Buffalo Technology TeraStation TS5400RN Review

Buffalo Terrastation TS5400RNBuffalo is a long-term player in the SMB NAS market with a track record going back over ten years. Its TeraStation family of desktop and rack appliances has grown hugely during this time and we test the TS5400RN to see if it has what it takes to stay ahead of the competition from Qnap and Synology.

This 4-bay 1U rack appliance is offered in a range of capacities from 8TB to 24TB using WD’s popular Red NAS drives. A diskless model isn’t available and if you have a drive failure, you must get replacement drives from Buffalo.

The hardware package is looking dated as the TS5400RN employs an elderly 2.13GHz dual-core Atom D2700. It also only comes with 2GB of DDR3 memory which can’t be upgraded.

We have the 12TB model and the price tag of just under $1,900 looks reasonable value. However, you can get more for your money with Synology’s RS815+  for example, sporting a newer quad-core Atom C2538 CPU and costing around $100 less for the same capacity.

Buffalo’s NASNavigator 2 utility

Buffalo’s NASNavigator 2 utility makes light work of appliance installation

LVM alert

NAS newbies will like the simple deployment process as Buffalo’s NASNavigator 2 Windows utility offers sage advice on setting the appliance up and connecting it to the network. It worked fine on a Windows 10 desktop and provided quick access to the appliance’s web console along with a handy share mapping service.

The drives are pre-configured in a RAID5 array but you can delete this and go for RAID0, 1, 10 or 6 arrays if you wish. However, we recommend stepping back a moment and learning more about Buffalo’s LVM (logical volume manager) feature.

Buffalo introduced LVM a few years ago to allow NAS shares and IP SANs to co-exist on the same array. Out of the box, the RAID5 array has LVM disabled with means it supports NAS shares or IP SANs but not both together.

Buffalo Terrastation LVM feature

To have NAS shares and IP SANs in the same array requires Buffalo’s LVM feature enabled

If you enable LVM on the array it will delete all existing shares although during this process, the web console provides plenty of warnings and asks you to enter a four-digit code before proceeding. Similarly, if you disable LVM on the array later on this will also delete all shares and iSCSI targets.

Storage features

The web interface looks dated but we found share creation simple enough and were impressed with the levels of access controls provided. We could designate them as read only or read/write, enable the recycle bin and decide whether they were accessible over CIFS, NFS, AFP, FTP and more.

Buffalo TS5400RN web interface

The web interface isn’t pretty but does provide easy access to the various features

Ticking the Backup check box makes them available as a destination for Buffalo’s on-appliance backup utility and you can allow them to be accessed remotely via Buffalo’s cloud portal. A local user and group list can be applied to each share and the appliance will integrate with an Active Directory domain.

With LVM enabled on our array, we could also create iSCSI volumes and apply CHAP authentication but thin provision isn’t supported. Buffalo provides a useful Windows iSCSI Connection Tool utility which will log on and map a drive letter to a target for you.

Modest performance

For performance testing, we started with a non-LVM volume and mapped a share to an HP ProLiant DL380 Gen9 server running Windows Server 2012 R2. Drag and drop copies of a 25GB test file returned a sustained 111MB/sec read rate while write speeds fell to only 80MB/sec.

The appliance struggled with our backup test as copying a 22.4GB folder with 10,500 small files mustered a pedestrian average of 62MB/sec. We’ve seen the majority of Atom C2000 series appliances returning around 87MB/sec for this test.

As expected, creating an IP SAN on the non-LVM volume caused all shares to be deleted. Nevertheless, raw performance was very respectable with Iometer reporting sequential read and write speeds of 112MB/sec for a 500GB target.

Buffalo advises that using LVM may have a negative impact of performance but we didn’t find this to be the case. Changing to an LVM-enabled volume and re-running our NAS and IP SAN tests saw virtually identical results.

PROS:
  • Big capacity for the price
  • Good access controls
  • Easy deployment
  • Quiet

CONS:
  • Average performance
  • Basic storage features
  • Quirky surveillance app

Backup and surveillance

The TS5400RN can run off-site replication to another appliance but as it doesn’t support Rsync, this can only be to another TeraStation. It can also manage local backup jobs and allowed us to create schedules for securing data from one share to another that had the Backup option enabled.

For cloud backup, the appliance supports Amazon S3 but we found it can’t run scheduled jobs and would only allow us to sync the contents of one share with a specified bucket in our AWS account. Buffalo doesn’t provide any apps for syncing with cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive but it does include a copy of NovaBackup Business Essentials 14.5 with one server and ten workstation licenses.

The appliance also comes with Buffalo’s Surveillance Server software but this is very different to most other solutions. Installed on a Windows or Mac host system, it manages all recording schedules, motion detection and playback and only uses the appliance as a video vault.

After enabling the Surveillance Camera option on the appliance, you specify a LAN port and a share that will be used by the IP cameras. The client software is fairly simple to use but we found it wouldn’t install properly on Windows 10 so we had to revert to a Windows 7 desktop to test it.

Buffalo Terrastation TS5400RN rear Conclusion

Stacked up against similar 4-bay rack appliances from Qnap and Synology shows the TeraStation TS5400RN to be lacking in features. Performance is also uninspiring but it does deliver a heap of network storage at a reasonable price making it best suited to businesses that want simple file sharing services but without all the trimmings.

6.7 Total Score
Simple File Sharing Services Without the Fuss

Stacked up against similar 4-bay rack appliances from Qnap and Synology shows the TeraStation TS5400RN to be lacking in features. Performance is also uninspiring but it does deliver a heap of network storage at a reasonable price making it best suited to businesses that want simple file sharing services but without all the trimmings.

Performance
6.5
Features
5
Build Quality
7
Usability
7
Value
8
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