When Thecus launched its N5200 RouStor last year we didn't think it was possible to squeeze any more features into a desktop NAS appliance. However, with its latest, the N5200PRO Thecus has proved us wrong. It was the first manufacturer to deliver a solution with room for a quintet of hot-swap SATA hard disks and it is still the only one to provide support for RAID-6 dual redundant arrays. It now goes one step beyond as it's also the first desktop box to deliver support for iSCSI (Internet SCSI) enabling the appliance to present virtual hard disks to the network.
The appliance is offered in two versions and we have the N5200BR PRO on review, which has five Gigabit Ethernet ports with four presented as an Ethernet switch and the fifth provided for WAN access. Routing is performed across the two groups but you can stop them communicating with each other. If you want load balancing or link failover then go for the N5200B, which has a pair of Gigabit ports that supports these functions.
The appliance delivers a fine hardware specification as it sports a low voltage 1.5GHz Intel Celeron processor and 512MB of DDR memory. There are plenty of extra connection options as you have three USB 2.0 ports, a separate USB host port for connecting the appliance directly to a PC and even an eSATA port. The appliance can be purchased diskless as the Linux OS is implemented on a separate 64MB IDE CompactFlash card.
Installation is helped along nicely by the bundled Setup Wizard, which locates the appliance on the network and presents it ready for initial configuration. You can step straight from here to the browser management interface and we'll start by looking at the new RAID setup procedures as this is where you configure your iSCSI targets. From the Storage menu you can view the hard disks and choose from an impressive range of RAID arrays. The appliance also supports multiple arrays and enables you to migrate mirrors and stripes to RAID-5 as well. For testing we used a pair of 150GB Western Digital Raptor hard disks configured as a mirror. After selecting the array member drives you need to select the percentage of space to be used for general data storage. The remainder can then be can be split up and assigned to the USB host port or for iSCSI target use.