Terra Master F2-221 2-bay NAS review - an inexpensive solution for the home/SOHO
Terra Master is a relatively new brand in the market of data storage systems for home and small businesses. The company started its journey in 2014, and unlike most of its rivals, it did not focus only on NAS, but immediately offered models and DAS families with a Thunderbolt interface to cover the requirements of Apple equipment owners and video editing companies. Nevertheless, today we will talk about an entry-level home NAS, a 2-disk model F2-221 with two 1-Gigabit network connections and a 2-core Intel Celeron J3355 processor with a frequency of 2.0 GHz.
Such models are usually purchased for storing photo/video archives, saving backups from computers and smartphones, watching videos via Plex and DLNA, storing video surveillance recordings and simply as a file storage for everything that has accumulated at home or at the company. In such devices, the main value is the operating system: the user needs everything in the NAS, and that it can be easily configured with the mouse from the Web interface, so all manufacturers of such storage systems develop a single platform for the entire range of their products, which may differ in one direction or another depending on the tasks. Terra Master has the TOS operating system, which has recently been updated to version 5, and I will consider the NAS first of all, from the point of view of the firmware, but we will start, of course, with the hardware part.
TerraMaster F2-221 design
This model is designed to be installed on a desktop, next to a computer, so it is very compact (227x119x133 mm), and absolutely silent in operation: at low load, the system fan stops, and if you install SSD drives in the hard disk compartments, you will get a NAS without moving parts, in which only the light bulbs will blink. In this state, at room temperature, the processor heats up to about 35 degrees, and overheating of the device is not terrible. To reduce noise, air intake is carried out throughout the lower part of the housing, so there is no need to install a NAS on a fleecy carpet.
The case is made of aluminum in the form of a rectangular tube with rounded corners, indicators, a power button and compartments for 3.5/2.5-inch drives are installed on the front panel. On the reverse side there are traditional ports for connecting to interfaces and a fan. Attention is drawn to the HDMI port for connecting the device to the monitor. By default, the Terra Master F2-221 comes with 2 GB of RAM, and this volume is soldered on the motherboard. To increase the memory to a maximum of 6 GB, you will have to disassemble the case by unscrewing the 4 screws on the fan side, and then you will get access to the SO-DIMM slot. Only the TerraMaster's own DDR3L SO-DIMM 1600 MHz memory module with a capacity of 4 GB is listed in the compatibility list, but DDR3 and third-party modules are most likely suitable.
Interestingly, a USB flash drive installed inside the case is used to boot the operating system. Also here we pay attention to the huge radiator by the standards of the Celeron J3355, thanks to which work with the fan turned off is achieved. There are no M.2 slots for SSD.
The hard drive bays are plastic, and 3.5-inch HDDs can be installed without the use of tools. The 2.5-inch drives are secured with three screws, and in this case one of the latches on the sled will need to be removed. For vibration coupling, only 4 rubber pads are used, fixing the 3.5-inch HDD in the slide through the side holes in its housing.
The LED indicators on the front panel do not turn off, but they are very small and do not blind even in complete darkness.
In general, the Terra Master F2-221 design has neither any breakthrough solutions nor any shortcomings. Perhaps the main advantage is the possibility of absolutely silent operation and compactness, thanks to which, when using an SSD, you can install the NAS at least in the workplace, even right under the bed: it does not reproduce bright light, much less noise.
The device is supplied without an operating system, the first time you install it, you need to run the NAS search utility on the network (or open the NAS IP address by recognizing it in the router panel), then initialize the disks and install the OS, which is automatically downloaded from the manufacturer's website. When partitioning disks, two file systems are available to you: EXT4 and BTRFS, the first has earned the title of the most reliable FS in the world, and the second supports Copy On Write and can save space due to compression, stores millions of small files more economically and supports instant snapshots and has many other features.
During installation, you can specify your valid E-Mail address so that if you forget the administrative password to the NAS, the manufacturer can restore it to you.
The web interface strongly resembles that of Synology: a panel with system status and boot indicators is located on the right side, icons of installed applications appear on the desktop.
There is no separate interface for smartphones: when accessed from a mobile phone, the interface scales to the screen parameters, and in principle, you can configure something, but too small, so it is better to use a mobile application for this scenario.
It has a built-in file manager and allows you to backup photo albums to the NAS on a schedule. Monitoring can be carried out via SNMP, although it is not clear where to take the MIB.
Let's consider the basic settings of the device that should be made before the NAS is put into operation.
At the logical level, two TerraMaster F2-221 1-Gigabit network ports can be combined into a group to increase throughput and fault tolerance. LACP modes, XOR balancing, active/passive configuration and automatic balancing when connected to different switches are supported.
For the wireless network, third-party USB adapters on a chip (2x2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac, USB 3.0) are supported.
The NAS has a built-in VPN client with support for PPTP, L2TP/IPsec and OpenVPN. Similar protocols are supported by a VPN server installed as an application from the developer's repository. OpenVPN server has version 2.4.4, it makes sense to install a more recent server via Docker.
Access to a NAS with a gray IP address can be opened both through DDNS and through the Terra Master domain service by registering your name in the system for free. The first option is better to use if you want to connect to applications via open ports over the Internet, and the second - in case of an emergency, since here access is open only to the Web interface of the device.
The NAS has the necessary and sufficient means to keep your data safe and sound, but unfortunately not brought to perfection. Look here - for SSL access, you can import ready-made and create self-signed certificates, but the Let's Encrypt service is not supported. To protect against password brute force, there is an IP lock, but without adding whitelists. There is a point to enable protection against DoS attacks, but without any settings at all, and what it is and how it works is a mystery.
But the Firewall is good enough: you can create rules for individual IP addresses, ranges or subnets with an indication of the ports for which the restriction is implemented.
Built-in antivirus, free ClamAV is designed to protect your network from the spread of malware through network folders. You can configure scheduled scanning only for the entire NAS, and even then in our case it did not work, and the virus database update files were not updated.
As for the functions native to the NAS, namely, the service of network requests, the full order. The TOS5 operating system supports SMB/CIFS versions up to and including 3 with the ability to encrypt the network stream, NFS versions 3 and 4.1 are supported for external Linux applications, the AFP protocol is supported for older Apple devices, WebDAV is used for accessing files from the browser, as well as a good file manager of the built-in Web interface. An FTP server with secure sFTP connection support is implemented for iOS devices and IP cameras, and RSYNC protocol is implemented for third-party backup tools.
Among the standard NAS applications, qBittorrent (default password admin admin), Plex, NextCloud and Owncloud, a client for Yandex and Amazon are available.
TerraMaster has two applications for block access: iSCSI and iSCSI Pro, which are almost identical in appearance. Here, of course, everything is without frills, but the basic functionality is quite ready for use.
Data protection features
To protect your own information stored on the NAS, there is a function to launch snapshots on a schedule (it works when you select the BTRFS file system) and synchronize folders to a third-party Rsync server.
To backup the network infrastructure, the Centralized Backup package is used, which can backup computers and servers running Windows, file servers via SMB and Rsync, and Hyper-V virtual machines. Here, too, only the basic functionality, which does not have flexibility, but copes with its task.
Last but not least is Docker with two management interfaces: its own built-in and a Portainer. At the time of preparing the review, Docker had version 17.05 in the package, and in general, an IT enthusiast does not need anything else: almost all the services implemented on the NAS can be installed and configured in containers using Terra Master F2-221 simply as an inexpensive little cold host with RAID, FTP and RSync support.
In most cases, Docker can compensate for the lack of hardware virtualization.
In general, from the point of view of software, I did not expect a miracle from TerraMaster at the level of other manufacturers. Approaching such a device, I asked myself what I could deploy from the necessary services in Docker, and what I would give to the care of the device's operating system itself. The basic needs of home users (backup and sharing over the network) are covered by the existing packages in the developer's repository. Third-party services such as Plex, Nextcloud or qBittorrent are the same everywhere. There is no extended flexibility and deep settings in the packages of the TOS 5 operating system, and it is useless to compare it with the masters by this parameter, but for an undemanding user, what is there is quite enough.
During testing, I installed one 1 TB SSD GoodRAM CX400 in the TerraMaster F2-221 and used the BTRFS file system. The connection was carried out using the SMB 3.0 protocol in 4 threads.
The device introduces a completely insignificant delay in file operations at the level of 1 ms, which, in general, is a very good result for a home-level device and allows you to use the NAS even for storing working documents.
TerraMaster F2-221 may well be used as a host for storing and sharing files, including via Nextcloud/Owncloud, for backups, watching videos via Plex and for launching third-party services via Docker. Processor performance is sufficient, but it would not be superfluous to increase the memory capacity to 6 GB, especially since RAM modules are quite cheap today. Terra Master F2-221 is an inexpensive and silent solution that will suit novice users who are not sure whether they will use a NAS, or vice versa, trained IT specialists who will configure all services for themselves through Docker.
The disadvantages include the lack of a built-in video surveillance platform, outdated versions of software packages and the lack of advanced software settings.
Michael Degtjarev (aka LIKE OFF)