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NAS shoot-out: 5 storage servers battle for business

Desmond Fuller | Oct. 19, 2011
Five- and six-bay NAS cabinets from Iomega, Netgear, QNAP, Synology, and Thecus compete on speed, ease, and business features

Ideally, you would use the same hard drives in each of the systems under test, but since many of these NAS boxes come from the manufacturer with hard drives already installed, I let each vendor decide which drives to install. As you will see from the individual reviews, the manufacturers all installed the same or very similar hard drives. The parity shows in the test results as well. 

The two charts below show typical results from my Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (CIFS/SMB) and Xbench (AFP) benchmark tests. Overall, Thecus turned in the best performance in the CIFS/SMB tests, followed closely by QNAP and Synology. QNAP led in the AFP tests, followed by Synology and Netgear. 

In addition to the performance benchmarks, I tested the NAS hardware in a variety of usage scenarios to verify basic functionality -- including advanced functions that a more technical business might draw on. I did not benchmark in these areas, but I did work each box pretty hard to make sure they all did what they were supposed to do. Testing was in the following five areas:

As would be expected, none of the hardware in this price range gave me any surprises in these areas. 

NAS shoot-out: And the winner is...In conclusion, this NAS market segment offers many choices, but overall the hardware is so similar that the real differences come down to the software.

For business customers, Netgear and possibly Iomega are two solid choices. Both have long-term warranties and more seasoned service and support options -- advantages that are reflected in their higher price tags. Overall, these two manufacturers have the most business-focused features in their products. Netgear has the clear edge in ease of setup and ease of administration.

All of the other products in this NAS shoot-out are just as interesting. Synology and QNAP are terrific boxes -- and my personal favorites in this group. QNAP -- the overall winner -- strikes the best balance between power and ease. Thecus is the least expensive and one of the fastest in the test, at least for Windows users. It offers a great deal of bang for the buck, but also complexity. A less technical business would be better off with another solution.


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