Is Data Encryption Worth Destroying Your NAS' Performance?

Benchmark Results: Multimedia

More Benchmark Results Can Be Found In the Picture Gallery.

All the NAS servers deliver solid performance in the data transfer rate benchmarks when configured with standard, non-encrypted partitions/folders. The units from Qnap and Synology even achieve data transfer rates of more than 100 MB/s when recording a video file. 

It is rather remarkable that, while the performance is almost equal with encryption enabled, the difference is immense with it gets turned off, particularly when you compare the devices from Synology and Qnap.

Overall, the performance hit attributable to encrypting your network-attached storage device is massive, leaving just about a fifth of the normal data transfer rates. And, it makes no difference whether the encryption is at a partition or at a file level.

The same thing can be seen during the “HD Video Playback” test. While the data transfer rates differ when the drives are not encrypted, the performance is approximately the same when it's turned on. 

When transferring small files from the NAS, the difference is not quite that huge. But still, performance drops of 50% or more are to be expected when enabling encryption.

Marcel Binder
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • rhangman
    What about a VIA based solution? Low power like an Atom, cheap and has the padlock hardware encryption engine.
  • maybe you could test the other nas´too,121.html
    already has a performance overview so just add encryption test
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • tacoslave
    was i the only one thinking of sony?