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How to buy NAS systems for any organization

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Compare and assess 4 top small-business NAS devices

Discover how four small-business NAS appliances stack up against one another regarding their available features to help determine which product is right for your organization.

Storage needs differ among organizations, and there are four small-business NAS appliance options from leading NAS vendors that all possess feature sets to address these needs.

Those appliances are as follows:

  1. Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series
  2. Drobo B810n
  3. Netgear ReadyNAS 428
  4. QNAP TVS-882ST3

The basics

The Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series is an eight-bay small-business NAS device based around a 1.7 GHz quad core Alpine processor. The unit has a maximum capacity of 64 TB, but is available in 16 TB and 32 TB configurations as well. Buffalo does not disclose pricing on its websites, but resellers are charging the following:

  • $1,395 for the 16 TB mode;
  • $2,301 for the 32 TB model; and
  • $2,738 for the 64 TB model.

The Drobo B810n is an eight-bay NAS appliance that can accommodate up to 80 TB of storage. The unit sells for $1,299 (drives not included). The company offers several variations with storage included, ranging from $2,455 for a 16 TB model to $4,392 for the 80 TB model.

The Netgear ReadyNAS 428 is an eight-bay NAS appliance based around a quad-core Intel Atom C3000 processor. The unit has a listed capacity of 80 TB, but the capacity is based on the use of 10 TB drives, so it may have a higher maximum capacity. Netgear does not sell the unit directly to consumers, but Amazon is selling a 48 TB version with enterprise-grade hard drives for $2,447.88.

The QNAP TVS-882ST3 uses a 1.9 GHz quad-core Intel processor, comes equipped with eight drive bays and ships without hard disks. Although QNAP does not sell the unit directly through its website, it is available on Amazon -- without storage -- for $2,599.

SSD support

SSDs are a popular choice for high-performance storage, so it is a good idea to verify that the NAS appliance the company is considering provides SSD support. The Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series requires specific disk types and makes no mention of SSD support.

The Drobo B810n fully supports the use of SSD storage. In addition, it supports storage tiering through the use of two SSDs.

Netgear ReadyNAS 428 provides support for SSDs, but it makes no mention of storage tiering.

QNAP supports the use of SSDs, but it requires customers to use disks that are on its hardware compatibility list. QNAP supports tiering through its proprietary Qtier technology.

Flexible storage support

Ideally, a NAS appliance should enable a company to use whatever hard disks it wants. Some vendors allow the use of any SATA-based drive, while others support only proprietary drives.

The Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series only supports the use of Buffalo drives. Compatible drives include OP-HD2.0N, OP-HD4.0N, OP-HD6.0N and OP-HD8.0N.

The Drobo B810n is diverse with regard to media support. According to its product page, "Drives of any manufacturer, capacity, spindle speed and/or cache can be used."

The Netgear ReadyNAS 428 is listed as supporting disks of up to 10 TB in size, but there is at least some evidence to suggest that the device may support larger drives.

QNAP's website does not list the maximum capacity of the TVS-882ST3. However, the company's hardware compatibility list likely defines the overall storage limit.

Alerting mechanism

A NAS appliance should alert the storage administrator in the event of a disk failure or other problem. Ideally, an appliance would include a visible indicator and an email notification system.

Desktop models within the Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series display alerts through its built-in LCD panel. It also supports the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and provides email alerts if required.

The Drobo B810n includes drive bay indicator lights, a capacity gauge and status lights. It also supports email notifications and can be managed through the Drobo Dashboard.

The Netgear ReadyNAS 428 displays alerts through an LCD panel or email alerts. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) manages the unit and supports local logging.

The QNAP TVS-882ST3 reports its status through a built-in LCD panel. It has the ability to generate SMS, beep and push service alerts. Additionally, alerts display on the device's LCD panel.

Supported protocols

Each NAS appliance works with a specific set of network protocols that dictate how to use the appliance.

The Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series features a gigabit Ethernet port and a 10 GbE port. The unit is designed to work on IP networks, but the product specification sheet makes no mention of IPv6 support. Supported file transfer protocols include CIFS/SMB, Apple Filing Protocol (AFP), FTP, Secure FTP, NFS and SNMP. The unit can also work as an iSCSI target.

The Drobo B810n features two GbE ports, but the specification sheet makes no mention of IPv6 support. Supported network protocols include CIFS, SMB, NFS, HTTP and AFP.

The Netgear ReadyNAS 428 supports a wide range of protocols. The unit features four gigabit network ports with link aggregation support, works with IPv4 and IPv6, and supports jumbo frames. Supported transfer protocols include CIFS/SMB 3, AFP 3.3, Linux NFS v4, HTTP(S), FTP, Secure Socket Shell (SSH), Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning, iSCSI and rsync. In addition, the unit can act as a DLNA-based media server, or as an iTunes or Plex media server and also supports TiVo archiving.

The QNAP TVS-882ST3 supports a variety of protocols. The unit features twin gigabit network adapters and two 10 gigabit adapters. It supports both IPv4 and IPv6. Supported network protocols and services include SSH, Telnet, HTTP(S), FTP, CIFS/SMB, AFP and CIFS.

Thin provisioning

If you plan to create multiple volumes on a NAS server, thin provisioning is a handy feature to have. Thin provisioning enables volume creation without immediately claiming a significant amount of disk space. Instead, physical storage space is allocated to the volume only when data is written. Thin provisioning can help an organization make the most efficient use of its available storage.

The Netgear ReadyNAS 428, the Drobo B810n and the QNAP TVS-882ST3 all support thin provisioning.

Based on its technical specifications, the Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series does not appear to support thin provisioning.

Support for mixed drive sizes

A small-business NAS device needs to support mixed disk sizes. If a disk fails, you may be unable to find a replacement that matches the capacity of the original disks. Furthermore, hot adding larger disks is a common way to increase the capacity of a NAS appliance.

The Drobo B810n includes support for mixed drive sizes. When the unit's capacity needs to increase, companies can hot swap existing drives for larger ones. The QNAP TVS-882ST3 includes an HDD mix-and-match feature that companies can utilize for auto-RAID migration or volume expansion.

The specification sheets for the Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series, Netgear ReadyNAS 428 and QNAP TVS-882ST3 make no mention of the ability to mix and match drive sizes.

Flexible data protection (RAID options)

Most NAS appliances protect against data loss through the use of RAID configurations. The supported RAID levels indicate the levels of redundancy and data protection provided by the appliance.

The Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series accommodates up to eight disks and supports a variety of RAID levels, including RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10 and JBOD.

The Drobo B810n incorporates BeyondRAID, which emulates RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 6. BeyondRAID aims to be far more flexible than traditional RAID, and it supports the ability to change levels of protection, such as moving from single-disk redundancy to two-disk redundancy, with the click of a mouse. BeyondRAID also allows for thin provisioning, instant expansion, drive reordering and a virtual hot spare.

The Netgear ReadyNAS 428 supports the X-RAID standard, which allows for automatic, single-volume online expansion. It is also possible to expand multiple RAID groups. This appliance supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10, RAID 50 and RAID 60. You can also designate one of the unit's disks as a global hot spare.

The QNAP TVS-882ST3 supports JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10, RAID 50 and RAID 60. It also supports the use of a hot spare.

Battery backup

Some small-business NAS devices include a battery that can help the appliance remain functional during a power failure. Some appliances do not include a built-in battery, but are uninterruptible power supply, or UPS, aware. UPS can shut them down in the event of a power failure.

The Buffalo TeraStation 5010 Series, Netgear ReadyNAS 428 and QNAP TVS-882ST3 do not include a built-in battery backup. However, the Netgear unit is UPS-aware.

The Drobo B810n includes a built-in battery that allows the device's RAM contents to maintain during a power failure.

Next Steps

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Have you had any issues with these small business NAS devices?
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Nice overview.....but a comparison grid of the models discussed and different NAS characteristics would have been useful as well.
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