While the importance of data backup is a well-known cliché for business users, many businesses would rather stick to existing, limited, overly-convoluted and – in some cases – outdated practices than introduce more modern backup solutions to their organisation.
Asustor AS-202TE NAS device
This 2-bay NAS device features a rich operating system that is the star of the show
- Good build quality
- Extensive functionality
- Up-to-date operating system and lots of available apps
- Night mode for LEDs didn't seem to work properly
- Our settings (or apps) configuration didn't allow the drives to go into standby
The 2-bay Asustor AS-202TE is a feature-packed NAS device, thanks mainly to an app environment that allows many different functions to be added, depending on your needs. It's well built, easy to use, and we think it's among the best NAS devices aimed at home users.
Price$ 295.00 (AUD)
The beauty of Asustor’s AS-202TE NAS device is in its operating system. It provides a desktop-like environment that allows you to accomplish things much in the same way you would if using a regular computer. In fact, you could use this network attached storage device even without a computer, just by logging in with your phone, or even connecting it to your TV and attaching input peripherals directly.
Physically, the Asustor AS-202TE is a sturdy NAS device with two 3.5in SATA drive bays that accommodate a capacity up to 8TB using two 4TB drives and no redundancy. You’ll want to use an array that duplicates data on both drives, though, just in case one of them fails. To this end, the device supports RAID 1, and this is the way our test unit arrived, using two 3TB WD Red hard drives (these are optimised for NAS devices) for a usable capacity of 2.73TB.
The two drives sit securely in caddies that slide in and out of the front of the enclosure with relative ease, and they simply clip into place once they are in. The front also has the power button, infrared, a one-touch button, a USB 3.0 port, and status lights that can be switched off by enabling a night mode in the operating system’s settings. The rear has an essential Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, another USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, and an analogue audio output. You can attach external USB drives to share them on the network, or to back up the content on the NAS.
There is one fan to keep the unit as cool as possible, and the unit as a whole, even when the drives are spinning up and down, doesn’t make too much noise. With the two WD Red drives installed, our unit consumed a steady 20W of electricity when it was serving data to our WD TV Live media streamer. However, we noticed that the NAS constantly consumed 20W, which meant that some part of our settings stopped the drives from going into standby mode. We couldn’t pinpoint the cause at the time of writing.
It’s the operating system that is most impressive about this unit, though, and it’s quite similar to the operating system that we have seen on Synology’s products over the years. The operating system is called ADM (Synology’s is DSM), and we tested with version 2.0.4.RBM1. It’s a regularly updated operating system, with Asustor mainly looking to add functionality and improve reliability, and the unit was rock solid during our prolonged test period.
Much like the Synology DSM environment, you can improve the functionality of Asustor’s ADM operating system by installing apps, and these include anything from Web server and database apps, down to more consumer-oriented apps such as BitTorrent clients and media servers. There are lots of apps to select from, and they can be viewed either by category, top choices, or latest additions.
We used the consumer-related functions of this NAS device for our tests, but there is nothing stopping you considering this device if you are after more advanced features for your business. Primarily, we used the Download centre app, Dropbox, BitTorrent, and Plex media server apps. These allow you to use the NAS as a download client. You’ll only need a device with a browser to log into the NAS to tell it to download files (you can even search for files directly within the Download centre), and then access them from any Web device as soon as they are done.
There is a File Explorer right on the NAS that allows you to easily download and upload files, and there is a remote Cloud service built-in to the NAS that enables you to access the entire NAS interface remotely. We used this feature with ease to access the NAS, which was in a remote location, from our office. All we had to do was enable the Cloud Connect feature from within the NAS’ Settings page, and create a Cloud ID for the MyAsustor service. It’s very easy to do, and once it’s done, the Web site keeps track of the location of the NAS device without you having to configure anything; as long as your router supports UPnP, all you have to do is check the EZ-Router page to make sure ports have been forwarded automatically, and note the URL that you created for your device and use that to log into it.
The neat thing is that you can unplug the NAS from one location, take it to another location, turn it on, and it will still be accessible over the Internet. Using this Cloud feature, you can basically see the entire NAS interface as if you were right there in its physical location, and can manage almost every aspect of it. For this reason, you will need to make sure you enable secure administrator login details.
For backups, the Asustor can be used in a variety of ways. External USB drives can be plugged in and scheduled to keep a copy of your data; backups can be conducted manually by pressing the button at the front of the case, which will transfer data based on what you have configured in the settings (either to or from a USB drive); or, you can use a Cloud-based service to keep the data of your NAS protected off-site (it supports Amazon S3 for this). You can also use the Asustor as a remote sync (rsync) device to replicate data from another rsync-capable NAS on your network. We used this feature without any problems to keep a 2-bay Synology DiskStation NAS device backed up on our network.
Dropbox can be synced to the NAS device so that you have a another local copy of whatever you share to the Cloud-based storage service, and the NAS can also be used to create a ‘personal Cloud’ with services such as ownCloud (there is an app for it).
One thing that we found the Asustor AS-202TE to be very useful for is a media server for devices such as Chromebooks. You can use the Plex Media Server app to see all of the media files stored on the NAS, and access them from anywhere on your local network through a Web browser. It’s a function that worked very well in our tests.
One of the features that wasn’t successful for us was the stand-alone media centre capability of the NAS. You have to install several apps for this NAS to work on its own as a computer basically, using a TV or monitor connected to its HDMI port, and input peripherals connected to its USB ports (you can use an app to control the pointer, but it didn’t have a text input function, so a keyboard was necessary for us). The processor inside the NAS is an Intel Atom with two cores and a speed of 1.2GHz, and it has 1GB of RAM. However, the main interface was sluggish, and content off the NAS didn’t play smoothly through the Plex Media Server app. We didn’t use XBMC, though we suspect this will perform better.
Overall, the Asustor AS-202TE is a very good 2-bay NAS device that provides a wonderful user experience thanks to a well laid out operating system interface and the ability to install plenty of useful add-in apps. It’s well worth considering for home use if you want something to serve media files or just to keep your files backed up, and can even be used in a small business setting, though, more bays might be better suited to such an environment. Speed through a Gigabit Ethernet switch to other Gigabit-connected computers should be close to 100 megabytes per second when reading large files off the NAS, with write speeds to the NAS being about half that.
There is plenty more to this NAS device than we have discussed here, including the ability to monitor compatible IP cameras, and many more functions that can be added through App Central, and the system is constantly being updated (there were a couple of updates during our two month test period). Phone apps for the Asustor include AiMaster, which can be used to monitor the NAS from a smartphone, even remotely if you have Cloud Connect configured, as well as manage downloads and backups.
While we reviewed the Asustor AS-202TE using two WD Red drives, the NAS device costs about $295 without disks (and about $350 in New Zealand). You will have to purchase the disks of your choice if you only buy the case. However, it can also be found pre-populated with hard disks. Prices vary depending on the capacity.
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