Many NAS feature slow and ugly GUIs that offer very limited functionality. The N2100 is significantly better in this regard when compared to previously tested units, though it is a long way from perfect. The GUI itself, which loads up in an Internet browser looks terrible and at times seems to be quite slow. The way in which you can view your files in the N2100 GUI is very limited and there is really no way to customize anything in the GUI. Thankfully users do not need this to share and access files, as this can all be done through Windows Explorer.
Setting up user accounts and folders along with a range of other settings must be done via the administration menu of the N2100. When setting up and configuring the N2100 for the first time it is probably best to check many of the settings with the manual, as editing them can be confusing at first. There was nothing about the setup process I found too silly or difficult, and for the most part I was very impressed with how flexible the options were.
There is a setup wizard if you wish to use that, though I skipped it to see how difficult the setup would be without it. Needless to say it was not all that challenging. Once in the admin section, it is best to first configure the hard drive(s) using either RAID0, RAID1 or JDOB. Then it is simply a matter of choosing a stripe size and formatting the drives. Doing so on the two 500GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 drives took about 10 minutes.
Adding my own folders and files was easy, though uploading 500GB of files in one hit through Windows Explorer took what seemed like forever! Although this unit features a Gigabit LAN controller, we were never able to exceed 13MB/s when uploading to the N2100. I suspect the Intel processor is not powerful enough to keep up. This was a little disappointing and will make moving large amounts of data from the N2100 a very slow process. Normally an up and down transfer rate of 10MB/s would be more than enough for sharing files. However if you want to upgrade the two 500GB drives to say 750GB drives because they are full, moving the data off the N2100 and then back on will have your week cut out for you!
Installing a printer was fairly easy, though you will need to read the manual for this one. It is worth mentioning that the printer must support the IPP server protocol to be used with the N2100, as it uses an IPP-gateway. Since the Canon MP510 I used for testing did support the IPP protocol, it was simply a matter of plugging it and then installing the printer drivers on all the home computers and away we went. A similar process was carried out when setting up a WiFi USB card.
The N2100 has what Thecus call “service folders” which includes album, iTunes, usbcopy and usbhdd. The album folder is where users can upload and share their photos whereas the iTunes folder allows the N2100 to act as an iTunes server, where users can download/ upload music. The usbcopy feature is nice as it allows users to quickly dump all the data off a USB flash drive on the N2100 where they can later access it and share the files if they wish to do so. The usbhdd feature is a nice addition though I found it far too limited to be of any value.
Overall the setup procedure was fairly easy and given you are configuring an entire data sever, it was quite quick and painless. The N2100 admin GUI for browsing your own files is terrible in my opinion, terrible in the sense that it looks bloody ugly and it’s slow and clumsy to use. The good news is you don’t need to use it, Windows Explorer will do the trick just fine.
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