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NAS Features

It's been a busy month!

Seems like the past month as been "NAS month" here at SmallNetBuilder with reviews, articles and plenty of testing behind the scenes. The result is plenty of additions to the NAS Charts for your product comparison pleasure.

Some of the added info is for products that haven't made it all the way through final review yet. But the testing is done, so we decided to not wait and have added the following to the charts:

  • Buffalo Technology LinkStation Pro
  • Maxtor Shared Storage II
  • Synology CS-406
  • Western Digital NetCenter

Some of these new products, the LinkStation Pro and Maxtor Shared Storage II in particular, have surprisingly improved performance over many of the other products we've seen to date. It seems that at least some of the manufacturers are listening and working to improve NAS performance while keeping prices at a reasonable point.

We've also updated the charts with gigabit LAN data for the Buffalo TeraStation, which we missed in all the activity to get the charts up and running. And don't forget to check out the recently-reviewed Qnap TS-101 Turbo Station that has also been added in.

Finally, we've added some performance data from Bill Meade's popular Build a Cheap and Fast RAID 5 NAS and DIY NAS Smackdown articles to the charts. These articles were the direct result of reader feedback and provide some insight as to whether it's really better to build or buy a NAS.

Keep the feedback coming and we hope you find the NAS Charts to be helpful!

Access the NAS Charts here


General NAS Information

NAS devices generally fall into four categories:

  • Single drive diskful
    These come with drives installed (usually not replaceable or upgradable) and usually have USB 2.0 ports to support expansion via external USB drives. There are many feature variations including built-in FTP and HTTP servers, BitTorrent clients, USB print servers, streaming media servers and backup utilities. Older models have ATA/IDE drives, while newer products use faster SATA drives.

  • Single drive diskless (BYOD)
    These Bring Your Own Drive products accept 3.5" IDE or SATA drives and are a good way to save money by reusing a drive left over from upgrading a PC's internal storage. There are also models that accept external USB drives. Features are similar to those in diskful products.

  • Multi drive diskful
    The two advantages of multi-drive NASes are more storage space and RAID - a technology that can provide protection from inevitable disk failure. The key disadvantage is cost, which can be managed by purchasing BYOD products and models supporting fewer drives. You'll find the same feature sets as in single-drive products (with the exception of RAID).

  • Multi drive diskless (BYOD)
    These products combine the potential cost-savings of BYOD with the feature and functional advantages of multiple drives.

The Charts

The key performance criteria for NASes are read and write throughput. Other specifications that you might focus on for selecting a naked hard drive such as access time, seek time, etc. are generally masked by the overhead of moving data across a network. Factors that do affect throughput include network connection speed, file size and file record size.

We use iozone as our performance test tool, with the procedure described here. You'll find charts for read and write Performance using 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps LAN connections and file sizes of 64 MB, 256 MB and 1 GB. Of course, the speed and operating system of the computer doing the reading and writing has a direct effect on performance, so we try to minimize that effect by using as few test systems as possible. The use of different test systems is indicated in the charts by different colored bars.

You'll also find Product Feature Tables that summarize key product specs. Related reviews are easy to get to since they're available via links in the Product Feature Tables or just clicking on a product's bar in the Performance charts.

Unless otherwise noted, all products have the following features:

  • Web-based admin interfaces
  • Auto MDI/X 10/100 Ethernet port
  • SMB/CIFS network file system support (works with most OSes, but not the most efficient network file system out there)

We'll be adding products to the charts on an ongoing basis and hope you'll find them useful. We'd also like to enhance the charts to better serve your needs, so be sure to use the discussion link below to give us feedback.

Access the NAS Charts here

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