If you are in need of an enterprise-level network storage drive for a small office or a large networked home, the Thecus N5200XXX should be on your list. The NAS is a powerful device for a secure and centralized data storage solution. The Thecus N5200XXX was in our labs and here’s what we have to say about it.
Design and build quality
The Thecus N5200XXX looks like a mini tower cabinet, which is half the size (in height) of a regular PC or gaming case. The exterior is an all-black, powder finished metal shell, which is rugged and robust. The front bezel features a plastic flimsy door, which opens up to the storage bay. The storage bay consists of five hard drive bays, which can accommodate up to five 3.5-inch hard SATA drives and are also hot-swappable. Each bay has a lever for ejecting the drive, which is also secured by using a physical lock and key mechanism to prevent accidental removal or theft. The drive bays do not feature a screw-less design for installing the hard drives. Each bay has two LED indicators, one for drive power and the other for drive data activity.
The Thecus N5200XXX NAS
Towards the left of the drive bays are five status LEDS—NAS data transfer/activity, two for network activity and connectivity status for the two Ethernet ports, one for error status and one for USB data copy status. Below the LED indicators is a USB 2.0 port for plugging in a pen drive or an external storage drive for data backup or syncing. Below is the control panel, which comprises of a power switch, a reset switch, an LCD display for status and minimum configuration (which is password protected) and four buttons for controlling the display features. The LCD displays the status of the NAS in terms of hostname, Ethernet link, cooling fans, date and time, disk info, RAID status and WAN and LAN IP addresses. The main door comprises of a mesh grill, which enables air intake for cooling of the drives behind it. Sadly, the door does not have a physical lock, which can prevent anyone from powering off the device which can cause data loss.
The rear panel of the N5200XXX has three thumb screws which helps internal component maintenance such as fan cleaning, motherboard replacement and RAM installation. The rear panel comprises of two Ethernet ports, a serial port, four USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port and power. An 80 mm exhaust fan is provided on the rear panel, which helps cool the entire NAS internals. Additionally a cooling fan is also mounted on the processor for CPU cooling.
Front panel when open
The Thecus N5200XXX runs on an Intel Atom D525 processor and has a 1GB DDR3 SODIMM RAM. It can support up to five SATA hard drives with RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and JBOD support. The top two bays are meant for RAID 0 and 1, while the bottom three bays are for RAID 5 and above. Each drive bay can support up to 3TB hard drives, which can combine the five bays to create a total 15TB of storage on your network. You can stack up to five of these units together and create up to 75TB of storage on your network. You can install even a single drive for storage and house extra hard drives as spare disks, which can be configured to automatically be activated as soon as they are needed. Hot swab, auto rebuild, hot spare, online raid expansion and migration are all possible including 56-bit encryption for additional data security. Additionally, each drive can be scanned for bad blocks, SMART info and SMART test and also data roaming to another N5200XXX is possible.
Two gigabit Ethernet ports are available on the rear panel for LAN and WAN modes and can also be used as Link aggregation, which can have local network balance and auto failover. Supported protocols for the NAS, include TCP/IP and Appletalk.
The N5200XXX features a total of five USB 2.0 ports and one eSATA port for external storage connectivity, which helps data expansion and backup. The USB ports also support UPS and printers for using the NAS as a print sever on the local LAN or WAN. A serial port available on the rear can be used for programming as well for UPS support.
The NAS features built-in servers for SAMBA, CIFS, eMule, HTTP, FTP, TFTP, NFS and AFP. Additional modules available from third-party vendors, such as Bittorrent, IP camera surveillance (up to five IP cameras), iTunes and Photo Web server, Media server and a few more can be installed to the NAS using the user interface. These modules can combine the single network storage drive into a multi-server solution for any home, small office or large enterprise environments. Additionally, the N5200XXX also supports modules for email server, web server, RAID replication, ISO mounting and scheduled backups for USB and eSATA drives. Other features of the Thecus N5200XXX are scheduled power on/off and auto-power saving.
The package contains three CDs which include Acronis True Image (OEM) software for incremental backup and disaster recovery and a Twonky Media Server module. Bundled along with the NAS are screws for drive mounting and keys for each drive bay.
Configuration and usability: The Thecus N5200XXX is very simple to deploy and configure. Simply unpack the NAS, open the drive bays, install the hard drives, power it on and connect the Ethernet cable to the rear port. The NAS takes a while to boot up and once ready, the LCD screen will display the status and the IP addresses of the NAS on the network. You can choose to use the bundled utility to find the NAS drive on the network or simply enter the IP address of the NAS in any internet browser’s URL bar. The initial screen will give you the sections of the NAS which need to be configured. The sections are pretty simple and the user interface is pretty fast. All one needs to do is initially change the administrative passwords, configure network connectivity for static or DHCP modes, configure the storage drives in RAID or JBOD, create users and groups and deploy shared folders respectively. Once good feature of the N5200XXX is that if the NAS does not find a DHCP server responding to the IP request, it automatically assigns its default IP address as 192.168.1.100 on the network.
Other features, such as modules, power management, scheduled power on/off and backups are simple to configure. The entire user interface is pretty simple and easy to navigate. Help in configuring the NAS is at hand and the manufacturer’s website also features a few videos for those who are rookies in configuring the NAS. Initially, we had to upgrade the firmware, which was around 70 MB in size. Installing the firmware and modules for different services was a breeze. We found updating the firmware and modules impossible using an Opera browser, hence we recommend using Internet Explorer or Firefox for configuring the NAS. The size of the modules (apps) can range between 3 MB to 10 MB and installing each module takes under a minute.
If you are looking around for a single out-of-the-box solution for having a centralized storage to serve data and media to your network computers, this is one good option. The Thecus N5200XXX provides a secure and safe method of storing important data, which can be accessed and backed up from the local network as well as the Internet. The N5200XXX is a great solution for anyone in search of a long-term solution with expanding data needs.
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