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Two Drives Are Better Than One: Thecus YES Box N2100

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June 6, 2006 2:35:50 PM

RAID Level 1 isn't as robust as RAID5, but requires only two drives and can cost significantly less. Jim Buzbee took Thecus' two-SATA drive N2100 for a spin and found a lot to like.
June 6, 2006 4:31:36 PM

Finally someone covered it! Interesting to see the performance though, as the N2050 was rated as being quite slow, but it seems that the N2100 does well.

Now to see more manufactures come out with similar devices.
June 7, 2006 6:15:02 AM

I'm curious how the new Buffalo Terrastation Pro's compare. They seem to have paid particular attention to passive cooling and noise. They only thing they look like they're missing is print server capability.

The Thecus looks like a great unit. At about $500 after buying a couple 300 G drives vs $820 for a 1GB Terastation pro, I guess it fills a need.
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June 7, 2006 7:12:25 AM

Slightly worried about the lack of warning / logging if a drive fails. The most likely scenario is that one of the drives will start to show errors rather than actually fail. Does RAID 1 have any kind of error checking facility?

If data that is supposed to be the same (mirrored) on each drive is different on each drive when read then clearly there is an error on one of the drives and this should be flagged up to the user.

This is my problem with RAID. It is a good idea in principle, but unless you are made fully aware of any - even minor - problems that one of the drives may be having you are in danger of saving corrupt data. This could go on maybe for days before a drive finally fails by which time it may be too late to repair the errors.
June 7, 2006 1:32:11 PM

Quote:
Does RAID 1 have any kind of error checking facility?


I am most certainly not an expert on RAID, but I do know that hard drive data carries a CRC with
each sector. So if the two drives differ, the one with the correct CRC is the one to use.

But I do agree that the e-mail notification failure would worry me. What this thing REALLY needs is a "health" led. If the light turns red, then SMART is detecting problems. If the light flashes read, then a drive has failed. That would be nice.
June 7, 2006 5:27:56 PM

I have been asked to set up a back up option for a small office.

It has 4 Windows XP computers setup in a peer to peer network. All the PCs connect to the router which is connected to a Cable Modem for internet access. I believe all the PCs have 10/100 Network Cards.

I was thinking to use an NAS box like the N2100. I was planning to install Acronis TrueImage on all the PCs and back up the disk images to the N2100.

I believe each PC has less than 15 GB of data on them.

Does anyone have any comments about weather or not this is a good setup for backing up the PC's data?

Thanks in advance for any advice.
June 7, 2006 9:08:20 PM

Quote:
I have been asked to set up a back up option for a small office.
<snip>
I was thinking to use an NAS box like the N2100. I was planning to install Acronis TrueImage on all the PCs and back up the disk images to the N2100.

Certainly a RAID 1 solution like the Thecus is better than no RAID. But for a small office situation, you might consider a RAID5 solution like the Buffalo TeraStation, Infrant ReadyNASes, Thecus N4100, Intel SS4000E, etc.

The nice thing about the Infrant is that it has a built-in backup utility that doesn't require a client program running on the, uh, clients.
June 8, 2006 5:25:30 AM

Thanks for the advice.

I am not really all that familiar with Raid 5 solutions, but did some reading on your site and feel I have a better understanding now.

My understanding is the Raid 5 solution provides higher performance and greater capacity.

Quote:
The nice thing about the Infrant is that it has a built-in backup utility that doesn't require a client program running on the, uh, clients.


I was wondering how is it that the built in backup utility works without a program running on the clients.

I told the person in charge that having all the PCs store their data on a file server or an NAS would make it easier for him to keep all his data backed up. However, he wants the client PCs to keep their data on their own hard drive. He just wants an NAS to serve as a back up point for all the PCs.

So I guess I would still need each PC to have back up software on it, right?

I imagine it would be very slow though if each PC started backing up data to the NAS at the same time though considering the network is 10/100.

I don't think the person in charge will spend the money for a Raid 5 NAS.

What kind of problems might we face with using a Raid 1 NAS?
June 8, 2006 10:19:19 AM

I would agree that RAID 5 is better / cooler than RAID 1, but in either situation here, one drive failure is OK, two would mean all data is gone, so in this case, I don't see much of an advantage of RAID 5, as far as Data Security goes...
June 8, 2006 12:54:49 PM

Quote:

My understanding is the Raid 5 solution provides higher performance and greater capacity.

RAID5 provides greater data security. It actually is a bit slower than non-RAID and provides less capacity because it uses some of each drive for redundancy. That's why a "1TB" RAID5 NAS actually provides about 600GB or so of actual storage space.

Quote:
I was wondering how is it that the built in backup utility works without a program running on the clients.

See http://www.tomsnetworking.com/2005/08/19/h_2_h_infrant/... for an overview of the Infrant backup capability. You set up a backup job in the NAS, and it just backs up the data from selected directories. The main weakness of the Infrant method is that you're limited in the granularity of what you can select to be backed up. But it's perfectly fine if you back up at a folder (directory) level. Files that are backed-up are located on
the client machines.

I have my NV set to back up my most-used directories every four hours during the workday.
June 8, 2006 1:00:37 PM

Quote:
I would agree that RAID 5 is better / cooler than RAID 1, but in either situation here, one drive failure is OK, two would mean all data is gone, so in this case, I don't see much of an advantage of RAID 5, as far as Data Security goes...

Here's a good reference that describes the various RAID levels:
http://www.acnc.com/04_01_00.html

You're correct that both RAID1 and RAID5 can't survive two drive failures. RAID5's advantages are better performance and higher disk usage efficiency (although at the cost of more drives!)
June 8, 2006 3:28:48 PM

Drive manufacturers sometimes give specs as low as 50C max operational temp, and 20C/hr max temp change. They also warn that high ambient temperatures and small format boxes with limited airflow can reduce the lifetime of drives, and as far as I've found, don't give the temp's which they use to come up with their wonderful MTTF specs.

For these reasons, I take an aggressive cooler is better position with my HD's, try to keep them in the low 30's, and would appreciate the inclusion of actual drive surface (or SMART) temperature data, together with a noise level figure or even subjective assessment, which can be more meaningful than dB figures. Spectrum graphs with captured sound files would be, um, cool.

I understand that these are very inexpensive boxes, but that wouldn't lessen my concerns, oversensitive perhaps, for good health practices. I'd place greater importance on this data than on the performance (which IMO is somewhat lacking in general in this area at the moment).

I do however like the inclusion of simple file copy tests -- iometer/etc. are wonderful, but simple users like me find it easier to believe and understand file copy performance. Time figures further make this more intuitive.

I also like the under the covers poking around. (BTW, I've found some (ok, one that I own) Realtek NIC has pretty good performance under Windows, but less under Linux. Option tuning / driver tweaking will probably help. Seeing that jumbo frames make a difference to inexpensive NAS's, perhaps that would help, but the levels that I'm talking about are much higher than NAS throughput, so perhaps the issues aren't material. For example, I might get over 90 MB/s raw network (TTCP) throughput with a Realtek NIC in Windows, and say 70 MB/s under Linux -- both of these are much higher than the overall NAS throughput. With a system that you can get inside and tweak, some advanced readers might wish to explore this. I don't think this is a huge issue and worth worrying about unless you're an engineer responsible for it, and perhaps not even then because my situation could be a non-issue elsewhere, but am mentioning it for those interested. I'll go a little further now -- my Realtek also has relatively high CPU utilization under Windows; perhaps this was de-tuned for Linux, and perhaps this is the smart thing to do for inexpensive NAS boxes.)

Thanks for the review.
June 9, 2006 12:28:40 AM

"I should also note that the box has the ability to create "photo albums" from your photographs, but it didn't seem to work for me."

As a one-week owner of the N2100, I too couldn't figure out how to create albums as well. ktula.com solved this for me: rather than logging in as admin, login as a "user" (I feel soooo much better than I wasn't the only who couldn't figure this out :lol: ). However, the photo server is very primitive and I couldn't figure out how to get it to work outside of my firewall using dynamic dns. Their documentation is so primitive that you're on your own.

While I have you, couldn't you enlighten me/us why the performance is so dismal when using a gigabit switch? I'm not picking on the N2100 in particular, i.e., the other boxes weren't that much better. We're maxing out at more-or-less at 100 mbits/second, which seems pretty pathetic.

Steve
June 9, 2006 3:21:33 AM

I was sold out on the N2100... but just had the most horrible thing happen to me.

Using the N2100 for about a month and a half now when all the sudden it became unresponsive. Turned it off, turned it on, and it started acting like it was rebuilding the array.

When it was done... all of the sudden ALL data on the N2100 was GONE. Just disappeared!

Not sure how to recover. Tried mounting the drives in a linux box and, while I could see the drives, I am not sure how to undelete with Linux yet (I am learning how to use it but am not overly familiar yet).

Also... from what I can tell the N2100 uses an EXT3FS, which can make undelete impossible.

I think that from now on I will be too paranoid to trust all my data to one device, and will instead have two. One primary raid array, and another external NAS that is just a 1 drive device. Use the raid NAS as a primary, and make regular backups to the other NAS. That way, even if 2 drives fail, or the raid NAS fails, I will still have the other NAS. It may seem paranoid, but my WORD, what just happened with the N2100 is insane. I thought it was supposed to be almost impossible for a raid array to just randomly remake itself without any user input?
June 18, 2006 10:28:49 AM

Quote:
You set up a backup job in the NAS, and it just backs up the data from selected directories.


Is it like the following scenario ...
PC User tells the admin that he wants to backup certain directory, and those directory has to be set up as shared drive on the network. The user has to set up the password for those directory and Ready NAS will store those passowrd some where in the configs. So when the time comes, ReadyNAS will log into your PC and back up files under the specified directory? Is it backing up thru SMB? What about Linux and MACs? Do they have to set up as SMB server for Infrant?
June 18, 2006 5:43:45 PM

Quote:
Is it like the following scenario ...
PC User tells the admin that he wants to backup certain directory, and those directory has to be set up as shared drive on the network. <SNIP>

Yes, that's the basic idea. Not sure about how Linux and MacOS machines need to be set up, but SMB is probably a safe bet.
June 22, 2006 10:21:31 PM

Anyone have the specs/info on D-Link's new DNS-323? I think it's about the same price and feature set as the Thecus but from what I was told, their bottom level performance starts at the max of what Thecus can do.

GoatHerder
August 12, 2006 9:47:41 PM

Quote:
RAID Level 1 isn't as robust as RAID5, but requires only two drives and can cost significantly less. Jim Buzbee took Thecus' two-SATA drive N2100 for a spin and found a lot to like.


 fficial&defl=en&q=define:robust&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&hs=Tif&lr=&client=fi...

# Able to function or continue to function well in a variety of unanticipated situations.
www.mosaictec.com/storage/storage_terms.htm

RAID 1 is every bit as "robust" as RAID 5 (possibly moreso, as there are two physical copies of the data, as opposed to just one on RAID 5). Not only that, but given a 2-drive mirrored configuration, the potential of a single drive failure are 2x and in a 3-drive R5 3x (where x = probability of drive failure). If you already have a drive down, it's 1x for the mirrored, and 2x for the R5, meaning you have twice the probability of data loss in a 3-drive R5 as a mirrored configuration, and it grows for each additional drive in your R5 array.

RAID 5 is more "efficient" in it's utilization of "raw" disk space, but you pay a penalty in performance. A RAID 5 write requires a read/parity calc/write, whereas R1 just does two writes. If you do have a drive go down, performance is severely hampered in R5 due to on-the-fly parity calculations to build the data to fulfil the I/O request, where the mirrored just ends up fulfilling it's I/Os to the single spindle. During a rebuild R5 suffers penalties as it has to rebuild the drive performing parity calculations, and mirrored just copies the blocks.

As stated above, since R5 is more efficient in it's use of raw disk space, it actually has a lower $/usable GB. However, you are correct in the fact that RAID 5 requires a minimum of 3 drives compared to mirrored (RAID 1) that requires a minimum of 2 drives.

I'm not saying that everyone should mirror (RAID 1), but mirroring is actually lower risk and higher performing (for the most part) than RAID 5. It just so happens it's more expensive/usable GB, also.

Overall, a very misleading tagline for the review....

A Storage Engineer
September 24, 2006 3:56:24 PM

If the performance upgrade is so huge, will Tom's Hardware update the NAS chart to reflect the new performance numbers?
September 25, 2006 12:40:50 PM

Quote:
If the performance upgrade is so huge, will Tom's Hardware update the NAS chart to reflect the new performance numbers?

In general, we must return products to the manufacturer after review.

Also, due the other products waiting for review, we don't regularly re-review products after firmware updates.
November 21, 2006 6:56:12 AM

Quote:
If the performance upgrade is so huge, will Tom's Hardware update the NAS chart to reflect the new performance numbers?

In general, we must return products to the manufacturer after review.

Also, due the other products waiting for review, we don't regularly re-review products after firmware updates.

Does the team request product for review or manufacturer send them in for review?

The new firmware with 2100 makes it virtually a new product. Speed has been doubled! I am sure they are more then happy for the results to be updated. ( That is unless they have more speed update to come )

Their N5200 model is very fast as the article suggest and it seems to ship with this new firmware.

As it would be nice to see how the performance compare to D-Link DNS 323.
November 21, 2006 8:38:52 AM

Speed measurement tests made by ktula are done nearly in the same condition than toms networking.

Quote:
sbusch:

I have been testing the beta firmware (2.1.01.4) the past week and the file transfer performance has improved tremendously. I have documented the results of my tests in the following posts:

http://ktula.com/2006/09/05/thecus-n2100-21041-beta-fir...

http://ktula.com/2006/09/05/thecus-n2100-21041-beta-fir...

http://ktula.com/2006/09/10/more-on-thecus-n2100-21014-...

http://ktula.com/2006/09/11/thecus-n2100-21014-beta-fir...


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