Thecus N7700 review

£949
Price when reviewed

Competition in the desktop NAS appliance market has reached fever pitch with vendors trying every which way to outdo each other. Netgear has barely announced its six-bay ReadyNAS Pro and Thecus strikes back with the first seven-bay desktop appliance – has the world gone mad?

Standing over a foot tall, the N7700 will be difficult to miss. Behind its metal door you have seven lockable hot-swap drive bays, the Gigabit LAN and WAN ports can be placed on different subnets or linked together in load balanced or failover teams, and the USB port count goes up to four with the front pair used by the backup button for copying the contents of external storage devices to a predefined folder on the appliance. You can ignore the PCI Express slot as Thecus has this set aside for future use.

Although its web interface isn’t as pretty as Synology’s, it is easy enough to use. You start by creating your RAID arrays and the seven bays makes RAID6 a reality, although dual drive redundant arrays still cost in terms of lost capacity. We used a triplet of 1TB WD Greenpower SATA drives and a RAID5 array took around four hours to complete.

Pick your file system carefully as although Thecus supports EXT3 and ZFS, volume snapshots can only be run on the latter. You also need to decide what percentage should be kept aside on each array for iSCSI targets and the N7700 supports up to five of these per RAID volume. Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac systems are on the guest list, you have FTP services and access security extends to a local user database plus NT domain and AD authentication.

Backup options aren’t as good those offered by the ReadyNAS Pro but Thecus’ Nsync does allow data to be copied from one appliance to another on a schedule. It’s also replaced the inferior Backup Utility software with FarStone’s DriveClone Pro, which secures selected files and folders on workstations at scheduled intervals, has a snapshot service for disaster recovery and offers drive and partition cloning as well.

it_photo_32246Thecus now provides update modules and offers IP camera support and a web server for the N7700. Both are easy to install but as we found with the N4100PRO, the IP camera module has limited functions as you can’t view live feeds and can only take scheduled snapshots from multiple cameras and store them on the appliance.

The N7700 really shines in the performance stakes, and using a quad-core Xeon Dell PowerEdge 1950 we saw Iometer report storming raw read and write speeds of 95MB/sec. Real world performance wasn’t so great, with copies of a 2.52GB video file returning read and write speeds of 51.5MB/sec and 41MB/sec, but these improved massively over FTP to 83MB/sec and 71MB/sec respectively. IP SAN speeds were very good as well with Iometer reporting a raw read rate of 96MB/sec for a 50GB target.

There’s no questioning the N7700 for performance, as it’s now the second fastest desktop NAS appliance on the planet. However, we know what you’re thinking – do you need seven drives or only six? We’d rather go for Netgear’s ReadyNAS Pro as in this case less is actually more.

Basic specifications

Capacity N/A
Cost per gigabyte N/A
RAID capability yes
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Services

FTP server? yes

Connections

USB connection? yes
eSATA interface yes

Security and administration

Admin support for users yes
Admin support for groups yes
Admin support for disk quotas yes

Software

Software supplied FarStone DriveClone Pro

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