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Best NAS Device for Home Users?

Discussion in 'Tomato Firmware' started by bhall7, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. bhall7

    bhall7 Addicted to LI Member

    Hey folks,

    I'm currently investigating a faster solution for my home NAS device. My current setup is: ASUS RT-N16 running a "Toastman" build of Tomato USB (v1.28.7501 MIPSR2Toastman-RT K26 USB VPN), with a 2TB Western Digital drive connected via USB 2.0. I am using Tomato USB's Samba server to provide access via a local UNC path (e.g., \\tomato\MyData). I'm also running miniDLNA which is acting as a media server for videos, photos, and music (viewable from any compatible client on my LAN).

    It works pretty good most of the time, but the performance is not that great. Files take a very long time to transfer (read/write) and movies on the media server take a long time to load (even when all devices are connected via gigabit ethernet). I'm looking to offload the file/media server role from my Tomato router to a dedicated device to improve performance. My little ASUS RT-N16 is already doing a lot with streaming multiple Netflix streams for my whole family, sharing a printer, and acting as an OpenVPN server, etc. The built-in 480 MHz Broadcom processor, and the USB connection which shares system resources with the rest of the device were likely never meant to handle such intense use.

    I've looked around at different NAS devices and have discovered that the Cisco E4200 v2 ($150) actually has very good NAS performance for a network-connected hard drive plugged in via USB. Here's a table showing comparative performance of various USB-capable routers and dedicated, consumer NAS devices (http://reviews.cnet.com/routers/cisco-linksys-e4200-v2/4505-3319_7-35098697-2.html):
    NAS_Performance.jpg
    According to the CNET review, the Cisco E4200 v2 is reported to have average file transfer rates of about "21.38MBps for writing and 25.35MBps for reading." I'm not sure how that compares to average consumer NAS devices, but I'm sure it would be a huge upgrade for me. The processor in the E4200 v2 runs at 1.2GHz, which would be a huge upgrade for me (Cisco actually changed chipsets completely from v1 to v2 and v2 is therefore not able to run Tomato/DD-WRT or any other firmware based on the Broadcom chipsets, unfortunately). I would still keep my ASUS RT-N16 around running Tomato as my main gateway, just offload the file share/media server functionality to another device.

    Does anyone here own the Cisco E4200 v2? I'm interested in real-world reports of how well it functions as a NAS device (GigE-connected clients mostly OS X, but also Win 7).
    Are there any other similarly priced NAS devices (whether built into a router, or a standalone NAS) in the $100-150 range that perform well for home users (approx 20MBps r/w)?

    Sincerely,
    Brian Hall
     
  2. bhall7

    bhall7 Addicted to LI Member

    Are there any faster-performing devices that can still run Tomato? It seems that all of the faster NAS devices/routers with USB storage capability use other chipsets besides the Broadcom ones, and therefore can't support Tomato natively. I found this additional chart that stacks up the NAS performance of another handful of devices--the ASUS RT-N66U is listed (which I understand runs Tomato), but it doesn't have near the NAS performance as the Cisco E4200 v2 (from http://reviews.cnet.com/routers/wd-my-net-n900/4505-3319_7-35337317-2.html):
    NAS_Performance_2.png
     
  3. eahm

    eahm LI Guru Member

  4. bhall7

    bhall7 Addicted to LI Member

    Yeah, I'm struggling to find other reputable sources of product review data and real-world testing. Besides, the wireless networking articles are written by one guy at CNET--not exactly the best, all-around source of data. Thanks so much for sharing the link to the router charts on SmallNetBuilder, eahm!

    Is the "total simultaneous throughput" listed on SNB a measurement of WiFi performance or does this apply to NAS performance?
     
  5. GhaladReam

    GhaladReam Network Guru Member

    What's your price limit? For $150 a better solution might be to buy a thin-client or older p4/core2duo mini-PC, load up Linux (or Windows) and throw in / attach via USB a large HDD and share it as your NAS. That's currently what I'm doing. Even my RT-N66U with shibby tomato doesn't perform as well as I'd like as a NAS / SMB device, even though it has a 600Mhz CPU, I find if I attach a USB 2.0 HDD to it, the most I'll get is 5-10 MB/s. Instead, just attach a small PC via gigabit LAN:

    I use an old Dell OptiPlex GX620 USFF (paid $35 on craigslist a year ago) with a 3TB hdd thrown in. FreeNAS Operating system on it loaded off a USB thumb drive. I get throughput speeds of 40-60 mbps since there's no USB 2.0 in the path, and the CPU in the tower is an old 2.8 Ghz Pentium D Dual Core, which is more than enough power to pump out good LAN speeds. The HDD is SATA, and the network is gigabit. Sure, this tower probably uses more electricity than a normal router would, but it's idling 99.9% of the time so it doesn't use that much more. I haven't noticed any significant increases in my power bill since I started doing this.

    Also, because this thing is also a full-fledged x86 PC, I can run just about anything I want on it.. The only 2 cables I have connected are the power, and ethernet. I administer it remotely.
     
    lefty likes this.
  6. bhall7

    bhall7 Addicted to LI Member

    The more I think about this, the more I think that a better solution would indeed be to do as you suggest and buy a cheap, used machine and run the file share from there. I'm thinking about buying an old Mac Mini or something with a small footprint. Setting up the Samba file share and miniDLNA shouldn't be that hard, right? The only thing is that I'd love for it to be super quiet (my ASUS RT-N16 emits NO noise), but I understand this may not be possible. Great suggestions! Keep 'em coming!
     
  7. lefty

    lefty Networkin' Nut Member

    Totally agree with Ghalad, there are older dell optiplex's on ebay for around $150 for dual core P4 2.8 that would MUCH better serve as a NAS as opposed to the router itself. Router's with USB are alot of times misunderstood, you'll never get true USB 2.0 speeds on a router usb port, architectural limitations, i mean these aren't machines with fast bus access, they are just consumer routers with boards not much bigger than our hands, so you can't really expect much there.
     
  8. gfunkdave

    gfunkdave LI Guru Member

    If you want a purpose-built NAS, Synology makes nice ones that aren't too expensive. Drobo are my IT guy's gold standard, but they are expensive.
     
  9. jerrm

    jerrm Network Guru Member

    Realize once you put Tomato on any of those devices, benchmarks based on the original firmware are meaningless. There are discussions in other threads about weaknesses of the ntfs driver in tomato, issues related the specific kernel and Samba versions, etc.

    As others have said, a PC with a SATA (or eSATA) drive is probably you're best bet for real performance.
     
    bhall7 likes this.
  10. bhall7

    bhall7 Addicted to LI Member

    FYI, I ended up ordering a ZyXEL NSA310. I found it on Walmart.com for $65. It seemed like a good, low-cost alternative for a well performing home NAS/DLNA UPnP AV server.
     
  11. shibby20

    shibby20 Network Guru Member

    Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 - CPU 1,6GHz, 256MB of RAM, 2-bay. Cost ~ 140euro. We have debian inside! and full SSH access. Speeds over samba: DL ~95MB/s, UL ~ 56MB/s
     
  12. bhall7

    bhall7 Addicted to LI Member

    Thanks, Shibby. It was a little tough to find specs for the ZyXEL NSA310, but it has a 1.2GHz Marvell Kirkwood CPU and 256MB DDR2 RAM, and I believe it can also run Debian, but I'll probably just stick with the default firmware. I know it uses Twonky for the media server, and has a bunch of other configuration options and features--most of which I'll probably never use. I do wish it had USB 3.0 (although I do not currently have any USB 3.0 devices). But, for $65 I couldn't pass it up. Hopefully within a week or two I'll be able to report on the performance of the device. I'm sure it will be light years better than the slow performance I've been getting on my ASUS RT-N16 with a USB-connected external HDD. :)

    What do you recommend as a good test utility to take speed performance measurements?
     
  13. quihong

    quihong Serious Server Member

    My recommendation is PogoPlug with ArchLinuxArm. Its a perfect companion to your TomatoUSB router.

    Currently $15 shipped.
    http://www.adorama.com/COCPOGOP21.html

    I get around 17MB-21MB (megabyte) transfer rate. Not super fast, but not bad either. Run other things like AirPlay, AirPrint (Google Cloud Print), TimeMachine Backup, Torrent, DNLA, etc on the PogoPlug and free up your router to route.
     
  14. Toxic

    Toxic Administrator Staff Member

    Had thought about a Readynas before I bought the QNAP/ i get 100MB/s up and down:) all thanks to a gigabit switch and a nice fast SSD ;) though spent more than the 140 euros...
     
  15. koitsu

    koitsu Network Guru Member

    You're entering a world of hurt. "Benchmarking" of this sort is often done very wrong even by the most "popular" of websites, because the people doing it aren't able to think outside the box and take into consideration every single piece of the system that plays a role. If you want an example of "benchmarking" disk transfer speeds, where I test FTP and CIFS/SMB, you should see this post of mine on a different forum:

    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r27618714-

    That is all the stuff you get to keep track of, and yes, it all matters. You'll need to read my post very slowly and not skim it -- I really do cover all the necessary bits. CIFS/SMB has horrible overhead. I have not the slightest idea what the Busybox equivalent of FreeBSD's netstat -inb 1 is though (to see network throughput), because Busybox netstat does not include -i; possibly just some while loop that looks at /proc/net/dev (since counters are kept there) and grep's out whatever relevant interface there is.

    P.S. -- One of the reasons for CIFS/SMB slowdown on Tomato/TomatoUSB was found to be use of sendfile support; the kernel version by Tomato/TomatoUSB/etc. contains a performance-related problem associated with sendfile(). Disabling sendfile support in Samba (on TomatoUSB) tends to greatly increase the I/O rate. That thread: http://www.linksysinfo.org/index.php?threads/speeding-up-the-samba-by-30.52240/

    P.P.S -- Do backups. If you buy a "black box" NAS product, you're in effect accepting vendor lock-in. If the product breaks (firmware bugs, etc.), or doesn't handle a failure scenario correctly (very common with these devices), you could/will lose all of your data on your disks. If you're using the NAS for your backups, then that's a different situation and you've less to worry about. The reason I build my own ""NAS"" (note the quotes) is that I then have full ownership/control over the hardware and software, therefore am not subject to vendor lock-in when it comes to my data. My data is my responsibility, and I do not trust any vendor with it.
     
  16. eahm

    eahm LI Guru Member

    I sold one of the latest WD Book Live and the new OS is pretty good, speed is around 40MB/s (write). Didn't do much testing, just a simple ISO transfer test from Windows 7.

    You can even try something as simple as LAN Speed Test.
     
  17. digiblur

    digiblur Networkin' Nut Member

    No Drobo for me anymore. Lost my array with it 3 times. They swapped my unit and still couldn't figure out after a year how to keep it from locking up. Finally sold the piece of junk and ate the loss.

    Sent from my little Note2
     
  18. bhall7

    bhall7 Addicted to LI Member

    The ZyXEL NSA310 is not a very good product. File sharing on my LAN is extremely fast (much better than what I was getting with my Asus RT-N16 and Tomato USB), but the Media Server (Twonky) is not working at all. The ZyXEL NSA310 also has a terribly clicky, noisy fan. The support is absolutely zero from the manufacturer, and the firmware is very flaky (even with the latest version). I will be returning it and going back to the drawing board. I'm considering just spending a little extra money to get a Netgear ReadyNAS or a Synology DS112. (Max $200)
     
  19. quihong

    quihong Serious Server Member

    @bhall7

    On the cheap, the PogoPlug with ArchLinuxArm, will be a decent improvement over the ASUS RT-N16.

    If you're considering the ReadyNas or Synology DS112, also consider the HP ProLiant MicroServer N40L which I've seen on sale at $200-$250.
     
    bhall7 likes this.
  20. zorkmta

    zorkmta LI Guru Member

    Me too, choosing between synology vs readyNas, which one is better for home?

    Enviado desde mi HTC One X usando Tapatalk 2
     
  21. rs232

    rs232 Network Guru Member

    It's a different price range but I run ESXi on a mini server and openmediavault inside a vm. I run the server from the garage...

    CONS: a bit more expensive to buy (HW), more expensive to run (power), noisier
    PRO: maximum flexibility, scalable, cheap storage/TB, great performance using gigethernet+Jumbo frames, not limited to NAS, run whatever other VM you like

    You can get a "cheapish" server ready to go on ESXi second had for about 100-150GBP (with no storage) here in the Uk, or you can even go cheaper looking for a HP workstation (ebay is your friend).

    If space/management time is an issue and you really need a silent plug-and-run system forget about this, otherwise I would recommend it.
     
  22. bhall7

    bhall7 Addicted to LI Member

    Here's my review of the Synology DS112 which I rate 4/5 stars.


    I bought the Synology DS112 from B & H Photo for $200 in February 2013. The DS112 is a very solid NAS device that performs very well over the LAN for Media Server (DLNA/UPnP), as well as a file share. The one thing that I was a little thrown off by when I first purchased it is that the DS112 requires an internal hard drive and will not function at all without one, unlike other NAS drive bays such as ZyXEL units. I was hoping to simply plug in my external 2TB hard drive and go, but I did have to purchase an internal hard drive in order to get things going, and then I was able to connect my external USB 2.0 drive. I bought a Seagate Barracuda 1 TB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s 32 MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Drive (ST310005N1A1AS-RK-Retail Kit) refurbished from Amazon for about $50 (so I spent a little more than my budget) and installed the OS and was up and running fairly quickly, although installation is not for beginners.

    The DSM operating system that runs the DS112 has many features, 80% of which I don't use (I'm only using the media server and file server). The package manager allows you to install a myriad of apps, which is great (like web, db, VPN and printer servers).

    Operation is fairly quiet (the fan only creates minimal noise), and it goes into standby automatically when not in use (but it's mostly always in use--more on that later). It supports USB 3.0 and eSATA, which is nice--although I don't have any devices to use on these interfaces. The product design looks pretty decent, although the molded plastic exterior seems a little cheap.

    My biggest problem with this unit is how the "DSM" operating system will automatically index any media that you copy to it via a file share. This media indexing TAKES FOREVER, and pegs the CPU at 100% for MONTHS. For example, I added an external hard drive containing over 30,000 photos (our family photo archive), and it is still indexing the photos (it's currently at 82.09% and it started in late February 2013). My inquiries to Synology regarding this issue did nothing to solve the issue--apparently there's nothing you can do about it. A Synology support rep said, "It is the disk station that is creating the thumbnail and index files, it cannot be turned off...This will continue until it finishes and cannot be stopped. It is not for the media servers it is for the disk station and cannot be stopped." The problem is that every month or so, I upload a new batch of photos to the drive, and therefore the Synology DS112 never stops indexing my media, because it is always behind (indexing prior months photos).

    Other than the never-ending "indexing" problem, this is a great unit. If Synology would fix the DSM operating system to address this issue, I would have given this unit 5 stars.
     
  23. bhall7

    bhall7 Addicted to LI Member


    In terms of specific file transfer performance, I have not yet conducted any formal benchmarking on the Synology DS112. Synology boasts average read speed at 110.19 MB/s and write speed at 71.84 MB/s. Other reviewers have found similar and slightly lower performance numbers.
     

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