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Aujourd’hui — 26 septembre 2022Flux principal

Which Backup Method is Best? NAS vs Cloud vs Tape vs USB

23 septembre 2022 à 18:00

What is the Best Way to Backup Your Data Every Day?

I know it is not going to be shocking news when I say that Data is really, really important. That should not come as a staggering fact. If you found this article thanks to a rather perceptive google search, then clearly you think data is very important too. It is all too easy to rely on your data living on multiple machines in your office or home. Centralized backup is a very unappealing idea. For a start, it is expensive. You will spend hundreds, if not thousands of pounds on storage, then you find out that you need to have it in ANOTHER location too (as otherwise, it isn’t truly a backup) and then worse still it isn’t even being spent on making more space, but actually to duplicate your old data and not be used. You are spending all this money on what can be described as a remarkably large insurance policy. Worse still if you have all the machines in your home or office backing up to a device in that same location, almost all data safety and storage experts will scream to high heaven that this is still not enough. Sadly this is true, because not only do you put yourself at risk of complete critical loss in the event of fire or flooding, but also in the case of theft you end up having all your eggs in one basket and making the thieves lives much easier. So ultimate you have to stop thinking about this only in terms of how much this storage is going to cost. If you think like that, you will never move past stage one. No, you have to think about how much will this data cost you to LOSE. Your personal media (family, events, memories), your client’s data or perhaps your surveillance data. Take a moment and think how much it would cost your business right now if you lost your data – hundreds? Thousands? Close the business? The ideal backup solution should always be based on the cost of loss, not gain! Although a little trite, it is still a reliable rule of thumb to have a 3-2-1 backup solution operation that looks like this:

  1. Primary Data (Where data is initially created/collected, the PCs, the Macs, the Phones, etc)
  2. On-site Backup solution (where multiple devices are backup’ed up to internally, also more commonly referred to as the bare-metal backup)
  3. Off-site/different location Backup (where the copy of the on-site backup lives that is separate network and/or physical location. This can range from another NAS, to a cloud provider and even a USB drive)

Stages 2 and 3 should be encrypted in case they are stolen/entered, as well as feature login credentials and an admin system in the event of them being occupied/accessed illegally. Today I want to focus on the 2nd and 3rd stages of your backup routine and help you decide the best ways to spend your budget on the most effective safety net and recovery system for your needs.

Backup and Redundancy – DO NOT GET THEM MIXED UP!

Way, WAY too many NAS (network-attached storage) or DAS (direct-attached storage) owners think their data actually have a backup layer in place when they refer to their RAID configuration, their versioning or their snapshots. These are NOT backup methods and are actually designed primarily as a means of recovering your data in the event of an HDD/SSD dying, an accidentally deleted file or rolling a file back to a previous revision. Think of RAID/Snapshots/Versioning as ‘safety nets’, The only work from INSIDE the infrastructure NOT outside of it. If the NAS server or RAID enabled DAS box does, then there is a very high chance that your data cannot be recovered via these methods (not impossible, just touch and certainly not foolproof). Below is a video that breaks down a number of different Backup and Redundancy methods inside a single NAS system:

How Expensive is a 2-Stage Backup and Do I need it?

The cost of a 2-stage backup (i.e having 2 backups of your data) operation can be measured by the amount of data you/your company produces on a daily basis. Additionally, depending on your commitment to holding onto your data (so, for business, you might have a 6 year or 12-month retention policy) there are ways to make economies in between the stages. However, whether you are a home user of a business user, there are few instances where a double-layered backup is not ideal. Let’s look at this from a business and home user point of view:

Why Business and Enterprise users need an Extensive Data Backup Plan

Example. Your company has 10 employees. Each has their own workstation and they contact clients on a daily basis to drum up new sales, fulfil existing quotes and maintain a customer relationship manager (CRM). You have both #1 AND #2 stage backups (so local PCs and A NAS in-house maybe) covered. Plus you have business insurance in case of a fire or flood. One morning you arrive to find your office has been flooded/burnt/burgled/struck by lightning and everything is fried. At first, you think, lucky we have insurance. They will pay up for whole new office equipment, PCs and your server. However, what about all that customer data? Not only can the insurance company not replace it but they will not pay its consequential value (with VERY few insurance policies covering data recovery services). So now you have to start from square 1. Plus now you also have a bundle of rather angry customers from the previous days and weeks whose requirements go unfulfilled. This coupled with starting your business network from scratch, employees salaries continuing as normal and several IT guys (or 1 guy working for days) setting everything up from scratch again (this WILL be the case from fire, flood or theft) could easily KILL a company. Now, in that context, isn’t a few thousand put towards an off-site #3 Backup so bad? Thought not.

Why Home and Private users need an Extensive Data Backup Plan Too

Ok, so a home user has a smaller ecosystem to maintain and now the mission-critical data and the life or death nature of your information is less so. Or is it? Example #2. What about all those important house documents you’ve scanned? Those TV shows and movies you bought on a one time download? What about your wedding picture or those of your children growing up? Those videos of your friends and relatives that are no longer with us? Not to be bleak, but it is often the case that although much of a person’s data is not of huge financial value, it is still utterly and completely irreplaceable in the literal sense.

Likewise, if your many devices (phones, computers, hard drives) get corrupted, hacked with malware/ransomware or simply broken, don’t you want the peace of mind of knowing that there is always a backup of EVERYTHING? If you are copying the data of all your devices to a large hard drive enclosure in your home, this is NOT a perfect backup. It just protects you from the loss of one or more of your mobile/individual devices. Additionally, the minute you start deleting files on your phone/laptop to ‘make some space because it is already backed up on the NAS‘, your NAS is not a backup, it is the single repository for that data!  So, as you can see, the need for a reliable true backup is paramount regardless of whether you are a home user or business user. However accepting that you need a backup is not enough, you need to know what to consider when choosing the right backup. Home users and their data volume/frequency can always consider USB backups of course, which can be good but only upto the time that the last backup took place AND on the assumption that the USB drive is stored offsite periodically.

What are the factors I need to take into account when considering my Backup Solution?

Choosing the best full backup for your data can be a little difficult. With so many variables ranging from cost to size to speed and more, it can be easy to go around in circles and still end up choosing nothing. In almost all cases, the deciding factor is cost. However, this is closely followed by speed. Having a backup is all well and good, but if it takes too long to finish, it can often be slower than the speed at which you create data and create a bottleneck. Likewise, if you choose an unsuitable connection of choice between your primary backup storage and/or off-site 2nd backup storage, then they may communicate inefficiently. Below are the main overheads to consider when choosing your backup.

Distance & Speed – How far is the 2nd backup going to be from the primary backup and/or primary data source? Unless you are considering fibre cabling between different physical sites, you are going to be limited by your upload/download speed and if your network is busy with multiple users, then you will need to provision priority of service to these backup connections, or else risk it affecting day to day operation (particularly VoIP connections – a growing necessity in 2022 with shifting patterns in the way we are working during/ost pandemic). The local connections between your client devices in-house and the primary backup may well only be using an internet network/LAN to communicate, but that can still become oversaturated. So be sure to provision switches where appropriate too (we will touch on 10GbE later)

Power (Watts etc) – The power of the hardware inside the primary (bare-metal) data storage device, secondary backup target and (depending on your setup) even the power of your client hardware in house is also an important factor to take into consideration when scaling and provisioning an appropriate backup strategy. Critical power failure (i.e a power cut) in one or more of these locations can not only result in some data not being backed up, but more importantly can compromise the backups themselves, with some systems suffering critical hardware failure and SSD/HDD damage in the process. It is HIGHLY recommended for users who are considering a private server for their data have it connected to the mains power via a USB device, in order to allow the system to still operate in the event of power failure AND shut itself down safely.

Physical Media – The server of choice for your primary backup is only half of the battle. The media that you are storing the data too can make a huge impact too. Many have their own maximum speed or capacity, so even with a super-fast enclosure and/or connection, you will be bottlenecked by the drives themselves. All media types e.g. HDD, SSD or Tape have their own maximum performance and some are lower than the connection maximum and some are faster and therefore end up creating a limited speed inadvertently. This can be negated in a number of ways. These range from the use of RAID (redundant array of independent disks) that combines media into single storage pools that benefit from redundancy (i.e a safety net if one drive dies) and/or increases in performance. Additionally, you can look at SSD caching, a service that is particularly popular in private NAS servers released after around 2018 and continues to be included in most systems. SSD caching allows the system to have one of more SSDs installed and then utilize the increased performance they offer to benefit write actions (i.e you write data onto the SSDs first and then the NAS moves it over to the slower HDDs afterwards) and/or read actions (where the most frequently accessed files are cloned onto the SSDs and it speeds up their access to client devices) though this is less useful for backups, it is still a useful option.

The Media connection internally – As mentioned, the SATA port on most commercial HDD/SSD has a maximum of 6 gigabits (Gbs) in SATA III – SAS at 12 Gigabits. All of these are internal and are maximum bandwidths available to each media drive installed in each bay. However, realistically, most typical Hard Drives max out at 272MB/s at the very top end (and even then, this is using enterprise-grade HDDs) and most conventional 2.5″ SSDs (with the exception of U.2 and U.3) max out at about 550MB/s). So you are going to need several of these drives inside your primary backup system in a decent RAID configuration to facilitate performance AND redundancy (like a RAID 5 or RAID 5). For your external/2nd backup target, a lot of enterprise users take advance of cold storage such as tape drive media. Designed to be used for data that needs to be held for insurance/archive for years and years, the current highest generation of tape architecture is is LTO-9 = 400MB/s in uncompressed/RAW form and 1000MB/s in compressed, with storage capacities per tape hitting 45 Terabytes! However, a full backup would take (at best, so with everything at full!) over 12 hours to transfer. Additionally, tape backup is fantastically expensive and therefore largely enterprise only as an option.

The external connection – Lastly and possibly the most overlooked part, is the communication between your primary client devices to send data, the primary backup data and the secondary backup. Not just the speed, but the resilience and future-proofing. You need to consider what connection you are going to use today, tomorrow and years from now. The last thing you want is to saddle yourself with a connection now and later when you upgrade your primary hardware on individual clients or locations, end up with a device you cannot access or use with an unchangeable bottleneck. Then your data just becomes a chore to access at best and potentially days or weeks or time to restore. Popular connections and their speed between host and client devices are:

Network Backups (backups that share a LAN or vLANs in a greater network)

  • 1GBe LAN/Ethernet = 1Gbit/s, or 100-109MB/s
  • 2.5GbE LAN/Ethernet = 2.5Gbit/s, or 250-270MB/s
  • 5GbE LAN/Ethernet = 5Gbit/s, or 500-545MB/s
  • 10GbE LAN/Ethernet = 10Gbit/s, or 1000-1024MB/s

USB and local Backups directly connected and stored offsite

  • USB 3.0 (3.2 Gen 1) = 5 Gbit/s
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2= 10 Gbit/s
  • USB 3.2×2 = 20 Gbit/s
  • Thunderbolt 3 & Thunderbolt 4 = 40 Gbit/s

Fast Local Backups or Direct Connections over large distances

  • Fibrechannel / FC – 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 128 gigabit per second rates depending to start
  • Tape Based backups, such as LTO 7,8,9 – 300/360/400MB/s uncompressed and 750/900/1000MB/s compressed
  • Cloud storage – dependant on connection. Additionally, factors such as upload and download speeds, fair usage policies and more affect the performance. If you are fortunate to have a 1 Gigabit internet connection, that means around 100MB/s for download speeds and a fraction of that for upload speeds

So, as you can see, there are many choices out there for a means of sending backup between the 1st, 2nd and 3rd parts of your backup environment.

What is the Difference in Speed and Cost between different Backup Solutions?

And so to the meat of the subject. Different solutions cost money and in the interests of SPEED, below i have detailed numerous solutions that will provide a backup solution of upto 10TB of storage. All Costs and speeds are based on a solution that is an acceptable distance away for maximum efficiency. Perfect speed results were provided with http://www.calctool.org/ , however, it is worth noting that these are ‘perfect situation’ based and it would be tough to see this maximum threshold. you will comfortably see around 10-20% below this, but that is fine. Finally, it is always worth remembering that the speeds mentioned below are based on an initial 10 Terabyte backup. After that, there is the likely possibility that future backups will be much more granular (this can also be referred to as differential backups, where only the changed files are backed up each time afterwards). But some users may wish to take advantage of time managed backups, where a full backup per day is kept, for X number of days (when eventually the newest backup will overwrite the oldest on rotation).

ALSO IMPORTANT – In all examples where a 4TB SSD (which average around £350-400 over SATA) is mentioned, you can use a 4TB HDDs at around £75-100 (brand depending) to save a considerable sum – but you will effective quadruple or more the time the initial backups will take. Likewise, future incremental backups will be significantly reduced also.  In examples where the SSD would have been substantially bottlenecked by a connection, I have used HDD as you will not need to spend the extra.

The Best Value 1/2.5GbE based Backup Solution for 10TB of data

For a solid LAN based backup (with optional internet access as needed for off-site work) I would recommend the Synology DS220+ 2 Bay Pentium NAS at around £250. Alongside this, you will need a smart Switch (to take advantage of LAG and 2GbE, 2x 10TB HDD at £230 each as you will not see any speed difference on a network connection with SSD (RAID 1). This will cost around just under £800. Alternatively, there have been other improvements in the base level ethernet connectivity in 2-4 Bay NAS solutions in the last few years, with 2.5GbE or even 5GbE available on the likes of the QNAP TS-x53D, TS-x73A or Asustor Lockerstor 2/4 series. These solutions arrive at only a fraction more and although they can possibly add another £100-200 to the price tag, this can be offset by time saved in the backup operations AND by purchasing a 4-Bay NAS over a 2-Bay and leveraging the price vs the redundancy vs the capacity (eg instead of 2x 10TB in RAID 1, purchasing 4x 3TB and getting better performance and an extra 2TB in RAID 5).

What do CalcTool.org have to say about 1GBe

CalcTool.org

Over 1 Gigabit per second, in a perfect scenario – just over 20 hours. Realistically closer to 25 or 30 hours. SO the first few backups should be conducted over the weekend but all future ‘difference only’ backups should be fin at 12-hour intervals without harming the bandwidth too much, Likewise, you can scale this down as you utilize link aggregation (also known as port trunking, when ports are combined) and/or 2.5GbE/5GbE to reduce this figure down to 8 hours or just 4 hours respectively.

The Best Value 10GBe Network-Based Solution for 10TB of Data

In order to create the perfect cost-effective yet powerful 10GBe Network-based backup solution (so 10x faster than normal LAN) I would recommend the QNAP TS-431X3 with 10GBe  (at around £450) with SFP+ Connection and  SFP+ Cables with transceivers attached (Cable price dependant on length and transceivers). Additionally, you will need a 10GBe switch (at least £150 realistically), and for MAXIMUM speed 4x 4TB Seagate Ironwolf 125 SSD (at £450 per drive) in a RAID 5 which slows things a pinch but gives you the safety of 1 drive worth of redundancy. Of course, you can downgrade to Seagate Ironwolf 4TB Hard drives (at £85 per drive) and save over £1500, but you will see a noticeable dip in performance of around 200-400MB/s (NAS dependant). So the choice is yours. Lastly, you will need a 10GBe interface on the machine(s) you are backing up from in order to maintain the 10GBe throughput (or alternatively just have the NAS on a 10GbE connection and the clients all on 1GbE with bandwidth being shared as appropriate). In total this will cost around £2400+ for the SSD based solution and just £900-1000 for the HDD solution. None of this is set in stone, of course, you can scale things in a number of ways, using bigger NAS solutions (i.e. more bays) or using multiple 10GbE connections in LAG/Trunked connections.

What do CalcTool.org have to say about 10GBe

CalcTool.org

The performance will largely be dictated by the distance of the backups, choice of HDD or SSD and types of files. However, over 10 Gigabit per second, in a perfect scenario – just over 2 hours. However this is a little optimistic and in practice, it will realistically weigh in closer to 3+ hours, as the complexity of the files (thousand so smaller emails and documents or fewer BIG media files, everyone is different). This of course is for the first few backups of a FULL 10 Terabytes of data. Later with incremental and ‘difference only’ backups, you will see times slashed heavily for the better.

The Cost of Thunderbolt 1, 2 or 3 Backup Solutions for 10TB of data

Fast becoming a connection of choice for photo and video editors in both the Mac and Windows community, Thunderbolt is the no-fuss connection that promises speed, without the technical nonsense. Much like before you can choose to go with SSD drives for supreme speed (at a hefty price tag) or HDD if you want to make economies. Below are the options best suited for a Thunderbolt 1 (although still legacy, still is in use), Thunderbolt 2 and Thunderbolt 3 Backups:

  • TB 1 DAS, 4-Bay, Cable, 4x 4TB SSD, RAID 5 enabled = £3000+ —- 2Hours + Backup time with SSD population / 3.5+ Hour for HDD Population
  • TB 2 DAS, 4-Bay, Cable, 4x 4TB SSD, RAID 5 enabled = £3500+ —-  1 Hour + Backup time with SSD population / 2-3+ Hour for HDD Population
  • TB 3 DAS, 4-Bay, Cable, 4x 4TB SSD, RAID 5 enabled = £4500+ —- 30-45min + Backup time with SSD population / 1.5 Hour for HDD Population

What do CalcTool.org have to say about Thunderbolt 1, 2 and 3

CalcTool.orgThunderbolt does not lose speed over distance, however, most conventional cables you can buy max out around 5 metres and the ones included with the above enclosures arrive at 1-1.8m. In a real-world scenario you can realistically double this length of time listed above in the initial backups. However, it will MASSIVELY improve with subsequent backups. With the exception of a few, most Thunderbolt backups arrive with only Thunderbolt ports, so in order to maintain the speed levels of this backup, you need to either ensure that it is connected to your centralised depositary via Thunderbolt, or if it’s backing up multiple devices, that they are using a good networking device, as Thunderbolt Direct attached storage only allows a single connected device at any one time.

The Price, Speed & Suitability LTO-7, LTO-8 and LTO-9 Tape Backup 10TB Solutions

In the case of LTO / tapes, this kind of storage for 10TB can be incredibly inefficient for an extra layer of storage. You can purchase much smaller 1 and 2 tape frames/storage devices, but for what you are paying and the overall accessibility for all machines involved, it isn’t great. If you were regularly backing up 5x or 10x this amount of storage, it would be a different story. Internal operations can be upto 1000MB/s with compressed data and 400MB for raw uncompressed data. SO unless you are synchronizing between two LTO tape loading machines, you will almost certainly use uncompressed. However these are internal operations and as we are discussing backing up from existing systems to a storage device, we have to focus on the external connection. Most likely 10GBe network or 12GB/s SAS will be the means of backing up to your tape device. But Cost is hard to pin – easily £2000-3000 and upwards, over at least two tapes (capacity differed at each LTO generation) etc. Most likely around over  1-3 hours transfer time, but hugely impractical at this scale and most likely much higher in practice. Definite a good option for those at the enterprise tier, but anything less will be squandering their budgets significant with a weak ROI.

The Best Value USB 3.2 Gen 2 Backup Solution for 10TB of data

The latest available version of USB, also known as USB 3.1 Gen 2, is easily the cheapest way to store a 10TB backup at a very respectable 10 Gb/s (comparable to Thunderbolt 1) speed. You will need to ensure that the connected device(s) that you are backing up too/from use the newer USB 3.1 Gen 2 port to ensure you do not get bottlenecked at 5 Gb/s, but this Highpoint 6124V RAID 5 enabled USB 2 Gen 2 DAS enclosure arrives at £350+ and if populated with either 4x 4TB SSD or 4x HDD (same price difference as before), RAID 5 enabled = £2100+ for an SSD Based solution and just £700+ for a HDD based version

What do CalcTool.org have to say about USB 3.1 Gen 2?

CalcTool.orgWith the best drives available you will have this 10TB localized backup over USB 3.1 Gen 2 finished in just over 2 hours. However taking system overheads into consideration, as well as the RAID 5 into account (something you could counter with a RAID 10 and 4x 6TB HDD perhaps) you are looking at between 2.5 and 3.5 hours completion. Additionally, a number of NAS Drive vendors have started implementing USB 3.2 Gen 2 in their systems, which means that a 10Gb/s USB DAS solution can be used as a means of creating a secondary backup by connecting it with your primary backup and running one of the many free backup/sync tools that NAS systems include with your purchase. Just remember that in order for this to be a truly safe 2nd tier backup, it cannot constantly reside in the same location as the primary backup.

Is Cloud Suitable as a 10TB Backup solution?

You may wonder why I have not suggested the cloud as a regular backup yet. It is certainly appealing. No parts are needed, just a healthy internet connection. You already have all the hardware you will need to establish this kind of synchronised backup – this should be by far the cheapest and easiest backup, right? Well yes and no. It IS cheap – in the short-term. Even if you take into account that your Business internet connection costs, from as little as £10 to £50 a month, reaching much higher once you consider fiber channelling, it is still pretty attractive. However you have to consider the time this backup will take and how it will affect the bandwidth throughout your business – otherwise, you will need to be conducted them overnight due to limit consumption. Some brands, such as Synology with their C2 platform, have rolled in an additional cloud service alongside their bare-metal solution. This is intended to be used as an alternative means of accessing an existing storage area that is synchronized with your NAS/local solution remotely (as well as benefiting from significantly easier remote access to data). NAS+Cloud can serve as a great 2-3/double backup option, as well as ensuring that your backups are in very different physical locations. Lastly, with intelligent caching and background synchronization between the NAS-THE CLOUD-CLIENT HARDWARE happening, a lot of the actual backing up can be hugely incremental and lessen the impact on the end-user, whether they are local to the NAS or remotely communicating with the C2 cloud (or 3rd party clouds such as Google Drive and Dropbox that are synced with the NAS). But what about the cloud on its own, not used in tandem with a NAS/Private server?

The first thing to factor in is the data being sent TO the cloud. Remember we are talking about Uploads, not downloads (downloads and a backup should only be considered during recovery, not day to day operations). Most internet services advertise incredible download speeds, but backups are almost exclusively upload based and upload speeds are normally a 10th or less than advertised download speeds. lastly, we can talk about costs. As although the initial costs are much less, let’s go for £50 a month for a dedicated high upload speed connection privately (closer to £500 for a business line) for your off-site backup. That is £600 a year. In 5 years, that is £3,000 (a cost that is the same or higher than most of the solutions discussed previously). The real kicker is that after those 5 years, you either have to continue paying to maintain this backup OR buy a suitable local storage drive to download it too – something you could have had ALREADY by going for the other solutions and thereby saving you thousands of pounds more.

I took the trouble of using the awesome tool at http://www.thecloudcalculator.com/ and if you have a 30Mbps upload speed (fairly respectable and the entry point outside of central city hubs). backing up 10TB initially would take  33 Days, 22 Hours, and 27 Minutes, 11 Seconds

That is horrendously long and you cannot just assume this is a one-off and negotiable with incremental backups and difference-only changes. You need a reliable and adaptive backup solution – not one that will do the job as long as you work within its limits. If you want to entertain the idea of a cloud-based backup of 10TB on a regular basis, we have to look into fiber and at least 2Gbps (so 2000 Megabits) to get to 12 hours for an overnight full backup (non-incremental). This is going to cost a small fortune and unless you intend to take advantage of this speed during the day-time, is a huge outlay for something that is not hugely accessible or reliable.

So, those are your options. Remember you are not limited to just ONE option and each of these solutions can be used in combinations, depending on your budget, physical environment, internet speeds or volume of client devices. In summary:

NAS BACKUPS USB DAS BACKUPS THUNDERBOLT BACKUPS TAPE BACKUPS CLOUD BACKUPS
Price (more ★ = Higher Price) ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★
Value (more ★ = more for your money) ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★
Scalability (more ★ = can grow more) ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★
Complexity (more ★ = more complex) ★★★★★ ★★★★
Speed (more ★ = faster) ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★
User/Usage Type Home & Business Home and Local Home and Local Enterprise Remote
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How to Install TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS

21 septembre 2022 à 18:00

How to Install TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS Drive – Step By Step Guide

Have you always wanted to test out or run your very own TrueNAS Core NAS setup, but are intimidated by the building of it? It’s understandable. As respected as the ZFS-powered server software is in the IT community, it is not really as user-friendly at the start as many of the Turn-Key solutions in the market from QNAP. So, what if you want to buy an already built server from QNAP (so, its been 100% built, has a manufacturers warranty and is designed for efficient and cool 24×7 use) BUT you also want to use the open-source (i.e free) TrueNAS Core software with abilities like ZFS architecture, app jails, fast build/rebuild, RAID resilvering, triple parity and near limitless scalability? Perhaps you have an older QNAP that is long out of warranty and you want to experiment? Well, good news for you! It is actually surprisingly easy to install TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS, takes around 15-20mins and is completely reversible (if done right)!

Note – a FULL 30 Minute Installation Guide for TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS is available HERE on the NASCompares YouTube Channel

Important – It’s important to note that TrueNAS Core is NOWHERE NEAR as user-friendly as QNAP QTS/QuTS and before making any switch to a new NAS OS, it is important that you understand the process, risks and differences in the platforms. I made a HUGE QNAP QTS vs TrueNAS Core comparison video HERE that you can use to see how each software compares before making any changes to your NAS. This guide is designed to help you use your QNAP NAS to run TrueNAS Core as it’s primary OS. If you go ahead with this and use the same HDD/SSDs in the system that you are currently using in the QNAP QTS/QuTS Setup, it will likely format them, so IF you want to reverse your QNAP NAS back to its QTS/QuTS set up with all your data/drives the same, you will need to remove them before using the TrueNAS setup, put them to one side safely and use new HDD/SSDs for your TrueNAS installation. Lastly, although this whole process is reversible, you are technically using the QNAP in a means that the brand does not state as ‘intended use’ and this MIGHT lead to support/warranty problems down the line if a fault appears in the QNAP or the software installation that was the result of the TrueNAS Core installation (the bios records everything!). This is HIGHLY UNLIKELY but not impossible (eg you work a TrueNAS Core server so hard and/or push the CPU to breaking point running particularly aggressive TrueNAS jails and/or use the inline compression/deduplication expensively in TrueNAS and it burns out the CPU – this would not be covered by your QNAP NAS support, as they did not certify that the system can handle this.

TrueNAS Core Software on QNAP NAS Hardware – What You Need?

It is worth highlighting that having just a QNAP NAS is not quite enough and in order to get TrueNAS Core up and running on a QNAP NAS requires a few extra checks and use of a few items you might have already in the home/office, or a quick $10 shop online at most. In order to upgrade your system to TrueNAS Core, you will need to consider/have the following:

  • A QNAP NAS Drive with (minimum) an Intel 64bit x86 CPU and a minimum 4GB of Memory (recommended 8GB+)
  • Download the latest stable release of TrueNAS Core here as a system image (you will be converting this to USB later on) – DOWNLOAD
  • Any Data that is currently on the QNAP NAS RAID that is mission critical to be backed up or moved (as it will be completely formatted)
  • A USB drive to use as the TrueNAS installation drive ( I recommend THIS ONE here from Sandisk, as it is low price and incredibly small, even at 32GB)

 

  • I recommend not using a USB larger than 32GB, due to the constraints of 1st party software to format larger than this in FAT32. Don’t be tempted to spend like $2 more for a 64GB, as the TrueNAS Core installation will occupy the full USB space (as you will create a system-image-USB) and space is utterly irrelevant when the TrueNAS Core installation is so small
  • A Disk Image to USB conversion too. I recommend ‘Rufus’, currently in ver 3.19 and can be run in a portable .exe form that doesn’t require installation – DOWNLOAD
  • A basic USB Keyboard (example HERE but really, any will do) and an HDMI Monitor (or simply any device that has an HDMI input – NOT output) such as a TV or Capture card
  • Hard Drive and/or SSD media (you should already have these, but just in case) for your storage Pool / RAID
  • Optional M.2 NVMe SSD of at least 120GB, but highly recommended – Installing TrueNAS Core is not unlike installing a Windows OS on a new PC, as you are connecting a USB to run the installer, but you need to target a drive in the QNAP NAS to install TrueNAS onto. Whichever drive you use, it will make that drive largely inaccessible for anything but the TrueNAS operating system. Therefore IF you are running a QNAP NAS that has internal m.2 NVMe SSD bays OR one with dedicated 2.5″ SSD bays, I highly recommend getting a low-capacity drive of between 60-120GB (these will be very cheap compared with larger HDDs that start in the Terabyte scales) and then use this for the TrueNAS software. This means that ALL of the main SATA storage bays of the QNAP are then used for your storage pool(s) (aka the RAID). Do NOT install TrueNAS on another USB drive during installation, as this is less stable.
  • OptionalDownload Advanced IP Scanner HERE, as it is a really useful tool for analyzing your network and finding your new TrueNAS Core NAS for remote access

That is about it. Most of these are devices are that you will almost certainly already have to hand.

Can I Reverse the TrueNAS Core Installation and go back to QNAP QTS?

Almost certainly YES! I say ‘almost certainly’, as there is one small caveat. When you make the change from QNAP QTS to TrueNAS Core on the NAS hardware, the drives (HDD and/or SSD) inside used in TrueNAS pools used in the new system software architecture. This works both ways if you want to revert back to QTS on the NAS too. You CANNOT use the Storage Pool, Volume structure, Folders etc of drives from a QNAP NAS in a TrueNAS setup (you will need to format these in TrueNAS). So, although the act of reinitializing the NAS to its original software is very easy (you just need to go into the BIOS of the QNAP using the same method in the guide below, then change the boot drive order BACK to the QNAP OS internal SSD), it will mean that any data that resides on the disks inside will be formatted. So, if you are choosing to make a change from one NAS OS to another, make sure you have your data appropriately backed up elsewhere OR move the drives that were in your QNAP (with their QTS/QuTS Storage structure) to one side safely and install new 3.5″ storage media for the TrueNAS pools etc. So, let’s begin the installation of TrueNAS Core on the QNAP NAS.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 1, Download TrueNAS Core

Head to the TrueNAS Core website HERE and download the latest stable release of the software to your local PC, Linux or Mac system. Make sure to remember where you downloaded it.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 2, Download Rufus USB Image Tool

Head to the Rufus website and download the latest version of that tool – I recommend downloading the standalone executable file here, as then it will immediately run when you double-click the file, without installation etc. It may redirect you to Github, but it will be the same executable file. Once again, remember where you downloaded it.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 3, Preparing the USB

Connect the small form factor USB Drive to your system (again, this is the one I used from Sandisk) and after a few seconds, it should appear as an available USB Drive. The drive MAY need formatting (you will be prompted to do so), if that is the case, then you can format it via the system prompts and by default, it will format it to FAT32 (as long as your USB is less than 32GB). If you are not presented with a system prompt to format your USB, then you can head into My PC, or My Computer via a windows computer and right-click the drive, select ‘format’ and format it that way.

If you have used the USB for other things previously, there is a chance that the drive has existing partitions in place. For that, the quickest way to completely remove any partitions is to open up the bottom-left windows system menu as normal, and then just type diskpart and open the command-line GUI tool. From there, use the command list disk to show the available drives that are connected, you will see your USB (normally disk 1 or 2, but can differ depending on your system layout and can be spotted by the storage amount). From there, type select disk # (where # is the drive number that your USB is shown as) and then type clean, which will then remove any index structure for the drive (i.e the partitions and existing format) and then you can go back to the My Computer/My PC page and format the drive to FAT 32 as normal.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 4, Creating a USB Installer Image of TrueNAS Core

Open the Rufus application and from there you will see the USB Drive (listed as NO NAME, or ‘UNTITLED’, ETC) at the top. From there, look to the select image/find image option (depending on the ver. of Rufus or your USB Image Creator tool of choice) and find the TrueNAS Core disk image you downloaded earlier). If the drive is not listed, it may have downloaded as a compressed/archive file. If that is the case, head to the location of where you downloaded TrueNAS Core (in your file explorer, not in Rufus) and right-click the file you downloaded. If the option to ‘extract‘ is visible, then you can extract it (i.e unpack it to the original form) in that same download directory. From there, head back into RUFUS and then the TrueNAS Core system image should be visible. Select it, then run the Rufus System image creator tool and create your USB bootable TrueNAS Core disk image.

REMEMBER! This will completely format your USB drive and any files that are on that USB will be destroyed. The system image creator tool will turn the USB into a pure boot image tool – the USB will not be usable for traditional storage again unless you completely format it again.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 5, REMOVE THE USB FROM YOUR PC!!!!!!!!!

Really, really important and sometimes overlooked. Once the USB creation is completed, you need to remove the USB (using the eject hardware safely option at the bottom right of your windows machine taskbar as normal). DO NOT accidentally leave the USB in your USB Ports for any longer than necessary. If you leave it in and your system reboots at any point (eg in a normal ‘end of day shut down, go home, reboot tomorrow’ scenario), then the system might boot directly into the TrueNAS Core installation and although it is easy to exit from, it can change your system default boot preferences, maybe even remove your primary boot drive as the OS drive – requiring a little messing with a windows installation disk to change it back. The odds of this are very small, but not zero, so make sure to safely remove your USB drive when the TrueNAS Core system image creator tool is completed.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 6, (OPTIONAL) – Install an NVMe SSD

This is an optional step, but one I would certainly recommend for newer-generation QNAP NAS devices. TrueNAS is a lot like a traditional computer operating system (eg Windows or macOS) in it’s architecture and will run at its best when the necessary boot files are located on a seperate, smaller and faster area of SSD/flash storage away from the general bulk storage. So, if possible/available in your QNAP NAS, I would recommend installing a smaller m.2 NVMe SSD drive and then using that as the target/location for your TrueNAS Core installation. This is not compulsory and you can also use a single HDD or SSD in one of the main storage bays of your QNAP, however, it means that this drive will unusable for general storage (i.e in any RAID configuration or storage pool). This CAN be negated with some creative portion creation, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Additionally, do NOT try to install TrueNAS Core on another USB drive that is connected to the system – this isn’t particularly stable and tends to result in a poorer TrueNAS Core experience. M.2 NVMe bays and their location in the QNAP NAS changes depending on the system. Some allow you to access these bays via the main HDD 3.5″ bays (eg the TS-464), whilst others (the majority) require you to remove the external chassis casing to access these bays (eg the TS-453E, TVS-872X, TS-873A, etc).

Reminder – TrueNAS is NOT a big program and you can use an SSD as small as 32GB and still have a tonne of provision for future storage space. However, M.2 NVMe SSDs are not available in smaller sizes than 120GB. Lower size than this and you will generally only find 2240 SSDs and/or SATA M.2 SSDs. These are still perfectly fine to use, but the performance difference between SATA and NVMe (PCIe) is HUGE! You can find many SSD options here on amazon for as little as $30  – Find Low Capacitiy and Low Price M.2 NVMe SSDs HERE on Amazon (already filtered the results)

NOTE – If you plan on upgrading the memory of your NAS to 4GB-8GB-16GB or higher (in order to use ALL of the features of TrueNAS Core to their fullest extent), I would recommend doing so at this point before rebuilding the physical chassis again, as many QNAP NAS have the 2nd SODIMM memory slot in really tight locations.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 7, Connecting the USB, Keyboard and HDMI Monitor

Next, we need to connect the external means to install TrueNAS Core on the QNAP NAS. Unlike when you set up your QNAP NAS for the first time, TrueNAS cannot typically be installed via the network like QTS. TrueNAS requires you to use a KVM (keyboard, Video Mouse – though you won’t need a mouse!) and go through the installation using a low-res graphical user interface. Now you will ONLY need this setup/items for the installation and initialization of your TrueNAS Core server and after that, you will be able to use the server over the network/internet as normal. You are going to need a basic USB Keyboard (not a Bluetooth or wireless one, as these may need drivers to run and you cannot install drivers at this point) and an HDMI Monitor/TV. You CAN use a mouse, but it is not hugely necessary and 99% of the choices in the setup of TrueNAS core can/will be via keyboard input. Also, I would also recommend connecting the NAS to the network during setup as this will allow the system to assume certain network values during setup that will save a tonne of time later. Once that is all connected, do NOT turn the NAS on yet – there is one small and slightly time-sensitive thing to do.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 8, Accessing the BIOS Menu of your QNAP NAS

Now that your QNAP NAS is all connected and you are ready at your keyboard/Monitor, turn the NAS on and wait till you hear a beep (should take between 5-15secs depending on the QNAP NAS). As soon as your hear that noise (and likely see a flashing character or underscore on the monitor screen), you need to continuously hit the F12 and/or DEL keys (not at the same time, just back and forth). One of these will result in the system displaying the blue BIOS menu (it changes between motherboards and QNAP uses a mixture of mobos in their Intel and AMD-powered systems). You need to be quick, as you only have about 3 seconds to do this before the QNAP will automatically boot from the small internal 5GB flash OS module that boots into QNAP.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 9, Booting from the New TrueNAS Installer USB

Next you need to tap ‘RIGHT‘ on the keyboard and head to the ‘Save & Exit’ option. At the bottom, you should see, under the ‘boot override‘ option, your USB Drive. Tap ‘DOWN‘ until you are highlighting the USB and then tap ‘Enter‘ or ‘Return‘ on your keyboard, as this will push the QNAP to boot from that USB and begin the TrueNAS Core installation. Later on I will show you how to force the system to ALWAYS boot into TrueNAS Core, but for now, we just need it to read from this USB this one time.

TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 10, Rebooting and Starting the TrueNAS Installer

This next step is a bit of a quick one. Around 5-15 seconds after you selected the USB Drive in BIOS, the screen will display the TrueNAS Installer option page. Tap ‘Enter’ as soon as you see it, as the page is on a countdown and when it reaches zero it will (possibly, depending on the version) reboot and then you will have to repeat the last few steps again!), So, in order to avoid this, tap ‘ENTER‘ as soon as this page appears.

After a few minutes, the TrueNAS Core GUI/Command will appear on your monitor and all you need to do is navigate the config choices to set up your TrueNAS Core NAS the first time.

Important – TrueNAS Core runs at its best when it is run on a separate drive from your storage. Much like an Operating System, you can install TrueNAS Core on an available SSD in a SATA or NVMe SSD slot in the QNAP NAS, then (after initialization) you can go into the TrueNAS Core > Storage area and create a pool of storage using the available storage media bays,

It is NOT recommended that you install it on a USB drive, for reasons of speed and power-connections.

After you have completed the setup and are back at the initial TrueNAS Core boot menu, select the ‘SHUTDOWN‘ option (not reboot/restart, for reasons I will explain in a moment).


TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 8, Remove the Boot USB Drive AND CHANGE BIOS!!!

Once your QNAP NAS has fully powered down, you need to disconnect the USB drive you installed earlier with TrueNAS Core boot loader on it. You need to do this otherwise, when you reboot the QNAP NAS, it can potentially reboot into the bootloader again. You can skip past this and/or it will not action a reinitialization without your input, but better to remove the USB and therefore allow the system to always immediately boot into the TrueNAS Core system you just created.

Next, you need to head back into the BIOS from earlier. Keep the Keyboard and HDMI Monitor connected and use the same method you used earlier during the initial boot of the QNAP (pressing F12 and/or Delete repeatedly when you hear the first QNAP beep after about 10-15 secs) and as soon as you are greeted with the familiar blue BIOS screen. From here, tap right a few times to highlight the ‘Boot’ option and change the option for Boot Priority #1. The default is QNAP OS, you need to change it to the drive you installed TrueNAS on (whether that is a SATA/NVMe SSD or one of the main storage bays).

This will change the boot order to allow the system when it is first powered on to always boot into TrueNAS. After this, you can click right again in the BIOS menu to select the option to Save and restart. The system will then boot into the TrueNAS initialization (first time setup).


TrueNAS Core on a QNAP NAS – Step 9, Reboot the NAS

Upon rebooting the QNAP into TrueNAS Core (can take up to 5 mins, but usually much quicker). You have two options with how to access the configuration and controls. You can use the HDMI+Keyboard if you choose for console/command level access. Alternatively (much more recommended), use a program such as Advanced IP Scanner, which is free and VERY useful anyway, or even network command prompt) to scan your local area network and find where the QNAP with TrueNAS Core is located (i.e it’s IP). This IP (eg 192.168.1.111) is what you put into the URL bar ofay web browser and it will load into the login GUI for TrueNAS Core. From here you will need to use the username ‘root’ in combination with the password that you created during initialization.

And that is about it. You now have TrueNAS Core installed as the default OS of your QNAP NAS. From here you can do anything and everything that his highly regarded ZFS powered server software offers. Head into the Storage area and start creating pools, as well as areas for caching and lots more features.

TrueNAS was recently updated to ver.13 in a stable release of the FreeBSD format, as well as new improvements in the Linux-based version ‘TrueNAS Scale’. The first thing you are going to need to do when setting up your TrueNAS Core > QNAP NAS server is set up your storage. Do this by heading into the storage tab and following the handy steps on screen. After that, you can pretty much do anything on your new ZFS NAS!


EXTRA – How to Reverse Your QNAP NAS from TrueNAS Core to QNAP QTS / QuTS Software Again

Now, it is worth remembering that switching your QNAP NAS to run TrueNAS Core instead of QTS/QuTS is not a one-way street and you can reverse this relatively easily. Do remember first though that:

  • Any data on the HDD/SSDs inside the QNAP that were used in TrueNAS Core server setup will not be accessible/usable with the QNAP NAS system and will likely be flashed/formatted during the QNAP QTS reinitialization
  • You will need your Keyboard and HDMI Monitor again in order to get back into BIOS
  • If you kept your original QNAP RAID Pool on HDDs etc to one side (i.e you removed the already configured storage media in their RAID from the QNAP when you changed to TrueNAS and put these drives safely to one side), you should be able to migrate this data back into the QNAP NAS during re-initialization with ease. That said, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP FOR THIS DATA REGARDLESS

In order to reverse the QNAP NAS from TrueNAS Core back to QNAP QTS/QuTS Software, you need to (from a cold boot) access the BIOS menu again (so, at boot, with your Keyboard and monitor connected, press the DEL and/or F12 key over and over when the QNAP beeps, like before) and when you reach the BIOS menu, tap RIGHT until you reach the ‘Boot page. Then change the ‘Boot Option #1’ option from the TrueNAS installation drive back to the QNAP OS (internal flash 5GB module). Once that is done, head into the ‘Save & Exit‘ and then select ‘Save Changes and Restart‘. Doing this will restart the QNAP NAS and it will automatically boot into the QNAP QTS/QuTS boot sequence. From here your NAS will either automatically boot into the QNAP Setup page OR (if you have your original QNAP NAS RAID drives, with their Pools, Volumes, etc) it will just boot into the QNAP NAS software as normal.

You can find out more about TrueNAS in my full review below that covers everything I like and dislike about the platform:

Thanks for reading! I hope you found this helpful and that it really helped you to make the most of your storage. Want to help me continue to make more guides, reviews and tutorials on the subject of NAS? Then you can do so in a few different ways (any of which I will be eternally grateful for if you choose to!). You can visit the ‘Support NAS Passion’ page HERE and see a few different ways that you can help us keep the lights on. Alternatively, you can use one of the links below to shop for your hardware today or in future (visiting those sites via the link below ensures that we get a mall commission on absolutely anything you purchase – and doesn’t cost you anything extra). Finally, if you want to support us in spirit rather than financially, recommend our blog to a friend or professional colleague or share a link on your social media site of choice. Thank you for reading and have a fantastic week!


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Thunderbolt RAID 1/5/6/10 Enclosures in 2022/2023 – A Buyers Buide

19 septembre 2022 à 18:00

Choosing the RIGHT Thunderbolt RAID Enclosure – First Time

If you have been looking for a thunderbolt storage solution with on-board RAID functionality in 2022/2023, then chances are that you might have noticed a bit of a problem! You see, unlike older USB enclosures, thunderbolt 3/4 with on-board RAID (otherwise known as Hardware-RAID or SoC RAID) are surprisingly thin on the ground and in particular, if you are looking for a RAID 5 Thunderbolt enclosure, the options are INCREDIBLY LIMITED! If you are looking for a 1-2 Bay solution (using a Mirror/RAID1 configuration) you are spoilt for choice, with hundreds of recognized and unknown brands throwing thousands of solutions at you! But at soon as you look at 4, 5, 8 bay (or larger solutions), you suddenly hit a brick wall and your options change from ‘thousands’ to just a handful. Now, this is made even more complicated when you find out that SOME of these solutions are RAID-Supported but do NOT actually have inbuilt RAID functionality (typically listed as ‘JBOD’ solutions – Just a Bunch Of Drive, relying on your connected Mac/PC system to create and support the RAID – something that diminishes performance in many cases and leads to concerns of accidental disconnection (wire pull, power cut, system software failure, etc). THEN you find out that some solutions are not available without HDDs or SSDs pre-installed (more often than not with preset drives from the same brand that cannot be changed or swapped easily). So if you have been looking to buy an empty/unpopulated Thunderbolt enclosure with in-built RAID 5/6/10 support, but want to use some drives you already own or were on offer during amazon prime day – you seriously only have around 10 solutions available in the market right now! Buying a Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 RAID-enabled solution can be incredibly difficult and incredibly tiring to browse through – and I haven’t even mentioned NOISE when these systems are in operation! Today I want to discuss the subject of Thunderbolt RAID boxes for data storage, why it is so difficult and why Thunderbolt 4 enclosures are hard to find right now! Then at the end, I will make some recommendations on RAID-enabled Thunderbolt Boxes to suit every kind of user that you can find in 2022 and 2023.

WHERE are the Thunderbolt 4 and USB 4 RAID Enclosures?

If you have an editing suite that is already working with 1080P raw, has begun processing 4K and you want to future proof for 8K down the line, then it makes sense that you might be looking for Thunderbolt 4 (TB4) and USB 4 RAID 5/6/10 enabled enclosures. Despite Thunderbolt4 not increasing the maximum possible bandwidth compared with TB3, it DOES provide numerous handling, power and efficiency benefits – as well as the cross-over with USB4 and all USB-C. However, there is a little to no RAID solutions (outside of RAID1 / Mirror 2-Bays and single drives) in the market right now. Now, rewind to a few years ago when Thunderbolt4 and USB4 was first revealed and commercial release was discussed. At that point that heavily indicated that 2022/2023 was the point when TB4 would largely overtake TB3 (as both were adopted by MoBo manufacturers, hardware vendors, Mac releases and USB-C continued to dominate). HOWEVER, then the pandemic happened. The pandemic had a huge impact on practically ALL areas of hardware production, such as changes in buying patterns forcing production lines to constantly change what they produced inconsistently, changes in working conditions heavily reducing output and transit/logistics being reduced to under 10% of pre-pandemic levels resulting in goods not moving! THEN you had continued and increased semi-conductor shortages resulting in low/zero production of key components that are needed in Thunderbolt hardware (as well as a large % of Intel products). THEN you have the continued U.S-China trade war affecting the movement and availability of goods globally AND the Russia-Ukraine conflict affecting the availability of Neon (another key chip/component resource that is hugely needed) and further harm on production/logisitcs globally. The result is that although TB4/USB4 was supposed to be hugely available/ubiquitous BUT it is taking considerably longer to arrive commercially and therefore most people have decided to invest in Thunderbolt 3 RAID solutions. That isn’t to say that TB3 RAID Products are not affected by the factors hitting TB4/USB4, but Thunderbolt3 solutions have been in the market for 4-5 years at this point and therefore there is ALOT more available in stock and the components needed are more readily available.

Buying a RAID-Enabled Thunderbolt 3 Enclosure – WHY is it SO Difficult?

As mentioned, in spite of Thunderbolt 3 RAID HDD and SSD  enclosures being available in huge varieties and scale, when it comes to choosing a solution that is affordable, flexible and scalable – the range of options are actually tremendously SMALL! Now, if you require a pre-populated, turn-key (i.e works right out of the retail box) RAID enclosure with Thunderbolt, there are ALOT of solutions (with LaCie and SanDisk largely dominating the market). But the simple fact is that there are considerably MORE smaller-scale users, such as those that are:

  • Self-employed Photographers and Videographers (Weddings, Events, Marketing, etc)
  • Small teams of video editors who are freelance or take on 1-2 projects at a time
  • Content creators on public streaming platforms (YouTube, Twitch, etc
  • Brand/Marketing agencies that have small pockets of team members working from home/remotely

For users/small-businesses like these, there is a very HIGH DEMAND for RAID storage for editors of a particular preference. These are:

  • 1080p/4K, as well as Editors/Producers who are thinking of migrating to a 4K editing suite in the near future
  • 50-60TB Storage Threshold
  • RAID 5/6 enabled, but (crucially) small scale, for reasons of Noise and Physical space
  • Flexibility of storage media, as many users want quieter drives or faster SSDs, or half/partially populate their system and allow adding more drives later
  • Reasonable Price Point, another big reason for users opting for unpopulated/empty solutions

Now, that largely equates to 5-8 Bay Thunderbolt 3/4 storage systems with RAID on board and no fixed HDD/SSD media. However, as of September 2022, there is practically NONE in the market providing this kid of solution – ONLY Terramaster, OWC, HighPoint, Netstor and Areca being the predominant brands available globally that actually provide this! Now, I should highlight that there ARE solutions available in 2-Bay, 1-Bay, JBOD and NVMe from many other brands. But when it comes to RAID 5/6/10 Ready solutions with in-built RAID management, the options are incredibly thing. Otherwise, you need to opt for a JBOD solution and purchase a suitable RAID Card (Atto, MSI, Area, etc) or create, run and support the RAID remotely via your OSX/Windows storage software in your Operating System – NOT ideal!

Which Brands Provide Thunderbolt RAID Enclosures in 2022 and 2023?

Right now, there is a consistent batch of about 8-10 brands that provide Thunderbolt RAID solutions in one shape or form globally in 2022/2023. This is not ALL the brands currently solutions, BUT I am not including ‘unbranded’ solutions or solutions from the east that are the same RAID box under countless manufacturers (see Netstor/Highpoint/etc) So, here are the brands from Thunderbolt external RAID storage the end users choose right now:

Terramaster Thunderbolt 3 RAID Enclosures

+ Very Affordable and Regularly on Offer

+ Latest Generation of 6/9/12/16 Bay Solutions are high build quality

+ Available Unpopulated, so more cost-effective + flexible

+ Portable Chassis

– Smaller 2/4/5 Bay Chassis are Plastic/Metal

– Slightly Noisier Operation due to Chassis Build Materials

Terramaster have been a provider of both NAS and DAS RAID systems for quite a few years now and when it comes to Thunderbolt equipped systems, they are just in the process of rolling out their 2nd generation of solutions. Right now they are the most affordable brand to choose right now in this field, are regularly on offer online and their portfolio contains storage solutions that arrive unpopulated. They are also the only name on this list of TB RAID providers that have an unpopulated 2-bay RAID 0/1 box, a 16-Bay RAID 5/6/10 Box and although the smaller devices arrive in hybrid metal/plastic solutions, the 8 bay and higher solutions are all most completely metal chassis that have a huge amount of passive and active cooling in place. This does result in the system having a slightly higher avg noise level when in operation, but once you are talking about this kind of storage volume (comfortably cracking 350TB using the most recently released WD Red pro 22TB HDDs). The newer releases are powered with an INTEL JHL7440 + Marvell 88SE9485 internal RAID controller, so the larger boxes have a good level of internal hardware management to maximize performance.

Terramaster D5 – 5-Bay, RAID 5/6, Unpopulated

Terramaster D16-331 – 16-Bay, RAID 5/6/10 Unpopulated

Terramaster D8-332 – 8-Bay, RAID 5/6/10, Unpopulated

$699.99

$3499.99

$699.99


OWC Thunderbolt 3 RAID Enclosures

+ Very Affordable

+ Very ‘Black Magic’ esc design

+ Available Unpopulated, so more cost-effective + flexible

+ Portable Chassis

– PCIe Option only available on 8-Bay

– Slightly Noisier Operation due to Chassis Build Materials

OWC are a hugely well know brand in the world of Mac and thunderbolt 3/4, so therefore it is unsurprisingly that they have an extensive range of Thunderbolt RAID solutions in their portfolio. Although they have a range of compact 2.5″ and NVMe SSD enclosures for those looking at faster storage for live editing 4K etc, their range of Thunderbay enclosures (currently TB3, but no doubt TB4 is just around the corner) are designed for those that need a huge about of capacity, but also wish to remain flexible about its deployment. All of these arrive unpopulated, so you can be very choosy about the HDD/SSDs you want to install, but the real jewel in the crown is the Thunderbolt Flex – an 8-Bay inclosure that ALSO features a docking station type front panel that includes USB, SD and daisy-chained TB devices AND the enclosure has a PCIe slot to install a Graphics/Sound/storage card that will be accessible to the host system over TB3. These chassis are all metal enclosures and therefore once again you need to factor in the noise during operation, but if yo uare a Mac user and want an affordable solution, but also something with some series scalability, then the OWC range of TB3 solutions might well be your best choice.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini RAID 5 Edition 4-Bay, RAID 5, Unpopulated

OWC ThunderBay 8 RAID 5 Edition 8-Bay, RAID 5/6, Unpopulated

OWC Thunderbay Flex 8 Thunderbolt 3 HDD Storage Docking Station w/PCIe, RAID 5/6/10

$349.99

$879.99

$1279.99


LaCie / Seagate Pre-Populated RAID Enclosures

+ Very Appealing Design and High-Quality Build

+ All using Enterprise/Pro Class HDDs and SSDs at each tier

+ No Quibble Warranty

+ Significantly Easier Setup/PnP deployment

– Expensive

– Lack of flexibility in storage media (all Terabyte tiers have fixed HDD/SSDs)

Of al the names in this list of recommended Thunderbolt RAID solutions, LaCie is the one that the majority of Photo/Video editors will likely be familiar with – thanks to their incredibly popular Orange external drives. However, they do have a small but exceedingly high capacity range of RAID enabled Thunderbolt3 solutions too. The 2-bay solution, the ‘2big’, is a combined RAID solution and docking station, but when you start looking at the 6big and 12big, you REALLY start to see the brand stretch it’s muscles a bit. LaCie is a ‘Seagate’ company and unsurprisingly that means that they all arrive pre-populated with Seagate storage media. You CAN select the individual capacities (starting at 8TB and scaling up to 100s of Terabytes), but they also means that the initial price tag of these solutions when compared to unpopulated solutions from Terramaster and OWC, is CONSIDERABLY higher. It is worth highlighting that LaCie Thunderbolt RAID solutions DO run quieter than those more affordable solutions and the HDDs inside the larger enclosures are cheaper re-popualted that buying the same drives individually from an eSite, so you can see that the LaCie ‘big’ range is largely focused on bigger and more higher production buyers.

LaCie 2big 2-Bay, RAID 0/1, Pre-Populated

LaCie 6big 6-Bay, RAID 5/6, Pre-Populated

LaCie 12bit 12-Bay, RAID 5/6/10, Pre-Populated

8TB – $604

32TB – $1499

24TB – $2499

108TB – $6999

72TB – $5999

216TB – $15899


Sandisk / G-Technology / WD Pre-Populated RAID Enclosures

+ The best-looking chassis design of the bunch

+ All using Enterprise/Pro Class HDDs and SSDs at each tier

+ Despite Pre-populated Sale, they have a VERY wide range of storage options (capacity/media)

+ Quieter Ambient noise when in operation than most

+ Significantly Easier Setup/PnP deployment

– VERY Expensive

– Arrives Pre-Populated (all Terabyte tiers have fixed HDD/SSDs)

Western Digital has juggled its identity several times in the last decade or so when it comes to thunderbolt storage, releasing solutions under their own WD external drive name, the G-Technology brand and using their acquired SanDisk brand too. In 2022/2023, when it comes to Thunderbolt RAID 5/6 storage, they have largely consolidated all this under a single name – Sansdisk Professional G-RAID, with several system revisions inside that for different scales of user. Much like LaCie, their enclosures arrive pre-populated BUT the range of Hard Drives and SSDs that you can choose the system arrives populated with is considerably broader than LaCie. The larger 4/8-Bay enclosures are designed for portability (a big factor for video production/on-the-fly post production/remote shoots) and are incredibly rugged in their enclosure construction. They also somehow do this and still arrive as the lowest ambient noise-producing RAID box of all the ones listed today and are quite easy on the eye too. The larger bay pre-populated RAID  enclosures however DO use enterprise/pro class drive media (Western Digital Ultrastar / WD Red Pro) and although that means fantastic performance, it also means a noticeably higher price tag and even the larger G-RAID Shuttle ambient noise control cannot really cover the high sound level of these drives. Nonetheless, the Sandisk Professional G-RAID series is the most enterprise choice of the bunch and although expensive, is the option for the highest tier of video edtors.

SanDisk Professional G-RAID 2-Bay, RAID 0/1, Pre-Populated