Best Value

Qsan Technology TrioNAS U120 Review

Qsan TrioNAS U120 front view

SMBs making their first move into the world of NAS and IP SAN network storage won’t find a better place to start than Qsan’s latest TrioNAS U120. Representing the entry-point into Qsan’s range of storage appliances, this 1U rack system offers an impressive range of features and beats the competition hands down for value.

Costing only $959 for a diskless model, it has ZFS at its foundation which combines NAS and IP SAN services with file and block-level snapshots, thin provisioning, replication and Amazon S3 cloud backup support. SSD caching and data deduplication aren’t on its menu and if you want these we suggest checking out Qsan’s 2U entry-level TrioNAS models.

A feature that makes the U120 stand out is the price includes dual hot-plug 226W PSUs as standard. To put this in perspective, a diskless Qnap TS-453U-RP costs around $1,299 while Synology’s RS815RP+ will set you back $1,499.

Qsan TrioNAS U120 rear view

A downside is the U120 only has a modest hardware specification comprising a basic 1.86GHz dual-core Atom D2550. It’s teamed up with 4GB of non-ECC DDR3 memory which can’t be upgraded as this is the maximum supported by the CPU.

Swift setup

Qsan's QCentral web interface

Qsan’s QCentral or the appliance’s web interface ? the management choice is yours

Qsan offers two management methods with the appliance’s web interface providing direct access to all storage features. We also tested Qsan’s latest QCentral 2.2 Java app which automatically found the U120 on the lab network and provides facilities for managing multiple appliances from one console.

We found both interfaces easy to use and for testing, we popped in a quartet of 4TB WD Red NAS SATA drives and created a single RAID-5 storage pool. Unlike many Qnap and Synology 1U rack appliances, the U120 doesn’t have dedicated external ports for expanding capacity outside the box.

For NAS services, we used QCentral to create ZFS file systems and from the Explorer tab, selected each one and configured our shares. Access controls are excellent as for each one we could individually enable CIFS, NFS, AFP and FTP access, apply local user and group lists for access permissions or integrate with Active Directory.

IP SANs are just as easy to configure as we created volumes and attached them to LUNs. For both file systems and volumes, we could decide whether to enable thin provisioning and compression.

Anti-virus and backup

Qsan's Rsync for the TrioNAS U120

Rsync replication to another appliance is simple to configure but it is hungry for memory

Qsan’s generosity extends to including a 3-year subscription to McAfee’s security services for local anti-virus scanning. We were able to create on-demand scan tasks for selected shares and IP SAN volumes, schedule them for hourly, daily or weekly intervals and enable daily signature updates.

The U120 can act as an Rsync server allowing remote sources to be replicated to it. It can also backup data to other Rsync compliant appliances and we had no problems replicating to the lab’s resident Synology DS1813+ although we noted that memory usage on the U120 was at 92% while the task was running.

Support for Amazon S3 is a standard feature on all TrioNAS models as we had no issues scheduling backups to our Amazon Web Services account. A minor annoyance is during job creation, you can’t browse local folders and existing buckets aren’t displayed either so you need to make a note of them beforehand.

Local and remote replication are both supported and job creation is simple enough. You choose a file system or IP SAN volume, enter a local destination or the IP address of a remote Qsan appliance and run the job on-demand or schedule it.

PROS:
  • Extreme value
  • Dual PSUs included
  • NAS/IP SAN services
  • Snapshot and fast recovery

CONS:
  • Memory can’t be upgraded
  • Average performance

Average performance

Qsan's cloud backup feature for the TrioNAS U120

We used the cloud backup feature to secure appliance data to our Amazon Web Services cloud storage

For performance, we recommend the U120 for light to medium workloads. We mapped a share to an HP ProLiant DL380 Gen9 server running Windows Server 2012 R2 and watched Iometer report raw read and write rates of 111MB/sec and 109MB/sec.

With another Xeon E5-2600 v3 server connected to the second Gigabit port and given a dedicated share, we recorded cumulative read and write rates of 202MB/sec and 130MB/sec. To test real world NAS speeds we copied a 25GB test file which gave average read and write speeds of 95MB/sec and 83MB/sec.

For general backup operations, we copied a 22.4GB folder with 10,500 small files to a share which averaged only 55MB/sec. Synology’s RS815+ and its 2.4GHz Atom C2538 CPU returned 87MB/sec for this test.

For IP SANs, we saw a 1TB target deliver Iometer read and write speeds of 109MB/sec and 80MB/sec. With a dual Gigabit MPIO link to the target, speed ramped up 171MB/sec and 120MB/sec

Speedy snapshots

The U120 used the ZFS copy-on-write feature for snapshots so they’re extremely fast and it allows up to 2,048 to be taken for each file system or volume. On-demand snapshots can be taken whenever you want or you can schedule them for regular intervals.

Two options are provided for data recovery as you can use the web interface or QCentral to rollback directly from a selected snapshot or clone it and make it available as a new share or iSCSI LUN. Cloning is easy as the management page provides a list of all snapshots where you click on the clone icon next to the one you want to copy.

We were impressed with the rollback performance as we deleted all the data in a share and had it restored from the latest snapshot in under 5 seconds. The share doesn’t have be unmapped first either and when the rollback had finished, all the deleted data reappeared in it ready for action.

Conclusion

The TrioNAS U120 is a good choice for small businesses that want an affordable and well featured NAS/IP SAN appliance. Performance does suffer under heavy load but it packs in plenty of data protection features and delivers dual hot-plug PSUs at a price that simply won’t be beaten.

8.4 Total Score
Good Choice for Small Business

The TrioNAS U120 is a good choice for small businesses that want an affordable and well featured NAS/IP SAN appliance. Performance does suffer under heavy load but it packs in plenty of data protection features and delivers dual hot-plug PSUs at a price that simply won’t be beaten.

Performance
7
Features
8
Build Quality
8.5
Usability
9
Value
9.5
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