back to article Get NAS-ty: Reg puts claws to eight four-bay data dumpsters

With the world and his dog increasingly looking to the cloud for storage needs, many are finding that maintaining stacks of spinning disks at home is no longer necessary. But those of us who sleep better in the presence of magnetic fields and wish to keep our bits (and bytes) closer to hand may still prefer to manage our own …

  1. petur

    What were the criteria for model selection???

    Yes, I have a slight QNAP bias, but go pick their current entry level model and then complain it doesn't perform like the others?

    Come on!

    Why not pick the TS-451? It wipes all others from the table.....

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: What were the criteria for model selection???

      It looks like they had a price range of £350-400 - the TS-451 is some way beyond that.

      1. petur

        Re: What were the criteria for model selection???

        Fair enough, but the TS-421 is near end of life I think, replaced by TS-431....

        1. Ol' Grumpy

          Re: What were the criteria for model selection???

          If this is Petur from over on the QNAP forums, I get the impression you have more than a bias towards them. a very knowledgeable and helpful chap.

          If it isn't don't mind me - carry on! ;)

          1. petur

            Re: What were the criteria for model selection???

            Yeah... I guess 'slight bias' was a bit of an understatement - I also run a community forum for Dutch speaking users. I am equally vocal when they can do better / are making a mess of it, I'm on the users' side.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What were the criteria for model selection???

        "It looks like they had a price range of £350-400"

        Yes, it does appear that way. I suppose if one is prepared to pay ~£200 for the OS and software, they might be economical. Personally, I found that shopping around for an unpopulated HP Prolient Microserver at £150 (£100 after the cashback offer at the time) installing FreeBSD, ZFS for RAID and webmin for managing it was a far more economic result.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What were the criteria for model selection???

      Why review an old model? What about the Synology DS 415 Play - which has real time 1080p transcoding...


    Or alternatively...

    Get a generic server and use Nas4free. Advantages? Cost; freedom from proprietary formats and parts; great user community. Disadvantages? Well only 'some assembly required' but about the same amount as the unpopulated units.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      Re: Or alternatively...

      Using Openmediavault on a collection of reclaimed hardware (old tower PC, various hard-drives approaching end of life), here. Genuinely curious if there's much advantage to splashing out on a dedicated box, or saving the money to spend on better drives?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Or alternatively...

        Fractal Node 304 case is excellent for rolling your own NAS, small, rectangular, unobtrusive, holds up to 6x 3.5" or 2.5" drives (7 if you put a 2.5" on a backplane mount), Mini-ITX mainboard but it all runs from a standard ATX PSU.

        I built one with 6x 3.5" WD Green drives plus a 2.5" boot and idling it uses around 60 watts total, it's very quiet and cool as those green drives barely get warm so the 3 built-in case fans can be set to low speed without worry.

        1. Malcolm 2

          Re: Or alternatively... Fractal Node 304 case

          As an aside, I have been looking at building my own NAS using the Fractal Node 304 case. What software did you go for?

          1. The Original Steve

            Re: Or alternatively... Fractal Node 304 case

            I did the same but threw some SSD's in too, installed Win Server 2012 R2 as HyperV core to a USB 3.0 stick and created a NAS VM on it. Storage tiering, dedupe, compression etc plus can create other VM's too.

            Great chassis. Recommended.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Or alternatively... Fractal Node 304 case

            I built two machines using Fractal Node 304 cases, a 4x 3TB drive setup running FreeNAS that runs all the time, and a 2nd with 6x 2TB drives + 2.5" Windows boot drive as a backup to the main NAS.

            I chose plain NTFS formatted 2TB drives for the backup as those can be individually pulled out and files read from them on almost any Windows machine, but I'm also running SnapRAID on that machine to parity the data as a futher precaution to data loss. It only gets plugged in and powered up when backing up the main NAS.

            Sure quite a hands-on approach but I'm more familiar with NTFS and a Windows environment than that of FreeNAS so I'd hate to lose terrabytes of data on a NAS by mistake through not knowing all the ins & outs of FreeBSD and the ZFS filesystem.

            Sitenote: I had to put an Intel Pro/1000GT ethernet card on the FreeNAS machine because it didn't have the right drivers for the mainboard's ethernet. And for the Windows machine I used the PCI socket for a 4x SATA card to be able to plug 7x SATA drives in.

      2. Paul Renault

        Re: Or alternatively...

        Why buy all-built, rather than roll my own? I considered using old hardware and freeware, but eventually settled on a Thecus N5550 (very pleased with it).

        Reasons: 1) very easy to hot-swap HDDs, 2) lower power consumption, 3) few old PC MBs and cases can hold/support five HDDs, and 4) the Thecus is easy to set up to run other applications besides NAS (web and/or mail server, Time Machine, media server, etc, etc). Of course, YMMV.

    2. Annihilator

      Re: Or alternatively...

      Disadvantage for me (this was on Freenas though) was the "bugs" that I considered important. For example, when I had a disk failure and the NAS apparently doesn't see fit to email an alert (and apparently, can't - suggestions I was given were set SMART monitoring and check I received the correct amount of emails each day or write a perl script to check daily).

      There are some areas where paying a company is advantageous - data storage is one of them.

      Other advantage of dedicated NAS boxes is usually power consumption related.

    3. FlatSpot
      Thumb Down

      Re: Or alternatively...

      Right.... but you are only really worrying about being locked into buying a certain suppliers disk, no??

      A modern NAS you can use any disk that's on an approved list, they normally have a half dozen suppliers (Seagate/WD/Samsung etc) so I'm not really seeing any advantage or difference with going with a proprietary FreeNAS solution or proprietary Netgear/Synology etc. who is really going to write their own NAS software when you can already buy an out of a box solution, that will do all the permissions/Workgroup mode/Active Directory etc. Apps that stream/transcode etc.

      I can't see the benefit?

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Or alternatively...

        This very article articulated problems with various brands and models of drives for a particular NAS. If the entire unit goes out, how do you know that you will ever be able to get a completely compatible replacement chassis? That's never a problem with just running a regular OS.

        You don't have to write your own NAS software. It's already baked into most modern operating systems.

        Building your own puts you in complete control. Simple mods (like SMART alerts) are possible without adding much more bother. The problem with NAS kit is that it represents a market segment that already has to be in the top 1% of geekiness just to be aware of the product.

        1. Mark 65

          Re: Or alternatively...

          "This very article articulated problems with various brands and models of drives for a particular NAS. If the entire unit goes out, how do you know that you will ever be able to get a completely compatible replacement chassis? That's never a problem with just running a regular OS."

          Pretty certain Synology and QNAP use standard linux software raid unless you choose the mystical do everything in mysterious ways RAID options rather than a stand 0, 1, 5, 6 etc. Also pretty certain I could stick my QNAP RAID 5 disks in A.N.Other case and use mdadm to access the array. YMMV.

    4. PsychicMonkey

      Re: Or alternatively...

      Couldn't agree more, I use FreeNas but the sentiment is the same. My "unpopulated" set up probably cost just under £150, including a dedicated NAS enclosure with 4 hot swap bays, 4 gb ram and a mini-itx Atom board. Works flawlessly.

      1. Annihilator

        Re: Or alternatively...

        @PsychicMonkey - "Works flawlessly"

        Genuinely interested if the later versions remedied the issues that caused me to abandon it - does removing a disk cause any alerting to be triggered? Only alert I got was when logging into the WUI a couple of months later.

        Also, your £150 budget for a 4-bay chassis plus atom mobo. What kit did you get? I spent roughly that just to find a mini-ITX Atom board with 4 SATA inputs, but this was a while back. Do you lose one of the drives as a boot disk?

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re: Annhilator Re: Or alternatively...

          "....Do you lose one of the drives as a boot disk?" Just guessing, but I suspect he will have used a write-locked USB stick as the boot device so that all the drives could be used for storage.

    5. Hellcat

      Re: Or alternatively...

      HP Microserver N54L here running Nas4free. Got three N54Ls while they were cheap (Just over £100). Two came as ESXi bundles so had 16GB of RAM to replace the bundled 2GB stick, so the 3rd N54L got a 2nd stick. 4GB is plenty to run a Nas4free ZFS RAID5 with 4x 2TB enterprise SATA disks. It might not be enough for FreeNas8 which seems to have higher minimum spec. Setup was a bit tricky, and I didn't get it running just as I wanted on the 1st attempt. Performance seems perfectly fine for the amount of storage available. They're almost silent and with the correct stickers could look like a weighted companion cube which in my mind is a benefit.

  3. Emo

    Or pick up a HP Microserver, FreeNAS/Nas4Free/Windows Home Server and 4 drives for about the same as these without drives.

    1. dotdavid

      Happy user of an N54L microserver here. Modded BIOS to allow me to use the CD bay for a disk, and I can have 5 drives in there now. Installed Ubuntu Server and set up my disks in a RAID1 array (maybe if I had more than 2 drives I might consider another), runs Plex, Apache and a couple of web apps like TT-RSS and works flawlessly. Sure there was some tweaking needed so maybe not for everyone but most techies reading the Reg won't have any problems following the tutorials.

    2. Bronek Kozicki

      Yeah, was thinking the same : "where are units supporting checksums on filesystem?" and then I realized I need to build my own with FreeNAS or Nas4Free .... because no brand would do that for me!

      Honestly, if NAS cannot guarantee integrity of your data, what's the point?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It would have been interesting to see the DIY Solution of a HP Proliant MicroServer with FreeNAS (or similar) in this round up. The cash back deals on the G7 made it almost a no brainer. I think the still do cash back on the G8. But would have been interesting to see how it stacks up against the more commercial off the shelf offerings reviewed here.

    1. Alan Edwards

      Re: DIY

      > DIY Solution of a HP Proliant MicroServer with FreeNAS (or similar) in this round up

      It would be interesting, but it's not in the same league (IMO).

      I have a MicroServer, one of the first ones with the Athlon Neo, with 3Gb RAM, 4x2Tb drives in a RAID 5 array and FreeNAS 7 on a gigabit Ethernet network.

      I don't get anywhere near the throughput they got from the standalone boxes. I sometimes see 50-60Mbytes/sec writes, more often than not it's in the 30s. Disc throughput seems to be the problem, the HD access light is jammed on.

      Setting my version of FreeNAS up was not a beginner job. I played with it in a VM first to get it right, but you had to set several objects up in the right sequence or you got nothing.

      You can't upgrade FreeNAS, it's a nuke it and start again job. You might be able to import the array into the new version, but it might not work. If it doesn't your data's gone, hence mine is still on the old version.

      You can't expand the volumes if you fill it up, by replacing the discs with bigger ones. I've not had a disc die on me yet, but I doubt it's as simple as throwing a new one in and letting it sort itself out.

      If I was starting from scratch again now I'd buy a stand-alone NAS - probably a ReadyNAS 104. But it was cheap (cashback on the server, and the discs were bought before the factories flooded) and it does what I need for now.

      1. phil dude
        Thumb Up

        Re: DIY

        depending on the deployment, the HP proliant supports ECC, and have be encouraged to use 6 drives, makes it a bargain.

        Mine is a bog standard NFS4 server running RAID6 and RAID1. I know will upgrade sometime and I'd get another one of these

        (of course with hacked ROMs etc... - HP really know how to alienate their customers)


      2. PsychicMonkey

        Re: DIY

        I'll agree that freenas wasn't the easiest to setup, although I think they have improved a lot on that in recent times. You certainly can upgrade though, I've done it twice so far with no issues at all.

        1. Annihilator

          Re: DIY

          " You certainly can upgrade though, I've done it twice so far with no issues at all."

          The OP is on v7. I understood to move to v8 or v9 from there was a nuke/reinstall.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: DIY

            I am actually running Ubuntu LTS 12.04 Server on my G7. I did have (a few years ago) a QNAP but found it way to limiting. There implementation of BitTorrent didn't support magnetic links and other things were slow to get updated. Having a full UNIX box for me was just much more useful and flexible.

            Not so sure about the disk transfer speeds though. Everything is written over the network to fully encrypted disks. Is fast enough for everyday use for me. But I would have definitely been interested on some investigation by the Reg because I am sure a lot of Reg readers would consider building their own. If commercial NAS do encryption in hardware I guess it will be a lot faster. Maybe they could have picked two of the more common solutions and tested these.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

              Re: AC Re: DIY

              ".....Not so sure about the disk transfer speeds though....." That's probably because of the default, built-in SATA card. HP like to sell you the minimum by default and then sell you a proper SmartArray RAID card as an extra. The problem with FreeNAS after v7 was the inclusion of ZFS, which does not work with hardware RAID, hence a lot of FreeNAS users are just using the built-in card, and why I stopped using FreeNAS.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DIY

      Anyone with an HP (or even generic HW) should look into Xpenology/installing DSM.

  5. gerjomarty

    Are there any reasons why I should go for these over something like a HP Microserver G7 with something like FreeNAS on it? I know that probably wouldn't have the fancy web-based control panels and app stores, but aside from that, what else do you lose?

    1. Steven Raith

      Simplicity and convenience, maybe. Unless you can spin up a FreeNAS instance with iSCSI, NFS, SMB, and options for apache, MySQL, LDAP, BitTorrent client working fully, with a decent interface within, ooh, twenty minutes? ;-)

      I'm not being facetious, by the way - I was looking at doing similar, but was busy at work so dropped a few hundred on a DS214+ and a pair of WD Reds. It hammers along at 100MB/sec, everything just works, and upgrades to fix security holes etc are a piece of piss and fully tested before release.

      So it genuinely is simplicity and convenience - I could probably have built something comparable for about the same price, but had I put my hourly rate on it (not much, I might add) then the cost goes up.

      Also, I'm seriously fucking lazy.

      It used to be that building your own server was the only way to get decent performance and features at a reasonable cost - these days that isn't true any more.

      Would you rather have a kit car or a BAC Mono? Would you rather buy a scrapper 7-series and fix it up or get one with tax and test on it? It's always about money vs convenience, and I'm getting too old for that shit now.

      Well, almost....*taps fingers impatiently waiting for courier with an alternator*...

      Steven R

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Is that all?

        > Simplicity and convenience, maybe. Unless you can spin up a FreeNAS instance with iSCSI, NFS, SMB, and options for apache, MySQL, LDAP, BitTorrent client working fully, with a decent interface within, ooh, twenty minutes? ;-)

        Sounds like installing a modern copy of Linux.

        1. Steven Raith

          Re: Is that all?

          Except with a NAS, you don't have to teach yourself how each of these services works to prevent them from being a massive security problem on your network (because you'd also need to know how iptables works).

          Consumer NAS's have all this stuff set up to be (at least moderately) secure out of the box, with zero learning time required.

          I'm not all that up on iptables, but my Syno NAS is locked down pretty well. At least until Synolocker came about, whereupon I made it only available through a VPN on my router....

          As I say, simplicity and convenience.

          Steven R

  6. Peter Hartley

    Comparison shopping for NASes

    As long as the performance isn't execrable (where execrable is, say, not enough to stream compressed 4K video), my two primary criteria for selecting a NAS would be quietness and power-consumption. (Quietness particularly important for the one which thinks that it should be in your lounge plugged into your telly!) Any chance of graphs comparing these systems' performance on those metrics, both active and idle?


  7. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    The new Reg Review style

    1. Is it pretty?

    2. Does it have graphics in the software setup?

    3. Will it look good on my desk?

    4. ... what's #4? I know there was something else I was supposed to look at?

    1. dotdavid

      Re: The new Reg Review style

      4. Profit?

  8. Captain TickTock


    Editor's choice? etc?

  9. FlatSpot

    Power Consumption

    Would have been helpful to have power consumption figures, these are typically on 24x7 so its more important than how fast the interface is, which I'm only going to access to setup and then the odd update.

    Appreciate the more disks, the more power etc.

  10. Amorous Cowherder
    Thumb Up

    I still have 2 x ReadyNAS boxes populated with 4x2TB, superb little boxes, been supplying backup and streaming media in our house for close on 5 years now and only blown 1 drive in all that time. Problem is that the number of supported HDs was always limited and to maintain the standby spare HDs I have scratch around for refurbs off eBay, not a pleasant experience!

  11. Adam JC

    Synology: Fantastic apart from one tiny niggle...

    Every box we've kitted out with WD Red 4TB Drives in has _WITHOUT FAIL_ falsely reported that any drives fitted have tripped a smart indicator.

    Apparently, they're aware of the issue but no firmware yet. The only resolution is to roll back the firmware to the 4.X

    Apart from that, the Synology OS is a clincher most of the time in both home and SOHO applications for me.

  12. Andy Howarth

    Yes you could build you're own with FreeNAS for the price of these but I went the other way and picked up a NetGear ReadyNAS 104 for £110. 4 bays, same GUI and similar size to the 314 in the test. It's a lower spec CPU/RAM but all I wanted was a Time Machine target and NAS for storing music and videos.

  13. pauly


    Also how noisy they are would be useful information.

  14. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge


    Apps? On a NAS server? Dear Lord, a thousand times no. NAS is there to do precisely one job and it's in your interest to ensure it does no more than that, given just how opaque, outdated and customised the underlying OS almost certainly is.

    If you want any services beyond basic file sharing, run them on a box which you're comfortable administrating and securing - a proper Linux OS or, if you absolutely must, Windows (usual terms and conditions apply). But on no account should you ask your NAS to do more than the get files around your LAN as quickly as possible.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Apps?!!?!!

      Pah. I acknowledge your feeble thumbs down and give you exhibit A in return.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I've just replaced a Mac Mini and an Apple Time Capsule running OSX Server with a Synology DS415+ with 2 x 6TB Reds [1] running DNS, Mail, Calendaring, Contacts, Notes, File Sharing, iTunes media spanned onto it via TunesSpan, Aperture referenced files on it too. It also configures the ADSL router with the required rules and I just removed a few default ones I didn't want enabled.

    Much better so far, not cheap but it now just sits there, a pukka black box and no spending days of installing freeNAS and all the other stuff. Time is time.


    [1] with room for two more providing 18TB across the 4 drives.

  16. CynicalGeek

    Doing your business in the long grass

    My HP ProLiant G7 N54L MicroServer with 8GB, OpenIndiana and Napp-It delivers >100MB/s (>800Mbps) read and write performance off a three disk RAID0 striped volume of 2TB drives. I've set up ZFS snapshots every hour and send nighty ZFS snapshots to a remote server for DR.

    The box cost £150 with £50 cashback, OS and NAS software was free. The £300 I saved from buiding the box myself was spent on a second server for backup purposes and drives.

    So, yes these DIY boxes aren't in the same league, there in a league above the ones listed.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: Doing your business in the long grass

      I don't see why you need three disks in RAID 0 to get >800mbps; I can happily get >800mbps off the Syno box in RAID1.

      It'll also do snapshot backups too if you want, although I'm not sure if it'll do them to a network location. Pretty sure it'll rsync to another box, although with RAID1 that's less of a concern (I'm well aware RAID isn't backup...). With three disks in RAID0, you'll *need* that backup.

      The savings you got, I'd have had to put into learning OI and NappIt, and ZFS pool allocation.

      Swings and roudabouts, though - if you were already fluent in that stuff and it was a doddle/fun to set up, all power to you.

      These days I'm spending 12 hours a day out of the house for work, so my free time is better spent doing other things, like sleeping ;-)

      Steven R

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm been using unRAID, for about 4 years now, it has been extremely reliable.

    Case – Cooler Master Elite – because it was what I had

    Mainboard – Open Box: BIOSTAR A760G M2+ AM2+/AM2 AMD 760G Micro ATX AMD Motherboard – it was inexpensive and had low energy ratings…it also came with no I/O panel, didn’t bother me as it would not fit in my twisted and distorted space for it! I cut out a piece of foam and stuck in the space.

    Drives – 2 x Western Digital Caviar Green WD6400AACS 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive – it was inexpensive, had low energy ratings, performance more than adequate for my planned unRaid usage

    3 x Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2.0TB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

    Memory – 1 x Kingston 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model KVR800D2N6/1G – inexpensive, performance more than enough

    CPU – AMD Sempron 140 Sargas 2.7GHz Socket AM3 45W Single-Core Processor SDX140HBGQBOX – it was inexpensive, had low energy ratings, performance more than adequate for my usage

    PSU – Rosewill Stallion Series RD400-2-SB 400W ATX V2.2 Power Supply – modified to slow fan down

    UnRaidPlus 4.7.0 + unMenu – downloaded, installed onto a Kingston USB thumb drive I had around, didn’t need the features of the ‘Pro’ version, 6 drives will be enough for me, and as capacities increase over the years I will just keeping swapping out higher capacity models, instead of more disks overall, this way you are ‘refreshing’ the RAID every few years or so. Of course, if capacity is your goal, then nothing beats having 21 disks as an option!

  18. PowerBenny

    FreeNAS seemed difficult

    So I went with Open Media Vault. It's been rock solid for the last two years and I managed to buy the HP N54L and 4 x 2TB for the same price as any of these boxes empty. It took a bit of fiddling to be sure but was still worth it for the saving.

    I would definitely advise any friends and relatives to get the COTS models here rather than rolling their own as I don't want to have to do tech support for them.

  19. Daz555

    I looked at a number of these dedicated devices but in the end decided that they were not flexible enough for me personally. In the end I put together my own NAS based on Intel ATOM running Ubuntu server. Ubuntu can be run very well also from simple usb memory sticks (with a few tweaks to cut down on writes) which results in excellent idle power consumption as the main disks are spun down for much of the day.

    For many people though, these dedicated storage boxes are the best option.

  20. Graham Cobb Silver badge

    Open software on these boxes?

    There have been many comments talking about building your own box and running your own software (from Windows, through special NAS distributions to generic linux). Very useful, thank you.

    But what about running your own software (I would want a Linux variant) on any of these boxes? I can't help thinking that the hardware is probably chosen well for the NAS job, and I particularly want to reduce power consumption (my current file server is my previous desktop which pumps out a lot of heat -- I don't need graphics, or probably even the powerful CPU/memory it has). But I am not interested in their software -- I need to be able to run a modern Linux.

    Can any of these boxes have the installed software replaced by open software? Is there a community around them which does that? I realise it will be more expensive than DIY but, given my background, I will find it easier just installing/using software.

    1. Mark 65

      Re: Open software on these boxes?

      Pretty sure I've seen somewhere on the QNAP forums about people having installed some version of Debian or Ubuntu on their boxes.

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