QNAP TS-459U-RP Turbo NAS Review
Reviewed by: hardnrg
Reviewed on: July 22, 2010
The QNAP acronym stands for "Quality Network Appliance Provider", and although QNAP Systems, Inc. is a relatively new company (starting out in 2004), it aims to become the world leader for Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Network Video Recorder (NVR) solutions. The NAS systems are grouped under two product lines, one aimed at the Small-to-Medium Business (SMB) and Corporate sectors, and the other aimed at the Small Office / Home Office (SOHO) and Home markets. CCTV surveillance systems often use standalone systems that can only record to a CD-R/DVD±R. With a Network Video Recorder, you use IP cameras and can monitor the cameras and recordings remotely. QNAP also offers a network multimedia player that can connect to your TV and stereo system. So, you can see that the company covers several areas of networking, and caters for a wide spectrum of usage, from the more serious business side of things, to the more fun entertainment area.
In this review, I'll be taking a look at the QNAP TS-459U-RP Turbo NAS, hereafter referred as TS-459U-RP. This system is a 4-drive NAS server, aimed at the SMB/Corporate sector (although it could quite easily be used in a SOHO/Home setup). The system does not come with hard drives, so I will be investigating the features the NAS has on offer, to see if the price is justified, and how suitable it is for its target market.
As this NAS is designed for use in 19" server racking, it was no surprise to see it arrive in a plain cardboard box rather than an eye-catching shiny, colourful retail box. Inside the box, plastic foam inserts suspend the NAS securely, and two boxes hold the accompanying hardware and software.
The smaller of the two boxes has a quick installation guide, a CD-ROM with the manuals and software, some literature about QNAP NAS products, two ethernet cables, a power cord, and also the rack mount handles and ears.
Taped to the top of this box are several bags for the hard drive screws, rack mount handle/ears screws, and two keys for the lockable caddies.
The larger of the two boxes holds the telescopic sliding rails for rack mount installation.
On to the NAS unit itself, and the enclosure is 1U high, and 19.65"/499mm deep. I was quite surprised at how heavy it was, given it's diminutive size compared to my 4U and 5U rack mount PCs.
Looking at each side of the front of the NAS, the Intel Atom sticker, 1xUSB, and the first individual caddy lock can be seen at the left, while all the LEDs, power and USB one-touch-copy buttons are on the right.
Round at the back, you'll find an impressive array of ports: VGA, 2x ethernet, 4x USB, 2x eSATA, as well as the familiar IEC C14 power inlet. The two removable devices to the right of all the ports are the 150W hot-swappable redundant PSUs.
A single 150W PSU can power the entire unit with all four bays populated with hard drives. So why would you need more than one? Having a second PSU allows the unit to continue to operate in the event of a PSU failure. The QNAP TS-459U comes in two versions, the SP (single PSU) and the RP (redundant PSUs), so you could always get the SP and decide whether or not to add a second PSU at a later date. If your data is irreplaceable (or mission critical), having redundant PSUs is one of the fail safes you should be using.
Each PSU has two round LEDs: the green one lights up if the PSU is running correctly, and the red one if it isn't. The square red button is to stop the audible alarm triggered by a PSU failure.
The knurled thumb-screw and swing-up handle allow the PSUs to be removed and installed without tools.
Spinning the PSU around, a golden finger edge connector reveals how the PSU can be inserted and removed without cables. These industrial PSUs are branded as iEi, and are manufactured by ICP Electronics.
Each PSU has a 40mm Sunon fan that can blow 7.7 CFM at 21 dB(A) when running at full speed.
To satisfy your curiosity (and mine), I opened up a PSU to take a look inside. You can see a sensible heatsink/airflow design and all high-quality components such as electrolytic capacitors by Nippon Chemi-con and ICs by Power Integrations.
The TS-459U-RP is not meant to be opened, as it does not require internal user maintenance, and therefore has a "warranty void if removed" sticker on the side of the chassis. As this is a review, I opened up the NAS to take a look inside, so that you can see the internal hardware.
The chassis allows a very conventional layout of hardware, with the hard drives at the front, ventilation airflow fans in the middle, power PCB and PSUs at the rear left, and a mini ITX motherboard at the rear right.
As this is a 1U unit, it's only physically possible to fit 40mm fans in this NAS, however these fans provide plenty of ventilation, drawing air through the caddy vents at the front, and blowing to the rear, with the PSU fans exhausting the warm air. ADDA specialise in forced air cooling, and this particular fan can push 12.13 CFM @ 9000 rpm, at a noise level of 38.8 dB(A). So, while far from silent at top speed, the NAS cooling is handled with reassuringly high performance fans from a specialist manufacturer.
Each drive bay has hot-swap SATA data/power connectors attached to the chassis. The SATA data cables are sleeved and run to individual headers on the motherboard. The RAID is therefore powered by the onboard Intel ICH9R chipset, rather than a dedicated hardware RAID card/chipset.
If you take a look at the silk-screen on the motherboard, you can see that it appears to be the same board as one of its bigger brothers, the TS-859 Pro.
The motherboard has a single DDR2 SODIMM slot, populated by a 1GB stick of Data Specialties PC2-6400 CL5 Samsung-based RAM.
Behind each RJ45 port, you can see an IC chip to handle the LAN. These chips are Intel 82574 controllers, the same class as the chips used in the server-class Intel Pro/1000 NICs, highly regarded as the best performers for LAN communication.
Returning to the back, out of the available ports, the power and ethernet sockets are the only ones that need to be connected. The mains cable and two ethernet cables come supplied, the remaining USB/eSATA/VGA ports are basically convenient and useful connections that you can make use of later.
Unless you order the NAS with drives already installed, you'll have to install the hard drives yourself. The caddy trays have a plastic front which is merely a cover, as both the tray and door are metal. The outer part of the hinge sticks out and locates inside the chassis, levering the tray into place as the door is closed.
The bottom of the tray has four holes for 3.5" drives, and three holes for 2.5" drives. These holes line up with the screw holes on the underside of a hard drive.
Simply place the tray on a drive and use the supplied screws to secure the drive to the tray.
Then you slide the populated tray back into the NAS, and close the door, which takes the effort out of making the drive mate with the SATA back plane, due to the lever action. Once in, just rinse and repeat for the remaining drives. Well, don't actually rinse anything... just repeat. Forget about the rinsing.
With the NAS populated with hard drives, you'll need to connect it to a network to actually use it. As two ethernet cables are supplied, you can go ahead and connect both of them to a switch or router.
When you press the power button on the front of the NAS, the encircled 'i' LED lights up green (rather than red) to say the NAS is running ok, the individual drive LEDs flash in a pattern/sequence as the drives spin up and the system boots, and then the network LED lights up as the NAS initialises connections to the network.
Even though the NAS does not require software to operate, it is supplied with a CD-ROM that has electronic versions of the Quick Installation Guide and manuals, and software utilities that simplify and enrich the TS-459U-RP's functionality.
The Quick Installation Guide is pretty much exactly what I've shown on the previous page of this review, and is also the same as the hard copy that is one of the unit's included accessories. The guide reminds you that you'll need a computer, network connection, hard drive(s), and a screwdriver, in order to carry out the installation.
In many scenarios, domestic or commercial/industrial, it's often more convenient to have all the documentation available electronically, thereby eliminating the need for a library of hard copy manuals etc. It's nice to see the package contents listed on the CD this way, so if you lose track of the hard copy documentation at a later date, it doesn't matter.
So, the following instructional steps are the same as the hard copy, but I like how they are decent quality colour photos. You can clearly see what the components and directions are.
Once the hardware stage of the initial setup is complete, QNAP recommends installing the Finder utility. This takes a lot of the guesswork and effort out of determining the IP of the NAS.
Upon launching the Finder utility, it scans the network for QNAP NAS servers on the network. If it finds an unconfigured QNAP NAS, it will ask you if you want to run the Quick Setup Wizard.
Again, this is not necessary, you could set up the NAS manually, but as the Wizard makes light work of the initial setup, it makes sense to go ahead with the easy option.
In this Quick Configuration, it outlines the upcoming steps, and prompts you to enter a network name for the server. The default name is automatically created using the last six hexadecimal digits of the primary MAC address, so you can be assured that it would be unique in a complex network. I went ahead and chose something easier to remember: TS459URP
The next steps are to enter an admin password, and configure the time for the NAS. As well as being able to set the current time, date, and time zone, you can opt whether to synchronise the time to an Internet time server, or to your computer.
The default network configuration is automatic setup via DHCP. I prefer to use static IP addresses on a network, especially for hard-wired devices, and entered the IP addresses for NAS, router, and external DNS server. The NAS has only a few essential services enabled by default, so you can activate any additional services at this point.
With two hard drives installed, the RAID configuration defaults to RAID 1; for 3 or 4 drives it defaults to RAID 5. With two disks, you also have the option to run them as single disks, or as a JBOD array. If you have 3 or 4 drives, you would also have the option of setting up a RAID 6 array.
The options for the internal hard drives' file system are ext3 and ext4. Ext3 is more proven and stable, while ext4 offers more performance and more flexibility. I chose ext4. The file system can also be encrypted; I opted to forgo data encryption for the purposes of performance testing in this review.
The final page presents a summary of the settings chosen, and when you proceed, it warns you that the hard drives will be cleared of any existing data.
Everything so far could be done in a matter of minutes. When you see this window, it's a good time to take a break, or go work on something else for a while, as it does take a while to initialise the hard disks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Firmware Upgrade page is very straightforward. You just browse to the (unzipped) firmware image, and click Update The System.
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.
The Disk Management section lets you check the hard drives, configure them as RAID arrays, and set up and manage iSCSI volumes. In the Volume Management sub-section, you have several wizards at your disposal, that allow you to create disk volumes on the installed hard drives. Below this, you can see details of the hard drives installed in the NAS, including a basic SMART diagnostic state. At the bottom of the page, the disk volumes are listed, along with essential information.
I'm going to skip over the RAID Management section at this point, and come back to it later in the review (Testing: Features), as I can show you the RAID operations available by way of several example scenarios.
The Summary tab of the HDD SMART section gives a brief overview of each hard drive's health status. You can find specific technical information in the next tab, such as serial numbers and firmware versions of each hard drive. Detailed SMART statistics can be found in the third tab.
You have the option of running a fast test or a more thorough test for each hard drive. The Rapid Test was indeed rapid, has a progress percentage, and upon completion, it returns the verdict on the same page.
The Complete Test is much more extensive, and approximated a testing duration of over 4 hours for a 1.5 TB hard drive.
In the last tab of the SMART area, you can configure an alarm to be triggered by the temperature of a hard drive. Also, you can automate a schedule of SMART tests, with an interval of between 1 and 6 days.
If you opted to use file encryption on your disk volume(s), you would manage the encryption keys here.
iSCSI is used in clustering and virtualised environments. In order to get started with iSCSI, you first have to enable the iSCSI Target Service.
Once the service is active, switching to the Target Management tab prompts you to run a wizard to set up an iSCSI LUN and/or iSCSI target. The default choice is to create both, and map the newly created LUN to the new iSCSI target.
As you step through the wizard, you can enter name, alias, and authentication credentials. For the LUN you can choose whether to dynamically allocate disk space to the LUN as required (thin-provising), or to pre-allocate a fixed capacity. Thin-provisioning therefore allows you to expand LUN capacity in the future.
The penultimate screen of the wizard lists a summary of all the settings chosen. At the end of the wizard, you receive a confirmation of completion, and are directed back to the Target Management and Advanced ACL tabs.
In the iSCSI Target List, you can see the newly created iSCSI target. Clicking the + symbol just to the left of the target expands a tree of mapped LUNs. You'll see the LUN being processed as it is mapped to the target, and become enabled when processing has completed.
In the last tab of iSCSI, you can set up LUN Masking, which is similar to having different access rights for different user groups. The access rights can be read-only, read-write, and deny access (invisible). If an initiator is not assigned to a LUN masking policy, the access rights are taken from the default policy.
The Virtual Disk section lets you connect the TS-459U-RP to up to 8 other iSCSI targets, and use each target as a disk volume on the NAS. Being able to offer access to remote storage is one of the ways the capacity of the NAS can be expanded to beyond the internal hard drives.
So, with the system and disks configured, the next step is to set up a number of users for the NAS. In this way, you can restrict and allow access to certain folders, as well as defining different levels of read/write permissions for each user or user group. Other benefits are being able to set up a disk quota per user, and being able to have a clearer picture when viewing the system access/connection logs.
The process of setting up a new user is simplified by yet another wizard. After choosing a user name and password, and seeing the quota settings disabled by default, you can choose which user group the new user belongs to.
The default is to set up a user without a personal folder, but you can create one in the wizard and have it assigned to the new user.
The access privileges for each user are inherited from the user groups to which they belong, but you can also override the access rights to each folder by defining one or more user-specific privileges.
The final two pages of the user creation wizard show a summary of the chosen settings, and confirmation of successful user account creation.
If you connect to the NAS anonymously (i.e. without logging on as a user), you will be denied access to the shared folders. The folders appear visible, but you will not be able to see or access their contents.
The exception to this is the Public folder, which can be accessed anonymously.
If you change the logon from anonymous to a valid user, you gain access to all the folders defined for that user (including those inherited from the user's user group).
Creating individual accounts for many users could quickly become laborious, and QNAP provides a handy wizard to generate multiple users. The user names are generated by a prefix and an incremented number. So, in this example, the first user name is user01, second is user02, and so on up until user16. As you can start at any number, you could continue at a later time, starting at user17.
The last choice is whether or not to set up private folders for each user. If you choose "no", the wizard skips to the end, confirming multiple user account creation.
The newly generated users appear individually in the list, so you can go ahead and change per-user settings if necessary.
Important settings that you may want to edit for each user are the password, disk quota, user group, and access rights.
The next section in Access Rights Management is User Groups. This allows you to create different groups that each have a list of users, and a common set of access privileges which are inherited by its members. Rather than editing each user one by one, to assign them to a group, you can select the users for each user group.
Creating a user group is very simple, you only have to decide its name, and select users as group members. The wizard ends with confirmation of user group creation.
Here, I have edited the group access privileges to read only for most folders, to prevent any modification or deletion. The Network Recycle Bin folder is granted Read/Write access to allow future usage of the NAS's recycle bin, and the Pro folder is denied access, so that my professional files cannot be viewed, changed or deleted by this user group.
The NAS has several default folders that are created when the disk volume is made: Download, Multimedia, Network Recycle Bin 1*, Public, Recordings, USB, Web. These default folders cannot be deleted or renamed. This Share Folders tab gives you an at-a-glance view of the size of each folder, and the number of files and folders they contain. * successive disk volumes would have incrementally named recycle bin folders, e.g. Network Recycle Bin 2, etc.
For each folder, you can reassign it to a different disk volume, choose its visibility, enable oplocks (keep files updated correctly when opened by multiple users), choose the path and comment, and toggle write-only access over FTP. You can set the access rights for users, as well as choosing the access right for anonymous (guest) users. The last two controls for each folder allow you to define for access rights over NFS (e.g. Unix) and WebDav (edit/manage files over the Internet).
Folder Aggregation allows you to create a shared folder on the NAS that can contain other network shares on other computers and servers. These Portal Folders act as a parent folder for its member shared folders.
Once created, you can define a number of remote folders on other hosts to be available within the portal folder.
Each folder is then visible and accessible as if you connected directly to the remote shared folder. This greatly simplifies networks with shared folders on several hosts, as you can have a central point of connection on the NAS rather than creating mapped network drives for each remotely shared folder on the network.
The last tab in Access Right Management lets you enable a quota with a system-wide size. When enabled, you can then define individual quota sizes for each user.
Network Services allows you to enable and configure the different methods of access to the QNAP NAS. In the first tab in the Microsoft Networking section, you can choose whether the NAS belongs to a workgroup (suitable for home or simple networks), or a domain (for more complex or enterprise-level networks). The Advanced Options tab has options for name resolution and authentication.
The next two sections allow you to enable support for Apple Networking and NFS Service (e.g. Unix).
The TS-459U-RP is designed for remote access and has a section for setting up FTP Service. This can either be a standard or secure connection (SSL/TLS encrypted). Remote management of the NAS can be achieved over Telnet, SSH, and SNMP.
This is where we start to see that the NAS offers features beyond straightforward network storage. The web server is designed to support PHP as well as standard HTML and greatly simplifies setting up a Website or web file server. Once enabled, you can access the web server from the login page, or by entering the server IP in a web browser. Of course, if you have set up Dynamic DNS, you could alternatively enter the URL for the NAS.
When the disk volume was created, it adds an index.php to the Web folder. So, when you access the NAS's web server, it loads this default page. You are shown two methods of getting files to the web server, either by using mapped network drives, or uploading via FTP. Each method is clearly described in several illustrated steps.
If you create PHP pages and place them in the web server folder, they will work without the need for any further configuration. Here is a simple test page I created to check PHP support is functioning correctly.
The Virtual Host feature lets you set up several websites on the NAS, where each Website has its own folder.
The last section in Network Services allows you to enable discovery services for different protocols, so that the NAS can automatically be found and shown.
The Applications section marks a departure from settings to usage. The applications included within the NAS provide file management, a media centre, BitTorrent downloading, IP camera CCTV, iTunes and other media serving, and a growing number of add-on applications (QPKG), all through a browser interface.
Starting with the Web File Manager, you essentially only have the option to enable/disable it, and choose whether or not to show it on the login page.
Upon clicking the icon at the login page, you are presented with a login dialog box.
The file manager window is well laid out, with a folder tree pane at the top left, a details pane for the currently selected file or folder, and a file listing pane to the right. There is a toolbar above the file list, including a search function, and right-clicking on a file reveals operations that can be applied to it. Notably, you can extract files from archives, and mount ISO images to shared folders, as well as standard file operations. You can change the permissions on a per-file basis, including execute as well as read and write access.
A NAS is an ideal storage device for multimedia files, and the TS-459U-RP makes it easy to view these files without the need for extra software. Again, you can enable the Multimedia Station and display it at the login screen.
At first, the Media Center does not show any files, as it is in anonymous login mode, and therefore only shows public folders. You have to first click on the Control Panel at the lower left of the window, and create a new user. The user list is separate to the regular user list on the NAS. Logging in as a Multimedia Station user reveals the available folders.
When you reach a folder containing supported video files, they will be overlaid with a conversion icon. You can click the icon on a video to initiate a conversion to Flash Video (FLV) format. During the transcoding process, the video will have an animated progress circle over it to show it is being processed. At the end of the conversion, the new FLV video file appears with an overlaid play icon.
A media player view opens up when you click on the newly created FLV file. Sadly, there is no full-screen option available, but you can scrub over the playback progress bar to skip to any point in the video, as well as play, pause, stop, and change the volume. I should mention that I got pretty annoyed when using the Multimedia Station as the back button on a web browser (one of the thumb buttons on my mouse) causes the WebUI to go back to the login screen rather than the previous view of the Multimedia Station, so I had to navigate back to the folder I was previously in, due to my instinctive use of the back button.
If you switch from Thumbnails to Details view, you get the options to open, rename, delete and download each file. If there are sub-folders listed, you can open, rename and delete them.
Not all formats are supported, so some folders will not show all the files within it. In this example, there is supposed to be an Ogg Media (OGM) file. You therefore cannot view or transcode it.
The next application really took me by surprise. The Download Station lets you manage BitTorrent and FTP/HTTP downloads on the NAS without the need for a computer. I really wouldn't have guessed a business NAS would have support for BitTorrent, but with Linux distros growing ever larger you can quickly see how instructing the NAS to download a torrent to itself could prove very useful for an IT/network admin on the move. Once again, in the WebUI you can enable it and make it visible on the login page.
The Download Station initially shows the Run List, which displays the torrent currently being downloaded. In Set Config, you can set the maximum number of simultaneous downloads, set maximum download and upload rates, the BitTorrent port range, UPnP NAT port forwarding, protocol encryption, and a daily download schedule (with one or two time slots per day). Clicking on Add New FTP/HTTP Task pops a window up, asking you for the source URL, optional username/password for FTP/HTTP server, and destination folder on the NAS (only top level folders). Clicking on Add New BT Task causes a window to pop up, prompting you to browse to a torrent file (which you should have already downloaded).
A what file? A torrent file. You can find torrent files for legally free software, music and videos at sites like clearbits.net. You save the torrent file to your computer, and then you can load this into a BitTorrent program so that it can download the file package of the torrent. In this example, I'm downloading a collection of MP3 files.
You can pause a torrent while it is still downloading; this places the torrent in the Pause List. Resuming the torrent at a later time returns it to the Run List. Finally, when the torrent is complete, it is placed in the Finish List.
The Surveillance Station further expands the use of the NAS to include CCTV surveillance using IP cameras on the network. Unsurprisingly, you only have the option to enable/disable it and show/hide it at the login screen.
All the WebUIs so far had been accessible through Firefox and Chrome, so I was a little shocked to see the error message stating that only IE 6 or higher is supported for the Live View. I even checked to see if it worked through Safari, and it doesn't. I guess it's really quite common for any business workstation or server to run Internet Explorer, but with many laptops and home computers running Mac OS and Linux variants, I really saw this browser requirement as an unfathomable limitation.
So, switching to IE, I could load up the Live View. If you have IP cameras available, you can view them here. If a camera has motorised zoom, pan, focus, etc., you can control each camera to change what the camera is looking at. The cameras, up to a maximum of 4, can be viewed one at a time, or simultaneously, in a selection of window viewing modes.
You would of course have to set the cameras up before they are available to view. In the Camera Settings tab, you can select the camera make and model from a list of supported cameras, assign it a name, and the IP or WAN IP of the camera, along with its port and applicable user name and password.
The Recording Settings tab lets you choose the resolution, frame rate, and compression (quality) level for each camera. In Schedule Settings, you can choose whether to record continuously, or record when motion is detected, over a weekly schedule that can be broken down to individual hours. The last tab under Settings is Advanced Settings and provides some automatic maintenance of the recordings. You could set up a rolling 10-day recording archive, or have the recordings over-written when the storage space is running low. A pretty cool feature here is that you can have the recorded file being from a number of seconds before an event, so that you could see the actions leading up to an intrusion, for example.
The need for an IE browser is revealed with an embedded Windows Media Player window in the Playback tab. I really think an alternative file format and player could be chosen to eliminate this browser restriction. In any case, the recorded videos can be played and downloaded at this screen. The final tab, Log, displays a list of the Surveillance Station events.
An application clearly intended for the home market is the iTunes Service. This lets machines running iTunes access the songs in the multimedia folder. You could therefore have a centralised iTunes library instead of a per-machine song library, eliminating duplicate songs across your computers. The Smart Playlist feature allows you to set up rule-based playlists, e.g. Album Title contains "techno", or, Artist is not "Westlife". These quick playlists then appear under the NAS in iTunes. I do not have a Mac and am not familiar with iTunes, so I could not test this feature.
So we've had multimedia serving on PCs through browsers and iTunes, how about other devices? Yep, QNAP have it covered here with the slightly less exciting looking, and oddly named UPnP Media Server, called TwonkyMedia. The initial page of this media browser is very small, which allows you to access it by devices with low-resolution screens, such as mobile phones and gaming devices.
The media browser itself is a no-frills file/folder listing, although the music library has options for selecting by artist, genre, rating, etc. If your music library doesn't have correct ID3 tagging, you'll end up with a bit of a mess when viewing the songs.
In the Settings page, you can view the stats under Server Status. Moving to Basic Setup, you can change the interface language and thankfully change the server name to something more meaningful than "TwonkyMedia". Here you can change the navigation tree to suit different sized libraries and personal preference. In the Sharing section, you can add another folder, and limit the types of multimedia file made available on the server. You can also configure the server to automatically share the media on a removable drive connected to the NAS.
In the Media Receivers section of Advanced Setup, you are presented with a list of devices detected on the network. For each device, you can define it as one of the supported media playback devices if the server didn't automatically detect the make/model of the device. Also, you can define a per-device navigation tree viewing mode.
The Network, Transcoding and Maintenance sections let you manage the background operations of the media server.
Returning to the Website functionality of the NAS, we have a section here to set up a MySQL Server as either the database server for the web server of the NAS, or as a database server for remote sites over the Internet. You can then manage the MySQL database through phpMyAdmin.
In case the list of applications so far isn't quite enough, you can download further add-on packages (QPKG). This is an ever-growing list of packages: since taking the screen shot, 9 additional packages have been added to the list!
These package improve and give extra functionality for web server usage, media serving, and even fun stuff like audio streaming for Internet radio.
Further information on each package, including how to configure 3rd party applications to work with each package, is available on the QNAP forums. Here we can see how to configure the powerful Native Instruments Traktor DJ Studio with the Icestation package. This would allow you to very quickly host your own live Internet radio show with continuously mixed music! Did I expect that from a rack mount NAS? I certainly did not, and was pleased to see that QNAP does not limit their NAS applications to a preconceived target market.
Once you have downloaded the relevant package file, you can browse to and install it, and then it appears in the QPKG Plugins list, where you can enable/disable and remove it.
Are you still with me? You trooper! You'll be relieved to hear that the remaining pages of configuration are much shorter, as each associated section in the WebUI of the NAS is much smaller. The first of these small sections is Backup, wherein you can configure a backup to an external storage device.
As well as initiating a backup operation manually, you can choose to have the backup run on a predefined schedule, or whenever the external storage device is connected. The backup mode can be set up to Copy the data over, or Synchronise the data to, the external device (forces over-writes, and deletes extraneous files on the external drive).
Backing up to an External Drive sounds like a convenient feature, but the options just described are still somewhat complicated for a straightforward copy/synchronise operation. The USB One Touch Copy function allow you to initiate a backup, to the NAS from a USB drive plugged in at the front, by pressing the One Touch Copy button on the front of the NAS. This means that you would not need to use a computer to initiate a backup of a USB drive.
You can also configure the button to backup files from the NAS to the external drive.
For more serious or regular backups, you would want to create a backup at a remote location. This could either be a remote server of the same NAS series, or the online backup service provided by Amazon.
The last section in Backup is Time Machine, and allows Mac computers to make backups to the NAS. You can enable Time Machine support here, create a password, and reserve disk space for the Time Machine backups.
I will show the Time Machine functionality from the Mac OS perspective later in this review (Testing: Features), so for now, just understand that a Time Machine backup from Mac OSX has taken place, and the resulting backup appears in the Manage Backup list.
In addition to external storage, the TS-459U-RP supports USB printers and UPS devices. You can view and configure each of these in the External Device section. For storage devices, you can view the make, model, connection type, total/free capacity, file system, and current availability. Additionally, you can format the device, even as HFS+, which could come in handy for Mac machines. If you want to remove the device safely, there is a Remove Device function to make sure no data transfers take place during removal. The listing for USB Printers is rather less exciting, as it only lists the network names for each printer connected to the NAS, and gives you option to clear the printing spool data.
Connecting to a printer connected to the NAS is the same as connecting to a network printer: you select the printer listed under the NAS, connect to it, and provide the drivers for the printer.
As well as standard UPS-triggered system shutdowns, the NAS can actually be set up to initiate a shutdown of other NAS servers on the same network when power loss is detected on one of the UPS devices.
Okay, okay, it's finally the last section of the WebUI, System Status. Under System Information, you can see the name and firmware version of the NAS, current Ethernet status, and other hardware information including CPU usage, memory usage, and temperatures of the CPU, system, and individual hard drives. System Service lists the services of the NAS, with a green circle for services that are enabled, and a grey circle for those that are disabled. Not much else is shown here apart from the ports of the most important services.
Resource Monitor is much like Task Manager in Windows, and shows continually updated historical graphs of CPU Usage and Memory Usage. You also get a fancy pie chart showing the relative size of each folder on the NAS. I'm not sure why "Others" shows as -119385750.60 KB (~114 GB), but otherwise the chart is correct (this has since been fixed in the firmware v3.3 official release). Bandwidth Transfer shows you the data transfer usage over the course of the last 20 hours, and finally, the Process tab lists the currently running processes on the NAS, with associated percentage of CPU usage.
As well as the handy QNAP Finder utility, there are two other software applications provided by QNAP: QGet and Netbak Replicator. QGet is basically the same as the download manager in the WebUI, Download Station, whereas Netbak Replicator provides additional functionality by being able to schedule backups to and from a PC, rather than another server or external storage device.
When you first launch QGet, you are prompted to add a server either automatically, or manually by IP address or name. You can then provide a user name and password to access the NAS from the program.
With Download Station, you had to save the torrent file first, and then browse to it and start a BitTorrent download. QGet makes this more of a one-click solution as it associates .torrent files with itself, so when you click a torrent link in the browser, it opens it up within the application, without the intermediate save/open step. This is a much more efficient way of launching torrents when you have more than a few to download.
Otherwise, the controls appear to be the same as Download Station. The advantage seems to be that you could add multiple QNAP NAS servers to QGet, and manage downloads on each server from one application.
So, you end up with completed torrents in the Finish List, in the same way as Download Station. The annoying thing is you cannot choose the download destination folder for Download Station or QGet; it automatically generates the download path to be:
So, you end up with a fairly useless extra folder level, e.g.
"\\TS459URP\Downloads\the_meaty_mcmeat_show_-_meaty_mcmeat_2_back_2_da_hood\The Meaty McMeat Show - Meaty McMeat 2 Back 2 Da Hood"
A small square window hovers separately from QGet, and shows a download progress meter, as well as letting you add download tasks and changing the configuration. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with the QGet program as it was lacking a lot of basic features available in other free BitTorrent software, such as µTorrent, which lets you choose download locations, as well as move completed torrents to different locations, while being able to continue seeding.
The other additional utility is Netbak Replicator. When you launch it, it asks you for a shared folder on the selected NAS, to use as a backup destination and source.
After providing a valid login, you can choose local folders and files to be included in a backup.
By default, the program replicates the source path in the destination folder.
You can filter out unwanted files by listing various wildcards in the File Filter.
A schedule backup can be configured, and you can opt against the source path prefix in the advanced options.
You can choose whether or not to preserve the original path when a backup restore operation takes place. The only options for Restore are concerned with what to do when errors occur, or if a file already exists. Overall, while Netbak Replicator appears to be quite functional, it looks like it was made for Windows 95, and the cramped interface made it difficult to navigate the folder trees. The program also causes a splash screen when Windows loads the desktop. This also irked me, so all in all, I would probably use another backup application with more features and a better interface. Nevertheless, it's nice that QNAP provides this software for free, as backup software is often something you would have to pay for.
|CPU||Intel® Atom™ Processor D510 1.66GHz (Dual-Core)|
|DRAM||1GB DDRII RAM|
|Flash Memory||512MB DOM|
2.5/ 3.5" SATA I/II HDD x4
(The system is shipped without HDD)
|HDD Tray||4 x Hot-swappable and lockable tray|
|LAN Port||2 x Gigabit (Intel 82574) RJ-45 Ethernet port|
|LED Indicators||Status, LAN, USB, HDD 1, HDD 2, HDD 3, HDD 4|
5 x USB 2.0 port (Front: 1; Back: 4)
Support USB printer, pen drive, USB hub, and USB UPS etc.
|eSATA||2 x eSATA port (Back)|
|Buttons||System: Power button, USB One-Touch-Backup Button, Reset button|
|Alarm Buzzer||System warning|
|Form Factor||1U rackmount|
44(H) x 439(W) x 499(D) mm
1.73(H) x 16.97(W) x 19.65(D) inch
Net weight: 7.63 kg/ 16.82 lb
Gross weight: 12.1 kg/ 26.68 lb
|Power Consumption (W)||
Sleep mode: 40W
In Operation: 62W
Power-off (in WOL mode): 3W
(with 4 x 500GB HDD installed)
|Power Supply||Input: 100-240 Vac~, 50-60Hz, 2A, Output: 150W|
|VGA||Reserved VGA interface for maintenance|
|Fan||3 x cooling fan (4 cm, 12V DC; internal )|
|Operating System||Embedded Linux|
|Supported Operating System||
Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, Vista (32-/ 64-bit), Windows 7 (32-/ 64-bit), Server 2003/ 2008
Apple Mac OS X
Linux & Unix
Internal HDD: EXT3, EXT4
External HDD: EXT3, EXT4, NTFS, FAT32
TCP/IP (IPv4 & IPv6: Dual Stack)
Dual Gigabit NICs with Jumbo Frame
Multi-IP Setting, Port Trunking/ NIC Teaming (Modes: Balance-rr, Active Backup, Balance XOR, Broadcast, IEEE 802.3ad/ Link Aggregation, Balance-tld and Balance-ltd)
DHCP Client, DHCP Server
Protocols: CIFS/ SMB, AFP(3.1), NFS, FTP, HTTP, HTTPS, Telnet, SSH, iSCSI and SNMP
Network Service Discovery (UPnP, Bonjour)
|Network File Sharing||CIFS/ SMB (plus DFS support), AFP, NFS, FTP, WebDAV|
USB One Touch Backup (Import/ Export)
Apple Time Machine Support
Block-level Remote Replication
- Works as both an Rsync Server & Client
- Supports Encrypted Replication between QNAP NAS Servers
|QNAP NAS servers||
Data Backup to External Storage Device
Data Backup to Cloud Storage (Amazon S3)
Security IP Filter
Network Access Protection with Auto-blocking
FTP with SSL/ TLS (explicit)
Encrypted Remote Replication (Rsync over SSH)
Importable SSL Certificate
Instant Alert E-mail and SMS
Single Disk, JBOD, RAID 0/ 1/ 5/ 6/ 5+hot spare
Online RAID Capacity Expansion
Online RAID Level Migration
Bad Block Scan
Max. iSCSI Target: 256 *
Multi-LUNs per Target
Supports LUN Mapping & LUN Masking
Supports SPC-3 Persistent Reservation
Virtual Disk Drive (via iSCSI Initiator)
- Max. Virtual Disk Drives: 8
- Stack Chaining Master
|Server Virtualization & Clustering||
Supports VMware vSphere (ESX/ ESXi 4.0 and above)
Supports Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V & Failover Clustering
Wake on LAN
Scheduled Power on/ off (max. 15 settings)
Automatic Power on after Power Recovery
|Access Right Management||
Max. User Accounts: 4,096
Max. Groups: 512
Max. Share Folders: 512
Batch Creating Users
Import User List
User Quota Management
AJAX-based User Interface
HTTP/ HTTPS Connections
Alert Notification (Email & SMS)
Smart Fan Control
SNMP (v2 & v3)
UPS Support with SNMP Management (USB)
Network Recycle Bin for CIFS/ SMB and AFP
Comprehensive Logs (Events & Connections)
Real-time Online User List
Backup and Restore System Settings
- MLDonkey (eMule)
- SSOTS (Squeezebox Server)
- XDove (Mail Server)
- Optware IPKG
- Java Runtime Environment
- And more
|Supported Web Browsers||
Internet Explorer 7 & 8 or Later
Firefox 3 or Later
Safari 3 & 4 or Later
|Multilingual Support||Chinese (Traditional & Simplified), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish|
* The maximum number of concurrent connections to the iSCSI targets supported by the NAS varies depending on your network infrastructure and the application performance. Too many concurrent connections may slow down the performance of the NAS.
- File Sharing across Windows, Mac OS and Linux/ Unix Platforms
- Protocols: CIFS/ SMB, AFP(3.1), NFS, FTP, HTTP, HTTPS
- QNAP Web File Manager
- FTP over SSL/ TLS (explicit)
- Max. Concurrent Connections: 256
- FXP Supported
- Passive FTP Port Range Control
- FTP Bandwidth & Connection Control
- Unicode Support
- HTTP/ HTTPS Connections
- Supports WebDAV Connection
- Importable SSL Certificate
- Built-in MySQL Server
- Web-based Management via phpMyAdmin (QPKG)
- Remote Replication Server (over Rsync)
- Apple Time Machine Support
- QNAP Client Backup Application: NetBak
- 3rd Party Backup Software Support: Acronis True Image, CA Brightstor, ARCserve Backup, EMC Retrospect, Symantec Backup Exec, LaCie Silverkeeper
- Network Printer Sharing (max: 3, USB)
- Audio and Video Sharing
- Smart Playlist for iTunes Client (Windows & Mac OS)
UPnP Media Server
- Built-in TwonkyMedia Server (DLNA 1.5 Certified)
- Real-time & Background Photo Transcoding
- Supports UPnP/ DLNA Media Players
- Game Console: PlayStation 3, PSP and Xbox 360
- Digital Media Adapter/ Player
- Mobile Device (e.g. iPhone/ iPod Touch with UPnP/ DLNA app)
- Supported Formats
- Video: ASF, FLV, F1V, F4V, MP4
- Audio: MP3, WAV
- Picture: BMP, GIF, JPG, PNG
- PC-less BitTorrent/ FTP/ HTTP Download (Up to 500 tasks)
- BitTorrent Download
- Supports TCP/ UDP Tracker Protocol
- Scheduled Download
- Configurable Port Range
- Bandwidth Control
- UPnP NAT Port Forwarding
- HTTP/ FTP Download
- Configurable Saving Directory
- Bulk Download with Wildcard Setting
- RapidShare Download Support
- QNAP Download Management Software: QGet
- For Both Windows & Mac OS
- Control the Download Tasks on Multiple QNAP NAS over LAN or WAN
- Supports 4 IP cameras (not included) for network surveillance
All information courtesy of QNAP @ http://www.qnap.com/pro_detail_hardware.asp?p_id=152 & http://www.qnap.com/pro_detail_software.asp?p_id=152
Although I have long since migrated away from Windows XP, I could not defeat the write-caching that is built into Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. I was therefore getting erroneous results during testing to the order of thousands of MB/s for certain stages of each benchmark, as some of the tests that write to the NAS were apparently caching to RAM first. I tried to limit the RAM available to the OS, and observed that the tests with impossible results fell dramatically to more believable and realistic numbers, but there was still no way to tell if OS caching was skewing the results. So, I went ahead and tried Windows XP Professional SP3, as it is not as enthusiastic about caching everything to RAM, and the erroneous results disappeared.
The next notable choices I made were for the networking side of things. Instead of using the supplied Cat-5e Ethernet patch cables, I opted to use Cat-6 cables. At first, I started testing using the two onboard Marvell 88E8056 Gigabit Ethernet controllers, but after failing to get throughput of more than 1 Gbps in LACP mode, I decided to use a dual port Gigabit Ethernet server-class NIC by Intel. The performance was marginally better, but still did not break the 1 Gbps barrier. For a more motherboard-independent result, I carried out the testing using the dual port Intel NIC instead of the onboard Marvell controllers.
As this is the first NAS review on the i7 test platform, there are no comparison NAS devices, and so the performance of the TS-459U-RP itself will be shown, with a comparative look on the performance of the different RAID modes available for four drives.
- Processor: Intel Core i7 920 @ 150x20 3GHz
- Motherboard: Asus P6T Deluxe V2
- Memory: 3x2GB Corsair XMS3 PC3-10666 9-9-9-24 1333 MHz
- Video Card: BFG GTX260
- Video Card: XFX GTX260
- Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling 750 Silencer
- Hard Drive: 4x Hitachi T7K500 250GB SATA2 (Highpoint RAID-10)
- LAN Controller: Intel Pro/1000 PT Dual Port (Intel 82571)
- Ethernet Cable: 2x 6' Category 6
- OS: Windows XP Professional SP3
- NAS: QNAP TS-459U-RP (Firmware 3.3.0 Build 0512T)
- SiSoft Sandra 2010
- Intel NAS Performance Toolkit 1.7.1
SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful.
Higher is better
In each of these RAID configurations, all four drives are being used. While JBOD is not strictly true RAID, it does serve a purpose to give you an idea of the performance of the NAS when all four drives are configured as a single disk volume without striping. I was quite amazed to see an Atom-powered NAS achieve a rate of nearly 61 MB/s, as I wasn't expecting such high performance from a low-powered unit. RAID-0 naturally held the crown in this test, achieving a rate of 67 MB/s. I was actually more surprised to see that running the NAS in RAID-5 and RAID-6 modes did not hurt performance that much, just 18-19% lower than the performance of RAID-0, and ~5-7 MB/s lower than JBOD. I really think that with the current capacities of hard drives at 1.5 TB+, most users would choose the safety of RAID 5 or 6 to have added peace of mind, rather than opting for the highest performance in RAID-0, or highest capacity in JBOD.
Lower is better
The access time results had me scratching my head for a while, and I reran the tests several times to make sure there were no anomalies. The first peculiarity was that RAID-0 had a 20% higher latency, at 19.6 ms, than JBOD, which is still fairly respectable. But then RAID-5 achieved the best access time at just 15 ms, with RAID-6 trailing just behind. I think this is the most significant aspect of this test, that the TS-459U-RP has better access time performance in either RAID 5 or 6 modes, than when running in RAID-0 configuration.
The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit is a set of tools used to test and analyze file systems and enable direct comparison of the performance levels of different network attached storage devices. It utilizes a set of tests based on real world applications such as HD video playback and record, office productivity, photo album manipulation and file and directory copying. The toolkit uses a set of traces based on these applications and mimics the file system traffic generated and records the system response. In our evaluation, the toolkit was run in batch mode which runs the series of tests five times in succession and the median throughput value used to report the results. The hard drives were reconfigured, and both the TS-459U-RP and test system were rebooted before each test was run.
HD Video Playback
The HD Video Playback series of tests involve streaming a 720p HD video file using Windows Media Player and 256 kB reads. The tests play either 1, 2 or 4 files simultaneously using different percentages of sequential reads (99.5% for the single file, 18.1% for the 2x HD Video Playback and 9.6% for the 4x HD Video Playback).
Higher is better
2x HD Playback
Higher is better
4x HD Playback
Higher is better
There is a slight performance penalty for running four drives in RAID (0, 5, or 6) vs JBOD, probably just due to the processing overhead of RAID. However, the difference is only 5-9 MB/s less, and more importantly, RAID-0 and RAID-5 essentially give the same performance, while RAID-6 has a negligible performance hit. I was surprised to see that there was consistent performance between each test, so the TS-459U-RP delivered consistent data transfer whether it was serving 1, 2, or 4 files at once.
HD Video Record
This test writes a single 720p HD video file to the NAS device employing 99.9% sequential 256 kB writes.
Higher is better
As this is a write test, it usually batters the performance of RAID configurations, due to the overhead of write operations. But, not here! I really expected that as the TS-459U-RP has an Intel ICH9R RAID controller, it would fall to its knees in the write tests, but it barely batted an eyelid, and continued to deliver solid performance even in RAID-6 configuration.
HD Playback and Record
The HD Video Playback and Record test combines the two previous tests and reads and writes a HD 720p video file simultaneously.
Higher is better
When asking more from the TS-459U-RP, in this case both reading and writing at the same time, it actually performed better than when only testing either reads or writes. This indicates that the NAS is capable of heavy load, and the previous tests didn't present enough of a challenge. The trend for RAID configurations to perform worse than JBOD continues, with RAID-6 incurring a 21% drop in performance compared to JBOD. It should be pointed out that the lowest rate here of 54.8 MB/s is higher than any of the results for the plain read tests, and bodes well for the TS-459U-RP's performance in multi-user environments.
This test simulates content creation on the NAS device such as might occur when rendering a video. There are 99 files used and is composed of 95% write operations with up to 64 kB block sizes and consists of 39.1% sequential operations.
Higher is better
The strength of RAID-0 finally comes through in this test, attaining a rate of 29.1 MB/s, a massive 151% higher than JBOD and RAID-5. RAID-6 really takes a beating here with the extra parity calculations pulling its performance down to a mere 8.4 MB/s. I think this is one of the tests that shows the Intel Atom is not a miracle worker, and using this low power CPU does have some drawbacks.
The Office Productivity test is roughly evenly distributed between read and write operations using 607 small files consisting of 1kb and 4kb reads and mostly 1 kB writes.
Higher is better
I really expected the NAS to struggle with the bombardment of so many small files, but it came through with some very consistent results in the 35-39 MB/s range. Even though the performance is some way off of the more sequential HD Video tests, I was impressed how the TS-459U-RP held up.
File copy to NAS
The File Copy test copies a single large file to the NAS unit using 100% sequential 64 kB write operations.
Higher is better
As with the 100% write HD Video Record test, the performance is a very solid 50-57 MB/s. This time, however, the 64 kB block size (vs 256 kB in HD Video) gives RAID-0 an advantage over JBOD.
File copy from NAS
This test reads the single large (1.4 GB) file from the File Copy test from the NAS using 64 kB read operations.
Higher is better
There is really only about 1-2 MB/s difference in performance between this and the previous File copy test. The exception here is RAID-0, oddly scoring almost 10 MB/s lower when transferring the large file from the NAS. This is a 17% drop in performance, and ends up just marginally worse than RAID 5 and 6.
Dir copy to NAS
This test copies the same directory structure of 126 files from the NAS device using 64 kB reads.
Higher is better
Recreating a directory structure with many files really seems to hammer the performance down, but at least it hammers it flat! The NAS manages to deliver ~14 MB/s, no matter which drive configuration is used for the four drives.
Dir copy from NAS
This test copies the same directory structure of 126 files from the NAS device using 64kb reads.
Higher is better
With performance at 20 MB/s for all configurations bar RAID-6, I think the TS-459U-RP redeems itself here, scoring 24-44% higher than the previous Dir copy test.
The Photo Album test simulates the viewing of 169 photo files of various sizes stored on the NAS and consists of 100% read operations.
Higher is better
This final test in the Intel suite really has no mercy and will always batter a NAS, but with rates just above 10 MB/s the TS-459U-RP soldiers on, delivering consistent speeds in any disk configuration.
Testing is not just about performance results. Some of the more practical aspects include operational aspects such as power and cooling.
As the TS-459U-RP is housed in a 1U server rack enclosure, it makes use of three 40 mm fans to pull cool air through the vents at the front, and push air out of the rear vents and towards the rearwardly-exhausting PSU fans. The speed of the three system fans is controlled by the motherboard, and in the System Administration / Hardware section of the WebUI, you can select either a temperature-based fan speed control (Smart Fan), or lock the fan speeds to one of three presets: Low, Medium, or High speed. I found these speed presets to be 2896, 7670, and 10227 rpm respectively.
As I don't have suitable sound level measuring equipment, I'll just say subjectively that, sitting at a distance of 1 m away from the NAS, the low fan speed is muted and easily tolerable, medium is slightly tiresome after a while, and high speed is loud and annoying. During testing, when the NAS kicked the fans into high speed, my girlfriend said "something in the computer room sounds angry!" The annoying thing about the Smart Fan modes is that they can only invoke the low or high fan speeds, so the noise level switches between nicely muted and "angry". I really wish that the NAS could run at medium fan speed under Smart Fan mode, as the high fan speed noise is approaching unbearable, and can be heard from adjacent rooms and even on the floor below. The custom Smart Fan mode only triggers by the system temperature; I would prefer to be have the option to select different component temperatures to trigger the fan speed state, e.g. bumping the fan speed up to medium when one of the hard drives reaches 45°C, and up to high speed when one reaches 50°C. (Please note: this issue seems to have been addressed with firmware v3.3, enabling a variable fan speed rather than a sudden jump to maximum.)
The high fan speed only really kicks in during major RAID operations like an initialisation/format or rebuild/synchronisation. During normal usage, the Smart Fan mode sets the fan speed between the low and medium manual speeds. You could therefore quite safely set the fan control to manual, running at either low or medium, as long as you had a consistent ambient room temperature. After testing, I ended up setting the fan control to manual/low, because it provides ample cooling at a the lowest level of noise, and my computer room is well-ventilated.
However, for the review, I left the fan control set to the default Smart Fan mode that triggers the high fan speed whenever any of the following temperature conditions is true: System >= 57 °C, CPU >= 62 °C, hard drive >= 54 °C. It returns to low fan speed when System < 40 °C.
|Ambient Room||23 °C||23 °C|
|CPU||53 °C||54 °C|
|System||44 °C||45 °C|
|HDD 1||40 °C||42 °C|
|HDD 2||42 °C||44 °C|
|HDD 3||41 °C||43 °C|
|HDD 4||41 °C||42 °C|
|System Fan 1||4720||5232|
|System Fan 2||4753||5192|
|System Fan 3||4720||5192|
Even during intense data access, the temperatures of the components are kept very near to the idling operating temperatures, with only a small increase in fan speed. This is mostly due to the low CPU usage (< 20%) of the NAS during normal usage. The maximum temperatures result from extended heavy CPU usage (> 75%) when RAID arrays are being rebuilt, synchronised, etc. During the most demanding stages of these RAID operations, the Smart Fan kicked into high fan speed when necessary, holding the CPU and hard drive temperatures at steady maximums of 57-62 °C and 44-48 ° C respectively.
One of the major benefits of running a NAS, instead of a computer with shared storage, is the substantially lower power requirements. The TS-459U-RP is an Intel Atom based machine, and offers additional power saving with its ability to suspend hard drives that are not being accessed. You can take the power savings further by scheduling power-on/off states, and enabling the Wake-on-LAN feature, allowing the system to consume a very small amount of power.
A Prodigit Electronics 2000MU Plug-In Power Meter was used to measure the power consumption of the NAS in different states of operation. The 2000MU meter has an accuracy for active power, Watts, of 0.5% typical (2% max).
|On: HDD Idle||75-81|
|On: HDD Sleep||39|
|On: RAID-5 Test||82|
When the TS-459U-RP is in its fully operational powered-on state, the power consumption is already at a relatively low 75-82 W, much less than a typical desktop computer or general-use server with four hard drives. If the use of the NAS is sporadic rather than continuous, you could take advantage of the hard drive power saving modes, to effectively cut the power consumption in half, at just 39 W. You would have to choose wisely however, as a large increase in spin-up/spin-down cycles will reduce the life of your hard drives. For the most power saving, you can use the Wake-on-LAN mode to make the NAS an on-demand server. While the NAS is in its off state, it uses just 5 W, so you could make significant savings if the NAS is not needed for long periods of time.
Given that the maximum power consumption is lower than that of a typical laptop (90 W), and the NAS is running four regular desktop-class hard drives (not "green" or "eco-friendly"), I was quite frankly astounded by the low power usage of the TS-459U-RP.
So far in the review, I have explained most of the features in detail, with some examples of how the features can be used. On this final page of the Testing section, I would like to illustrate a few of these features in detail, to demonstrate how you can achieve various tasks on the TS-459U-RP.
Online RAID Capacity Expansion
The TS-459U-RP has the ability to expand the storage capacity of an existing RAID array by switching the disks out, one-by-one, for higher capacity hard drives. In this example, the NAS has been populated with a 2x160 GB RAID-1 array. When the array has completed its initial build, you then have the option to Expand Capacity.
At the Expand Capacity screen, you can click on Change to replace one of the hard drives with a larger one. You are prompted to remove the existing hard drive. There is no need to power down the NAS, and you can continue to access the data on the array.
When you insert the new larger disk, the NAS automatically initialises it, and begins rebuilding the array.
At this point, there is the same ~150 GB RAID-1 disk volume, but now using one 160 GB and one 1.5 TB disk.
You have to replace the hard drives one at a time, so the next step is to repeat the disk swap procedure for the second hard drive in the RAID-1 array. The result at this stage is the same ~150 GB RAID-1 disk volume, but now on two 1.5 TB disks. You should note that, in this state, the disk volume is only using 11% of the capacity of the hard drives.
On returning to the Expand Capacity screen, the button below the hard drive listing, "Expand Capacity", is now enabled. Clicking this button expands the size of the disk volume to fill the full capacity of the new hard drives, in this case 150 GB to 1397 GB.
This expansion procedure takes several hours, but does not require a backup procedure, and is faster than the alternative of backing up to another storage device, creating a new disk array, and restoring the backup.
While the RAID-1 array synchronised, I went ahead and installed two more 1.5 TB disks for the next demonstration.
Online RAID Level Migration
If you started with a RAID-1 array, and need yet more storage space, you can achieve this by migrating the array to another RAID level. In RAID Management, you can click through to the Migrate section, wherein you can see the free drives available for migration.
Selecting a drive and a new RAID level gives you an indication of the prospective new capacity. Clicking on Migrate reminds you that the hard disk used for migration will have any residing data destroyed.
Once the migration is well under way, you can see an approximation of the remaining time for the procedure. There is nothing left to do except check back later to see the new RAID-5 array.
If you wanted to expand a RAID-5 array from three disks to four, you would choose the Add Hard Drive option in RAID Management.
At this point, you may not want to use the fourth hard drive, and keep it as a spare in the event of a failure of one of the disks in the RAID-5 array. Instead of leaving the disk sitting there doing nothing, you can configure it as a hot spare, which the NAS would automatically use to rebuild a degraded array.
A hot spare is one way of having a fail-safe on top of the one-disk redundancy of RAID-5. You could also opt to migrate the RAID-5 array to RAID-6, gaining two-disk redundancy. You wouldn't gain any additional capacity, but it's nice to see that RAID-6 is available as a disk configuration, so users with very important data can have extra assurance of storage integrity.
Again, the lengthy migration procedure takes several hours; you can still use the disk volume, and after a while it will become a RAID-6 array.
RAID-5 Data Protection
I simulated a disk failure by removing one of the hard drives in a four-disk RAID-5 array. The NAS quickly recognises the incomplete array, and operates in degraded mode, relying on the XOR calculations to maintain operation.
On inserting a new or used disk, the array will automatically be rebuilt. Rebuilding a RAID-5 array is one of the longest procedures the NAS can undertake, and took just less than 10 hours for the four 1.5 TB disks used in this review.
Finally, the rebuild operation is complete, and the RAID-5 array returns to its original state.
Apple Time Machine Support
QNAP provides the NetBak Replicator software for making backups from a Windows PC, but what about backups on a Mac? Well, you can use the built-in Time Machine feature of Mac OSX 10.5 or later to make automated backups to the TS-459U-RP. With Time Machine support enabled on the NAS, you can select and log in to it from the Mac machine.
Time Machine automatically schedule the first backup, and initialised the allocated Time Machine space on the NAS.
The backup process was very much a sit-back-and-wait procedure, and OSX would automatically handle future backups, replacing older backups with new ones when the available Time Machine disk space allocation on the NAS runs out.
Before undertaking the review, I studied the product pages for the QNAP TS-459U-RP, and still did not expect to see the sheer number of settings and options available. At times, I was pleasantly surprised to see handy unique features like ISO mounting, and at other times I was taken aback by advanced multimedia serving abilities like the UPnP Media Server and IceStation Internet Radio streaming server. I was fully expecting the NAS to cover all the corporate and web server needs, and suspected that QNAP would include the same features as the line of NAS products aimed more towards the home/business market, but I am still in awe of the TS-459U-RP's ability to seemingly do everything. Additional and improved functionality is made possible through the regular firmware updates and QPKG add-on packages, which are listed in the live web feed on the WebUI home page.
The QNAP WebUI is very well presented and laid out, with great navigation, and a fully comprehensible interface that provides all the information and feedback you could possibly need to know. It is made easier still with many step-by-step wizards to guide you through the various aspects of setup and configuration. I would go as far to say that you could use the NAS without a manual if you were at least slightly familiar with network and disk configurations.
As well as the selection of RAID configurations, the TS-459U-RP has a number of fail-safes to ensure data integrity. These include backup to external USB storage and remote servers, redundant power supplies, and UPS-triggered controlled shutdowns over the network.
The price may be cost-prohibitive for domestic users, but this NAS is really targeted to the business markets. I think the features of the TS-459U-RP reflect this, and most home users would not really use enough of the options to justify the price. Conversely, the low-power design could quite quickly pay for itself in terms of savings on the electricity bill when compared to a computer or general-use server running 24/7. With its ability to serve multimedia to a wide range of devices including the iPhone, PSP, Xbox, etc., the TS-459U-RP could well be a centralised media server in a modern home with a variety of electronic devices.
For its intended market, I think the TS-459U-RP would integrate very well into existing network infrastructures, and could also act as the main data server for new businesses, as it can be expanded internally (hard drives), externally (USB/eSATA), and remotely (network shares, iSCSI). QNAP's Website FAQs, Wiki pages, and forums, prove to be rich sources of information when you need help, in addition to the direct support available via the online web form, email, Skype, MSN, and of course, telephone. The TS-459U-RP has unique features that are not available from any other manufacture. The sheer number of features, consistent high performance, and advanced user interface mean the shortcomings of the PC-based applications are not an issue; so I really have to give this product the highest award possible
- Consistent, high performance, especially RAID-5 writes
- Low power consumption during normal operation, with options for further power saving
- Large number of features, many of which cannot be found on competing NAS products
- Very well presented, comprehensible WebUI, with plenty of live-update information/feedback and easy-to-use wizards
- Caters for home and server markets, in terms of features, network protocols and file systems
- JBOD, RAID 0/1/5/6/5+hot-spare/6+hot-spare support
- Redundancy of power, and support for networked control of UPS devices
- Portal folders (remote shares) and virtual disks (remote iSCSI) make the NAS a top-level centralised network storage server with the ability to serve disk capacities far beyond its internal disks
- External USB sharing and backup simplify storage expansion and backups of the internal disks
- Regular firmware and add-on package (QPKG) updates provide improved performance and additional functions and embedded applications
- Accompanying PC applications are somewhat functionally limited, with a basic user interface