ASUSTOR AS-604T NAS Server Features
As the volume of personal and business data continue to rise exponentially, the systems we use to store and manage it have become more complex. I started my long relationship with computers when program storage meant a shoebox full of punch cards. Now, a bare-bones PC starts off with almost a million files on it BEFORE you add your own data. I’m not going to tell you that computing is going to get any simpler, that’s an outright lie, but I can say that the tools we use to manage them are going to make it easier. ASUSTOR has introduced several new features with their new NAS line that makes it stand out from the crowd. We’ll look at the newest and most unique features first, and then cover some of the more common ones.
World’s first NAS with System Sleep Mode
Power consumption concerns get magnified for devices that are turned on 24/7. Most networking equipment falls into that category, and arguably, a NAS is a piece of networking equipment. I know for sure, that the ones I use (as opposed to the ones I test) are up and running all day, every day, just like the router and switch they’re connected to. The various PCs, tablets, media components, and portable devices that are on the network go on and off at various points in the day, but not the NAS. Here’s a representative sample of idle power consumption from some units I’ve tested: 33W, 51W, 8W, 13W, 7W, 22W. There are some low numbers mixed in there for sure, but nothing that can match the 1.4W spec of the ASUSTOR AS-604T when it’s in sleep mode. Combining the ultra low power sleep mode with the high processing power of the ATOM D2700 platform is like having your cake and eating it too.
A boundless variety of Apps
There’s no way to compare the number of apps for this platform in a way that makes sense. The landscape is constantly changing, and the quality of the apps is just as important as the quantity. ASUSTOR is just starting out in this market, against some long-established players. Right now, the top downloaded apps are: Download Center, Boxee, iTunes Server, UPnP Media Server, Surveillance Center, and Plex Media Server. With a total of 91 available apps, these six seem like the most mainstream, and their relative popularity makes sense.
Built-in HD media player(s)
For years, I’ve seen video connections on the rear panels of NAS units, and then been disappointed when I read in the manual that it was only for use in “Maintenance” mode, in most cases only accessible by factory technicians. Intel and a couple of forward-thinking NAS vendors have finally opened up the video port for use by the general user. The Intel D2700 Atom CPU in the ASUSTOR AS-604T, can actually support dual displays with its GMA 3650 integrated graphics processor running at 650 MHz, but this implementation only has one available port.
Users have a number of ways to stream multimedia (usually video content) directly from the ASUSTOR AS-604T. Boxee’s media center app is the de facto first choice as far as ASUSTOR is concerned. It can be controlled from your iOS or Android portable device, via the AiRemote function that is standard with the AS-604T, or just plug a keyboard into one of the USB ports on the NAS. Not everyone is in love with Boxee though, and there are other options that are gaining a lot of traction. Plex Media Server works quite well, as do iTunes Server and the generic UPnP Media Server. No matter what your preference is, there’s a way to get streaming video out of this NAS and into your HT rig.
Flexible 2-way backup solutions
2-way backup is not unique to ASUSTOR, but their emphasis on it is. In addition to using a NAS to back up data from workstations on the network, the AS-604T can use other devices as backup repositories for the data that’s stored on the NAS. It can be a manual process, partly automated using backup apps, or you can set up what I think is the pinnacle of backup solutions: Rsync. By continuously maintaining an exact duplicate of all the data on your NAS in another, physically separate environment, Rsync provides a very robust and convenient way to achieve peace of mind about the fate of your data. Find a buddy or a relative with a compatible NAS, and provide continuous data protection for each other, without the monthly fees to Carbonite, et. al. There are Cloud options as well; we’ll discuss them in a minute. The key issue I see here is that ASUSTOR is taking the lead on helping people realize that a single set of backups is not enough.
AES 256-bit folder based encryption
If you’ve followed our NAS coverage in the last few years, you will remember that we’ve tried using data encryption a couple of times and it has been found wanting. Not from a functional perspective – it works as well as it’s supposed to, but the performance hit is unbearable. ARM-based CPUs, Atom dual-cores, Core i3, nothing worked very well at all. An i5 or i7, with Intel’s AES-NI instruction set is the only hardware that can handle full-volume encryption. ASUSTOR took a unique approach, though. They reasoned that some people might be interested in encrypting only a portion of their data, if it could be done with very little performance penalty. Guess what, they were right. With the AS-604T, I can encrypt my tax data and other financial or personal data, and leave all my pictures and videos in the clear. ASUSTOR calls it Folder-Based Encryption, and it’s a real step forward in providing usable data security to the consumer level NAS users.
Anywhere access with Cloud ConnectTM
What do you get when you mix a Private Cloud with a Public Cloud? Answer: a Hybrid Cloud. So, I take my (private cloud) NAS and link it to a (public) cloud service, and voila, I have the best of both worlds. You have the security and control of a private cloud, and you have the world-wide access of the public cloud. ASUSTOR has set up a service called Cloud Connect, which is not to be confused with Google Cloud Connect that is being discontinued on April 30, 2013. At this stage in the evolution of the NAS market, a public cloud app is expected, so the AS-604T doesn’t score any extra points by including this service. On the other hand, they don’t lose any points by not having it, or offering a lame version that is painful to use. Cloud Connect meets all the normal, expected requirements for a modern NAS.
Network Recycle Bin
The Network Recycle Bin function allows the user to create a Recycle Bin for each logical volume. For instance, Volume 1 will have a Recycle Bin 1 created for it, and Volume 2 a Recycle Bin 2. Once a Recycle Bin has been created, it cannot be removed. Deleted files are moved to the Recycle Bin, letting you recover any accidentally deleted files, similar to how deleted files are handled on a standard desktop workstation. All files deleted via the following protocols are moved to the Recycle Bin: Windows File Service (CIFS/SAMBA), Apple Filing Protocol (AFP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), File Explorer.
USB 3.0 Connection
Once you’re used to Gigabit transfer speeds with your NAS, the thin trickle of data that passes through USB 2.0 becomes a painful experience. USB 3.0 comes to the rescue on the ASUSTOR AS-604T, with a max data rate that’s 10x faster than the previous USB standard. Theoretical throughput is up to 5Gb/s, but there aren’t any USB devices I know of that will actually provide that kind of speed. There are two USB 3.0 ports on the AS-604T; one is located on the front panel, and the other is on the rear panel. That’s a distinct improvement in usability, compared to some competing models that only have one SuperSpeed USB port.
Apple Time Machine support
Online RAID level migration & capacity expansion
Hot swappable design
The remaining top features for the AS-604T are all in the same category. They’re requirements for a modern NAS, and they need to be present and fully useable, not gimped versions. ASUSTOR delivers on all counts. Now that we’ve loooked at the most significant features of the ASUSTOR AS-604T, let’s look at the Hardware and Software specifications that provide the power and performance to make those features run.