back to article It's enough to get your back up: Eight dual-bay SOHO NAS boxes

For a great many people, there is only one place to look when talking about storing data somewhere other than their local storage in their PC, notebook or tablet – and that’s to the cloud. Seagate STCT200 dual bay NAS box Best of both worlds: a dual-bay NAS can either double up on capacity or be configured to mirror data …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    RAID-0 FFS?

    Please, there is only one application for a RAID-0 box and that is a temporary store for massive video files, etc, while you work with them. You should make that very clear in any proposed test. If you value your data then RAID-0 has no place at all!

    Also worth pointing out for the more technical commmentards to consider, you can get an HP ProLiant Gen8 G1610T micro server for under £200 and slap FreeNAS on it, and if you want some more performance also stick in a small SSD for the ZFS Intent Log to give you a reasonable comprimise in performance vs. storage cost.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: RAID-0 FFS?

      Agreed. But also, remember that RAID <> backup.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RAID-0 FFS?

        RAID is no backup, but any backup schema requires reliable storage, and RAID0 is designed for speed only.

        Moreover, given the derelict state of most low-end backup software available, for most people, unluckily, "backup" means just a copy of the actual data. - thereby RAID0 just doubles the chances of a total failure, while RAID1 will not.

      2. Martin Silver badge

        Re: RAID-0 FFS?

        RAID <> backup.

        This is a serious question. It's something I've never really understood.

        If you have to have a backup in any case, what is the point of RAID in a normal home environment? Aren't you just doubling the cost for a bit of convenience that the vast majority of people don't really need?

        I just use standard NAS in my house, with backup across the network to a USB disk (nightly rsync, running on a RPi). I really don't see what I gain from RAID apart from extra complexity to go wrong.

        But I'm happy to be educated.

        (I think we need a "?" icon, for people who are asking questions.)

        1. Nick Collingridge

          Re: RAID-0 FFS?

          A couple of points regarding this:

          1. My philosophy has always been "The more backups the better". Using RAID 1 does provide a backup, although there can be issues with it. But for the most likely scenario of a drive failure you do get one of your backups in a transparent form with almost no performance hit compared to a single drive NAS box, and the advantage that your data continues to be available when that drive fails. And replacing the failed drive is generally very straightforward. But it would be crazy to rely on it without further backup, and here I would suggest three possibilities - firstly a directly connected batch-backuped USB drive (once a day or so) using rsync or the like (many NAS boxes have an easy-to-use packaged version of rsync with a good UI), Secondly a second NAS box which is also backed up to using the same approach. And thirdly a cloud backup if you want - again many NAS boxes have pre-packaged clients for the leading cloud storage providers.

          2. I cannot see the point of using RAID 0 on a NAS box - your data is so at risk to a drive failure and if the performance issue is so important you should be using a directly connected (USB3, ESATA, Thunderbolt) drive anyway. What is the point of using network-attached RAID 0? It is just crazy and doesn't make any sense at all to me. Why put all of that performance at the end of a network cable? Even at Gigabit speeds you won't get any faster speed from RAID 0 than you will from RAID 1, as the performance graphs in the review clearly show. So just forget about RAID 0 on a NAS box!

        2. djack

          Re: RAID-0 FFS?

          "If you have to have a backup in any case, what is the point of RAID in a normal home environment?"

          RAID is for fault tolerance, backup is for disaster recovery.

          Disks are relatively unreliable things and will break sooner or later. RAID gives you a bit of breathing space. Hopefully when a disk breaks, you will be able to get hold of a replacement and slot it into the array with little or no downtime or performance loss. Just relying on a backup may involve days of downtime waiting for drives to be delivered and restored.

          Even though she has no idea what I'm babbling about, RADI (and UPS) are vital components for a high Wife Acceptance Factor. Indeed, the ability to play crappy rom-com films at a moment's notice (while I'm away) is pretty much business critical.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: RAID-0 FFS?

      I can't think of any reason to use RAID-0 in a NAS box.

      It's useful where performance is critical but data integrity is not - eg, the working copy of something large.

      So unless you have SATA-3 or better access speeds, it's worse than useless. No SOHO NAS has that.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: access speed

        What you need in access speed depends on what you are doing, i.e. the balance between your computer's ability to process data and the storage systems ability to provide/accept it.

        Most cheap NAS can achieve about 1/2 of a HDD speed if you have Gbit networking and if your budget is limited you might be happy enough just to let it run overnight, etc.

      2. mad physicist Fiona

        Re: RAID-0 FFS?

        I can't think of any reason to use RAID-0 in a NAS box.

        For much of the target market I'd say that Raid-0 is probably the preferred solution, steering away from it based on purely general concerns strikes me as a lazy knee jerk recommendation. As with any choice of technology the specifics of the requirements (should) alter the evaluations.

        Most home users are going to want high capacity, small size, low power draw, low noise and low cost. Those are all requirements that steer you away from redundant storage. Your typical home user has no need for high availability so provided you have a backup Raid-0 is perfectly adequate. If you don't have a backup no form of Raid is appropriate since your real problem lies elsewhere.

        1. Salts

          Re: RAID-0 FFS?

          @mad physicist Fiona

          I do agree, most of my NAS is used for streaming media, though I would hate to loose it, backing it up is not an option. I buy NAS on exactly what you say 'high capacity, small size, low power draw, low noise and low cost' the little DNS 320l does me at 35gbp(Amazon special) though I don't use RAID 0 it is set as two independent drives.

    3. P. Lee

      Re: RAID-0 FFS?

      FWIW, CoolerMaster Force 500 is a midi-tower case with 8 bays and its dirt cheap (I think I paid AUD 42 a couple of years ago) and you can install the ATX motherboard of your choice. I have one in the garage which runs as a media / TV server, backup server, ISCSI, time-machine, dhcp, PXE... etc. It gives quite a bit more flexibility to re-use old drives when you have more bays. I have an old desktop core2duo m/b in it with dual gig-ethernet on board.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RAID-0 FFS?

      Those 1610T's were going for an absolute steal on ebuyer at one time £119 I think with cashback, sadly the offer has now finished.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RAID-0 FFS?

      The HP ProLiant Gen8 G1610T does at least have ECC support, a reasonable CPU and a cheap price; however you will need to pay extra for enough ECC RAM to make it usable with FreeNAS 9.3 ZFS and only 4 drive bays may be restrictive e.g. my FreeNAS use 6 drives.

      I think that all consumer and SOHO NAS should be regarded as potentially little better than RAID0; some could eventually cause data corruption if non-ECC RAM is used, which is probably the case.

  2. DJV Silver badge

    Cloud vs NAS

    NAS for me. The day I trust the cloud 100% to hold my data is when it's there to show a single photo of my ashes and I am past caring!

    1. Tomato42

      Re: Cloud vs NAS

      Naah, you're overly dramatic.

      Cloud has its place - as an encrypted off-site backup copy for the on-site NAS box dedicated for backup.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another question.

    What is the amount of bias against arm processors in the intel software?

  4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Macs can be problematic

    I bought a Buffalo NAS a few years ago only to find it wasn't compatible with MAC's AFP. Buffalo were unapologetic (Apple's fault for changing the protocol) and Apple had the same "we implemented the spec. correctly and the other 99.9% of the world is wrong" excuse it has for everything (e.g. iCal invites, mail attachments, etc). I managed to get it working by using a different file manager, but it's a bit of a pain.

    I also have a QNAP 410NAS. This has a time machine function which worked OK except that every few weeks I got an error message along the lines of "the time machine backup is corrupt and needs to be replaced". It was a pain because of the time it took to back up the 300GB of crap I've got and also because I lost backups. I bought a Time Capsule and gave up with NAS backups. The QNAP is also very slow. It takes about 20 mins to upload a ripped DVD on wired SMB and isn't much faster on FTP - which is way slower than the 25MB/s quoted. I'm not a tecchie, but my internet research blames either NAS OS or Mac OS or both. The NAS also doesn't cope very well with the Mac's attempts to write hidden files to shares when copying - so after 20 mins of trying to copy a DVD to a share it often comes back with a write error. FTP works OK (and makes me feel like an engineer again!).

    I must stress that, apart from the hidden file thing, these problems are a three or four years old, so might have been fixed by firmware updates. The message is that Mac owners need to do a bit of extra research before buying NAS.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Macs can be problematic

      Or, in other words, if you're a Mac user and don't buy the appropriate Apple product to go with it, a shitstorm of compatibility issues shall dog you to the end of your days.

      We all knew this anyway....

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Macs can be problematic

      If you are not using the NAS for sharing (i.e. it is a backup copy and/or space for keeping very large files) then try to use it as an iSCSI target, and then have the block storage formatted in Apple's own file system. That way the (stupid IMHO) use of alternate data streams for photo metadata, etc, are all supported.

      Down side is the extra faffing to get that running and that you can't really access those files on any other machine.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: iSCSI

        Hmmm. That's some research to save for those long dark teatimes between contracts. Thanks.

      2. Norphy

        Re: Macs can be problematic

        iSCSI would be a nice idea but there is no iSCSI initiator baked into OS X and all of the third party ones cost :(

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Macs can be problematic

          I really can't say (no Mac yet) but shouldn't you be able to drop down to the (FreeBSD) shell and set up iSCSI initiator there. Come to think about it, if I knew this I'd charge too. ;-).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Macs can be problematic

            Mac OS isn't FreeBSD - even if it does have some parts which were derived from FreeBSD.



            And FreeBSD didn't get a native iSCSI initiator until very recently (10.0), although there were userspace options before then.


    3. rcp27

      Re: Macs can be problematic

      It's worth noting that the "a few years ago" point is important: from 10.9 onwards, Apple has adopted SMB2 as its default file sharing protocol (it still supports AFP, but it is no longer the default option).

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Macs can be problematic

      Apple has moved over to SMB for everything except network Time Machine backups now in their latest OSes. Although their SMB implementation isn't perfect either, however they can't use that excuse any more. Instead you just hit a wall of silence until the next OS upgrade and hope they've done it better.

    5. ckm5

      Re: Macs can be problematic

      I've had a Thecus, ReadyNAS and Synology - none of them had problems with AFP.

      I use the Synology with Time Machine, zero issues.

      Of the three, I'd highly recommend the Synology - stay away from Thecus, the software is crap.

      In general, all of these use the open source netatalk software - any incompatibility is because the vendor is not upgrading the package. Synology & ReadyNAS both have huge communities which often find & solve issues faster than the vendor. IMHO, the size (and sophistication) of the community is key when shopping for a NAS - Synology, Qnap and ReadyNAS all have huge communities, with lots of people creating hacks to use the boxes in different ways.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Macs can be problematic

        But with all these comments said... wouldn't it be lovely if a reviewer tried out whether Time Machine backups work... Or if the manufacturers would put something into their spec sheets...

      2. cheveron

        Re: Macs can be problematic

        I use a Synology DS214play with two NAS-rated 4TB Seagate drives. Time machine backups from multiple machines work fine. No problem playing transcoded video over WiFi on the AppleTV either.

  5. Trigonoceps occipitalis


    Several NAS boxes have HDMI and run XBMC (Kodi). Do they support CEC, if not how is the media centre controlled?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: HDMI-CEC

      Kodi can be set up to listen on a port, there are controller apps such as Yatse that can be used on a tablet or phone.

      How Kodi is launched in the first place is an interesting question though. Maybe you have to launch it via the web interface? If Kodi hasn't been pre-configured to use a controller app or you don't have one then do you have to plug in a USB mouse?

      1. Scuby

        Re: HDMI-CEC

        Kodi is CEC enabled.

        To get around the need for having an IR receiver, I use the Constellation for Kodi on iOS (iPad and iPhone), with regards to starting Kodi, I also have an app that allows me to control the mouse and start items pinned to the task bar.

  6. Peter Hartley

    Comparative reviewing

    Quietness (active and idle), power consumption (active and idle): those are the four factors I'd like to know about when comparing NAS boxes. I'm not that interested in raw performance -- and nor are you if you're even considering cloud-based alternatives.

    1. JC_

      Re: Comparative reviewing

      Also, does it have stupidly bright LEDs that are annoying when watching a movie?

    2. paulf

      Re: Comparative reviewing

      I'd like to know how often the vendor will release software updates and what their roadmap is for EOL, especially considering El Reg's SOHO-peless "campaign" on updates to home/home-office networking kit for critical security flaws.

      I've got four ReadyNAS Duo v1 (Sparc) units - the last update was Oct 2014 which works out at 3-4 years from launch. I don't know if they'll push out any more updates - I'm guessing probably not but I was surprised to see the last update come out.

      People might grumble at "only" 3-4 years but this is pretty good in comparison to my Netgear home router which was EOLd about 6-9 months after launch. I'm currently running a Beta firmware from Tech Support to fix the ADSL problems I had but the various beta updates were never released.

  7. dajames Silver badge


    I should have liked to see a comparison of the power consumption of these units, measured both at idle and in use, and some account of the power-saving measures that can be enabled.

    NAS units tend to be left switched on 24/365, so the power consumption while idle is important.

  8. Not_The_Droids

    I have a Synology 214se, a lower end version of the 214. I use it for pictures, movies, and general file storage. I've been quite happy with it, especially for the price (about $150, disks are extra, I used a pair of 3TB's). Firmware updates are still happening, and there are quite a few applications that can be loaded on it.

    Speed is not a factor for me, but quiet and power consumption are. It's nearly silent. It also goes to sleep after about half an hour - disks spin down, and it goes to just a single blue light. But it does wake up quickly when prodded over the network, and then the files are promptly available again.

    The Synology sits in my attic (it's air conditioned space), attached to a UPS. I set it and forget it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have just picked up a Lenovo IX2 DL for under £60 from Amazon, that will do for me.

  10. b166er

    Would have been really nice to know if any of these do iSCSI and whether they have apps for backing themselves up to cloud storage services.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Yes it would since following the Rule of Three, especially on the cheap, would be a really, really good thing! Still a nice article to keep in my evernotes.

      Icon >> author!

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge


    Another thing which would be worth knowing would be how good are the manufacturers at getting out fixes when a Heartbleed happens.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Updates

      Well, Synology seem to put out updates regularly.

      As to whether that's bug fixes or feature improvements...

      I can say that our work 214 has been running happily non stop for about 3 years with nary a problem though we only use it for file storage and none of the extras.

      Given me confidence enough that if I bought a NAS for home use, I'd look at Synology

      1. Caustic tWit

        Re: Updates

        I've got a Synology 212j, the lowliest of the low, running virtually continuously for almost 4 years, (overseas, in the Doomsday Bunker). One of two off-site backups of all the documents & such that are precious to me, plus surveillance camera there. Easiest to set up of any I've tried (a short list), and if I can set it up unaided anybody reading this can. Great apps for everything I might want and much that I don't. Rapid, frequent bug fixes, security and feature updates. Never a hitch of any sort. Hasn't got the horsepower for trans-coding, but they certainly have others which do, and that's not what I bought it for.

        Also very quiet & low power consumption. No way to dim the LEDs, but that's what black tape is for.

        edits: spelling

      2. John Tserkezis

        Re: Updates

        "Given me confidence enough that if I bought a NAS for home use, I'd look at Synology"

        I'm currently looking at something to replace my 8-bay Synology NAS. Their updates have caused connection dropouts, and I'm not the one that's hurt the most. Reading the forums, some have had their boxes entirely borked.

        As things stand, it's not workable at all. Not happy Jan.

  12. HildyJ Silver badge

    Specs I Would Like To See

    1) Noise in use and at idle

    2) Power consumption in use and at idle

    3) Disk formatting in mirror mode - i.e. if the NAS breaks are the disks readable by another computer or are they in a proprietary format.

  13. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Just wondering...

    were my computer to fall foul of one of these nasty 'ransom-wares' that encypt my files, would I still be able to access data that was backed-up to one of these NAS drives?

    I'm assuming I could, since they run a different OS to my PC, but I'd like a second opinion. Also, does any of this ransom-ware cause my PC to instruct any connected NASs to delete/encrypt data? Cheers!

    1. JC_

      Re: Just wondering...

      Cryptolocker targets network shares that are mapped to a local drive, so \\MyNas\MyFiles would be fine but Z:\MyFiles would be toast.

      However, as people have pointed out, RAID isn't backup - it just helps availability. What you need are copies of the files over time, so as CryptoXXX creates encrypted, current versions, the old copies are untouched and can be used in the restoration.

      At home we use CrashPlan for this. When Cryptolocker first broke out, they reportedly came up with a utility to make restoring from a point in time (i.e. pre-infection) a bit easier.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Just wondering...

      The second one is a case of setting up the share so that it allows read access for guests but it requires a user/password to have write access. Don't save the password on the computer, it means you have to type it every time you connect but it also means that ransomware can't fish the password out of the password store when it tries that share.

    3. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Just wondering...

      The one with btrfs should support snapshots to allow a roll-back to a past point in time. Not sure I would choose that over ZFS mind, but then all file systems have sucked donkey balls in my experience. As a previous commentard reminds us RAID != Backup, and of course an on-line file system is not a backup.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i was really hoping for an actual summary

    Having worked for two of the firms listed, it would have been nice to see something other than a bunch of bar charts as a summary. Can't say I understand the decision to review only two bay NAS, nor RAID 0, nor using a pair of 6T drives which are clearly above the bang:buck sweet spot.

    As regards the iSCSI suggestion mentioned earlier, i'm reliably informed that having >1 machines access iSCSI will result in immediate corruption (unless you have a cluster aware FS (VMFS etc) FS..

    *hoping for an edited in summary*

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: i was really hoping for an actual summary

      Isn't that what LUN masking is for though?

      If you set the default to RO for all Initiators, then you have to deliberately set the LUN mask to RW for >1 Initiator to risk iSCSI corruption.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: i was really hoping for an actual summary

        My understanding is simply that iSCSI etc don't do locking (and nor should they). I was assuming that the shared iSCSI volume would be RW for all accessing nodes thereby creating the non-locking inevitable corruption.

        I haven't looked into LUN masking as a workaround.

  15. K


    Either buy yourself a HP Microserver.

    Personally I use my box for a few other things, so recently I brought a Dell PowerEdge T310 from eBay, runs relatively quiet and cool even though it has a QC Xeon, no louder that a desktop, trick is to ensure you have the latest firmware {later than 2013).

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: DIY

      Buying a micro/small server is a good solution if it's ok for you to build a NAS from "scratch" and setup it correctly. Again, not all people are IT pros/enthusiasts and a lot of them need just an "appliance" to turn on, set as little parameters as possible, and then start using it.

      Thereby, these devices have their own place in this world...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unlike ext4, btrfs provides "file security against viruses and malware"

    Now that's something I didn't know.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Unlike ext4, btrfs provides "file security against viruses and malware"

      Not exactly, but it supports 'snapshots' as it is a copy-on-write file system. So malware that trashes files on your Z: drive or whatever will cause the file system to write the malicious changes to new blocks on disk. Once you find out, and have killed the infection, you can go back to the snapshot time and get your previous files' contents back.

      Assuming you snapshot regularly and notice the infection before those snapshots get overwritten.

  17. david 12 Silver badge


    I had to laugh at the suggestion that btrfs is slower on writes. A file system with the same features as NTFS, and it's slower than EXTn? Who'd have thunk it?

    But I think that someone must be stretching the truth if they're claiming that copy-on-write and shadow-copies provide protection against viruses and malware.

  18. Steve Evans

    Drive compatiblity...

    Have Thecus sorted out their weird drive compatibility issues?

    I'm a long term user of a very reliable Thecus N5200pro, but blimee was it a few months of pain initially... I think (IIRC) I'm running a beta OS image which some guy on a long dead forum extracted from Thecus directly. It's not the latest image, I'm not going to touch that because of the horror stories and risk of data loss. Basically bugs which were fixed in the beta prerelease reappeared in the next release(s).

    It's a pity, as it's a damn reliable system in my current configuration, and is currently happy with 5 x 2TB Samsung drives, but I dare not ever try anything bigger in it due to the previous pain!

    In short, the support struck me as willing, but the version control was chaotic and confused. Multiple engineers appeared to be working on multiple branches of the code, and nobody ever merged it back into one!

    Luckily it's not my only NAS... The other is an HP Microserver which was on cashback. Everything critical is synced between the two of them.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Happy user of an Asustor AS-608T here. Seemed like the best value at the time that I purchased it over a year ago. I use XBMC for video management, Subsonic for music, encrypted OwnCloud for documents (alongside TagSpaces as an Evernote replacement), the web and mysql server to run TTRSS and Wallabag, the VPN app for logging in remotely as well as when I'm on my public wifi. I even use the mail app to run my own mail server. I have it running 24/7 and couldn't be happier with it. I also recently found out about the ipkg package manager which also helps the more Linux terminal happy users like myself to install packages like lftp and screen.The packages are older releases but they still get the job done. I also run a few cron jobs to download files from a remote VPS as well as upload a duplicity generated encrypted backups.

  20. kmac499

    Even cheaper Dlink

    I'm running a Dlink 320L with a pair of WD RED 3TB Raid 1 in it.

    The box cost me the princely sum of £29.99 on offer and it's still listed for £39.99, it's got a few problems (Google drive backup; doesn't, to name one) but it will do a timed shutdown overnight and the fans are thermostatic so most of the time it's virtually silent. Great for the homeworker or anyone needing to archive photos etc..

  21. Jay 2

    Synology 214 may be old but... used to be able to get a 214+ which was the trusty 2 bay chassis, but with the zippier insides of the bigger 414, Obvioulsy that would cost a bit more. It would appear that the 214+ has been replaced by the 215+.

    Originally I had a Netgear ReadyNAS Duo (v1 - the SPARC one), which was pretty good. My brother then got a Duo v2 (the AMD one), on which Netgear had dumbed down the interface something chronic. He then moved from that to a Synology 414, and when I saw what that could do (with all the phone apps etc) I was impressed. So much so that I went out and got a 214+, as I always like a bit of oompoh so the 214 was out and I didn't need the 214play as I'd no need for transcoding for Apple devices and the like.

    My 214+ does everything I want it to and is very easy to use. My only useful pointer would be to make sure you specify proper RAID1 and not their Synology Hybrid RAID bastardisation, which seems to be too cleaver for its own good on a 2 disk NAS.

  22. jason 7

    I've rolled out a lot of dual disk NAS

    To small local businesses. Using RAID1 and a further USB3.0 external daily backup. We then have data copied onto 3-4 different HDDs. Encryption is handy for some of the companies dealing in financials.

    The beauty of a pre-made NAS is that I can install it and set it up in 10-15 minutes which means less messing about for me and they are usually set and forget for the most part. FreeNAS etc. just seems a bit too targeted at the tinkerer/enthusiast crowd. Don't have time for that.

    I've manged to rescue several small firms that just needed simple file sharing and backup storage from ridiculously over complex and expensive Xeon/SAS/Server 2008 solutions from other local IT firms, not to mention got them out of over the top monthly support contracts.

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