Buffalo’s TeraStation NVR Solid Despite Setup Setbacks

Is Buffalo America TeraStation TS5200DS NVR the best solution for your installation jobs? Security industry expert Robert D. Grossman answers in the latest SSI’s Bench Test.

Features
The chassis and internal components utilized in the T5200DS are marketed by Buffalo for standard NAS applications, and this is both the unit’s strength and downfall for the stated application. As a NAS box, it has been built for reliability and flexibility. It is this flexibility that, in our opinion, leads the unit pretty far off the mark.

For example, on the rear panel there are two RJ45 gigabit Ethernet LAN connections, four USB plugs (2 X USB 3.0 and 2 X USB 2.0), a port for connecting it to a UPS system, and a “boot” switch that can select either USB or HDD mode. Only one of the LAN ports is needed for security applications, none of the USB ports are needed, and if the boot switch hap-pens to be flipped the wrong way (an easy mistake to make), the unit will not boot up. The front panel power light will flash, the display will say “Welcome to TeraStation” and the unit will not function, as it has been placed in data recovery mode, to be booted from a USB drive, instead of the hard drives. There’s no explanation on the front panel display, and the only way you’d know about this would be if you happened to go to Buffalo’s Web site, download the 175-page manual, and look at the diagram and corresponding two-sentence explanation. If you search for “Boot” in the manual, you’ll come up with an explanation on page 150, but that’s hardly helpful to the beginner who was hoping for plug and play but accidentally hit the switch.

The UPS connection allows the T5200DS to be connected to a compatible UPS (APC and Omron are listed), allowing the unit to shut down in an orderly fashion after a preprogrammed amount of time. To the expert, this is a valuable feature, and they’d know to enter the unit’s IP address in their browser, go to the Management page, select UPS Sync, select Edit, and change the settings. The novice, however, is going to plug one end of the cable that came with the UPS into the port, plug the other end into the UPS, and consider it done. If the UPS batteries are ultimately depleted, they’ll be out of luck.

This theme continues throughout the features evaluation of the product. There are settings for virtually anything that can be imagined, and the software is very powerful and feature rich. An experienced IT person will make this box sing, but an inexperienced installer will likely get into trouble.

Setup

As a side note, our first attempt at testing the T5200DS was with the second most popular desktop operating system in the world, Windows XP. Our thought was that many smaller businesses would still be using that operating system, as it had roughly 17% market share as of October 2014, according to Web analytics firm Net Applications. As the Axis software wouldn’t run on XP we went to the third most popular OS, Windows 8.1.

Setup was somewhat hampered by the lack of documentation. I plugged in the NAS and cameras into the network switch, connected a computer, added an Internet connection, and my PC immediately added a computer named TS5200DS45A. So far,
so good, but I was pretty much out of instructions. I went to the Axis Web site, downloaded its software, got both cameras re-cording, routed them to the TS5200DS so they wouldn’t record on my PC’s hard drive, and verified that I was recording. Setup was complete, and I left everything on overnight to begin testing the following day.

Testing

The next day I played back some footage and was amazed at the quality of the images – great resolution and frame rates, and everything was working exactly as planned. I unplugged the Inter-net connection, shut down the computer, verified that I still had activity lights on the cameras and the T5200DS, and let things run for a second night.

When I got back to testing the next day, the T5200DS had completely locked up, with the network activity lights on the rear panel on steady, no longer flashing to show activity. I restarted the unit, tried to access it via a Web browser and discovered that at some point it had changed its IP address from 192.168.0.78 to 192.168.0.76. This meant that cameras had stopped recording to it and I couldn’t access it from the browser until I figured out the problem. I went into the settings and configured the unit to static IP so this wouldn’t happen again – another advanced setting that will likely be missed in the field – and restarted recording. Everything worked fine, so I shut the computer off again.

The following day I discovered that the cameras had stopped recording when I had shut the computer off and resumed when I booted it back up to look at them. Now, at this point I could have gone back through and checked software settings – I am sure I did something wrong, but that was the whole point of the test, wasn’t it? A simple plug-and-play setup with minimal documentation for an installer or end user who is not an IT expert.

About the Author

Contact:

Bob Grossman has held positions in all areas of the security industry — giving him plenty of opportunity to learn from his mistakes! Bob has authored articles for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION and other publications and has spoken at numerous industry events both internationally and in the United States. Currently the founder and president of R. Grossman and Associates, a consulting firm, he divides his time between project-based work for large integrated systems and product consulting for a variety of cutting-edge manufacturers. For more information, visit www.tech-answers.com.

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