Thecus N3200PRO NAS Server ReviewNemo - June 14, 2009
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With the drives installed and the unit connected to the network and powered on, we're now ready to begin configuring the N3200PRO for use. As with all the other NAS devices we've reviewed previously, Thecus includes an installation CD for use in detecting the unit on the network and beginning the configuration process. To begin, just slip the installation CD included with the accessories into your computer's optical drive. As long as autorun is enabled you should see a main menu with several different models of Thecus devices listed and click on the N3200PRO button. This will bring up the different options particular to the N3200PRO. In order to run the setup utility simply click on the Setup Wizard button. You must install the setup utility on your machine and this begins the installation process. Unlike some of the other units tested, you can't run the setup program directly from the CD. After verifying you want to install the software, the installation routine kicks off the install and then notifies you when everything is complete.
Once the installation is finished you can launch the Setup Wizard by pressing the Start button. The wizard first starts the Device Discovery procedure where it attempts to identify all Thecus NAS devices on the network. Since the N3200PRO has not been set up, it defaults to an IP address of 192.168.1.100. We can use the Setup Wizard to configure the proper LAN address information by clicking on Login System and providing the default user name and password. As with many devices, the default is admin/admin which you should change at the first opportunity to something stronger and less obvious. Clicking the Next button takes us to Network Configuration where you can supply the LAN address information. The host name defaults to 'N3200PRO' which is a good default unless you have multiple identical units on your network. I'm going to assign a fixed IP address so I left the Fixed IP radio button checked. If you want your router or other DHCP server to automatically assign the IP information you should select the DHCP radio button. After filling in the the IP address, default gateway and DNS server information clicking the Next button takes you to the Change Password screen. It's always a good idea to change the default password and use a strong password of at least ten characters. The final step in the wizard offers you the option of configuring another device or launching your browser to go into the management UI. You can also choose to end the setup without taking any further action.
The next step is to log in to the Web UI and set up a volume on the server. Clicking on the Start Browser button on the Setup Wizard page brings up the login page where you can login using the user name 'admin' and the new password you specified on the Change Password screen (you did change the password like I suggested didn't you?). The first time you log in, you get a disclaimer page. Fortunately there is a checkbox you can use to disable the page from displaying in the future. Once you select the OK button, you're taken to a status page with a prompt to set up a RAID array first. To do this you can click on the red 'Please create RAID array first' link at the bottom of the dialog.
In order to create the volume you first have to determine what kind of array you want to set up. With the N3200PRO can be set up using JBOD, or Just a Bunch of Disks, (multiple drives are configured as a single large volume) , RAID 0 (also known as striping where two or more identical drives are set up as one larger drive), RAID 1 (also known as mirroring where one drive maintains a copy of the other drive) or RAID 5 (uses striping similar to RAID 0 but also provides redundancy for data protection). The pros and cons of each type of setup are outside the scope of our review but a concise explanation can be found in The Official OCC RAID Guide, Version 2.0.
In addition to choosing the volume type, you need to choose the number of drives to include in the array. A JBOD volume can use one or more drives while RAID 0 volumes can use two or more drives. A RAID 1 array must consist of two drives. Finally, a RAID 5 array must contain three or more drives. Obviously, you're limited by the number of drives available, which in our case is three. In the example here I will using a three-drive RAID 5 array. There is one final option to set and that is stripe size. This only applies to RAID 0 and RAID 5 arrays. These two types of arrays use striping where blocks of data are written to multiple disks simultaneously. Without going into a lengthy discussion here in the review, there is no single ideal stripe size. However a couple of generalizations can be made. If most of your files are small files you will generally see better performance with smaller stripe sizes; larger files such as video and photo files will benefit from a larger stripe size. The best bet is to experiment with different sizes to see which one gives you the best results for your given usage pattern. The N3200PRO offers a good range of choices ranging from 4KB up to 4096KB. For our testing I'm going to leave it at the default 64KB setting.
Once all the settings are correct, hitting the Create button will begin the creation process. The N3200PRO will respond within a few seconds telling you that the array has been created, but don't be fooled into thinking everything is ready to go. Clicking the OK button brings you back to the RAID Information screen where the rest of the array setup begins. This is a rather lengthy process which can take several hours depending on the size of the drives used.
The server now has a volume created, so it's time to check out some of the other features of the unit.