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This will be an overview of the N2560 and also a little bit of practical advice for people that have a computer with almost zero disk space remaining, and no clue what to do about it!
Let’s start with the Thecus N2560 network attached storage (NAS) that we were sent to try out.
The N2560 is a relatively small (when compared with the Synology 1512+) NAS device that holds two 3.5″ SATA disk drives, and sits quietly (20db) in the corner of your home office serving your images, document, media – whatever. When idle, the little guy only uses 9W of power and 14W under load, so it’s also reasonably electricity efficient.
Let’s look at what a NAS is if you have never used one, or considered using one. Lets say you have a wireless (or non-wireless) router in your home that you use to connect to the internet and that router has a spare network port (the rectangular looking one) Well, in very basic terms, you connect the N2560 to that spare port and with a little configuration, you’re able to access the drive space from your home network without being physically attached to the NAS itself. With the Thecus, and many other brands, you can also use their configuration service to set up your NAS to allow you to connect from outside the house, on the go.
The Thecus is a multi-award winning device and has shown me great performance with 2GB of memory and the 1.6Ghz Intel Atom processor, and while I tried to run a small Lightroom catalogue, raw image library on the N2560. While it was a bit slow across my network (wired, 1Gb cat6 network via an Apple Airport Extreme ) it was useable for smaller Lightroom libraries, and adds a load of flexibility, too. With the T On The Go, iOS app (there are Android versions of Thecus apps, too, rejoice!) you can upload (you can auto upload photos you take with your iPhone, you can also turn it off and ask it to only upload via Wifi etc – well thought out!) download, manage, stream media etc. (audio types will like the Thecus’ ability to playback FLAC audio files).
There’s really not a lot to say about the device aside from it can be a bit tricky to configure if it’s your first time – I had a handful of IP Address issues (What’s an IP Address? They’re the things inside your network that tell other things where everything is, basically – kinda like digital street numbers) Once configured though, it’s not skipped a beat and I’ve been running it alongside my beautiful direct connected Promise R8 and my primary Synology NAS for just over a month.
The Thecus N2560 performs really well, with good speeds for a network connected device at this price point, and I have no complaints with it. If you’re interested, you can read all of the tech specs on the website and learn all you need to know about the N2560 but I thought I’d take this in a slightly different direction and talk about some of the things you can do with a NAS in a photographic environment.
So you’re at that point where your computer is almost full up with your data, there are multiple paths you can go down to sort this out, but let’s focus on two – direct connected external disk drives and NAS. But first, a couple of things about your computer being FULL!
Some people might say “my computer is out of memory!” There are two things they could be talking about: (1) HD space (hard drive or hard disk, both are acceptable) is where the stuff you load onto your computer, like programs, music, photos etc go to live, or (2) Memory or RAM on the other hand is the stuff that your programs all load into and run.
An analogy if you will.Disk space are the seats in your car – when they’re full, you need a trailer or a bus (external disk or NAS). Memory is like the engine in your car, it makes the car run and you can upgrade it to make your car go faster if you need to. (Mmmm – turbo!) – If you’re still confused, ask questions in the comments, I don’t bite!
With a traditional external disk drive, you can plug it into your computer, load things onto it and download things from it. In most cases this is the quickest way to backup, aside from having a disk physically in your computer, directly connected to your computer’s brain – so to speak. There are multiple ways you can connect drives these days, too, just to add a splash of confusion to your choices – USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt being a few of the ways. They have different benefits and speeds.
So, why would you buy an NAS? (and sure, with some external drives you can do these things, too)
Here’s a scenario where my NAS came into its own recently – I was showing a client some portraits for the set of images I’d taken. They were the images I’d chosen that worked for what she wanted. We came to the end of the viewing which was via my iPad in her house, and she asked if there was another specific photograph that she had in mind from the shoot – turns out there was. As I’d put the entire unedited folder into the “working directory” on my NAS, I connected to the internet via my iPhone hotspot and browsed the NAS to show her the set of images that I’d not chosen. We found her photograph and everyone was happy!
The one thing that the NAS is not is a 100% foolproof backup – you must remember this. Sure, the Thecus is a two-drive unit and depending on how you set up those two drives (raid 0, 1 or JBod, I’ve talked about this before – not this time), you do get some redundancy, but always have multiple copies of important stuff – you don’t know the pain of losing a backup until you’ve lost client work that you can’t get back, or worse, family photos that mean a lot and are irreplaceable. If i’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – backup people!
It’s really not! You can see below the open door on the front of the little N2560, it takes two disks which are very easy to put in – you put the little slider bits on the sides of your disks and they simply pop straight in. The drives I’m using at the moment in all of my NAS devices are the WD Red NASware drives – I’m aware that all disks are either dead or dying from their first spin up (as my old boss used to say) and that any drive can and will completely fail when you need it the most, but so far I’ve had no problems with these disks. (I also use the WD My Passport Pro Thunderbolt external, all good there, too) With the drives in, you power her up after connecting your network cable (supplied) and follow the prompts basically. I mentioned I had a little trouble, and coming back from that trouble was slightly trickier than other devices (Synology, I’m looking at you) I’ve configured previously with slightly better graphical interfaces and directions. Once your config is complete, you’re set to use your Thecus as a local disk folder, media server, personal cloud, photo server etc.
You can see above the little blue USB port I mentioned in the points above. You can plug a USB 3 disk (also USB2 and 1 backward compatible) into the device and use the one-touch backup to take the content from that USB drive into the Thecus NAS, so if you are out shooting and backing up to an external USB drive, you can plug it into your NAS when you get home and with a button press, the data copies across – handy.
In conclusion, I’d say NAS isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a well priced, entry level NAS to introduce into your digital workflow, this little Thecus N2560 would be a decent option. I’ve opted to give the NAS 4.5 stars because in my experience, the operating system could be a little easier to use – but then, maybe it’s just me!
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