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Is Data Encryption Worth Destroying Your NAS' Performance?

Test System And Details

The NAS servers in this story from Thecus, Synology, and Qnap are all equipped with the same core components: a dual-core Intel Atom D510 CPU and 1 GB of DDR2 RAM. The Synology DS1010+ does come with five drive bays, setting it apart a bit.

After taking a look at the first results, we decided not to run the benchmarks using all the available RAID modes like we usually do, and the reason for that is shown on the next page.

Test Configuration

System Hardware
Intel 775 PlattformAsus P5E3 Deluxe, Rev.1.03G, Intel X38, BIOS: 0810 (02/11/2007)
CPUIntel Core 2 Duo E6750 (65 nm Conroe) @2.26 GHz
RAM2 x 1024 MB Crucial Ballistix DDR3-1600
eSATA-ControllerJMicron JMB363
System HDDSeagate Barracuda 7200.9, 160 GB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3Gb/s, 8 MB Cache
Test HDD4 x 3.5" Samsung Spinpoint HD321KJ, 320 GB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3Gb/s, 16 MB Cache
DVD-ROMSamsung SH-D163A , SATA150
Graphics CardGigabyte Radeon HD 3850 GV-RX385512H, GPU: 670 MHz, Memory: 512 MB DDR3 (830 MHz, 256-Bit)
Network CardMarvell Yukon 88E8056 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet Controller
Sound CardIntegrated
PSUCooler Master RS-850-EMBA, ATX 12V V2.2, 850 W
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemWindows Vista Enterprise SP1
DirectX 10DirectX 10 (Vista-Standard)
DirectX 9Version: April 2007
Graphics DriversAMD Radeon Version 7.12
Network Drivers9.0.32.3 (Vista-Standard)
Intel Chipset DriversVersion 6.9.1.1001 (20/02/2008)
JMicron Chipset DriversVersion 1.17.15.0 (24/03/2007)

Intel NAS Performance Toolkit 

We tested the NAS devices using the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit

The NAS firmware versions used in the tests were as follows:

  • Thecus N4200: 3.00.12
  • Qnap TS-459 Pro: 323 (0209T)
  • Synology DS1010+: 2.3-1161
  • und3rsc0re
    You guys should do this test using a few solid state drives, im interested to know the results if encryption affects the performance of them much.
    Reply
  • compton
    What about a Core i5 or better based server? You could turn an i5 with aes-ni into a cheap server for the same price as these diskless enclosures. Couldn't it be turned into a Linux based NAS with hardware encryption? I'm not hip to all of the issues, but that was my first thought.
    Reply
  • rhangman
    What about a VIA based solution? Low power like an Atom, cheap and has the padlock hardware encryption engine.

    http://www.via.com.tw/en/initiatives/padlock/hardware.jsp
    Reply
  • maybe you could test the other nas´too

    http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/multi-bay-nas-charts-2011/benchmarks,121.html
    already has a performance overview so just add encryption test
    Reply
  • huron
    I like what you guys are doing here at Toms...very interesting article. Any chance you guys can get your hands on a better processor to see what the results would be - I know how resource heavy encryption/decryption can be, and worry these don't really have enough horsepower to handle the job well.

    Continue this as a series with better CPUs?
    Reply
  • bwcbwc
    The implication for all of these devices is that the data is encrypted/decrypted within the device, which in turn means that the data is transmitted over the network in unencrypted form.

    The risk of a packet sniffer on the LAN seems a lot higher than someone walking out the door with your NAS array (or a piece of it), so I think you need to weigh your priorities when you choose this type of solution. If you are ready to address the physical security of data on a network attached drive, you should already have taken steps to ensure the security of the data during transmission.
    Reply
  • freggo
    What if one where to use TrueCrypt partitions on these servers instead ?
    I tested it extensively first and use it now for 2 years on my regular drives, hardly a 'noticable' performance hit compared to the unencrypted drives in the PC and 'zero' errors or problems so far.

    Reply
  • Prey
    In a commercial environment, especially medical, hell yes! Go to the HITECH Act and see the breach list over 500 due to unencrypted files that are stolen or lost.

    It shouldn't be a performance issue, but more a, is it worth the risk issue.
    Reply
  • Niva
    Definitely a good article, I'd been thinking about buying the Thecus. Tests with TrueCrypt would be appreciated since that's my tool of choice.
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    was i the only one thinking of sony?
    Reply