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QNAP TS-459U-RP Turbo NAS Review

hardnrg    -   July 22, 2010
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Configuration:

When the initial configuration is complete, you can click a link which takes you to the WebUI of the NAS. The default view is a "flow" view that you can navigate with a mouse scroll-wheel. The icons flow horizontally with a smooth animation across the window, with the centre (largest) icon being active. This "flow" view becomes sluggish and stutters on low-powered machines, so it's a relief to see an old-fashioned "standard" view, with static icons.






















 

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Upon clicking any of the icons, you are prompted with a dialog box for a username and password.

 

At the initial Home view, you are presented with several wizards to help you set up users, shared folders, FTP, and scheduled backup. Below these, are links to the support, forum and Wiki pages at QNAP.com. A feature that took me by surprise is the news feed listing all the releases and updates of the firmware and utilities for the NAS. No need to search the QNAP site, it shows you right here! The Overview view is really just an alternate view of the entire tree navigation, using large icons to visualise each section rather than just text.

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When you click on one of the branches of the tree, the icon view is reduced to show only items in the current section. The first item of System Administration is General Settings, and you are presented with a tabbed navigation in the right pane, for further sub-sections within General Settings. In the first tab, you can rename the NAS, assign a different port, and configure SSL connection for higher security.

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The second tab lets you change the date and time. Here, you can set a scheduled interval for time synchronisation. The third tab lets you enable/disable automatic time adjustment for daylight savings time. You can either accept the default dates/times for when the clocks change during the year, or set your own custom time table.

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You can set a language to support characters/alphabets in filenames, for example, Greek, Chinese, Japanese. In the last tab, you can set a number of conditions that the NAS user passwords must meet, thus ensuring a strong password that cannot easily be guessed, even by brute-force.

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The next sub-section of System Administration is Network. In the first tab, you can set each network controller to operate independently, or use port trunking to use both ports together. Trunking can be used to provide a second connection that takes over if the first connection goes down (e.g. a cable gets severed or unplugged).

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If you have a managed switch that supports 802.3ad link aggregation (LACP), you can configure the NAS to use 802.3ad, which allows you to combine the bandwidth of each connection for faster data transmission. Basically, 2 Gbps instead of 1 Gbps.

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The next tab allows you to enable Dynamic DNS, so when the NAS detects a change in the external IP address, it will update the DDNS server accordingly. This is handy if your router doesn't support DDNS. The last tab lets you enable/disable IPv6.

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In Hardware, you can enable/disable the hard-reset switch at the back of the NAS. Hard disk standby mode lets you save power if the NAS is not used intensely. It's essentially a sleep mode just for the hard drives, but as the rest of the NAS hardly uses any power, it should provide a significant cut in power consumption. You can enable an audible alert if the free disk space is under a specified size. Ext4 supports write-caching, but the delayed writing/allocation can result in data loss in the event of power loss. Users with mission-critical data without a UPS strategy should probably disable ext4 write-caching. As the TS-459U-RP has redundant power supplies, you can enable or disable the redundant operation here. The buzzer (actually it's more of a "beeeeep" sound) in the NAS is fairly loud, and can quickly become incessant if you are nearby. This is obviously a good thing for important warnings, but a bad thing if the NAS makes a loud beeping sound like an alarm clock, around 4 a.m., and the NAS is within earshot of bedrooms. These beep alerts can happen for normal operations, such as a RAID array being initialised, so I just turned them off as the NAS is right next to me for the review. The last thing you can change on this page is the speed of the internal fans. The speed can be automatically controlled to run at low or high speeds, based on preset tipping points for the system, CPU, and HDD temperatures. You can set up speed control based on the system temperature, and also change the Fan Rotation Speed Settings to Manual, and choose Low, Medium or High speeds. Subjectively, Low is fairly quiet, Medium is a bit too loud to sit comfortably at 1 metre away, and High is the industrial-strength noise that you would expect from high performance server fans.

 

Moving on to Security, you can set whitelist (High) or blacklist (Medium) conditional connections, and unconditional (Low) connection. In the next tab, you can block IPs for repeated failed logins for a certain period of time: 5 mins, 30 mins, 1 hour, 1 day, forever. You can even upload an SSL certificate to allow a secured, encrypted connection to the NAS.

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The TS-459U-RP support notifications by email, informing you of important errors, warnings and system changes. In the first Notification tab, you can set up the SMTP settings to use the login details of an existing email account.

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You can also have notifications sent to your mobile phone (cell phone) via SMS text message. In this case, you would need an account with an online SMS service like Clickatel.

 

On the last tab in the Notification section, you can select whether to receive alert and warning message by email and/or SMS text message.

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To ensure the emails will be sent correctly, you can fire off a test email. The NAS confirms a sent email with a "Successful" bar at the top of the WebUI screen. At the top of the email message, you have the server name and IP, and the date/time of the alert.

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As you would guess, an error alert is something severe like a hard drive failing or being unplugged, whereas a warning alert is more along the lines of an informative message for a system status change.

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Under Power Management, you can reboot or power down the NAS. To power the NAS back on, you could either press the power button on the front, or enable the Wake on LAN setting to power the NAS up remotely over the network. In the event of a power failure, you can decide here whether the NAS remains off, turns back on, or resumes the power state it was in at the time of the power failure. The last section in Power Management lets you schedule turning the NAS on or off, and restarting the NAS. For the day, you have options of specific days of the week, daily, weekday (Monday to Friday) or weekend (Saturday and Sunday). The time for each scheduled event can be set to a specific minute during the day. In this way, you can build up fairly complex power schedules for the NAS to meet the required availability periods, and save power by shutting the NAS down when it would not be accessed (e.g. weekends in an office environment, weekday night-times in a domestic setup.

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The Network Recycle Bin section is fairly self-explanatory; you can enable or disable it, and delete all the files held in it. Normally, when a file is deleted from a network share with read/write access, the file is deleted and not placed in the local computer's Recycle Bin. This feature provides a fail-safe for accidentally deleting a file, and is therefore a handy feature, especially if inexperienced users have read/write access to a network share. When you enable the Recycle Bin, it takes a little while to activate; when you empty the Network Recycle Bin, it asks you to confirm file deletion, thus providing another failsafe level against data loss due to user error.

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When you have the NAS fully configured, or are about to perform a firmware upgrade, you should use the Backup System Settings section to save a settings file that you can later use to restore all the settings of the NAS. Most notably is the ability to restore user account settings, something that would be very difficult or laborious to do manually. There is no control over the filename of the backup, and it is simply called backupdata.bin. I think it would have made a bit more sense to append the date (YYMMDD) to the filename, both for unique naming purposes, and easy sorting of a number of different backup files. However, at least the filename lets you know the purpose of its contents.

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In System Logs, you can view the System Events that have occurred. This list of events can be filtered to show all events, information, warnings, and errors.

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In the System Connection Logs tab, you can enable logging of different types of connection and file access to the NAS. So, you can keep track of which users are connecting to the NAS, by which method of connection, and any resources that have been accessed.

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The On-line Users tab lets you view the same type of information as the System Connection Logs, but only lists users actively connected to the NAS. In the last tab, you can set up the logs to be saved remotely. This would be useful for scenarios where the TS-459U-RP is amongst many other servers that are centrally managed.

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The Firmware Upgrade page is very straightforward. You just browse to the (unzipped) firmware image, and click Update The System.

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Restoring the NAS to the default settings is often handy if you need to reconfigure the system extensively, and want to start from a clean slate rather than deleting users, groups, shared folders, etc.




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