Before we can do testing, or use the NAS for that matter, we'll need to set it up. Get it on the network and initialize the disks, at the very least. There are a couple of ways to achieve this, I tried to hit each one of them, and had varying success with each. The first is through the Thecus IntelligentNAS software. This is a one point of management if you have multiple Thecus devices, and I think that is really where it stands out. It is much easier to manage multiple units from one central location. Starting this up will locate any Thecus NAS on the network, display the IP (which is defaulted to DHCP settings), and in our case ready to set up with a click.
As you can see, it is somewhat wizard-y, stepping you through different options to initialize the disks. I stumbled on the opportunity to configure the NAS through a browser because even after going through this process, it didn't seem to actually do anything. I would be met with a "Cannot access NAS" message that even after configuration was complete via browser, I still get every now and then. But, I at least had an IP and browsing to it to set the device up had much more success.
The web interface starts out very basic, but as you'll discover you have the opportunity to customize it and add a lot of features. On first access, you'll be walked through a similar wizard but a a few more options this time around.
Once everything is setup, you'll be taken to the main page of the NAS, again very not much is here by default. The "Shared Folder" was a little misleading to me, but given a little more thought for the most part what you store on a NAS is meant to be accessible to the network, so perhaps the name does make sense. While this folder doesn't appear if you browse to the NAS over Windows Explorer, folders within it do. So you'll create directories and put files here. You'll find that a few directories already exist, which are created by the system and are needed for certain operations. You can't delete them from the web interface, but you can turn them off so they do not show up as available folders over the network if you aren't using them. If you are familiar with Linux, you can enable SSH and gain a shell to delete them, but this is how I learned that the system needs them for certain operations. I wouldn't suggest doing so unless you really know what you're doing. But something positive to take from that story is that you can get a functional Linux shell, which allows much more in-depth customization, monitoring, management, etc if you have the knowledge to do so.
RAID management is pretty self-explanatory, this will provide a quick look at the status of your RAID and allow you to add or modify. There is also an option to add a global hot spare, so if a disk fails in any RAID it will take over. The four drive bays is perfect for a RAID 5 with global hot spare design. Note that we are talking a lot about RAID here, you can just use drives as a collection with no redundancy. We are using RAID as part of our testing so we'll be covering some features with it.
So what happens when the RAID degrades? It is very loud. You may have noticed the speaker built into the PCB in the previous section. I removed one of the drives manually from the chassis during operation, and this thing wailed. Likewise, the RAID Management application in the web interface reflected the status. Popping it back in, the RAID immediately began to rebuild itself.
All this was captured in the logs, too. Working in the IT security, logs are a huge part of my job, so I appreciated how accessible and verbose logging is with ThecusOS. You can view the log file at any time by clicking the '!' icon in the upper right hand corner, and you can even export them to an aggregate program or just for archiving.
Next to that log button in the web interface is a blink "OS" indicator, which is meant to get your attention about available updates. This is more than firmware updates, however. It will ist updates for any installed application, as well as the option to add on official applications that may not yet be installed. While this is a fine feature, it doesn't just blink until you visit it and then once a new update is available. I can only suspect that it blinks until you have added and upgraded everything available (a part of me wonders if it would even then continue to blink). It sounds like a petty thing, but again in my field I've trained myself to pay attention to available updates, and its hard to put this in the back of my mind. I did run through updating the OS to make sure nothing bricked afterward, and I can safely say that I managed to not break anything during that process.
Somewhat hinted at above, the N4560 can serve to be much more than a NAS. Remember those outputs, particularly the video and audio? You can hook peripherals up to this unit and use it for a pretty wide array of different functions. There are a few "official" applications, such as Plex media server or Dropbox, then there are third-party applications hosted from the Thecus website. You'll have to pay attention to the model, as certain applications are only designed for firmware running on certain models, and admittedly the N4560 is one of the models with a lesser selection, but there are still some cool options out there.
To add additional applications to the main screen, so your Shared Folder and RAID management aren't so lonely, you'll click on the Control Panel icon in the upper left hand corner of the web interface. Here you'll see a variety of management tools and applications, which you can launch from here or simply right click and add a shortcut to the main page. It would be hard to cover all of these features without appearing as a user manual, so suffice it to say there is a lot of depth to setting up profiles, permissions, shares, and other applications.
Let's cycle back to the IntelligentNAS software. Now that I had the device configured, it seemed much happier and allowed me in. You can easily see that this software uses the back-end as the web interface, as many features overlap. The main screen provides a quick look at the data on your NAS (as well as a flashback feature that pulls media from the device). This "home" tab provides additional pages to view some further statistics, recent files, and even some UI customizations to the software. The "download" tab provides the ability to uses torrents or pull a manual file, and the "manage & share" tab will provide you with a Windows Explorer-esque view of the file tree.
Finally, let's take a quick look at browsing to the device through Windows Explorer. The NAS should appear as a network device, and if we take a look at it we'll see the mentioned built in folder, plus any that you add manually. Again, the built in folders can be turned off if desired, but a neat one to keep around is the 'usbhdd', which is where a USB external drive will mount, allowing you to access it over the network. A perfect use for the USB 3.0 port.