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Thecus N4100PRO NAS Server Review

Nemo    -   July 19, 2010
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Configuration:

Storage:

The Storage section contains six different pages which are used to monitor the disks, create volumes, allocate shares and manage other aspects of the storage allocated on the NAS.

Disks

The Disks section lists information on the physical disks installed in the server. It details the formatted capacity, model number and firmware version. The status of each disk is also listed which can read OK, Warning or Failed. The last column labeled Bad Block Scan allows you to scan each drive for bad blocks.

Clicking on the OK or Warning link in the Status column for each drive produces a Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) report showing tray position, hours of operation and temperature. You can also initiate either a short or long SMART test.

There is also a Disk Power Management option where you can choose the idle period to use before shutting down the disks. The default is 30 minutes and ranges as high as 300 minutes in 30-minute increments. It would have been nice to have an option under 30 minutes as we have encountered on other NAS devices we've reviewed.

 

 

 

 

RAID

The RAID section displays the status of the volumes on the NAS including the RAID level, volume status, individual disks used in the volume, the volume status (Healthy, Degraded or Damaged), total volume capacity, used/allocated capacities and the iSCSI capacity. Below the table is a pie chart providing you with a visual representation of the allocated space on the volume. This is also the screen you will use to access additional functions such as creating a new volume, dropping an existing volume, expanding an existing volume and performing RAID level migration.

Setting up the N4100PRO for the first time requires you to create a new volume on the server. As you can see on the initial RAID page there is no volume information displayed and the only option available is the Create icon in the upper left-hand corner of the pane. Clicking on the Create icon brings up a secondary page used to create the volume. If you haven't already thought about it, you will need to decide which type of RAID, if any, to use when creating the volume. There are six different volume types supported by the N4100PRO including JBOD, or Just a Bunch of Disks, (multiple drives are configured as a single large volume and is not technically RAID), 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), RAID 5 (uses striping similar to RAID 0 but also provides redundancy for data protection), RAID 6 (similar to RAID 5 but provides protection against two drives in the set failing) and RAID 10 (a form of nested RAID that is basically a mirrored RAID 0 array). The benefits and limitations 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.

You will need to decide the RAID level first then determine the number of disks to use. In our example we are going to set up a RAID 5 volume using all four disks. This is done by placing a check mark next to each disk in the Used column. Once you have selected the appropriate number of disks the RAID level selection buttons become enabled and we need to check the RAID 5 radio button. You'll notice there is a Spare column that would allow you to hold one drive back from the array and designate it as a hot spare that would automatically used as a failover drive in the the event one of the other drives failed. You can also specify an ID for the RAID volume and the stripe size. Stripes can range in size from 4KB to 4096KB and we will use the default size of 64KB for all testing. The N4100PRO supports two different file systems, EXT3 and XFS, and we will be using the default EXT3 system for testing purposes.

Another useful feature on this page is the Data Percentage slider bar which allows you to devote only a certain percentage of the available space on the drives to data. As we will see in a moment in the Space Allocation section, you can also use a portion of the space for iSCSI volumes. If you don't allocate all the space and find out later you need more that you originally allocated, you can also use the volume expansion capabilities and allocate more space.

 

 

Once all the choices have been made you need to press the Create button which begins the RAID construction process. Once the process starts, the system needs to set up the volume, format the drives and build the RAID array. The process can take 8 hours or more and will vary based on the number of disks, drive size and space allocated. Once the volume is built the RAID Information page will display the volume information and also have a pie chart of the space allocation on the volume.

 

 

 

 

Space Allocation

The Space Allocation feature allows you to create an iSCSI target and allocate space for the iSCSI volume. Internet SCSI, or iSCSI, is a networking protocol which allows block level access over IP networks. The Space Allocation section allows you to create the iSCSI target on the N4100PRO and then allocate space. In order to make use of this space, the client computer will need to make use an initiator, either software or hardware, to access the storage on the NAS, which will appear to the client as a local drive.

Clicking the Add button on the iSCSI tab takes you to the Create iSCSI Target dialog where you can use the slider to allocate a percentage of available space to the iSCSI target volume and supply a target name. You can also enable security using the challenge-handshake authentication protocol (CHAP) if you desire. One last item is to make sure you check the Enable radio button before you press the OK button. The system will prompt you to confirm that you want to create the iSCSI target and then alert you when it's complete.

 

Other options that become available once you have created a target are Modify, Expand and Delete. The Modify option allows you to change the volume information, security settings and password. The Expand option allows you to allocate additional space to iSCSI target volume. As before, you use a slider to specify the percentage of available space to add. once you hit the Expand button, the system warns you about the dangers of data loss which you must confirm by typing in 'Yes' before it will proceed. The Delete button does what it says and completely removes the iSCSI volume and all its data.

 

 

Share Folder

The Share Folder section allows you to create folders on the N4100PRO. Several default folders were created during the setup process and you can use the Add button to create shares of your own. To create a folder you will need to supply a name (no blanks allowed) and an optional description. You can make the folder browsable which is the default, meaning users can browse the folder's contents. You can also specify whether the folder is public which allows users access to the folder without specific access permission. The default setting is No. The system also supports folder size limits or quotas. Leaving it set to 0GB effectively removes any limit and turns off the quota for that folder. Hitting the Apply button brings up a confirmation screen asking permission to create the folder and the system informs you when the folder has been successfully created. Once you have created a folder, you can highlight it in folder pane and Edit it including the quota setting. Clicking the Remove will allow you to delete the folder and its contents. If you enabled the NFS service as previously described in the System Network section, you can specify the host name and OS type in order to share the folder with a host using the Network File System protocol. You'll notice in the screenshot below that the Access Control List (ACL) option is disabled for this folder. That's because we made the folder Public when we created it. We'll revisit this later when we set up users later on in the review.

 

 

Stackable

You can extend the capacity N4100PRO even further by using the Stackable function. If you have other iSCSI target volumes on the network you can add a stack target volume by providing the IP address and the iSCSI qualified name (IQN). The IQN is determined when the iSCSI target volume was created. If you look back at the example screen shots for the volume we created above the IQN was 'iqn.2010-4.com.thecus:RAID.iscsi0.vg0.n4100pro'. You add up to five target devices for up to an additional 20TB of additional storage.The export share name will be the name that shows up in the folder list on the N4100PRO folder list. More details on using the stackable feature can be found in the user manual.

 

 

ISO Mount

The ISO Mount feature allows you to mount an ISO image and mack the files available on the network. The first step is to select the folder on the N4100PRO that contains the ISO image. Once the folder is selected, the system will display the available ISO files which you choose by highlighting a file and specify a mount name. After verifying you want to create the mount, the mount point will be visible across the network and you can map a drive and then view and access the files in the image.

 

 

Now that we've got our disks set up and configured let's move on to setting up the users and authentication on the NAS.




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