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NAS Server

Consumer NAS vs. Entry-Level Server

So in my last post I already mentioned that I bought a Dell T320. The intention was and still is to use it as my Home-NAS. I own a QNAP TS-451D2 (4GB) and it has already a lot of features etc, but somehow I was not 100% happy with it. One reason was that it only had 4 bays, but I have 8 drives I would like to use. Another reason was that I wanted the additional features ZFS provides and that is basically not available to the QNAP-consumer series (while it is for the small-business and enterprise series using their QuTS hero OS).

So why buy an old Dell and not upgrade to another QNAP?

Two main reasons, flexibility and price…and of course it’s fun 🤓

  1. Price
  • The extension of the existing QNAP would have been possible with 4 additional bays using the QNAP TR-004 (still missing ZFS). Price: ~200€
  • A new 8-bay QNAP NAS with ZFS support e.g. QNAP TS-873A. Price: ~1100€
  • Used Dell T320: ~250-300€ (basic configuration)

2. Flexibility

So my T320’s price was about 250€ and provided the following:

  • Intel Xeon 6-core CPU 2,4GHz
  • 32 GB DDR3 ECC RAM 1333Mhz (3 of 6 slots taken)
  • 8 x 3,5″ bays (also available with 16 x 2,5″ bays)
  • Dell H310 RAID controller (which I flashed to IT-mode)
  • 2 x 147GB, 4 x 300GB drives – all 2,5″ but the 3,5″ caddys can take both sizes. I will not really used the drives but they are ok to play around.
  • 1 x 750W PSU, a second PSU can be added
  • 2 x 1GBit Ethernet ports

In addition I can add:

  • another RAID controller (still 3 x 5,25″ drive bays free)
  • a 10GBit Ethernet card
  • a USB 3.0 card
  • …and still some PCI-E slots left

Yes, I know it consumes more power than the QNAP but in comparison to the features and upgrades I can do…and in my case I don’t have it up and running 24/7 as I use it primarily for storing my photos and documents…

  • Dell T320: ~110W (while data transfer with 6 installed drives)
  • QNAP TS-451D2: ~30W (while data transfer with 3 installed drives)

Is it an unfair comparison?

Maybe you might think that comparing a consumer NAS with a small-business server might not be fair, but I there are a few points to mention which might change your mind.

Complexity

If you have no clue and/or interest in these topics, TrueNAS is definitely nothing for you, but the tons of features and functions of the QNAP will also overload you with a lot of technical terms etc. It might be a little bit easier as you have guides and help – but it will definitely not be a walk in the park to do it right (so more than just one disk with one share and that’s it).

However, if you are interested and also committed to spent some time with getting familiar with TrueNAS and ZFS, from my point of view it has the more structured UI and offers you a ton of features and functions. Once I’m confident enough to be able to write something about it, I maybe will – but currently I’m also still learning 🙂

Performance

As already said I’m also still learning and getting started with TrueNAS, but one thing I experienced with QNAP was that it seem to have a small problem with copying a huge amount of small files. In these cases the transfer rate dropped (nothing huge, but noticeable with large amounts – which are honestly not a daily occurrence). In addition rebuilding errors or an exchanged disk should be faster from what I read about ZFS – hope I never get to that point 🙂 Apart from that I’d like to compare data transfer and handling with 4 disks in RAID.

Upgradeability

Yes, this one might be unfair to compare both systems and there are arguments for or against each of the systems. I know the T320 is an old system but it works…so why not give it a “second life”. Others say “…buy what you need; sell it and buy a new one if you need an upgrade.” I think go for sth. in between 🙂 With the Dell I bought what I need + some headroom and when I need an upgrade (e.g. 10GBit-Ethernet, additional HDD’s, more RAM) then I buy these parts 😛

One more thing…

There are two annoying things about the QNAP NAS.

The on/off/reset/reset-to-factory-defaults button

There is one button to switch the device on, off, reset it and reset it to factory defaults. It happened twice to me that instead of switching it off I did a complete reset to defaults. Accounts, settings, shares, installed apps…gone. The difference is how long you press the button. 1 second, 3 seconds, 10 seconds, more than 10 seconds.

The UI / UX

The different views are launched in a window-kind-of view. So no fullscreen and always look like a popup. You can maximize it, but once you navigate to a new app/menu item the size is not kept. So you constantly maximize the screens. As the whole thing is a website it does absolutly make no sense to have that virtual window appearance.

Popups – guides, tutorials, help, updates, licence, whats new – these are the other popups you will get. Sometimes there are 3-4 popups stacked on top of each other to let you know there is a licence you should accept, there is a help page, how you can get started, what’s the new features and if you want to be reminded of sth. again (everything in it’s own popup – shown at the same time). Each has its own representation of “don’t show again”. It can be a button, a checkbox, a drop down list…or…drumroll…a popup itself, which pops up if you close a popup – funny right. No – Annoying.

Hope it helped or entertained…don’t know…like and subscribe – oh sorry wrong platform 😛

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