Thecus N5200PRO RouStor review

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Thecus has a habit of delivering industry firsts with its NAS appliances. The N5200 RouStor (web ID: 97782) was the first desktop unit with five hot-swap drive bays and support for RAID6, and this superb range of features has kept it on the PC Pro A List since it was launched last year. With the latest N5200PRO, it enters new territory as the first desktop NAS appliance to support iSCSI.

Thecus N5200PRO RouStor review

Two new models are on offer and the one we looked at was the N5200BR PRO, which has five gigabit networks ports – one providing WAN duties and the other four grouped into a separate switch where the appliance performs routing between them. You can also stop systems on the LAN ports from accessing the WAN port. The N5200B PRO has two gigabit ports and can perform load balancing and failover.

The new iSCSI features come into play when you create your RAID arrays, and it’s worth noting that the appliance can support multiple arrays and migrate RAID0 and RAID1 arrays to RAID5. Thecus has, however, removed the snapshot feature due to technical issues. With the diskless version on test, we added a quartet of 150GB Western Digital Raptor SATA hard disks and created a simple dual-drive mirror. At this stage, you decide what percentage of space is used for data storage. The rest is carved up for USB target or iSCSI volumes, where the former is accessed directly via the appliance’s USB host port.

For iSCSI, you can decide on the IQN name format and implement CHAP authentication. Then, load Microsoft’s iSCSI initiator and point it at the appliance’s IP address. Log on to it and the target now appears to the host as a new local volume. Usefully, the web interface (a slight improvement on its predecessor) displays the details of all logged-in initiators.

Thecus scored well in our real-world tests, with the appliance delivering read and write speeds over CIFS of 34.5MB/sec and 20.3MB/sec when copying a 690MB video file via gigabit Ethernet. FTP performance was also good, as copying the same file using the FileZilla utility returned read and write speeds of 34.5MB/sec and 16.5MB/sec. Copying the test file using a 50GB iSCSI target returned 28.8MB/sec read and modest 13MB/sec write speeds. Compare this with Adaptec’s Snap Server 210 (web ID: 94219) and you’ll see a 50% drop in performance. However, this specialist product commands a higher price premium and the 210 supports only a pair of fixed disks.

Access security extends to NT domain and AD authentication. The appliance supports the AFP and NFS protocols, as well as CIFS and FTP, it has an eSATA and three USB ports, and you can now schedule it to power on and off daily.

Thecus continues where it left off with the N5200. The latest PRO models offer more ways of connecting clients to networked storage, the best hardware specification around and good performance to boot.

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