QNAP TS-509 Pro Turbo NAS ReviewNemo - May 5, 2009
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Now that the TS-509 is equipped with a set of drives, it's time to power it on and configure the server for use. The first step is to get it set up on the network, format the drives and select a volume type. A soon as you power on the unit, the LCD display on the front panel displays the current status of the unit. Since this is the first time has been turned on and the drives have not been formatted or initialized the LCD panel prompts you to configure the disks and defaults to RAID 6. Using the select key next to the display panel you can also select Single, JBOD, RAID 0 and RAID 5. Setting up the system this way might be convenient if you've done it before and want to include all the installed drives in the array. However, we're going to take a look using the included software and see what all the options are for configuring the TS-509.
The first step is to load the included setup CD in your optical drive. If you don't have autorun enabled you'll have to find the AutoRun.exe executable in the /AutoRun folder and double click to get the main dialog to appear. The TS-509 is the only product on this page, so all you need to do is click on the TS-509 Pro button to get to the next page containing the links to the software on the CD. The CD contains various applications including a copy of the Quick Installation Guide along with the QNAP Finder program and other applications.
As we've seen on the other NAS devices we've reviewed, the first step in configuring the unit is to run a program that will locate and identify the QNAP storage devices on your network. To do this you will need to choose the 'Install QNAP Finder' option. Unlike the other devices we've looked at so far, you can't run this program directly from the CD, you have to install it on a PC on the network where the TS-509 is located in order to use it. Clicking on 'Install QNAP Finder' begins the install process. After specifying the language to use for the install, there is a fairly typical set of installation screens that walks you through the steps necessary to get going and launch the finder application.
After the install process finishes, the finder application automatically launches. It takes a few moments as the software scans the network for any QNAP devices on the network. After detecting the TS-509 the finder software also determines that the unit hasn't been configured and offers to launch the setup wizard. Choosing the Yes option takes you to the Web GUI on the TS-509 and you are required to sign in under the administrator account with the default user name and password of admin/admin. Once the system verifies the login credentials, you are taken to the Quick Configuration section of the management interface.
The Quick Configuration wizard walks you through a six-step process of the basic items needed to configure the TS-509. After the process is complete the unit will have the most basic settings and the drives will be configured and a volume created in one of the disk arrays of your choosing. The first step is to give the server a unique name. The default is 'NAS' followed by the last six characters of the MAC address, e.g. 'NASB9283F'. That is a great way to ensure unique names where you might have multiple NAS devices on the network, but as we'll only have a single NAS in this review setup, I'm going to go with something original that's easier to remember like 'TS-509'. The second step is to change the default administrator account password, which is simply 'admin'. It is really a good idea to change it to a strong password of at least ten characters. For testing purposes, I am going to leave the password alone so I checked the box to use the original password. I did this mainly because during the review process I'll be typing the password many times and it's just easier to use the default. If I were setting the unit up in a live environment, I would most definitely change it.
The next step is to set the correct time zone and date/time on the unit. The interface uses an unusual approach for changing the date and time settings. Instead of the usual edit box or drop down list, it makes use of a slider bar to adjust the values which I found to be a bit awkward for making small value adjustments. You can also elect to use a network time protocol (NTP) server to automatically adjust the date and time settings. The TS-509 provides a single value for a NTP server and does not give you a drop down list of additional servers like other units we've reviewed. However, you can key in any server URL you prefer.
You can let your network DHCP server assign the IP address settings automatically by checking the radio button or manually assign the settings by providing all the necessary information yourself as shown below. The TS-509 offers a range of services that can be selected to run when the unit boots up. You can change the settings later so for the initial setup I just left the default values checked. We'll examine each one in more detail later.
The final step in the initial configuration process is to select the disk configuration you want to use. Your choices are not to configure any disks now, or you can choose single disk (each hard drive is configured as a separate volume), JBOD, or Just a Bunch of Disks, (multiple drives are configured as a single large volume) , RAID 0 (also known as striping where two or more identical drives are set up as one larger drive), (uses striping similar to RAID 0 but also provides redundancy for data protection) and RAID 6 (similar to RAID 5 but provides protection against 2 drives in the set failing). The pros and cons of each type of setup are outside the scope of our review but a concise explanation can be found in The Official OCC RAID Guide, Version 2.0. Conspicuously absent from the drop down list is RAID 1 (also known as mirroring where one drive maintains a copy of the other drive) which the TS-509 does support. RAID 1 must consist of two drives on the TS-509 and the Quick Configuration process does not allow you to choose which drives to configure. It defaults to all the drives it detects, so you must include all five drives (in our case) into whichever configuration you choose. Since we can't select just two drives, we can't choose RAID 1. In order to choose fewer than the total number of drives, you will need to set up the disk configuration in the Device Configuration section which we'll cover further in the review. I found not being able to choose which drives to include in the array to be a major drawback to using the Quick Configuration.
One you've made a choice as to which hard drive configuration to use, it's simply a matter of clicking the Next button to move to the final step. After doing this I immediately ran into problems as the Configuration Wizard immediately crashed as you can see in the screen shots below. Thinking I might have a problem with the install of the QNAP Finder application, I uninstalled the program and reinstalled it only to have the same problem which makes sense once I realized the problem was with the Web UI hosted on the TS-509 and not the standalone program.
You can carry out some minimal setup using the QNAP Finder program much like Step 1 through Step 4 of the Quick Configuration section on the Web UI. You can't set the hard drive configuration, but at least I could take care of some of the other settings such as server name, the time settings and the LAN address setup.
The only other option was to upgrade the firmware on the server which I was going to have to do anyway before testing began. I'll cover the firmware upgrade process later in the review. With the IP address manually set, I was able to launch the Web UI by typing in the address as the URL in my browser and specifying port 8080, the port used by the TS-509 for the management interface like this: //192.168.1.32:8080/. The Web UI page is a little slow to load, but once the home page is displayed, you'll notice an 'Administration' option in the middle of the page at the top. Once you click on this you'll have to log in using default user name/password of admin/admin (assuming you didn't change the password in the setup process). Once inside I loaded the latest firmware and, after a reboot, I went back in to the Quick Configuration section.
Now we're back to where we started and, after making sure all the information was correct in Steps 1-5 as before, I crossed my fingers and pressed the Finish option, hoping everything would work this time. Yes! There were no problems this time and we see a summary screen of all the settings. Once you press the Start Installation button, you'll get a warning about losing all your data as the hard drives are about to be formatted. Once the initialization process begins, you're in for a bit of a wait, especially if you are setting up a large RAID array with several drives. This would be a good time to take a break.
Now that we have the volume created, let's move on and take a look at the rest of the options in the management UI.