The Thecus N299 is a networked-attached storage (NAS) device – an external hard disk that plugs into a spare network port. It’s thus available to all PCs on your network, which makes NAS boxes much more convenient than standard USB or FireWire external drives – Windows and Mac users can map folders on the N299 that look like any other drive on their PC.
The Thecus N299 is available in a range of storage capacities. You can get hold of a bare box for £106 in to which you can fit your own SATA II drives, or you can push the boat out and get a 2TB version for £576. We looked at the £293 1TB version.
The Thecus N299's nicely-styled chassis sports a pair of Gigabit ethernet ports plus a trio of USB ports. One is front-mounted and has a button nearby – plug in a memory stick, press the button and its contents are copied to the hard disk. You can’t use all three for storage purposes, however – one of the rear ports is dedicated to print serving or a wireless USB adaptor. And although the Thecus N299 uses SATA technology, it lacks an eSATA port, which would have been really handy.
Setting up the Thecus N299 is straightforward, although the Quick Installation Guide was a rather skimpy affair. Although the Thecus N299 has a web-based user interface (which lacks any online help), you must install a setup tool to locate it. Rather irritatingly, it required the .Net framework v1.0 to be installed, even though we already had v2.0 and 3.0 installed on our test PC.
Our 1TB unit had two 500GB Sata drives installed and, as this is a Raid device, you can treat them as a JBOD pair or configure them as Raid 0 or 1, which takes but a couple of mouse clicks to set up. Raid 0 is nippy but halves the reliability. Raid 1 mirrors one drive to the second, so you gain improved reliability at the cost of capacity. The Thecus N299 also has six indicator LEDs on the front but, for most of the time, these are either unlit or appear that way.
The Thecus N299 does a lot more than simple file serving. It can function as a print server and stream media, it can be used for FTP sharing and will even take care of timed backups and store files on its web server.