise SATA II hard disks. You can’t buy a diskless model, and if a drive fails you must buy your replacements from Buffalo.

However, there are two alternative 7120r models with 8TB or 12TB of storage, and empty bays for adding extra drives later on. These have a slower 3.1GHz Xeon E3-1225 CPU and 4GB of DDR3 memory.

The appliance has six USB 2 ports for external storage devices, but it doesn’t have any integral USB 3 ports. For these, you’ll need to add Buffalo’s optional USB 3 PCI Express card, which costs an extra £35.

Buffalo TeraStation 7120r Enterprise

As with its desktop appliances, Buffalo’s NAS Navigator 2 utility automatically discovers the appliance and provides direct access to the web console. For file sharing, the appliance supports SMB, NFS and AFP, and each protocol can be enabled or disabled with a single mouse click.

For access security, the 7120r supports a local user database or authentication via Active Directory. Share features are all accessed from one screen, where you decide on global read or read/write access, select which protocols are supported, assign a Recycle Bin and apply access permissions. It also supports share replication using rsync, but only to other TeraStations.

The bundled NovaBackup Business Essentials software makes light work of scheduled workstation backups, and the price includes a ten-user licence. The cloud backup features aren’t as good as those offered by Synology and Qnap, however, since the 7120r supports only Amazon S3. Additionally, for IP camera surveillance, you’ll need to use a Windows PC as a host for the Surveillance Server software: the appliance only acts as a vault for camera recording.

Before using the appliance, you’ll need to think carefully about deployment. Out of the box, the 7120r has all its drives configured as a RAID6 array with LVM disabled. This configuration supports a single logical volume, which can be used for NAS shares or one big IP SAN volume.

If you want multiple NAS and IP SAN volumes to co-exist on the same disk array, you need to switch on LVM, but doing so will delete any pre-existing shares. Likewise, disabling LVM on the array will also delete any shares and IP SAN targets.

Buffalo TeraStation 7120r Enterprise

Along with the four embedded Gigabit ports, the appliance has two PCI Express slots, and supports a good range of single- and dual-port 10GbE adapters from Intel and Emulex. For testing, we installed an Emulex OCe11102-NM dual-port 10GbE adapter, which was accepted without any problems.

We started with Gigabit and saw good results immediately. Iometer reported fast raw read and write speeds of 109MB/sec for a share mapped to a Dell PowerEdge R515 server running Windows Server 2012. For 10GbE implementations, we recommend enabling jumbo frames: without them, Iometer reported a raw read speed of 682MB/sec for a mapped share; this jumped to 847MB/sec with frames of 9,000 bytes configured.

IP SAN performance over 10GbE was even better, with Iometer reporting a raw read rate of 880MB/sec for a thinly provisioned 500GB target. Buffalo warns that LVM may have performance overheads, but we could see no evidence of these during testing.

Buffalo’s LVM feature requires careful thought regarding future storage requirements, however, and the lack of external expansion could be an issue later on. That said, the TeraStation 7120r Enterprise is fast over Gigabit Ethernet and 10GbE networks, and compares well on price with similar 12-bay rack appliances from Qnap.

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