Thecus W5810 Review

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Thecus may be best known for its extensive range of affordable Linux-based NAS appliances but, unlike most of its competition, also has a burgeoning family of Windows-powered models as well. Heading up its SMB portfolio of appliances, the W5810 comes preinstalled with Microsoft’s Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials (WSSE R2).

The W5810 is designed as low-cost, all-in-one server for small businesses and WSSE R2 has a number of key differences to the Standard and Workgroup Editions. The latter two versions can only join a Windows domain whereas WSSE R2 functions as a full Active Directory (AD) primary domain controller.

The W5810 comes fully licensed to support the maximum 50 user/device limit and combines NAS and IP SAN services with thin provisioning and Microsoft’s Storage Spaces. The Hyper-V role is missing but, along with slick automated client backup services, it offers the deduplication feature found in the Standard Edition.

Hardware and deployment

Physically, the W5810 is identical to the N5810 so you get the same speedy quad-core 2GHz Celeron J1900 CPU teamed up with 4GB of DDR3 memory. Dual Gigabit ports are provided and the USB and HDMI monitor ports can be used for initial setup and local management.

The W5810 employs an internal 60GB SATA SSD for its OS which equates to fast boot times. Another bonus is the five front disk carriers are all available for general storage duties.

During installation, we followed the quick start wizard which guided us through creating our domain, adding a new administrative account and enabling Windows Updates. All remaining services were automatically configured for us and during this phase you can link the appliance up with Microsoft’s Azure cloud storage and Office 365.

Essentials Dashboard

The Essentials Dashboard

The Essentials Dashboard provides easy access to common tasks but you’ll need to use Server Manager as well

The Essentials Dashboard provides quick access for configuring remote web access, creating users and sharing folders. However, the majority of storage operations require a trip over to the standard Server Manager interface.

For performance testing, we used three 4TB WD Red NAS hard disks and created a single Storage Space. These combine selected drives into a single pool which can be expanded on the fly into any spare ones.

Within our pool, we created virtual disks (VDs) and chose from mirrored or parity resiliency where the latter is essentially software managed RAID5. A big advantage of Storage Pools is thin provisioning can be enabled on a VD and applies to all NAS shares and iSCSI targets within it.

Next, we created volumes within our VDs and a wizard helped with this phase as well. We could also enable deduplication, exclude specific files and set a schedule to determine when it processed files.

Mixed performance

Choose your VD resiliency level carefully as we found the parity option hurts write performance. With a share mapped from a parity VD to a Lenovo System x3550 M5 Windows server, we saw drag and drop copies of a 25GB test file return read and write speeds of 102MB/sec and 51MB/sec.

Naturally, backup performance will also take a hit. Our 22.4GB test folder and its 10,500 small files was secured to a parity volume at a pedestrian 43MB/sec.

Swapping to a share mapped from a mirrored VD, our 25GB file copy delivered superior read and write speeds of 113MB/sec and 112MB/sec. Our backup test also saw big improvements with it averaging a more acceptable 68MB/sec.

Client access and backup

Launchpad app

The W5810 scores well for its slick automated backup features while clients get the handy Launchpad app

For each client, you point a web browser at the appliance and download the Connector and Launchpad software. The latter provides quick access to backups, shared folders, the Anywhere Access remote web portal and, if permitted, a remote Dashboard.

The W5810 scores highly for its automated client backup and recovery services. Once the client software has been deployed, the systems appear in the Dashboard Devices view and will be automatically backup up during a customisable daily time window.

However, we strongly recommend changing the backup folder destination as the ‘Client Computer Backups’ folder resides by default on the appliance’s SSD which will fill up very quickly. It’s easy enough to do as from the Dashboard, we selected this folder and moved it to a location on the main hard disks.

Restores and deduplication

Microsoft’s integral deduplication

Microsoft’s integral deduplication delivered big data reduction rates in our tests

File and folder restoration is a simple process. We selected a client from the Dashboard, chose a backup job, picked what we wanted restored and decided where to send it.

For bare metal recovery you put a USB stick in the appliance which converts it to a bootable WSSE Full System Restore disk. We booted a sick Windows 7 client from the stick and used the Windows Full System Restore wizard to reinstate it from the latest backup.

Once a full client backup has been taken, WSSE R2 uses VSS snapshots and block level deduplication so subsequent backups will be much faster and they’ll also save on storage space. The global deduplication feature can save even more on valuable space.

To test its data reduction rates, we applied the Binary Testing data deduplication suite to a share with dedup enabled. We ran a four week backup simulation and recorded a superb data reduction ratio of nearly 7:1.

Conclusion

With WSSE R2 in the driving seat, the W5180 scores highly for its client backup and recovery features. NAS performance will be dependent on the VD resiliency level chosen but the integral data deduplication can make big savings on storage.

Complaints center round the complexity of some tasks, the lack of decent documentation and the fact that Microsoft still hasn’t amalgamated all storage functions into the Essentials Dashboard. Nevertheless, for a high capacity storage appliance that also functions as a full AD domain controller, the W5810 is comparatively good value.

7.7 Total Score
Windows-powered and All-in-one

With WSSE R2 in the driving seat, the W5180 scores highly for its client backup and recovery features. NAS performance will be dependent on the VD resiliency level chosen but the integral data deduplication can make big savings on storage. Complaints center round the complexity of some tasks, the lack of decent documentation and the fact that Microsoft still hasn’t amalgamated all storage functions into the Essentials Dashboard. Nevertheless, for a high capacity storage appliance that also functions as a full AD domain controller, the W5810 is comparatively good value.

Performance
7
Features
8
Build quality
8
Usability
7.5
Value
8
PROS
  • Windows AD primary domain controller
  • Good value
  • Excellent client backup and recovery tools
  • Very efficient data deduplication
CONS
  • Poor write performance for parity volumes
  • Some features complex to configure
  • Many storage tasks not integrated into the Dashboard

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