Selecting the contenders

We selected the devices based primarily on price and configuration. There are many more NAS products on the market, but we had to keep it down to a reasonable number for the sake of brevity. All of the devices are 4-disk units, and range from $600-1100, with the most expensive unit being the Hammer Z-Box, which is really an entry-level SAN product.

Below is a list of the devices included in this roundup:
  1. Hammer Z-Box
  2. LaCie Ethernet Disk 1TB
  3. Intel SS4000-E
  4. Thecus N4100
  5. QNAP TS401-T
  6. Infrant NV+
  7. Buffalo TeraStation
Seagate was gracious enough to provide us with several SATA2 drives so we could ensure all devices were using the same type of drive. The only exception was LaCie, as it comes with its own internal drives, but more on that later.

Test Configuration

To test the devices we used two benchmarks: IOMeter, and what we like to call "DOSBench". The IOMeter configuration file can be found here, and we tested transfer sizes from 8K to 512K. The DOSBench application uses a tool from the Windows 2000 resource kit (Timethis). How DOSBench works is that we create a RamDisk and put some data files on it. We then run a batch file which copies files from the RamDisk to the NAS device, and back again. Using Timethis we record the time each copy routine takes and then calculate the transfer rate.

Client Configuration:
Windows XP
2GB Memory
Opteron 180
NetGear GS605 5-port switch
NVIDIA nForce Network Card.

NAS Configuration

We tested each device in its default configuration. We decided not use Jumbo frames, as most users won't have the necessary infrastructure required to support it.

Index Feature Comparison


View All Comments

  • yyrkoon - Friday, December 08, 2006 - link

    My problem is this: I want redundancy, but I also do not want to be limited to GbE transfer rates. I've been in communication with many people, via different channels (email, IRC, forums, etc), and the best results I've seen anyone get on GbE is around 90MB/s using specific NIC cards (Intel pro series, PCI-E).

    The options here are rather limited. I like Linux, however, I refuse to use Ethernet channel bonding (thus forcing the use of Linux on all my machines), or possibly a combination of Ethernet channel bonding, with a very expensive 802.11 a/d switch. 10GbE is is an option, but is way out of my price range, and 4GB FC doesn't seem to be much better. From my limited understanding of their product, Intel pro cards I think come with software to be used in aggregate load balancing, but I'm not 100% sure of this, and unless I used cross over cables from one machine, to another, I would be forced into paying $300usd or possibly more for a 802.11 a/d switch again. I've looked into all these options, plus 1394b firewire teaming, and SATA port multipliers. Port multiplier technology looks promising, but is Dependant on motherboard RAID (unless you shell out for a HBA), but from what I do know about it, you couldn't just plug it in to a Areca card, and have it work at full performance (someone correct me if I'm wrong please, Id love top learn otherwise).

    My goal, is to have a reliable storage solution, with minimal wait times when transferring files. At some point, having too much would be overkill, and this also needs to be realized.
  • peternelson - Tuesday, December 12, 2006 - link

    It sounds like your needs would be solved by using a fiber channel fabric.

    You need a FC nic (or two) in each of your clients, then one or more FC switches eg from Brocade or oems of their switches. Finally you need drive arrays to connect FC or regular drives onto the FC fabric.

    It isn't cheap but gives fantastic redundancy. FC speeds are 1/2/4 Gigabits per second.
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - link

    I've been giving Areca a lot of thought lately. What I was considering, was to use a complete system for storage, loads of disk space, with an Areca RAID controller. The only problem I personally have with my idea here is: how do I get a fast link to the desktop PC ?

    I've been debating back and forth with a friend of mine about using firewire. From what he says, you can use multiple firewire links, teamed, along with some "hack" ? for raising to get 1394b to 1000MBit/s, to achieve what seems like outstanding performance. Assuming what my friend says is accurate, you could easily team 4x 1394b ports, and get 500MB/s.

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