|Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Server|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Network|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Tuesday, 25 September 2012|
Page 5 of 15
Thecus N5550 NAS Server Features
As the volume of personal and business data continue to rise exponentially, the systems we use to store and manage it have become more complex. I started my long relationship with computers when program storage meant a shoebox full of punch cards. Now, a bare-bones PC starts off with almost a million files on it BEFORE you add your own data. I'm not going to tell you that computing is going to get any simpler, that's an outright lie, but I can say that the tools we use to manage them are going to make it easier. Thecus has introduced several new features with the N5550 that make it stand out from the NAS crowd. We'll look at the newest and most unique features first, and then cover some of the more common ones.
Antivirus Powered by McAfee
The Thecus N550 ships with a custom version of McAfee that protects the NAS from threats on the network. This feature is long overdue in the NAS marketplace, IMHO. Anyone who allows unprotected computers to run on their network better have some strong defenses built into the network infrastructure, or they risk quick and certain infection. The older NAS products were somewhat immune, because of their proprietary hardware and software, but modern NAS devices are using more common and vulnerable architectures. The silver lining in this shift towards more mainstream components is that mainstream security products can be leveraged, which is exactly what Thecus has done.
High Definition Media Output
For years, I've seen video connections on the rear panels of NAS units, and then been disappointed when I read in the manual that it was only for use in "Maintenance" mode, in most cases only accessible by factory technicians. Thecus has finally opened up the video port for use by the general user! It's not just for system setup anymore, either. The HDMI (or VGA) output can be used for web browsing and HD video playback as well. The Intel D2550 Atom CPU in the Thecus N5550 supports dual displays with its GMA 3650 integrated graphics processors, running at 650 MHz in this implimentation.
There are times when you just need to pull some data off the network and put it into cold storage, or maybe you need to distribute multiple copies. Either way, sometimes you want to hook up a DVD or Blu-ray burner directly to the NAS and burn some disks. Now you can do that, because the disk burning software is built into the NAS. In the past, you had to access the NAS from a workstation with disk burning H/W and S/W installed on it. With the new Data Burn utility, you can use the direct KVM interface to the N5550 or connect through a browser window on any PC that's on the network.
USB 3.0 Connection
Once you're used to Gigabit transfer speeds with your NAS, the thin trickle of DATA that passes through USB 2.0 becomes a painful experience. USB comes to the rescue on the Thecus N5550, with a max data rate that's 10x faster than the previous USB standard. Theoretical throughput is up to 5Gb/s, but there aren't any USB devices I know of that will actually provide that kind of speed. There is only one USB 3.0 port on the N5550, and it's located on the front panel, behind the door. That could little inconvenient, if you are planning to use an external USB drive to make backups, OTOH, if you're moving those backups off-site then you won't mind plugging the device into the front of the N5550.
Selectable File System
NAS users have been using ext3 and ext4 file systems for a while now. Since most NAS devices are running a Linux O/S, it makes sense that vendors are now offering XFS as an option. Introduced in 1994 by Silicon Graphics and inserted in the Linux kernel in 2002, it's now common in almost all Linux-based systems. Scalability with highly parallel I/O activity is its strongest attribute, and Thecus sees a place for it in NAS appliances. Once you look at the depth of the Thecus product line, towards the data center environment, this addition makes a lot more sense.
Despite the fact that a well-connected NAS functions an awful lot like a private cloud, all the NAS vendors want to make sure that their NAS users have access to one or more public cloud applications. Thecus teams up with Dropbox, ElephantDrive, Amazon S3, and Acronis (via module), to allow the N5550 to perform regular backups from the NAS to the public cloud storage provider chosen by the user. This is becoming much more mainstream than it was a couple years ago, and it's a much simpler way of generating off-site backups than almost any other method. It's a whole lot easier than convincing a friend or family memeber to host your backups on their network, and a lot more secure, as well.
Mobile Applications (IOS & Android)
Thecus has two applications that run on mobile devices and connect back into the NAS on your network. One of them is Thecus Dashboard, and it's used for remote monitoring and control of the NAS. I tend to set these up and then like to forget about administering them, but not everyone has that luxury. Corporate NAS administrators are expected to be on duty 24/7/365, and this is one reason why. The second application is called ThecusShareTM and it is used for uploading, downloading and streaming media files to and from your mobile device. I see this application getting much more attention from most users who are in the market for a NAS unit like the Thecus N5550. After all, you don't want to put ALL your vacation photos on Facebook, do you?
Now that we've loooked at the most significant features of the Thecus N5550, let's look at the Hardware and Software specifications that provide the power and performance to make those features run.