The 5500 implements the standard Thecus feature set, but sports the long-time-coming new AJAX-GUI. Figure 6 shows the login page so that you can get a taste of the look and feel.
Figure 6: New Admin GUI - Login
I'm not going to walk you through the new interface, but point you to Thecus' demo video instead. While the new interface looks better and is a bit better organized, at least to my taste, it still feels old. Part of this feel is simply that the GUI doesn't have the nicer and larger icons found in Synology and QNAP's new AJAX GUIs and the fonts are still rather small and retro-looking.
But a bigger part of my sense of deja vu is that some of the actual screens where you do the work or get status, seem very much like the old ones. Case in point are the separate Info and Status screens in the System Information tab. These could easily be combined into one. But these nits aside, the new GUI is a welcome step forward.
Here is a summary of the N5500's feature set for quick reference:
- Network file sharing via SMB/CIFS, NFS, AFP
- Hot-swappable JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 with hot spare for RAID 1, 5, 6 and 10
- Online RAID expansion and RAID level migration
- Multiple volumes supported
- Volume space can be allocated among SMB/NFS/AFP shares, iSCSI targets and USB attached storage
- FTP with upload / download bandwidth control and secure mode
- HTTP / HTTPs file and admin access
- Joins NT Domain / Active Directories for account information
- Network Backup: Once daily, weekly or monthly networked backup to other Thecus NASes using proprietary nsync protocol or to standard FTP servers. No compression or encryption
- Client Backup: FarStone DriveClone PRO 5 (Windows only)
- iSCSI target (5) and initiator
- ISO mounts
- User quotas
- Email alerts
- USB print serving
- Media servers: UPnP AV / DLNA, iTunes
- Web photo album
- BitTorrent / HTTP / FTP download service w/ scheduling
Some features available on other Thecus products aren't yet available on the N5500. These include AES256 volume encryption, iSCSI thin provisioning, bi-directional backup to attached USB and eSATA drives, emule support in the Download Manager, Apache web server module and IPCamera recording (up to 20 cameras). Another significant (at least for advanced users) negative is that Thecus doesn't provide telnet or ssh root access (both Synology and QNAP do).
Like the N7700, the N5500's real value lies in its ability to simultaneously support iSCSI and SMB/NFS/AFP access and create multiple RAID volumes. When you create a volume, you can choose from EXT3, XFS and ZFS formats (you must use ZFS if you want volume snapshots).
The 5500 even outdoes the N7700 with its ability to also let you assign part of any volume to be used as attached USB storage. You just allocate the storage using the Space Allocation page (Figure 7) and plug the N5500 into a USB port on a host computer.
Figure 7: Space allocation
The N5500 doesn't format or initialize the USB volume, however. So I had to use the Disk Management utility on my XP and Vista systems to initialize the drive, then create and format the volume. Note that the N7700 can be used as USB attached storage while also serving to SMB, NFS and AFP clients and providing iSCSI target volumes.
If you want more detail on the tricks that the N5500 can do with volumes and storage allocation, hit the N7700 review.
I didn't perform a pull-a-drive test on the N5500 because the N7700 behaved essentially the same the N3200 and the N5500 is a kissing cousin. The short story is that if you have a drive failure on the N5500, it will be hard to miss, given the smoke-alarm-like sound, email alerts and front panel indication.