The Thecus N4100Pro NAS is a relatively old model, but very affordably priced. It doesn’t have as many features as other models in the 4-bay NAS range, such as the QNAPs or Synologys, but it does what I needed it to do well, which was to be a primary fileserver.
Thecus N4100Pro NAS Packaging
It’s a pretty nice box, which has the curious imagery of a very happy couple, apparently in bed. I’m not sure how that relates to the SOHO/SME crowd that this NAS is supposed to target, but then again, I’m more interested in the actual unit itself.
The casing is brushed aluminum, which is nice, and the overall NAS has a simple look to it. There’s also a LED near the bottom of the front panel that tells you basic information such as WAN/LAN IP, temperature, up time, date/time, fan speed, and RAID health status.
Hard Drives For Thecus N4100Pro NAS
I got 4 of Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB Hard Drives to run with this NAS. The original Thecus N4100pro only supported a maximum of 4TB total, but the recent firmware has allowed it to support some 2TB drives. Notice I said some – you have to check your hard drives’ compatibility with the official Thecus N4100Pro hard drive compatibility list.
Setting Up RAID On Thecus N4100Pro NAS
The Thecus N4100Pro supports JBOD, and several RAID levels, namely:
- RAID 0
- RAID 1
- RAID 5
- RAID 6
- RAID 10
Normally, RAID 5 will be a great choice for a NAS that’s doing backups, but since this NAS was going to be used as a primary file server, I had 2 concerns:
- Failure of the Thecus NAS: The failure of NAS would mean a problem, since the only solution with drives in a RAID array may be to get a new Thecus NAS and put in my hard drives there. As such, I prefer not to be dependent on RAID too much. Also, this NAS was to function as a primary fileserver and not a backup.
- Failure of a hard drive: As with any hard drive, the real question is not if a hard drive fails, but when. As such, backups and redundancy options are important.
With these concerns, I decided to use the drives in a RAID 1 array and then run a backup off USB. One drawback of the Thecus N4100Pro is that it only allows for 1 RAID volume, so you can’t have 2 file volumes in the NAS. I originally thought of splitting up the system so that it uses 2 file volumes of 2TB each, but it wasn’t possible with the Thecus N4100Pro NAS.
So I just put in 3 hard drives into the first 3 bays and setup the first 2 drives to be in a RAID 1 array (total useable space 2TB). I also assign the 3rd hard drive as a hot spare. This means that in the event of a hard drive failure with either the 1st or 2nd hard drive, the hot spare hard drive will automatically take over, ensuring some redundacy in my system. With a RAID 1 array, I can also potentially take out either the first or the second hard drives and read it from a desktop computer because it doesn’t depend on parity bits like RAID 5 or RAID 6.
Backing Up The Thecus N4100Pro NAS
Again – this NAS is a primary data store, and as such, I needed to have some form of backup for it. Unfortunately, the Thecus wasn’t able to assign different file volumes, so I wasn’t able to backup my RAID array onto the 4th hard drive or something similar. I found my solution in the form of an 3.5″ External Hard Drive Enclosure for my 4th hard drive. The Thecus NAS had 3 USB slots, which allowed me to connect up the 4th hard drive externally.
The Thecus NAS supports add-on modules, and one of them is a USB & eSATA schedule backup module found at the N4100Pro modules page. Using this module, I’m able to schedule backups to be performed onto the USB hard drive every day, week, or month.
So in summary, the 4 hard drives will be used in this manner:
- 2TB Hard Drive (Raid 1)
- 2TB Hard Drive (Raid 1)
- 2TB Hard Drive (Hot Spare)
- 2TB Hard Drive (External via USB)
Thecus N4100Pro NAS Email Notifications
Email notifications is another area that’s helpful with the Thecus N4100Pro. In the event that the RAID array degrades, an email will be sent to up to 4 recipients that you can set. Important: Before doing this step, ensure that your gateway and DNS are setup properly. I recommend using Google’s DNS of 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206. Without setting the DNS, your NAS won’t be able to resolve any domain names properly.
The only problem that I had with this was that you couldn’t choose what events you could set as triggers. For example, enabling FTP didn’t trigger an email notification, but everytime a backup ran, an email would be sent. I’d have preferred some way of filtering the events, but this is something that I could work with.
Areas of Improvement For Thecus N4100Pro NAS
The only thing that I found lacking on the Thecus N4100Pro NAS is an inbuilt local file manager. I think it’s possible to use FTP to do any file moving that you want, but if you use the normal shared drive concept in Windows to do file moving, you’re going to be transferring the files around the network, which makes it very much slower. To fix this, you can use PHPFILEMGR. It’s a community (not official) mod, and was actually intended for the Thecus N5200, but works great on the Thecus N4100Pro as well. It’s very rudimentary and spartan looking, but hey, it works.
Install PHPFILEMGR like any other mod, but after launching it, go into the config panel and put in /raid0/ as your File Manager Root so that you can view the contents of your RAID array. After that, moving files on your Thecus NAS should be a snap.
The Thecus N4100Pro NAS is a solid file server that has no problems serving a small group of people, so it’s ideal for small office or home office. It’s also officially classified as an enterprise/SOHO product, so you can expect more features and functionality from this NAS than the other 2-bay NAS’s that Thecus produces for the end-user and consumer markets.
- 1x Thecus N4100Pro NAS
- 4x Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB Hard Drive
- 1x 3.5″ External Hard Drive Enclosure (Supports up to 2TB)