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Tom's Hardware's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide: Part 2, Last-Minute Luxury

Network Storage: Thecus N4200 Pro NAS/iSCSI SAN
By: Andy Patrizio

With so much of our lives on the PC now, a hard drive failure almost seems as catastrophic as a house fire when it comes to losing everything. Of course, that's only if you're guilty of thinking "that'll never happen to me," and not backing up your important data. It only takes once, though. We've all been there, believe us.

Online backup solutions like Carbonite might be good for a few gigabytes of vital content, but what about the volumes of movies, pictures, and music you store? Surely you don't want to saturate your limited uplink preserving terabytes worth of information.

For those who can afford reliable backup to rival a professional data center, there's the Thecus N4200 Pro, a four-bay NAS backup appliance that centers on a dual-core Intel Atom processor and redundant disk-on-module to prevent corruption of the unit's firmware. The N4200 also has a built-in battery backup module (BBM) that will keep the system running in the event of power loss or you accidentally dislodging the plug from the wall. Those protective features are part of what makes up Thecus' Zero-Crash claim.

As mentioned, the 4200 Pro employs a dual-core Atom D525 processor, armed with Hyper-Threading and capable of addressing four threads at a time. The appliance also boasts 1 GB of DDR3 memory and dual gigabit Ethernet interfaces, along with a PCIe x1 expansion slot. Its four SATA bays are all hot swappable, supporting both 2.5" and 3.5" drives. Additionally, RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10 are all made available.

Some network appliances are terrible when it comes to system monitoring, which is too bad, since you ideally want to know immediately when there's a problem with one of your storage drives. Thecus' N4200 Pro has two separate displays for system information like hard disk and network status, system status, and CPU temperature, as well as a settings display, where you can tweak system options, such as WAN, LAN, Link Aggregation, and more.

In addition to the software backup and browser-based access features, remote file access can also be set up through FTP/FTPS or HTTP/HTTPS servers. You can set up a UPnP server for streaming media, and the appliance even has a DHCP server built-in, making the 4200 Pro more of a server than just a backup device.

Editor's note: For a couple of years now, I've been using Thecus' N5200 Pro with five 1 TB drives in RAID 5. I allocate half of the appliance to network storage, accessible from anywhere in the LAN. All of our benchmarks and chart files live there. The second half is set aside as an iSCSI target for my workstation. When the workstation craters (and it has a couple of times in the past couple of years), none of my important data is lost. I pop in a new SSD, reconnect to the target, and continue on my way a couple of hours later. I wholeheartedly recommend that sort of usage model to friends and family all of the time; it doesn't have to be a power user arrangement.