Thursday, December 30, 2010

An in depth look at running FreeNAS on an Acer EasyStore H340 - Part 3/3 - Speed Tests & Final Thoughts

Now that I have a browsable network resource, it was time to start copying some files.

Ran into problems

At this point I am excited that things were working.  I immediately started copying files to see what kinds of speeds I'd get.  I was pleased when I was able to upload 93 Mbps!  Then I realized I was only connecting at 10/100.  I broke out my gigabit switch and started the bandwidth tests all over.  This time I was having some serious issues.

I am using a Shuttle SN25P PC with an onboard nVidia NIC.  Since I've owned this thing, I have never been able to get gigabit to work properly.  To make a long story short, I finally got gigabit working properly (see my posting under TIPS).

Whenever I tried transferring over gigabit on the NAS, the transfer would immediately halt and the NIC went down.  The only way to get back online was to set the IP address locally through the console setup screen.

I rememebered reading about FreeNAS not having driver support for the Marvel NIC provided in the H340, but that was on older version of FreeNAS.  My version had the driver provided.  I started to think it was related to Samba and read many forums about configuring Samba for FreeNAS and in general.  I tried various configurations but did not come to a resolution.  I then tested my connection with the FTP service - same problem.  Thinking it was some sort of Windows to Unix issue, I fired up Ubuntu and had the same problem with both Samba and FTP.  On 10/100 the connection was fine, at 93 Mbps I was not complaining.  But I wanted gigabit speeds!

After getting frustrated with the situation, I broke down and bought a PCI-Express network card.  I picked up the Intel EXPI9301CTBLK gigabit card for $34 from newegg.  It had phenomenal reviews so I jumped on it.  I could not find any documentation anywhere about driver support with FreeNAS so I took a chance.

When I received the card, I connected it, booted up, configured the interface, and immediately began bandwidth testing.  The connection was not dropping off, but the speeds left a lot to be desired.  I was receiving about 40-45 Mbps.  What a joke!  I tinkered with the Samba configuration changing the buffers and AIO but could not find a perfect combination.  Then I thought about the connection issues I had with my nVidia NIC in my desktop.  When I was having issues, I had changed it to 100 Full Duplex instead of auto negotiate.  I was only connecting at 100Mbps!  I changed the setting and tested again.  This time, I was getting 100-200 Mbps.  Big improvement, but not a consistent speed and not as fast as I would have liked.  I changed some of the Samba settings and ultimately ended up using the defaults.  I had read a lot of posts about configuring Samba, how you have to tweak your buffers and AIO and disable Send File in order to get decent speeds.  With the default settings, I was able to upload a file from my desktop my H340 at 340Mbps on average!  At these speeds, I am totally pleased.

Speed Test Results

Once I had FreeNAS running and had a stable network connection, I wanted to perform some speed tests to see what kinds of speed I had.

I put together a collection of files to test the transfer speeds of various file sizes.  The file sizes are: 10MB, 20MB, 50MB, 75MB, 100MB, 200MB, 500MB, 750MB, and 1GB.

Have you heard of TeraCopy?  It is a really cool app that replaces the incorporated copy functionality in Windows.  I used the command line feature of TeraCopy to transfer the files from my server to PC and vice versa while monitoring the FreeNAS graph on the web interface and Netstat Live by AnalogX on my machine to get real-time results.  Since I was using command lines to perform the copies, I threw it all into a batch file and included echoes for times before and after the copy to get the times of the copy.

I only used Netstat Live and the FreeNAS graph to obtain speed results because I am not aware of an app that will copy a file (or files) for you and give you statistics on the transfer.  If you know of something, please let me know!  Otherwise, I'll probably have to write something myself.

Server to PC - DownloadingMax recorded throughput - 462 Mbps

Average speeds per file based upon Netstat Live

10MB - 84.0 Mbps   (0.9 sec)
20MB - 124.8 Mbps   (1.14 sec)
50MB - 215.1 Mbps   (2.31 sec)
75MB - 213 Mbps   (3.58 sec)
100MB - 206 Mbps   (4.55 sec)
200MB - 229 Mbps   (8.45 sec)
500MB - 220 Mbps   (20.47 sec)
750MB - 218 Mbps   (30.3 sec)
1GB - 215 Mbps   (31.22 sec)

Screenshot of FreeNAS graph depicting uploading speeds

PC to Server - Uploading
Max recorded throughput - 354 Mbps

Average speeds per file based upon Netstat Live

10MB - 81.4 Mbps  (0.66 sec)
20MB - 162.5 Mbps  (0.89 sec)
50MB - 304.1 Mbps  (2.44 sec)
75MB - 328.9 Mbps  (2.16 sec)
100MB - 320 Mbps  (2.6 sec)
200MB - 314 Mbps  (4.93 sec)
500MB - 324 Mbps  (11.79 sec)
750MB - 318 Mbps  (17.74 sec)
1GB - 315 Mbps  (24.75 sec)

Screenshot of FreeNAS graph depicting uploading speeds

Here is a graph of that shows the time it took (in seconds) to upload (write) and download (read) the files between the H340 and my PC.

The results were great.  I believe the bottleneck in my testing is the old hard drives I used.  I will be using newer/faster drives when this is fully implemented, so I will have to perform additional tests once it is complete.

 Final Thoughts

The Acer H340 was not my first choice when it came to a network storage solution.  In fact, it wasn't even on my list when I realized it did not have a video output and I would be forced to use the provided Windows Home Server.  But curiosity got the best of me and I was fortunate to find other enthusiasts who helped make sway my decision.

I think Acer has a great product for SOHO network storage solutions.  If you are not a savvy IT guy, the H340 still has the built-in Windows Home Server.  I am not a fan but I have a friend who is a die hard user and is always explaining the benefits and trying to convert me.  Now that Microsoft is removing the Drive Extender functionality from WHS, I will be sticking to FreeNAS or other FOSS.

For the price, the H340 is the cheapest out-of-the-box solution for network storage, and adding the cost of FreeNAS makes it that much more appealing.

Overall, I am pleased with FreeNAS and especially pleased that I was able to get it running on my H340.  My next big project may have to be on some kind of backup solution for my H340!  I could purchase another one and use rsync or backula (on FreeNAS) to backup my data, but where's the fun in that!

Part 1  Part 2


  1. If your referring to me, I'm not trying to convert you as much as make sure you make an informed decision. The way you worded it before and after purchase was that your plan was to put FREENAS on there which is awesome. I just wanted to make sure you checked it out and you had what you wanted before you were done with it. Anyway I'm glad all worked out for the best, pretty exciting adventure and overall very nice speeds. I might have to get with you on that. While I do like Windows Home Server, I eventually will have to transition away as Microsoft has dropped the Drive extender, making Windows Home Server practically windows with plugins. lol

  2. Hi, great guide. Does your H340 power off using FreeNAS?

    Everyone that tried FreeNAS on the 340 does not have this feature. The H340 halts and that's it. The soft power off method does not turn it off like it does, e.g., on WHS.

    FreeNAS is great, but this is actually a deal breaker.

  3. I was reading above and there seems to be an inconsistency between MBps and mbps which would make a big difference. Also, I would be interested to hear, but I haven't heard of any issue with FreeNAS turning off. Even if there is an issue, there will be many options soon. I have been doing this for a while storing media and streaming and such. (fan-made, non copywrited, and purchased media mind you, also a handfull of DVD's that I ripped and own.) There will be many options, storage and NAS products are coming out, hard drives are on supersale. Mini cases and mini itx boards are on the rise. Intel Atom and their competition the AMD Fusion processors will really change up the game. It's cheap and easy right now to build powerful network storage that's fast and reliable. By the way those fusion processors will be beast, integrated video capable of handling HD and they will be dual cores and low on power. Lastly, they will be pretty cheap as well.

    Very nice review by the way, I'm not sure if I had stated that in my first comment. I'm definitely interested to get everyone's take, so we can find the best way to use these great servers. (especially since I have 3 of them.) But, also if we are going to have large capacity NAS devices we need to think backup and I'm more than open to idea's for that as well.

  4. I got the same intel GB lan adapter from newegg, mine will not connect at 1000 either, just 100. Both of my other computers with on board GB lan's got 1Gb connection with no problems. Put on new drivers, tried setting manually to 1000 but then looses connection. Dont know why its so picky.

  5. @John - Thanks for your input with everything. You definitely educated me on WHS. Anything in my post that has any variation of mbps is megabits per second. I'll have to go back and edit my article, cause I noticed I was using MBps instead of Mbps.

    @David - The very first time I started using FreeNAS on my H340, I was able to get it to shutdown completely. I was excited because this was after I read the posts about it not working, and I thought maybe I got lucky. Well, it was that one time, because after that, it won't shut down. I don't know if this is the case with the new version of FreeNAS, and I won't know until it's gone RC Final. I was also considering designing something that connects to the USB port where I am housing my OS install and the power button. It would monitor for voltage. When it detects there is no more voltage, it would create a contact for 5 seconds (equivalent as holding down the power button) to shut the machine off. Unfortunately, I'm not too great with circuitry but I know someone who is that may want to help.

    @Bob - I was able to get my Intel gigabit NIC to connect at 1Gbps with my Acer H340. Are you using a linux/unix based OS or Windows?

  6. @David - If you ever read this, the latest version of FreeNAS (version 8) has no trouble shutting the Acer H340 down. In testing, I've performed shutdowns from both the web interface as well as power button on the server multiple times and it worked every time!

  7. Just wondering what 'new' version of FreeNAS you installed? I don't want to have to order a second NIC to get this going. I can't seem to find any posts that confirm FreeNAS 8 is working nicely with the Marval NIC in the A340 or not.

  8. Hi Adam, I came back again to this site (Google), so I am very pleased to know that freenas can do that now. Of course, thank you for letting us all (me, at least) know.

    The Internet is truly an amazing place.

  9. I'm curious about the video pinout.
    I see the pinout table here:
    I'm using a VGA ribbon cable which has 12 wires/terminators (each end). The disconnected VGA pins are 4, 9 and 10. The pinout table shows 13 connections, one of them being pin 9 to header pin 25 @ +5V.
    That is confusing enough to my simple mind but when I go here:
    I see the connector housing wired but with a 15 wire ribbon on the second to last post on that page. Is there any way I could trouble you for a simple diagram showing which pin numbers of the VGA attach to which pin numbers of the header on the board? I am at my wit's end with this thing. Thanks.

    1. First off I am terribly sorry it took me this long to reply!

      @billbo72 - I know it's been 5 months, but in case you needed it, I threw this together. I included a mockup of the 26-pin housing how it relates to the H340 board and identified some pins. I also included a pin view for a 15-pin VGA from the wire side, and a chart of the connections from the VGA connector to the housing. I kept the "Ribbon" column in case you have an-already-ribboned-VGA adapter, and it is the same as mine. The pins on the ribbon do not match directly with those on the VGA piece FYI. Hope this helps you, or maybe someone else.

    2. @adam, your diagram seems no longer available

    3. I think Google changed something. Here is another link:

  10. Adam, how did you change the Intel NIC to 1GB? In FreeNas? I have the same set-up and the same problem with slow speeds. I got eh Acer for $50 and want to get it screaming. Thanks in advance

    1. @ScottyB - If this is even relevant any longer... Are you using the onboard NIC? Or did you install another NIC? It's been so long since I have made any changes to the configs, I don't remember if I had to make any changes at all. A quick look around and I'm not finding anything on the web interface that lets you adjust the speeds. I believe it's auto by default. Under advanced, I ran the ifconfig command, here is the output, it looks like it auto negotiated 1000MB. Under the Status | Interfaces it shows gig full.

      Media 1000baseTX

      $ ifconfig
      em0: flags=8843 metric 0 mtu 1500
      ether xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx
      inet 192.168.1.x netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast
      media: Ethernet autoselect (1000baseTX )
      status: active