Just when you thought it wasn’t possible to cram any more features into a desktop NAS appliance along comes Thecus and its latest N5200 RouStor. This is the first of its kind to support up to five SATA hard disks and it also brings RAID-6 into the picture. Normally seen on higher end disk arrays, RAID-6 offers dual independent parity and can survive the loss of two hard disks. A great idea but it seems a tad excessive for a desktop storage box as it requires a minimum of four disks to function and it eats up an inordinate amount of raw storage capacity.
We equipped the N5200 with a quintet of 250GB Western Digital WD2500 SATA/3Gbps drives and configured them as a four drive RAID-6 array with hot-standby which resulted in less than 0.5TB of useable storage. You do have plenty of other array choices though as the N5200 also supports RAID-0, -1, -10 and -5 with the latter likely to be the best choice for most environments.
There’s much more as you also get five Gigabit Ethernet ports with four amalgamated into a switch for LAN duties and the fifth set aside as a WAN port. As the name suggest, the appliance performs routing between the LAN and WAN ports and you can also stop your local users from accessing the WAN port. The features list doesn’t end there either as the N5200 uses a low-voltage 600MHz Intel Celeron M processor, comes with 256MB of memory and offers three USB 2.0 ports and even an eSATA port as well.
The N5200 can be purchased diskless as the Linux OS is implemented on a separate 64MB IDE CompactFlash card. Build quality is impressive as the chassis has a solid steel shell and the smart, black front panel has plenty of status LEDs. The blue backlit LCD panel runs through displaying the state of the RAID arrays and the system fan plus the IP addresses for LAN and WAN ports. The buttons below can be used to manually configure the IP addresses if needed. With five drives in the storage equation cooling needs to be good and the appliance has a large fan in the back panel and another for the power supply. Suffice to say there is some operational noise but we didn’t find it intrusive.
Thecus hasn’t done much work on sprucing up the web management interface as it’s pretty much the same as that offered by its N4100 which we reviewed well over a year ago as the Evesham Technology SilverSTOR XS. The interface provides a row of tabbed folders and you start by creating your RAID arrays and settling down for a long wait. Our RAID-6 array took nearly five hours to build and the volume wasn’t made available until it had completed. Usefully, you can migrate mirrored and striped arrays to RAID-5 but this is just as lengthy a process. We migrated a dual-disk mirror to a four drive RAID-5 array which took over three hours and all shared folders went offline during this process.