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Thecus W5000 WSS NAS Review

Low-cost Windows Storage Servers (WSS) give small businesses access to enterprise-class features at a desktop price.

Conclusion

At CES in 2007, Bill Gates announced Windows Home Server. Before the end of that same year, products were on retail shelves. The software was intended to be a solution for home users' problems with multiple PCs. Enterprise features were wrapped in the familiar Windows shell, and customers received easy access to file sharing, automated backups, remote access and print server sharing.

In 2011, Microsoft updated its software package, though it fizzled out along with dedicated home theater PCs. Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 was the next step in the evolution of a product that never really caught on. Indeed, WSS looks great on paper. In practice, though, it leaves much to be desired.

Microsoft is trying to compete with a free operating system and still trying to make a profit. Thecus and its competition have spent time and money developing their own custom Linux-based operating environments, and now they have refined implementations. Thecus' own solution is very efficient, imposes low overhead and is intuitive to use. Furthermore, the Thecus OS lets you transfer files faster than WSS.

Granted, Windows is a piece of cake to navigate for anyone who grew up using it. That's the idea behind sacrificing performance for familiarity. But WSS 2012 R2 is not like Windows 7 or even Windows 8. Users of the desktop OS don't normally set up Active Directory, advanced permissions or most of the features highlighted in WSS. Familiarity gets tossed out the window when Windows users are faced with the complexity of a storage server.

After using both operating systems for years, I think the standard Thecus OS is easier to work with than Microsoft's version. And I'm no seasoned Linux veteran. The last time I installed Linux on a desktop, it took me two weeks just to get everything set up correctly.

Sadly, Thecus bought into the Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials and Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Standard hype. Hopefully, Microsoft kicked back something on the Windows license fees. The company now has nine models listed. All three SOHO/SMB models were revisited within their first six months of availability to address the hungry OS' need for more DRAM.

If you are looking for a low-cost NAS that is easy to work with, offers enough power to run applications and is hassle-free, Thecus' N5550 is a good choice. The Windows equivalent that we tested today costs roughly $150 more, offers fewer resources to run applications and provides a less satisfying user experience.

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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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  • Deuce65
    "Low-cost Windows Storage Servers (WSS) give small businesses access to enterprise-class features at a desktop price."

    Um, is this a hardware review or a press release?
    Reply
  • cpburns
    Did you read the review and verdict?
    Reply
  • Travis Hershberger
    While many people may actually use RAID 5 with this device, this is what we call professional malpractice among IT pros.

    Ref: http://www.smbitjournal.com/2012/11/one-big-raid-10-a-new-standard-in-server-storage
    http://www.smbitjournal.com/2012/11/choosing-raid-for-hard-drives-in-2013
    http://www.smbitjournal.com/2012/11/choosing-a-raid-level-by-drive-count
    http://www.smbitjournal.com/2013/06/dreaded-array-confusion
    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/storage/why-raid-6-stops-working-in-2019/805
    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/storage/why-raid-5-stops-working-in-2009/162
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    You need to understand a couple of things about all of those articles. The articles are not talking about your home or small business NAS with four or five drives to start with. The ZDNET author has a history of writing articles and article titles to bring people in. Many disagree with Robin's findings. I wouldn't say that is the case with the only article that relates to this review though, Why RAID 5 Stops Working in 2009. In that article he references a 7-drive RAID 5 array. With 6 or more drives we use RAID 6 (RAID 10 in some cases) for the very reason he cites. With five drives and in a home or small business environment RAID 5 is sufficient as long as you are proactive. Keep the system on a battery backup, keep air vents fee of dust and if a drive fails replace it right away.

    Some users may want to take redundancy to the next level and run RAID 6 on a 5 drive array. That is fine and I know people that do. I don't recommend it on a sub-1000 Dollar system that already has performance issues with RAID 5 though.
    Reply
  • Marco Ullasci
    "We rarely hear of failures in the field"
    Here I am.
    "In our own experience, NAS failures come from easy-to-replace fans and power supplies, rather than the main components that make up the heart of the system."
    Changed power supply and changed fan but still no fun.
    I had to dump my DS411Slim after putting some € on it in an attempt to fix.
    The brown thing happens.
    Reply