Stepping up as Qsan’s latest entry-level NAS appliance, the XCubeNAS XN3004R aims to deliver enterprise-class storage features at a small business price. It’s also a great choice for space-poor SMBs as its compact 12in. deep chassis makes it ideal for fitting in a discrete wall box, a standard 2-post rack cabinet or even on a desk.
Costing only $699 for a diskless unit, the XN3004R does look very good value but there are some compromises to achieve this low price point. It’s powered by a simple dual-core 1.6GHz Atom CPU while its 4GB of DDR3L memory can only be upgraded to 8GB using the single SO-DIMM slot.
Port choices are also basic as the XN3004R offers dual Gigabit and a pair of USB 2 ports at the rear. That said, it does have a spare PCIe slot that supports Qsan’s copper or fibre 10GbE adapter cards which require a flat mounting bracket.
Design and deployment
The appliance is well built and uses sturdy metal drive carriers with small locking tabs on their release levers to stop them being accidentally popped out. The lid is secured with no less than 11 screws and underneath you’ll find a single M.2 PCIe SSD slot that supports an NVMe module for use as a performance-enhancing read cache.
Installation is simple as we installed four 10TB Seagate IronWolf NAS hard disks and used Qsan’s Web Finder discovery portal to locate the appliance on the lab network. This provided a quick start wizard which downloaded the latest QSM 3.2 software and allowed us to create a RAID5 storage pool.
The QSM web interface is well designed and we used the storage management app to create NAS shares and iSCSI LUNs. Access security is good as you can apply local user and group lists to shares, define read and write access, set storage quotas and integrate with Active Directory.
Data protection features
The QSM software is based on a ZFS architecture and offers some big data protection advantages over the competition. Whereas many other NAS vendors had to implement BTRFS to provide snapshot services, the QSM software employs ZFS copy-on-write which offers support for up to 4,096 system-wide NAS and IP SAN snapshots.
Managed from the Backup app, you can create snapshots on demand and schedule them to run as often as every 5 minutes. It’s just as easy to restore data as you can view all snapshots, rollback to a specific time and date, clone a snapshot or browse NAS share snapshots and choose files or folders to restore.
A feature that will appeal to businesses that don’t want their data tampered with is the option to apply one of three WORM (write once read many) policies to selected NAS shares. You can use a policy to guarantee nothing already in a share can be modified, set it so that only new files copied to the share have the retention date applied or stop anything in the share from ever being modified or deleted by applying a WORM forever policy.
Backup features continue unabated as Rsync support allows data to be secured to any compliant remote NAS appliance, QSM’s Xmirror service syncs data between two XCubeNAS appliances and you also get the Acronis-powered XReplicator software licensed to backup five Windows systems to the appliance. The QSM Backup app allows data to be secured to your Amazon S3, Alibaba Cloud OSS or HiCloud S3 cloud accounts while the Cloud Sync app can use Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox.
Qsan has kept the focus on business use so QSM only provides nine apps. Along with backup and cloud syncing, you have ones for file and media library management, antivirus, VPNs, MariaDB SQL databases, web services and hardware monitoring.
The antivirus app is easy to use and can run scheduled malware scans on the entire appliance or selected folders and volumes and move suspect files to a quarantine area. The File Manager app provides good file management tools and you can create a desktop shortcut to it on your desktop for direct access.
The Hypervisor Manager app isn’t available for the XN3004R although this is hardly surprising as it simply doesn’t have enough spare CPU cores or memory to handle running VMs. You’ll also find the data deduplication service isn’t present in the storage management app.
For performance testing, we used a Dell T640 Xeon Scalable tower server running Windows Server 2019. With a share mapped to the server over Gigabit, Iometer recorded good raw sequential read and write speeds of 112MB/sec and 110MB/sec.
We increased the pressure by mapping a dedicated share to another Windows server connected directly to the appliance’s second Gigabit port. With Iometer running on both hosts, we recorded cumulative read and write rates of 220MB/sec and 175MB/sec although for the write test, CPU utilisation frequently maxed out at 100%.
Real world performance was a mixed bag with drag and drop copies of a 25GB test file delivering sustained read and write rates of 109MB/sec and 107MB/sec. The CPU struggled with our backup test as copying our 22.4GB test folder and its 10,500 small files to a share averaged only 59MB/sec.
IP SAN performance proved to be another challenge with a 500GB target returning sequential Iometer read and write rates of 110MB/sec and 107MB/sec. With a dual Gigabit MPIO link in action, we recorded good read rates of 225MB/sec but only 155MB/sec write rates with CPU utilization hitting 90%.
Small businesses looking for an affordable entry-level NAS appliance will find a lot to like about Qsan’s XCubeNAS XN3004R. Its basic dual-core Atom CPU and small memory capacity limit it to light storage duties but the QSM software delivers plenty of data protection and backup features at a low price.
- Short depth chassis
- Good value
- Great data protection features
- Reasonable Gigabit performance
- PCIe expansion slot
- Basic dual-core Atom CPU
- Max 8GB of DDR3L memory
- Missing a few apps