QNAP TS-509 Pro Turbo NAS ReviewNemo - May 5, 2009
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We went through a quick volume creation process during the initial configuration of the TS-509 and found a few features to be unavailable, most notably the ability to select which drives to include. The Device Configuration section offers the granularity of control missing in the Quick Configuration Wizard plus it offers some rather advanced features such as RAID level migration, RAID expansion and the ability to encrypt drives.
This is probably the meatiest part of the Device Configuration section as it allows you to not only configure the volume, but also offers features for monitoring the status and health of your array and each individual drive. The initial page in the SATA Disk section shows all the drives installed in the server in the Physical Disks section. If you have created one or more volumes, their status will be displayed in the Logical Volumes section. The TS-509 supports volumes of various types as discussed earlier in the Initial Setup section of the review. To recap quickly, you can create a volume using a single drive, a RAID 1 (mirrored) volume using two drives, a RAID 0 (striped) volume using two or more drives, a Linear (JBOD) volume using multiple drives, a RAID 5 volume using three or more drives or a RAID 6 volume using four of more drives.
To create a new volume you simply click on the icon next to the volume type you want to use. As an example, we can create a RAID 5 volume and choose the number of drives to include. By default all available drives are checked. In our example we'll choose to use three disks (Drive 1 – Drive 3). Other options available are Encryption and Hot Spare Disk. A hot spare is useful in the event one of the drives in the array fails. By specifying a hot spare, the TS-509 will automatically begin rebuilding the array using the hot spare without requiring user intervention. Once the choices are made, pressing the OK button will bring u a prompt warning that all data will be lost on the drives if you choose to continue. Once confirmed, the TS-509 will create the volume, which could take considerable time depending on the volume type and number and size of the drives involved. Once the volume is created, it will appear in the Logical Volume section. You also see a Remove Now button next to the volume in case you want to drop the volume and create a new one in a different configuration.
The TS-509 also gives you the option to scan individual disks for bad blocks, check the volume for errors and access SMART information on each drive. The SMART information can be accessed by clicking in the column next to each drive. This will present a new page will several tab which includes, summary-level and detailed information on the health of the drive and you can initiate a manual SMART test or schedule a short or complete test to run at scheduled intervals.
RAID Management Tool
In the previous example I created a 3-drive RAID 5 array, intentionally leaving two drives free in order to demonstrate some of the features in the RAID Management Tool section. As you can see in the first screen shot below, drives 4 and 5 are unused while drives 1-2 comprise the RAID 5 array. This gives you several options for enhancing your setup which are listed in green under the description column. When you click on the radio button next to the RAID 5 volume, the available feature buttons are enabled.
Let's take a look at what each one offers.
Expand capacity – you can expand the available space on a RAID 1, RAID 5 or RAID 6 array by replacing each drive in the array one at a time with a larger capacity drive. By clicking the Replace button, you would insert a new drive and let the system rebuild the array. Once it is complete you proceed to each drive in turn until all drives in the array have been replaced. The volume is still usable during this time and, with the hot-swap capability, you don't even have to shut things down. While this is a lengthy process since the array must be rebuilt after each new drive is inserted, it beats having to back up and restore a large amount of data and it means you never have to take your storage server offline.
Add hard drive – with the add hard drive feature you can start out with fewer drives and then add drives as your storage needs dictate. The process is simple as all you have to do is check the box next to the drive(s) you want to add and then click the 'Add hard drive' button and the system takes care of the rest. As with the expand capacity feature, you can do all of this and still keep the server in operation.
Migrate – this feature a non-destructive way to increase the level of fault tolerance by moving to a higher RAID level. You can migrate from a single disk to RAID 1, 5, or 6; RAID 1 to RAID 5 or 6; or RAID 5 to RAID 6. Of course, this assumes you have the requisite number of drives to move up to the next level. In our example we could choose to add either one or two drives and migrate from RAID 5 to RAID 6.
Configure spare drive – As mentioned earlier when initially configuring the volume, you can choose to have a hot spare drive that the system can automatically use to rebuild a volume in a RAID 5 array in the event one drive fails. Since RAID 5 arrays can only tolerate the loss of a single drive, this is an important feature that eliminates the need for someone to physically replace a drive in the event of a failure. It's also a great feature to be able to add a hot spare at a later date if you didn't specify one during the volume creation process.
If you're new to the concepts presented here, the TS-509 provides a handy page to walk you through the process. The Description button will take you to a page with graphics and a link to the procedure needed for each option in an effort to make it as easy and foolproof as possible.
Disk Volume Encryption Management
The TS-509 supports the use of disk encryption. If you choose to encrypt the volume when it was first created, this section enables you to manage the encrypted volume, lock and unlock it as well as track the keys used for encryption.
The NAS sever supports iSCSI service for accessing the drive using the Internet SCSI protocol. After installing iSCSI initiator software on your computer you can send SCSI commands over the network to the TS-509. This would be a great way to build your own little SAN.
External Storage Device
The server supports USB and eSATA disks as well as USB flash drives through the rear ports. You can connect a single eSATA drive and up to four USB drives. Once connected, the TS-509 will detect the drives and assign a name (e.g. USBDisk1). The drives can then be accessed over the network using the NAS server IP address and the assigned name. In the test setup used in the review that would be \\192.168.1.32\USBDisk1. The drives can also be accessed via the Web File Manager, although it only seems to recognize folders. Any files stored on the root directory were not visible.
You can connect up to three USB printers and use the print server features of the TS-509 to share the printers on the network. The printers will be automatically detected once you plug them in and no configuration is necessary. You will, however, have to install the printer drivers on each client using the printers. The TS-509 detected my printer although it failed to identify the manufacturer and model name. The printer showed up with a name of TS-509PR5 and I had no difficulty locating it on the network and it worked fine.
We've just seen some of the very powerful features the TS-509 offers for creating and managing volumes. Now it's time to move on to setting up users and permissions on the volume we just created.