Thecus N3200PRO NAS Server ReviewNemo - June 14, 2009
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The Network section is where you can set the IP address setting for the WAN/LAN ports. You can also enable and configure several network services such as DDNS, iTunes, FTP, Apple Network, NFS and more. This section also contains the Download Manger used for scheduling FTP, HTTP and BitTorrent downloads.
The N3200PRO comes with two Gigabit Ethernet ports – a WAN port to connect the NAS device to the main network and establish connection to the Internet and a LAN port to allow a different subnet to connect to the server. During the initial setup we configured the WAN port with the necessary IP address information to connect it to the network. You can use this page to change the host name that identifies the N3200PRO on the network and set the domain name if your network is on a domain. As we saw during the setup, you can choose to assign a static IP address and all the details or opt for a dynamic address and let your network's DHCP automatically assign an address. The last option is IP Sharing Mode which acts as a bridge between the WAN and LAN ports so that Pcs connected to the LAN can access the WAN. Thecus recommends disabling IP Sharing if you are only using the WAN port for higher throughput.
I skipped the Jumbo Frame Support option above so let's take a moment to examine jumbo frames and how Thecus has enabled it on the N3200PRO. Ethernet traffic travels over the network in a series of packets called frames. A standard frame consists of 1518 bytes – a 14-byte MAC address header, 1500 bytes of data (also known as the payload) and a 4-byte checksum. This configuration is part of the Ethernet v2 standard and is used by most all networks such as the Internet and Fast Ethernet (100Mbs). Gigabit networks allow for higher maximum transmission unit (MTU) sizes up to about 9000 bytes. Technically any frame size greater than 1500 bytes is known as a Jumbo Frame and will vary in sizes supported depending on the vendor. In order to support jumbo frames and ensure proper interconnectivity, all units on the network must be set to the same MTU. The N3200PRO support jumbo frame MTU sizes of 4000, 8000, 12000 and 16000 bytes. It is unlikely you will see many, if any, other devices supporting MTU sizes greater than 9000 bytes at this time so it is a bit odd that the N3200 doesn't offer support a the 9000 byte MTU as other NAS devices we've reviewed do. The motherboard in our test rig only supports MTU sizes of 1500, 4000 and 9000 bytes, so all testing of jumbo frames will be done using a jumbo frame size of 4000 bytes instead of the maximum size of 9000 bytes offered by other NAS units.
The second Gigabit Ethernet port on the N3200PRO can be configured in a similar manner with support for jumbo frames and by assigning it a fixed IP address. You can also enable the unit to act as a dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) server and have it assign IP addresses to PCs on the LAN if there is no DHCP server such as a router present.
The N3200PRO can also serve as a wireless access point when equipped with a compatible wireless USB dongle. According to the user guide this includes the 3Com 3CRUSB10075, Zyxel G220USB and PCI GW-US54mini. If one of these devices is connected to the N3200PRO you will see a Wireless LAN Configuration screen where you can configure the wireless access point. The unit only supports WEP encryption using 64- or 128-bit keys. The wireless LAN can also be configured to act as a DHCP server as with the LAN.
Most home users will be using a dynamic IP address assigned by their Internet service provider (ISP). The ISP can change the IP address at any time and this can make accessing the N3200PRO from the Internet a bit difficult without knowing what the current IP address is. A dynamic domain name service (DDNS) can help solve this problem by assigning a fixed domain name and tracking the IP address that goes with that name so even if the IP address changes you can always access it using the domain name assigned by the DDNS provider. The N3200 supports three different providers: DynDNS.org, www.zonedit.com and www.no-ip.com. You will need to sign up for service with one of these providers and then enter the account credentials into the DDNS page and click Apply. If you're unsure how to sign up, the user's manual contains instructions on how to create an account with DynDNS.org.
This section allows you to enable several Web services on the N3200. The first is WebDisk/Secure WebDisk, a Web-based file management tool. You can choose to enable/disable this service and specify the port used. This option is enabled by default. You can also turn SMB/CIFS service on or off. It is enabled by default and if you are trying to connect to the n3200PRO from a Windows machine you will definitely want to leave this service enabled. Finally you can enable the universal plug and play (UPnP) protocol that will help other devices on the network discover the N3200PRO. This feature is disabled by default. Make sure you click the Apply button to save any changes.
If you are using the N3200PRO with a MAC OS system you can enable the Apple File Service, specify the Mac character set and specify an AppleTalk network zone. The default setting is for this service to be disabled.
Not too much to do here except to enable or disable the Network File System (NFS) protocol. Enabling this service will allow you to specify mount points for folders in order to access them from Linux/UNIX-based systems.
The N3200PRO can be set up to function as an FTP server. When combined with the DDNS service, you can access and transfer files on the NAS from anywhere you have an Internet connection. Setup is straightforward and you can use a the standard default port 21 or another one of your choice. You can choose to allow anonymous access where no user account is required. To have the server automatically rename duplicate files you can check the Auto Rename checkbox. You can also set upload and download bandwidth restrictions in set increments. The choices are Unlimited, 1, 2, 4, 8, and 16 MB/s. The FTP service is disabled by default.
You can also set up the N3200PRO to act as an iTunes server by simply clicking on a check box. The iTunes server name defaults to the host name 'N3200PRO' we defined earlier and you can change that to a name of your choosing. You can also require users to enter a password before they can access the /Music folder on the server. Option options include rescan interval (1, 10, 30, 60 minutes or 1 day intervals) and different MP3 tag encoding protocols. As with the other services, the iTunes service is disabled by default.
The N3200PRO includes a built-in media server that provides media streaming service to any networked home media adapters that support the UPnP AV protocol or are Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standard compliant. This allows you to share music, movies and photos throughout your house. Once you have enabled this service you can choose which folders to share by clicking the checkbox next to the folder name.
Like other NAS units we've reviewed, the N3200PRO has a Download Manager feature that enables you to download files via HTTP, FTP and BitTorrent. You can add the task for immediate execution or set it up to run on a schedule. The BitTorrent manager is pretty basic but easy to use. After browsing for the torrent metadata file you select a destination folder. The system creates a /bt subfolder to store the download. Other options are limited to the number of peers and the maximum download and upload bandwidth. Bandwidth limits are in fixed increments from 8-1024 KB/s as well as unlimited. Once the task has been created, you can kick off the download manually by pressing the blue arrow. Once the download begins, the BitTorrent manager will automatically seed the file and there are no options to turn off seeding or continue seeding once the download is complete.
Earlier we discussed using Nsync to synchronize files and folders between two Thecus NAS units. If you want to use the N3200PRO as a target, i.e. store files from another device, simply leave the Nsynce Target Server setting enabled which is the default.
That concludes our look at the Network settings so now we can move on the the user accounts and groups section.