Wednesday, March 16, 2011

TheCus 4100Pro NAS system

NAS drives are becoming more common in households these days.  Many of us have gathered a library of digital photos, videos, music and movies that take up terabytes of disk storage.  The issues of backups and sharing make dealing with local storage on your PC difficult.  The most amazing feature of a NAS drive is you can loss one hard drive and all of your data is intact.  They call this RAID.  I use RAID 5 for home storage, it’s not the best, but it’s the cheapest.  High end database servers would use RAID 10 but for home that’s a bit of an overkill for many. 
 
The TheCus 4100Pro is a great value.  You get 4 SATA drive bays, a gorgeous blue backlit LCD display and built in web management so you don’t need any special software to use this NAS.  It uses an embedded Linux system to provide services like Samba, FTP, NFS, AFP and Bonjour.  The best value is to buy this NAS drive with no hard drives and provide your own.  Some NAS systems don’t allow this (Buffalo for example) but the TheCus is known for BYOD (Bring your own disks).  I used 2TB hard drives from Seagate at $70 each.  The LCD display is great if something goes wrong, at least you get some idea of why it may not boot.  Many other NAS systems have no display and when something goes wrong it's a black hole. 

Setup is fairly easy.  First step is to install your hard drives.  TheCus provides plenty of screws.  Second step is the IP address.  It defaults to 192.168.1.100.  If that is not compatible with your network  just unplug a PC or laptop from your network and plug the CAT 5e cable between the systems and manually IP your PC to 192.168.1.10 and then bring up your browser and navigate to the NAS drives IP address.  The default password is always admin for TheCus. 

There are a lot of options in the web admin menus.  I would recommend getting your network setup first for the default gateway and DNS servers.  I would leave Jumbo Frame off.  If the NIC can’t negotiate with your switch for Jumbo Frames you will lock yourself out of the NAS. Next step is making sure the NAS drive sees all of your hard drives (Storage menu – Disks).  This can be tricky, the NAS uses the S.M.A.R.T Info to determine how healthy your drive is.  If the log in the SMART info is filled with errors the NAS drive will flag the disk as bad or a warning.  I had one perfectly working Seagate drive in Windows that just refused to work correctly due to errors in the SMART log.  When I ran the Seatools the drive failed all diagnostics!  I sent the drive back to Seagate for a free replacement. 

Next step is to determine your RAID type.  That’s up to you.  I use RAID 5.  I fully tested the 4100Pro by pulling a good disk and the system ran very nicely with the missing disk.  It also fully rebuilt the drive when I installed a replacement disk.  Building your RAID set is very time consuming.  Depending on the size of the drives used you should anticipate a day of lost time while the drive builds your RAID.  Once the RAID set is done you can setup your file shares/folders and start using your NAS. 

I have been using the 4100Pro now for about two years.  It’s rock solid.  I actually own three of them now. I found the costs of 8-12 bay units is more expensive than these 4 bay drives. 

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