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Compare and assess 4 top small-business NAS devices

Discover how four NAS appliances stack up against one another regarding their available features to determine which product is right for your small business.

Four small-business NAS devices from leading vendors possess feature sets to address the differing storage needs among organizations.

Those appliances are the following:

  • Buffalo TeraStation Series.
  • QNAP TVS-h874T.
  • Synology DiskStation DS2422+.
  • Western Digital My Cloud Expert Series EX4100.

This article includes extensive research on the market and focuses on four leading small-business NAS devices. This list is not ranked.

The basics

The Buffalo TeraStation 5210 Series is a collection of small-business NAS devices based around a 1.7 GHz quad-core Alpine processor. These units vary in capacity, based on the number of drive bays and the supported hard disk sizes. On the low end, the TeraStation 5210F offers only two drive bays and can contain as little as 512 GB of storage. Conversely, the TeraStation 51210RH has 12 drive bays and can provide up to 144 TB of capacity.

The QNAP TVS-h874T comes in a variety of configurations. The company's flagship model is the TVS-h874T-i9-64G, which features an Intel Core i9 processor, 16 core CPU and 64 GB of RAM. The unit includes eight drive bays and can natively accommodate up to 154 TB of storage. An add-on JBOD enclosure brings the total capacity to 396 TB. In addition to the unit's primary drive bays, two internal M.2 slots are for caching.

The Synology DiskStation DS2422+ is a 12-bay NAS appliance that can expand to 24 bays through an expansion chassis. The NAS is equipped with an AMD Ryzen Quad-Core CPU running at 2.2 GHz. The appliance includes 4 GB of RAM but can go up to 32 GB.

The Western Digital My Cloud Expert Series EX4100 is a four-bay NAS appliance with a capacity of 56 TB. The unit sells for $1,899, including the hard disks. The appliance has a 1.6 GHz, dual core Arm processor and 2 GB of RAM.

SSD support

While price and the number of drive bays in small-business NAS devices are important, SSD support is a top consideration as well. SSDs have been a mainstream technology for quite some time, so any current generation NAS appliance should have no trouble accommodating them. It's possible, though, that older models might lack SSD support.

Some NAS appliances might include drive bays that are designed for HDDs but do not prohibit the use of SSDs. In such cases, use a cheap adapter to mount an SSD into a 3.5-inch drive bay.

Some vendors, such as QNAP, provide bays for both HDDs and SSDs. Small businesses can use these bays in a JBOD configuration. Organizations can also use them for tiering, with SSDs acting as a high-performance tier and HDDs acting as a slower but higher-capacity tier.

Flexible storage support

Ideally, a NAS appliance should enable a company to use whatever hard disks it wants. Yet some vendors place limits on disk capacity.

The Buffalo TeraStation Series can use SATA 6 Gb/s drives. It doesn't support all disk capacities, however. The upper limit on the TeraStation 51210RH, for example, is 12 TB per disk. The TeraStation 5210DN and 5410DN have a maximum disk size of 8 TB each.

QNAP's website does not list the maximum capacity for drives installed in the TVS-h874T. However, the appliance allows for 154 TB of storage without the expansion chassis, which means that it can accommodate 19 TB disks.

The Synology DiskStation DS2422+ offers 12 to 24 drive bays and can accommodate both HDDs and SSDs. The spec sheet for the appliance does not list any capacity limitations.

The Western Digital My Cloud EX4100 includes four 3.5-inch drive bays. The NAS can accommodate a variety of disk capacities up to at least 14 TB per disk.

Alerting mechanism

A NAS appliance should alert the storage administrator in the event of a disk failure or other problem. Ideally, an appliance includes a visible indicator and an email notification system.

Desktop models within the Buffalo TeraStation Series display alerts through its built-in LCD panel. Some models also support the SMTP and provide email alerts if required.

The QNAP TVS-h874T reports its status through a built-in LCD panel. It can generate SMS, beep and push service alerts. Additionally, organizations can view alerts through the device's management console.

The Synology DiskStation DS2422+ includes several indicator lights for disk, power and status. Additionally, Synology offers centralized management capabilities for users who have multiple appliances.

The Western Digital MyCloud EX4100 includes a built-in LCD panel. The primary option for monitoring the NAS is the built-in dashboard interface, however.

Supported protocols and connectivity

Each small-business NAS device works with a specific set of network protocols that dictate how to use the appliance.

The Buffalo TeraStation Series models feature gigabit and 10 Gb Ethernet connectivity. Although the units work on IP networks, the product specification sheets make no mention of IPv6 support. The units can also work as iSCSI targets.

While price and the number of drive bays in small-business NAS devices are important, SSD support is a top consideration as well.

The QNAP TVS-h874T includes a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports as well as USB 3.2 ports -- one USB-C port and two USB-A ports. The appliance can accommodate five, 10 and 25 Gb Ethernet (GbE) through expansion cards. Although the QNAP website does not specifically list the supported protocols, the NAS has numerous industry certifications from companies such as Microsoft, VMware, Citrix and Veeam.

The Synology DiskStation DS2422+ includes four 1-gigabit ports and supports both link aggregation and failover. The unit features a pair of USB 3.2 ports. Optional expansion cards add support for 10 GbE or 25 GbE. Supported protocols include SMB, Apple Filing Protocol (AFP), NFS, FTP, Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV), Rsync and iSCSI.

The Western Digital MyCloud EX4100 includes a pair of GbE ports that collectively support link aggregation. Like most other NAS appliances, the unit also enables USB connectivity. Supported protocols include iSCSI, CIFS/SMBv3, AFP, NFSv3, Distributed File System, FTP, Secure File Transfer Protocol, SSH and WebDAV.

Support for multiple drive sizes

A small-business NAS device needs to support mixed disk sizes. If a disk fails, it can be hard to find a replacement that matches the capacity of the original disks. Furthermore, hot adding larger disks is a common way to increase the capacity of a NAS appliance.

The Synology DiskStation DS2422+ supports RAID migration by mixing disk sizes. QNAP offers similar capabilities. The specification sheets for the Buffalo TeraStation Series and the Western Digital MyCloud Ex4100 make no mention of the ability to mix and match drive sizes.

Flexible data protection (RAID options)

Most NAS appliances protect against data loss through RAID configurations. The supported RAID levels indicate the levels of redundancy and data protection provided by the appliance.

The Buffalo TeraStation Series supports a variety of RAID levels, though support varies by model. The TeraStation 51210RH, for example, supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10 and JBOD. Conversely, the TeraStation 5210DN only includes two drive bays and, therefore, only supports RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD.

The QNAP TVS-h874T offers flexible storage configurations, even supporting multiple storage pools. However, the QNAP website does not specify the RAID levels it supports.

The Synology DiskStation DS2422+ supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10 and JBOD. The vendor lets customers use a basic RAID or a Synology Hybrid RAID configuration.

The Western Digital MyCloud 4100 is equipped with 4 drive bays, which limits its RAID options. The unit supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10. It also offers hot spare support.

Battery backup

Some small-business NAS devices include a battery that can help the appliance remain functional during a power failure.

The Buffalo TeraStation Series, Synology DiskStation DS2422+ and QNAP TVS-h874T do not include a built-in battery backup.

The Western Digital MyCloud EX4100 includes a built-in battery. When attached to an uninterruptible power supply, the unit also allows for a shutdown when the battery begins to run low.

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP and a commercial astronaut candidate. In his more than 30 years in IT, he has served as a lead network engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense and as a network administrator for some of the largest insurance companies in America.

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