Thecus N4100Pro 4-Bay NAS Review
Thecus n4100Pro: What It Is & Why You Might Consider One
I purchased the Thecus n4100pro NAS product for a home network and it’s being used exclusively for personal purposes. Perhaps its a bit of overkill, but as one thinks about how we no longer keep photo albums and negatives of all our pictures the less risk tolerant I became of losing those valuable files. A few hundred dollars for this n4100pro is a small price to pay to protect my photos, files and videos.
The Thecus n4100pro is a NAS (network attached storage) that provides the home network with a high level of data redundancy with very little effort on your part. Previously one might copy data to a couple of external hard drives periodically as a safeguard against failure on any primary machines. As you probably expect that seldom occurs with any regularity and doing so across several different machines becomes a real pain in the butt. With the Thecus NAS products, or comparable NAS solutions for that matter one can ‘host’ data on the Thecus NAS itself and access it from whichever machine is being used at the time.
My desktops and laptops currently only host the programs that they run, while the files to be edited or saved are stored directly on the n4100pro. The result of this is that upon saving a file to the Thecus NAS multiple copies are automatically created across the device drives for safe keeping. If one drive fails, the system will alert me via email and all I need to do is hot-swap the problematic hardware for a new drive. Once the new hard drive is added the RAID will rebuild itself and restore the redundancy to the system automatically.
Thecus n4100Pro: The Setup
The Thecus n4100Pro 4-Bay NAS is a network attached storage device that supports up to 4 drives each up to (to my knowledge) 2TB. My current configuration includes 4 1TB hard drives from 3 different manufacturers and for the 2 from a common company, they are from different production runs. My Thecus n4100pro is set up in RAID 5 configuration which judging from the surveys in the Thecus forums visited seems to be the most common configuration. In that configuration the 4TB provides roughly 2,700GB of storage space so I have lots of room to grow. Even if I do find myself running out of space I can upgrade the drives one at a time without shutting the machine down to grow the available space.
The Thecus n4100 NAS comes with a paltry 256MB of RAM which I have since been upgraded to 1GB. While the feedback I have read on the Thecus forums suggests that the RAM upgrade won’t help speed transfer of single files, having the added RAM is purported to provide additional speed when more than one operation is happening simultaneously. Be aware that in upgrading your RAM you are voiding your warranty in the eyes of Thecus. That said, if you keep your original 256MB stick you can always swap it back in should you have issues with the n4100Pro and need to RMA it back to Thecus for service. As mentioned below the following sticks have been proven to work:
I’ve added more about upgrading Thecus RAM here: Upgrade Thecus NAS RAM
In addition to the Thecus there are a couple laptops and a desktop which access it on a regular basis. The Thecus n4100pro is connected (hardwired, gigabit) to a Netgear wndr3700 router and from there accessed over wifi by the machines in question.
Happily, Thecus has opted to open source their OS so that there are a number of developers creating enhancements for users. With Squeezebox Duet receivers on our network we were happy to see that a Squeezebox module has been created by this developer community for use on Thecus NAS solutions (I know this modules works with the Thecus n4100pro as well as the Thecus n5200pro… I do not know if it will work with the Thecus n3200pro). As such music stored on the n4100pro (or some of its siblings) can be accessed by the Squeezebox simply by changing the music source.
Thecus n4100Pro: Issues & Considerations
A couple words of advice for anyone considering a NAS in general or a Thecus NAS specifically.
Always keep another copy of your data off site. No matter how many copies of the data your NAS creates for you, if there is a fire or any other such disaster it won’t do you any good as everything on site could be destroyed. Periodically create a snapshot of your NAS’ data, encrypt it and keep it somewhere off-site, or use one of the virtual solutions so that you have a fall-back should the unthinkable happen.
Consider how much you tend to rely on product support. In my experience Thecus support is not that strong. Fortunately there is a very strong user community spread across several boards that provide excellent assistance. If you’re not one for user support and prefer company support you may want to look at some of the NAS solutions from Netgear among others. While their products are more expensive out of the box, the savings in terms of headaches may be worth it to you. Some comparable machines include:
Netgear ReadyNAS NV+
Netgear ReadyNAS Duo
Data Robotics Drobo 4-Bay
Finally, be aware that Thecus offers more than one NAS solution. For the home or small office you may want to also consider either the Thecus n5200pro which supports 5 drives to the n4100pro with 4. This is likely overkill for typical home user needs, but perhaps not for small businesses. Likely more relevant for the home setup is the Thecus n3200pro which has 3 bays and so can support RAID 5, but more importantly it is developed to make multimedia support and sharing in the home simpler.