QNAP TS-509 Pro Turbo NAS Review

Nemo - 2009-03-03 18:32:54 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: Nemo   
Reviewed on: May 5, 2009
Price: $899

Introduction:

Computer storage may be considered one of those items that people tend to not think much about until you either run out of space or you suffer a catastrophic failure and realize you just lost all your important files. Or perhaps you're looking to added extra space to share files among different computers or stream media such as music and videos. Home users are not the only ones faced with the challenge of finding a good solution for sharing and protecting files. Home office and small business owners are also faced with challenges,especially when it comes to increasing requirements for storing and archiving data and making sure files are located in an easily accessible and safe location.

Network attached storage is a way to address all these concerns, but it's not simply a matter of buying something in a box that has 'NAS' plastered on it somewhere. There are a myriad of network-enabled products available these days ranging from single-drive enclosures to multi-bay servers holding eight or more drives. As the market becomes more crowded each manufacturer must distinguish itself in terms of performance and features. Shopping for a NAS can be confusing for the uninitiated, but at the very least one should look for different RAID level support and the ability to easily set up and administer the server. If you are a business looking for additional storage, then support for different operating systems, easy user administration and the ability to handle multiple users simultaneously are a must.

QNAP Systems Inc. is a relatively young company, having been founded in Taiwan in 2004. Billing themselves as the “Quality Network Appliance Provider” (now you know where the got the name QNAP), the company is dedicated to providing network storage for the home, small office and corporate markets as well as specialized products for video recording surveillance applications. Today we're looking at the QNAP TS-509 Pro 5-bay NAS server to see how it meets those needs.

Closer Look:

The TS-509 shipped in a heavy corrugated box that protected the contents and arrived without damage. Extracting the server from the outer box revealed a box larger than I expected until I remembered this is a 5-bay unit. The first thing I noticed was a crumpled corner as if someone had dropped the box before packaging it for shipping. The front of the box features a picture of the NAS unit along with a list of major product features. Also prominently displayed on the front of box is a graphic touting the 1.6GHz Intel processor and 1GB DDRII memory in the server. Switching around to the back of the box you can get quite an education on the features and how the work accompanied by graphics explaining such features as RAID capacity expansion and RAID level migration. QNAP expounds upon the features that would most appeal to a business user looking for functionality and ways to protect and backup important files. The third picture in the group below is of the side panel where all the features are listing in great detail. You could spend enough time reading through these that your arms will certainly tire of holding the box before you are done. You can also get a better look at the crumple zone on the upper right corner of the box. Finally, the obverse side panel lists features in French, German, Italian and Spanish in case English is not your mother tongue.

 

 

 

It's time to open the box and hope that there's no damage to the unit. With the box open and the flaps flaps folded back, you can get an idea of how well-protected the unit is. You can see the damaged corner on the upper right hand side, but there is a dead space in the interior of the box formed by the closed cell foam inserts that encase the server and protect it during shipping. In this case they did their job well as there was no damage. The smaller brown box you see on top in the middle contains all the accessories. Once the unit is all the way out and the accessories box removed you can see what a good job the package designers did in ensuring the server would have a safe journey during shipping. The accessories box contains all the goodies you'll need to install the hard drives and hook things up. There is a power cord and Cat5e Ethernet cable along with a set of hard drive mounting screws and a pair of keys to lock the hard drive trays. You'll notice there is no power brick as the TS-509 has an internal power supply. Also included is some product literature, a multi-language quick install guide and an installation CD.

 

 

 

Once the unit is removed from the protective foam you can see the unit is also wrapped in plastic to further protect it form any scratches or scrapes. Let's get this thing unwrapped and finally see what it looks like. Checking out the front of the TS-509 Pro you can see the five hard drives bays taking up most of the space on the front of the case. At the top next to the QNAP logo is a 2-line LCD status display. Down the left side are a pair of buttons for the power and one touch copy function along with a series of LED indicators. The LEDs are used for hard drive activity, LAN connectivity and overall status of the server. On the lower left is a USB 2.0 port for connecting a flash drive or an external storage device. Looking at the unit at an angle shows the gray matte finish on the metal sides of the case. Moving to the back of the case shows quit a few connections. On the right side below the QNAP label is an eSATA connector. Below that are a pair of Gigabit LAN ports along with four USB 2.0 connections. Directly below are two additional ports, an RS-232 and a VGA port both covered by plastic caps. Both ports are reserved for maintenance purposes. Moving on around there is a small fan for the built in power supply and an AC power connection. That just leaves us with the temperature-controlled 120mm fan that occupies most of the space on the rear panel. Checking out the bottom of case reveals four rubber feet to keep the unit stable and to allow you to stack the unit vertically.

 

 

 

Installation:

As we saw in the previous section, the TS-509 has room for five disk drives in its hot-swappable bays. Since the unit ships without drives, the first step in the installation process is to remove the drive trays from the bays and mount the drives. Removing the trays is accomplished by opening the latch on each tray and sliding them out of the bay. The latches open to the left and are fully disengaged when they are at about a 45 degree angle. The latches, along with the front of the trays, are made of plastic and you don't want to apply too much pressure. With the latches disengaged, each tray simply slides straight out of the bay. The tray itself is a simple sled made to hold a hard drive and allow it to align up properly to the SATA backplane in the device. Although there's not much to the tray, it has a fairly solid and rigid feel to it, mainly due to the bottom as the side rails are only bout half the height of a hard drive. You can also see the holes in the floor of the tray which will allow for better cooling. The tray front features slits to allow cool air to be drawn in and over the drive. Each tray is sequentially numbered which is useful for returning drives to their proper position if you have to remove them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you've ever built your own computer, you probably installed the hard drives with either screws or a tool-less mounting option using the mounting holes on the side of the drive. The drive trays are a bit different and mount using the holes on the bottom of the drive. As you can see in the picture, the PCB side of the drive faces the bottom of the tray. After you get the screw holes lined up, all you have to do is secure the drive with four screws. There are enough screw included in the accessory pack to mount all five drives.

 

You can check out the front of the unit with all the trays removed. The SATA backplane connections are located at the rear of the bay and the drives rails can be seen along the sides. Directly behind the backplane, visible through the slots above each SATA connection, is the large cooling fan. Each tray slides in and rests on top of the rails. Once the tray is positioned on the rails all that's required is for you to slide it in and give it a gentle push to make sure the hard drive is firmly seated on the backplane. If you did everything correctly the latch should close easily and secure with an audible 'click'. It you find the latch doesn't close easily, then you probably don't have the drive seated properly and you need to give it a little more effort to get the drive securely connected to the backplane. If you haven't noticed by now, each tray has a lock to prevent someone from inadvertently removing a drive from the bay.

 

 

Once the drives are installed in the trays and mounted back in the bays, the next step is to connect the Ethernet cable to the LAN port on the rear of the TS-509 and then to a switch or router or your network. Next you will need to attach the power cord to the back of the unit and plug it in to the wall outlet. Now we're ready to move on to the configuration process.

Configuration:

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.

Configuration:

In the previous section we saw how to access the Web-based user interface using the IP address of the server and the default port of 8080 . In the setup used in the review that would be //192.168.1.32:8080. If you use a different IP address or use one assigned by your DHCP server you will need to use that instead.

The administration functions for the TS-509 are broken down into several sections based on functionality:
Quick Configuration – this section, which we covered in the previous section, provides a quick step-by-step guide to setting up the server, but lacks some of the finer details provided in the other sections like the ability to choose which drives to include during volume creation.
System Settings – in this section you can specify the date/time settings, server name, file name encoding standards as well as set up the configuration for SMTP/SMSC servers used in sending notifications via e-mail and short message service (SMS).
Network Settings – besides specifying the LAN address settings, this section also allows you to enable various network services such as iTunes, FTP, Web File Services, Download Station and more.
Device Configuration – this is where you can specify the drive setup/volume configuration by type as well as chose which drives to use in the volume creation.
User Management – you can create users, groups and assign quotas in this section.
Network Share Management – in this section you can create and management network shares (folders) and assign permissions.
System Tools – this is a catch-all section for tools used to manage and access the TS-509 including system alerts, power management, remote login, backup functions and more.
System Logs – all of the various logs maintained by the TS-509 for events, system connection and other information can be accessed through this section.

System Settings:

There are six subsections under System Settings that allow you to basic setup features on the TS-509, some of which we've already seen during the Quick Configuration process in the previous section.

Server Name, Date & Time, File Name Encoding

We've already visited these features in the previous section where you can specify a name for the server and set the date and time parameters including the network time protocol server. During the initial setup I set the file name encoding feature using the QNAP Finder program where you can specify one of ten different languages. Since my browser defaults to English, that's what the TS-509 will use by default as well.

Configure SMTP Server

The TS-509 can send out e-mail alerts for various events on the server. Before you can enable this feature (covered under the System Tools section later on in the review) you must specify the parameters for the SMTP server you will be using to send e-mails. You can specify your SMTP server URL and whether or not to use a secure connection and the login credentials needed for authentication. There is no option to change the port used, so I assume it uses the SMTP default port which is 25. Once the server configuration is made, you can test out the feature in the System Tools/Alert Notification section.

 

Configure SMSC Server

In addition to e-mail, the TS-509 supports sending alerts via short message service centers (SMSC). Prior to sending text message alerts, you need to specify which service provider you will be using. By default, the server is setup to use Clickatell, a commercial SMSC service. You will need to establish an account there prior to enabling the service on the TS-509. You can also use any other provider as long as you have the proper URL template parameters set up. You need to contact your provider in order to find out what those would be.

 

 

View System Settings

This page offers a quick way to look at the server name, date/time setting and language settings. You can also see which version of the firmware you are running as well.

That finishes the basic system settings, so it's time to move on the the network settings and services section.

Configuration:

Network Settings:

Within the Network Settings section you'll find not only the ability to configure the TCP/IP settings for the server, but also all the network-related functions that are run as services. Some of these services come enabled by default, but many others you'll need to enable and configure before you can use them.

TCP/IP Configuration

During the setup process we were able to choose between allowing the DHCP server to assign the IP address or specifying a static address. We also got a quick look at the network settings using the QNAP Finder application. We need to take a few minutes examining some of the features of the TS-509 iteself and how to configure them properly using this section.

When we first looked at the rear panel of the TS-509 in the Introduction & Close Look section, I pointed out the two Gigabit LAN ports on the rear panel of the unit. These ports can be configured to work in three different ways:
Failover – in failover mode, the two LAN ports are configured as a Primary port and a Redundant port. If the primary port fails, either due to a hardware or a connection issue, the network transfer port automatically switches to the redundant port. Once the issue with the primary port has been corrected, network transfers automatically revert back to that port. Failover is the default configuration for the server.
Load Balancing – load balancing allows the network to spread traffic across the two ports to optimize performance. In order to use load balancing you will need to use a managed switch and enable link aggregation for the two ports used to connect the TS-509.
Standalone – standalone allows you to assign different IP addresses to the two LAN ports. Doing so will allow the server to be accessed by different workgroups in two different subnets on your network.

The setup is similar no matter which option you choose. For each option you can choose to use dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP) and let the DHCP server on your network assign the IP settings. Or you can choose to assign a static IP address and specify the specific address information yourself as I did. You can also specify the transfer speed as either 1000Mbps (Gigabit) full-duplex, 100Mbps (Fast Ethernet) full-duplex or auto-negotiation where the system configures the speed based on the connections. For Standalone mode you'll see an additional tab for the second LAN connection that allows you to configure it separately. The TS-509 can act as a DHCP server for your network if you don't have a router or other device already performing this function.

 

 

Windows Networking

Surveillance Station

The TS-509 can monitor and record live video from up to four network cameras simultaneously. By enabling this option you can access the feature via the main Web UI page.

System Port Management

As I mentioned earlier, accessing the system management page using your browser requires you to specify a URL and a port, e.g. http://192.168.1.32:8080. The default port is 8080 and applies to the following services: System Management, Web File Manager, Multimedia Station, and Download Station. You can change the default port to another one of your choosing. After you hit the Apply button, the system will automatically switch to the home page using the new port number and you'll need to login in again.

View Network Settings

The final section gives you a snapshot view of all your handiwork as a result of configuring the network settings. The display is separated into two tabs – Network and Network File Services. The Network tab shows the LAN setup information, which is a recap of all the setting on the TCP/IP Configuration screen. The second tab, Network File Services summarizes the rest of the setting from the remaining sections.

 

 

 

This section allows you to enable clients running a Microsoft operating system to access files on the TS-509. You can set it up to run as a standalone server if it is not part of a domain, which would be the case in a small business or home environment without a machine running a Microsoft Windows Server operating system. The default workgroup name for the TS-509 is 'NAS' and you can change that name here to match the workgroup on your network. The unit also supports Microsoft Active Directory and you can specify the domain server, name and login information. If you are on a corporate network that has a Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) server, you can specify the IP address of the WINS server and the TS-509 will automatically register itself with the WINS server.

Apple Networking

The TS-509 also supports clients running the Apple Mac operating system. After checking the box to enable the service you can specify the name of the Zone on the AppleTalk network. You can use an asterisk in this field to use the default setting.

NFS Service

The TS-509 also supports clients using the Network File System (NFS) protocol. Enabling this service, which is turned off by default, will enable UNIX/Linux clients to access files on the server. With the NFS service activated you would then mount the folder or share in Linux to gain access to the files.

Web File Manager

You can access and manage files on the NAS server via a web browser. This gives you the ability to work with files directly on the server from anywhere you have Internet access. This also gives you the ability manage files without having to first go through the client OS like Windows Explorer. This service is enabled by default and you can access from the main UI page as well. I'll have more on the Web File Manager functionality later on in the review.

 

 

 

FTP Service

The TS-509 can act as an FTP server. Enabling this service gives you the ability to define several parameters such as the port number to use, whether to use standard or secure FTP, define the data port range, whether to allow anonymous login and the maximum number of users and connections to allow. You can also specify upload/download bandwidth limitations.

Multimedia Station

In order to share multimedia files across the network you'll need to enable the Multimedia Station. After this service is enabled, you can access the files using the Multimedia Station option from the main Web page. Multimedia files are stored in the Qmultimedia share on the NAS device.

iTunes Service

By enabling the iTunes service on the server you can share music files stored in the Qmultimedia share with computers running iTunes on the network. Once enabled, iTunes will detect the server and it will show up in the iTunes shared folder under the server name – TS-509 in our case. There is also an option to create 'smart' playlists based on rules you specify using relationship operators like 'contains', 'does not contain', 'is' and 'is not'.

 

 

 

Download Station

You can use the TS-509 to download files using FTP, BitTorrent or HTTP protocols. Enabling this service will make the Download Station available from the main Web page. We'll take a deeper dive into the Download Station a bit later in the review.

Web Server

Another one of the services provided by the TS-509 is the ability to act as a web server. By enabling this service, you can upload your web pages to the Qweb folder. The TS-509 also has built-in support for MySQL and PHP.

DDNS Service

If you're setting up the TS-509 in a business environment, you're more likely to have a static IP address provided by your Internet service provider (ISP). Without a static IP address you're left to the mercy of a dynamic IP address which can be changed at any time by your ISP. This can make accessing the TS-509 from the Internet rather be tricky. Using a dynamic domain name service (DDNS) can help solve this problem by assigning a fixed name and tracking the actual IP address to match it with the name. The TS-509 supports several of these providers and provides a fixed list of the most popular ones. Once you have registered with the service provider of your choice, you can enter your host name and login credentials and the TS-509 will notify the DDNS provider anytime your IP address changes. This way you can always access the server using the DDNS host name. This is essential if you want to access the ts-509 over the Internet and for hosting your own web site.

MySQL Server

The TS-509 provides built-in support for the MySQL database in support any Web site you may be running. If you check the TCP/IP Networking box you can also use the MySQL database for any other server on the network. Once installed you also get access to phpMyAdmin under the Qweb folder to manage your database.

 

 

 

Surveillance Station

The TS-509 can monitor and record live video from up to four network cameras simultaneously. By enabling this option you can access the feature via the main Web UI page.

System Port Management

As I mentioned earlier, accessing the system management page using your browser requires you to specify a URL and a port, e.g. http://192.168.1.32:8080. The default port is 8080 and applies to the following services: System Management, Web File Manager, Multimedia Station, and Download Station. You can change the default port to another one of your choosing. After you hit the Apply button, the system will automatically switch to the home page using the new port number and you'll need to log in again.

View Network Settings

The final section gives you a snapshot view of all your handiwork as a result of configuring the network settings. The display is separated into two tabs – Network and Network File Services. The Network tab shows the LAN setup information, which is a recap of all the setting on the TCP/IP Configuration screen. The second tab, Network File Services summarizes the rest of the setting from the remaining sections.

 

 

 

That finishes up the configuration of the network and various services on the TS-509. The next step is to take a look at the device configuration where you can specify the type of volume to create and choose which drives to include.

 

Configuration:

Device Configuration:

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.

SATA Disk

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.

ISCSI Target

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.

USB Printer

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.

Configuration:

User Management:

Now that the TS-509 has most of the basic configuration completed, including the creation of a volume to hold folders and files, it's time to bring some structure to the unit to make it more secure and usable by network users. The first step in this process is to define who the users are that will need access to the the storage on the TS-509 and the define a grouping structure of like users.

The User Management section allows you to create users, set up groups and assign users to these groups and to establish usage quotas. We'll take a look at these functions in the order they appear on the page, but it would be useful to sit down and think things out prior to beginning. Some questions to consider are how much storage should each users be allowed to use (quotas), how are users on the network logically organized (groups) and which member on the network need access to the unit (users). By answering these questions first, you might find it useful to set up quotas and groups prior to adding users so that this information is available when it comes time to add users and assign them to groups.

Users

The users section has a series of functions that facilitate the creation and management of users:

Create – this function is pretty self explanatory as it allows to create anew user on the TS-509. Once the user name and password are set you can continue on to add the user to a group (assuming you have already created the group). Since we're looking at users first, there are no groups so we can't add the users anywhere yet.

Create Multiple Users – if you have a naming convention using a series of sequential numbers as part of the user name (e.g. OCCTestUser1, OCCTestUser2, etc.) you can create a series of users all at once, eliminating some of the tedium of typing each user in individually. Unfortunately, they will all have the same password and there is no method for forcing a password change or generating random passwords, so this is not a very secure method for creating users. You can also have the system set up a private network share for each of the users, something you can't do when creating a single user; you have to use a separate step for single users.

Change Password – let's face it, users forget their passwords and this section lets you reset the password to a new value.

Create Private Network Share - this process allows you to create a folder under the user name that is private and can be accessed only by the specific user account. By default, the private share is created at the root level, but you can override the location and specify one of your own.

 

 

 

Assign User Groups – this is where having determined and created the groups first would come in handy. You can highlight a user on the list and assign or remove them from a particular user group, but only if the group already exists. You might find it useful to visit the User Groups section and set up the groups prior to creating users. We'll cover this in more detail below.

Quota Settings – you can assign storage quotas to each user, but only if you have first enabled quotas in the Quota section. If you plan on instituting quotas this is another area that you want to take care of before you start creating users. If you haven't enabled quotas the system will give you a warning message. Once quotas are enabled, you can use the generic setting for all users or adjust the storage quota for each individual user.

Delete – this section is used to delete a user from the system.

 

 

User Groups

The User Groups section allows you to create and manage groups. Groups are a convenient way to aggregate users needing a common set of permissions together. That way you can assign permission to groups instead of having to perform that function repeatedly fr each user. It makes management much easier and also make tracking down permissions much easier. If you assign permissions only at the group level you don't have to examine each individual user to see who has rights to the shares on the server.

Create – you can create a new group in this section which is simply a matter of assigning a group name. You can also elect to continue on to the Assign Users section and add users to the newly created group. Create Private Network Share – you can create a private network share for the group from this section and the system will automatically assign full access rights for the group.

Assign Users – this option allows you to assign single or multiple users to a group. This is useful for assigning users at a later date. It also comes in handy if you didn't assign users to the group when it was created, or created users before creating the group.

Delete – this option allows you to delete a group. Deleting a group will also remove all access rights for that group.

 

 

Quota

The Quota section is used to turn on quotas for all users. You can set a default quota amount which applies to all users. You can then adjust this amount on a per-user basis as we saw above. Quotas can only be assigned at the user level and not at the group level.

That takes care setting up users and groups so now we're ready to move on to setting up shares and assigning permissions.

Configuration:

Network Share Management:

Creating shares on the TS-509 is the final leg on the configuration journey. Once you have created the shared folders, you can assign permissions to the users and groups created in the previous step. The TS-509 creates default shares when a volume is created as well as when the various network services are enabled. You could satisfy yourself with using these shares with everyone having full access, but a little bit of planning will allow to to set up shares and assign the appropriate permission levels so users can get access to the data they need.

Network Share Management

The Network Share Management section provides all the tools needed to create and manage the shares on the unit.

Create – this section is where you create the share by giving it a name and specifying the location of the folder. The location is determined by the volume name and path. By default, the share will be located on the root of the volume you choose (specify the path automatically). You can, however, place the share as a subfolder of an existing share by specifying the path manually. This gives you greater control on how shares are set up. You can also choose to default to full access to everyone and to assign access rights as part of the share creation process. You should be careful when creating a share as a subfolder because the subfolder inherits the rights of the upper share.

Property – this section allows you to review and change the name, location and other properties of the share.

Access Control – in this section you can assign rights to the share by specifying groups or individual users and giving the entity either full, read only or no access.

 

 

Network Share Status

As in previous sections, once you have completed the configuration there is a way to check on the results of your handiwork. The Network Share Status section presents a synopsis of the shares on the unit including size, number of folders and files. Clicking on a name in the window will jump you to the Access Control screen for that share.

 

It's time to move on and check out the System Tools section.

Configuration:

System Tools:

The System Tools section is part configuration and part tools used to perform system functions such as backup and system management.

Alert Notification

Back in the System Settings section of the review we saw how to set the SMTP and SMSC servers and this is where we get to use them. The TS-509 can send out alerts for various errors and warnings on the system. These alerts can be sent out via e-mail or text message or both. If you have properly set up the SMTP mail server you wish to use, you can have the system send out alerts to two different mailboxes. You can also have the TS-509 send out a test message to confirm everything is configured correctly. For system errors only, you can also have the unit send out text message alerts to two different cell phone numbers. In case you skipped over the configuration of the mail and SMSC servers the page provides links to the appropriate area in the System Settings section.

Auto Power on/off Management

This section provides a way to remotely restart and shut down the TS-509 without having to have physical access to the server. This is a very useful tool to have and it is unfortunate that it is buried so deep in the Web UI. It would have been more convenient to place it somewhere on the main page as well. You can also set various other power-related behaviors including wake-on-LAN, on power resume functions and also set a schedule to automatically shut down, restart and power on the server.

Hardware Settings

You can define how the hardware will operate including the audible system warnings and setting the idle time before the hard drives go into standby mode. Unfortunately, no matter what time period I set, I could never get the standby mode to work. I even disconnected the LAN cable to make sure there was no activity from the network hitting the hard drives. The status LED remained on and I didn't notice any change in power usage.

The TS-509 comes equipped with a temperature controlled fan which can set to automatically speed up if the system gets too warm. You can also set your own temperature trigger points to stop the fan, set to low speed and set it to rotate at high speed. During normal operations using the default Smart Fan settings, the fan fan remained on low speed which was only audible if I put my ear close to the enclosure.

UPS

In the UPS section you can set up the TS-509 to interface with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) via one of the USB connections on the rear of the device. With the power cord of the NAS plugged into the UPS you can have the server shut down after a period you specify. You can also configure the unit to go into standby mode after a set number of minutes to conserve power and have it resume once the power is restored. The TS-509 will automatically detect the UPS once the USB cable is connected.

 

 

 

Hard Disk SMART

The TS-509 provides access to a wealth of information on the condition of each drive through the use of Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology, or SMART. This is the same set of pages we covered in the Device Configuration section earlier. Each drive can be examined at a summary or detailed level and you can run both rapid and extended tests on the hard drives. You can also set up a schedule to run the SMART tests and create an alarm setting for when hard drive temperatures exceed a given threshold.

System Update

Updating the system firmware is fairly straightforward and can be accomplished in a few steps from this page. There is even a link to the QNAP web site on the page you can use. Once you have located and downloaded the latest firmware version, you only need to browse to the location using the Browse button and then click Update System. The update will take a few minutes to accomplish and you want to make sure nothing else is accessing the system during the update process. Once the update is complete you will need to restart the system in order for the changes to take effect.

 

 

 

USB One-touch Copy Backup

The TS-509 has a front USB connection that can be used to communicate with a USB drive. The port in located in the lower left hand corner and just above it is the One-touch copy button. This section allows you to configure the behavior of the one-touch copy and you can set it to copy from the USB drive to the TS-509 or for the copy to go in the opposite direction from the TS-509 to the USB drive. During the volume creation process a share called /Qusb was created on the volume root and this is the default target/source share for the backups. You can have the system add a new directory for each backup or let the systems synchronize the share with the USB drive.

Change Logo

You can customize the front page of the WEB UI by creating and uploading your own image. The image should by 100x100 pixels and will appear next to the Welcome to Turbo NAS section on the page. In the screen shot below you can see how I added the OCC fan logo.

Backup to an External Storage Device

The TS-509 also provides the ability to backup the unit to an external storage device that is connected to one of the rear ports, either USB or eSATA. This section enables you to select which shares to backup and the target drive. The backup can be done immediately or on a schedule you define. Similar to the One-touch Copy, you can choose to copy or synchronize the shares to the external device. There is no provision for more sophisticated techniques such as differential or incremental backups. However, this will allow you to maintain a duplicate copy of all your files.

 

 

 

Remote Replication

This function allows up to backup the data on the TS-509 to another identical unit. You can also enable remote Rsync so another TS-509 can back up its data to the local unit. You can create a remote replication job to run once or on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule. The replication job can also encrypt and compress the data as well run an incremental replication where only the files changed since the last replication will be sent to the remote server.

Backup/ Restore/ Reset Settings

Once you have all your configuration setting set up you can back them up to an external file called backupdata.bin. You can then restore your configuration from this backup if you need to. This section will also allow you to reset all you settings back to the system default. You need to exercise a great deal of caution when using the reset feature as all drive data, accounts, groups and shares will be deleted along with any other system settings you have changed.

IP Filter

Setting up the IP filter allows to create a white list, only allow connections from IP addresses on the list) or a black list whereby IP addresses on the list are blocked. There are another security measures you can enable under the Network Access Protection tab where you can block IP addresses for a specified time period after a series of unsuccessful login attempts.

 

 

 

Network Recycle Bin

You can set up a recycle bin on the TS-509 and any files deleted from the NAS volume will be moved to the Network Recycle Bin folder. You can also use this function to delete all files in the recycle bin.

Remote Login

Enabling this options allows you to establish a remote Telnet or SSH connection to the server using the admin account.

QPKG

QPKG is a package management system for the TS-509. You can download and install packages offered by QNAP by clicking on Get QPKG in the upper right hand corner. Once you've chosen a package to download, you'll need to unzip the file and then use the Browse button to locate the .qpkg file and use the Upload button to install the package. You'll be redirected to the System Update page described above and the install will proceed similar to updating the firmware. There are several packages that you can download to enhance the functionality of the TS-509 including XDove, a SMTP mail server, Python, WordPress, SlimServer and more.

Import SSL Secure Certificate

If you have a secure certificate issued by a trusted provider you can import it and then access the TS-509 using a SSL connection.

 

 

 

That's it for the System Tools section. The last area to look at are the logging capabilities of the TS-509.

Configuration:

System Logs:

The TS-509 provides several logging options that allow you to track events, users and connections made. The System Logs section also includes a concise report of overall system health where you can check on temperatures for various components along with CPU usage and network statistics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That concludes our look at the monitoring options for the TS-509. Now it's time to take a quick look at some of the services enabled as a result of our efforts in configuring the server.

Web User Interface:

During the configuration of the TS-509 we enabled the various network services and those can be accessed through the main Web UI. There are five different offerings:
Web File Manager – the TS-509 offers an interface to access and manage files on the server directly without having to use your PC operating system's file manager. With an Internet connection and a static IP address you can even access your files from anywhere.
Web Server – the TS-509 can act as its own web server. This section on the Web UI is more of a quick tutorial on how to upload pages to the server. Actual management of the pages and any database used are done with other tools.
Multimedia Station – this section allows you to view and manage your multimedia content such as music and photo files and share them across your network.
Download Station – you can use the TS-509 to download files from FTP sites as well as schedule and manage BitTorrent downloads using the Download Station.
Surveillance Station – you can use the TS-509 to record and manage output from up to four webcams using the Surveillance Station feature.

 

 

 

 

 

Web File Manager

With the Web File Manager you can access the files on the NAS directly without the overhead of having to go through your local PC. This is a great feature especially when dealing with large amounts of files. Each share on the root is shown and you simply double click one to drill down into the folder. Once you've selected a share you can perform all the basic file manipulation functions such as create a folder, rename, move and delete items. You can also upload files from other network locations directly to the NAS. You can also access the files from the Internet by pointing your browser to http://Your IP Address:8080/Qfilemanager/ where “Your IP Address” is the address of the NAS. This is where using a DDNS comes in handy if you don't have a static IP address.

 

Web Sever

As mentioned above, the Web Server interface serves more as an introductory tutorial on how to upload your web pages to the TS-509. When the Web server was enabled in the Network Settings configuration section, the system places a \Qweb share on the root of the volume. All the web pages should be placed in this folder for the TS-509 to recognize them as part of your web site. Only the admin account has the authority to access this share.

 

 

Multimedia Station

The TS-509 provides a convenient way to manage and share your multimedia files over the network using the Multimedia Station. The files are stored in the /Qmultimedia share. You can access the multimedia folder via the Web UI or by pointing your browser to http://Your IP Address:8080/Qmultimedia/ where “Your IP Address” is the address of the NAS. You can view thumbnails of the media files and open them to view (photos) or play them (video and music). Your can also display photos as a slide show, view the photos' EXIF information and provide an annotation for the photos.

 

 

Download Station

You can download files to the TS-509 using either the built-in BitTorrent manager or directly from FTP sites. When you click on 'Add new BT task' you're prompted for the name of the torrent metadata file. Once you've located the file and click OK the torrent manager begins the download and you can monitor the download progress through the main window. By default, the BitTorrent manager will seed the file until the download is complete.

 

 

 

 

You can change the seeding behavior through the 'BT download property' section and have it continue to seed the file for a specified amount of time after the download completes. You can configure additional BitTorrent properties through the Set Config section such as download/upload rates, ports used and whether to use protocol encryption as a means of thwarting caps set by some ISPs on BitTorrent traffic. You also have the capability to limit BitTorrent activity to certain times of the day as well. Additional information on the current download task can be found in the Dump Diagnostic Information section. There is also the capability to set up downloads from FTP sites, either anonymously or with a specified user name and password.

 

 

 

Surveillance Station

The TS-509 can serve as a repository for video surveillance images captured from up to four different IP-enabled video cameras. Although I didn't have any cameras to use in testing this function, you can use this section to set up and monitor the cameras as well as playback the video streams from the disk.

 

Now that we've checked out the services available via the Web interface it's time to move on to the list of features on the TS-509.

Specifications:

 Model Number  TS-509 Pro
 Hardware Version  N/A
 Firmware Version  2.1.1 Build 0122T
 External Interface  10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet Port x 2
 Jumbo Frame Support  Not Supported
 Additional Ports  USB 2.0 x 5 (4 rear, 1 front)
 1 x eSATA port
 HDD Size  5 x 3.5" SATA Drives (not included)
 Drive Capacity  Up to 1.0TB drive
 CPU  Intel Celeron Processor 1.6GHz
 Memory  1GB DDRII RAM
 Flash  128MB
 SATA Controller  Marvell 88SE6145 x 2
 NIC  Broadcom BCM5787 x 2
 OS
 Linux 2.6.24
 File System  EXT3
 HDD Configuration  RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 5 +spare, JBOD, Standard
 Power Supply  Internal 250W
 Cooling  120mm fan
 Dimensions  261.1(D) x 188.5(W) x 261.1(H) mm
 10.28(D) x 7.42(W) x 10.28(H) inch
 Weight  7.0Kg/ 15.43lb
 OS Requirement  Microsoft Windows 98/ ME/ NT/ 2000/ XP/ 2003/ Vista
 Mac OS X, Mac OS X Linux and Unix
 Regulatory
 Certification
 FCC Class B, CE Class B
 Warranty  1 year limited

 

Features:

Powerful All-in-one server

File server

FTP server

Backup server

Printer server

Remote Replication

Web Server

MySQL Server

UPnP Media Server (built-in TwonkyMedia)

iTunes Server

Multimedia Station

Download Station

Software Specifications

Dual Gigabit LAN

File System

Supported Operating Systems

Disk Management

User Management

File System Management

System Tools

LCD

Event Logs

Multilingual Support

Backup Management

 

All information courtesy of QNAP @ http://www.qnap.com/pro_detail_software.asp?p_id=104

Testing:

To test the TS-509 I will use SiSoft Sandra 2009 using the File System benchmarks. I will also use the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (ver. 1.7) to gauge performance under several realistic usage scenarios. The tests will be conducted on all supported hard drive configurations with and without jumbo frames enabled. The TS-509 will be connected directly to the Marvell PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet controller using a Category 6 Ethernet cable to eliminate any variations due to network components or traffic.

Comparison Units:

Benchmarks:

 

Testing:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

File System

Higher is Better

 

Looking at the theoretical throughput using the SiSoft Sandra File Systems test, we can see the TS-509 performs quite well across all configurations. The RAID 0 volume performed the best, as one might expect, reaching a rate of almost 51MB/s. The RAID 5 and RAID 6 volumes performance was more than respectable in the 46-47 MB/s range. Given how close these number are, I'd gladly trade a 5-7% performance hit for the added safety of RAID 5/6 over RAID 0 any day. Comparing the QNAP TS-509 to the Synology DS408, we see that only in a RAID 1 configuration does the lower-powered DS408 manage to hang with the TS-509. With its more powerful processor, greater memory and five-drive configuration (versus the fours drives in the DS408), the QNAP unit manages to outperform the DS408 by 23-28%. To see what advantage the extra spindle in each configuration gave the TS-509 versus the DS408, and to make the comparison more equal, I re-ran the tests using only four drives in the TS-509. The margin of advantage did narrow to about 20-23% in favor of the TS-509, except in the RAID 5 configuration, where the TS-509 actually performed better than when using five drives; here the advantage jumped to about 28% in favor of the TS-509.

Lower is Better

For the standard, or single-drive, test the TS-509 exhibited an anomalously high seek time which, even after running the tests a couple of times, I could not explain. For the other tests, access times for the TS-509 were generally better than the DS408, except in the RAID 0 configuration where the DS408 ground out a slight advantage.

Testing:

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 the TS-509 was rebooted before each test was run. The RAID 1 array contained 2 drives, the maximum you can have. For this review, each volume configuration was first tested using the maximum number of drives allowed for each configuration. I also ran the tests using four drives in RAID 0, 5 and 6 for a more accurate performance comparison against the Synology DS408 which is a four-bay NAS.

HD Video Playback (higher is better)

The HD Video Playback series of tests involve streaming a 720p HD video file using Windows Media Player and 256kb 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).

 

 

 

 

 

2x HD Video Playback (higher is better)

 

 

4x HD Video Playback (higher is better)

 

In this first series of three tests the emphasis is on reading data from the units. It's interesting to see that in pure read operations the extra memory and more powerful processor of the TS-509 don't provide it an edge over the comparison DS408 unit, except for the RAID 6 volume, where it comes out ahead. The advantage drops from 21% for the single playback to 3% int he 4x playback test.

The more interesting comparison comes when we look at the four-drive TS-509 setup versus the DS408. Here, the Synology DS408 unit cleans up outperforming the TS-509 in all categories.

HD Video Record (higher is better)

This test writes a single 720p HD video file to the NAS device employing 99.9% sequential 256kb writes.

 

The TS-509 turns in some of its strongest performances here. Considering this is a pure write test, the results are even more impressive. With RAID speeds between 32-56MB/s, the TS-509 only ceded one category, RAID 1, to the DS408. In the other RAID categories the TS-509 was 43-54% faster than the DS408. Performance dropped from 8-31% when going down to four drives, but that wasn't enough to erase the TS-509 speed advantage over the DS408 with the TS-509 taking all three four-drive RAID categories.

HD Playback and Record  (higher is better)

The HD Video Playback and Record test combines the two previous tests and reads and writes a HD 720p video file simultaneously.

 

When you add write operations into the mix, the tables turn compared to the playback category, allowing the strength of the TS-509's additional memory and more powerful processor to give it a significant edge. It bests the DS408 by a whopping 43-54%, except in the RAID 1 array where it loses out to the DS408. When looking at the four-drive setup, we see the benefit of the extra drive in the array as the TS-509 advantage narrows down to 15-25%, still a respectable margin.

Content Creation  (higher is better)

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 64kb block sizes and consists of 39.1% sequential operations.

 

The massive write operations used in this test emphasize the benefit of more memory and greater processing power as the TS-509 clearly dominates, turning in some impressive numbers. This test showed the RAID 0 performing the best at a throughput of 28.6MB/s. The TS-509 clearly dominated the DS408 even in the four-drive configuration with performance margins of 28-89%.

Office Productivity  (higher is better)

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 1kb writes.

 

The Office Productivity test is a very tough and lengthy test and it is not unusual to see NAS units fall flat on this test. Having said that, the TS-509 performance was excellent even in the four drive configuration. I'll let the charts speak for themselves as this test was the DS408's Waterloo.

File Copy to NAS  (higher is better)

The File Copy test copies a single large file to the NAS unit using 100% sequential 64kb write operations.

 

Again, we see where the TS-509 shows its strengths and that is in write operations. Except for the RAID 1 configuration, the TS-509 came out a clear winner across the board with throughputs as high as 53.5Mb/s for the RAID 0 volume and around 41MB/s for the RAID5/6 configurations.

File Copy From NAS

This test reads the single large (1.4GB) file from the File Copy test from the NAS using 64kb read operations.

 

Reading the single large file back didn't tax the TS-509 too much with the RAID 0 configuration again leading the way. You can see the benefit of the extra drive in each of the RAID 0/5/6 arrays as performance dropped off as much as 21% in the RAID 6 array with only four drives.

Dir Copy to NAS  (higher is better)

This test copies a directory structure with 126 files to the NAS device using predominately 64kb writes but also includes a wide distribution under 16kb.

 

The TS-509 may be strong in write operations, but it stumbled here when trying to write lots of files, losing to the Synology DS408 in all but one category. Its one win was a less than 1% advantage in the single drive configuration. In head-to-head competition with just four drives, it fared even worse with the advantage going to the DS408 by as much as 41%.

Dir Copy From NAS  (higher is better)

This test copies the same directory structure of 126 files from the NAS device using 64kb reads.

 

In the directory copy test, we see similar results as in the previous tests with throughput ranging in the 17-20MB/s range. Dropping to four drives didn't lessen performance a great deal, but still allowed the DS408 to win two out of three in that category.

Photo Album  (higher is better)

The Photo Album test simulates the viewing of 169 photo files of various sizes stored on the NAS and consists of 100% read operations.

 

The final test in the suite is another tough one on NAS units with through dropping to its lowest point, settling in in the mid to upper 9MB/s range. That's still 10-20% better than the DS408.

Testing:

Testing is not just about performance results. Some of the more practical aspects include operational aspects such as power and cooling.

Cooling:

Cooling for the TS-509 is provided by a rear-mounted 120mm fan. The fan is temperature controlled, a feature QNAP refers to as Smart Fan. As we saw in the System Tools/Hardware Settings section earlier, you can let the system handle the speed of the cooling fan or override those settings with values of your own choosing. With Smart Fan enabled the fan rotated slowly enough to keep temperatures in check without being noticeably loud. QNAP claims noise levels of 34.2 dB in standby mode and operational noise levels 41.2dB. Cool air is provided by air vents along the lower front of the case along with slots on the front of each drive tray.

During the course of running the performance tests the outer steel case never became warm. To test how well the system cools itself, I used the NAS performance Toolkit to run a full series of tests in a RAID 5 configuration and monitored the S.M.A.R.T. drive temperature readings as well as the system temperature reported on the System Information page of the management UI. To monitor the interior case temperatures I inserted a digital temperature probe into the case with the probe positioned in the center of the case at the rear of the drives. Temperature readings were taken prior to the run with the hard drives spinning and then throughout the test.

 

 

 

  Idle Test
Ambient Room 22 C 22 C
CPU 35 C 38 C
System 43 C 45 C
Case Interior 32 C 33 C
S.M.A.R.T. Drive 1 35 C 36 C
S.M.A.R.T. Drive 2 33 C 35 C
S.M.A.R.T. Drive 3 33 C 35 C
S.M.A.R.T. Drive 4 32 C 34 C
S.M.A.R.T. Drive 5 34 C 35 C
Fan Speed (RPM) 860 865

 

As you can see cooling performance was quite good with only modest increases in temperatures even after an extended period of high drive activity levels. The fan pretty much stayed at its lowest speed, keeping the unit very quiet.

Power Consumption:

One of the benefits of using a NAS server such as the TS-509 over a standard PC is lower power consumption. You can set the drives to go into hibernation using the management UI. It's a simple matter of picking a setting from a drop down list and is easy to set.

I tested the various power usage levels of the TS-509 at idle with the disks spinning but no activity, during a full test with read and write activity with the drives configured in RAID 5 and finally in power management mode with all drives set to power down after 5 minutes. All measurements were taken with a P3 International P4400 Kill A Watt power meter.

State Watts
Power Mgt. Mode N/A (fail)
Idle 71
RAID 5 Test 73-85

 

I was more than a bit surprised to see the the results of the power test especially when put up against the Synology DS408 comparison unit. However, given that the unit uses an Intel Celeron 1.6GHz processor, compared to the DS408 with its 800 MHz Freescale MPC8543 system-on-chip processor, plus the fact that the TS-509 has twice the memory and an additional hard drive for the TS-509, you can expect it to use more power. The hard part comes in reconciling the numbers I saw to the numbers published on QNAP's web site: 39W in sleep mode and 63W in operation with 5 x 640GB HDD installed.

In addition, I never observed the unit setting the drives to hibernate. Even after extended idle times, power consumption remained rock steady at 71W. I even disconnected the Ethernet cable to ensure there was no communication going on between the test computer and the unit with no luck. QNAP's documentation says that during the hibernate state the power LED will be blue and the status LED will be off in hard disk standby mode and I never saw an indication of this, even with the unit being left idle overnight.

While I would have liked to seen lower idle power consumption, 70-85 watts is still less than what you could expect to see from even a low-powered PC.

Testing:

RAID 5 Data Protection

One of the benefits of a unit like the TS-509 is the ability to provide data protection through redundancy offered by a RAID array. While using a RAID array is no substitute for a proper backup system, it does offer redundancy that can help protect data in the event of a drive failure. The TS-509 offers support for RAID 1/5/6 that provides redundancy either through mirroring (RAID 1) or striping with parity (RAID 5/6). In addition to the RAID levels mentioned above, the TS-509 also features RAID 5 + hot spare which allows you to designate a drive as spare drive that can automatically be added to the array in the event of a drive failure.

To test the ability of the TS-509 to survive and recover from the loss of a single drive, I first configured the unit in a four-drive RAID 5 array while designating the fifth drive as a hot spare. The TS-509 supports hot-swapping which means that drives can be removed and replaced without powering the unit down, leaving the unit operational. I simulated a failure by removing a drive tray while the unit was still powered on. The TS-509 indicates a failure in several ways. First off you notice the HDD LED indicator for the 'failed' drive is now red instead of green. The TS-509 also reports the error via the LCD panel and alerts you via e-mail.

Checking the volume using the Web UI, the system reports the hard drive failure and you can see the system has automatically begun rebuilding the array using the designated hot spare drive. Rebuilding the array is a lengthy process which can take several hours. During the repair process the volume is accessible and all files were intact with no loss of data.

 

 

 

IP Filter/Network Access Protection

One feature that I ended up testing inadvertently is the ability of the TS-509 to block unwanted intrusion by outsiders. After testing the FTP features of the unit, I foolishly neglected to turn off port forwarding on my router and left the unit exposed to the Internet. Fortunately it was set up in the DMZ so no other computers on my network were at risk, but sometime later when I checked my email I found a flood of e-mails from the TS-509 alerting me to failed login attempts and that the unit had automatically blocked the intruder's IP. Checking the log I saw hundreds of login attempts from a single IP address which the TS-509 had successfully blocked after the first 10 failed attempts. Thank goodness for a strong password and the intrusion prevention features of the TS-509. This is certainly a great feature to have and one that you should pay attention to when configuring the unit.

Other Features

During the configuration covered in the previous pages, I managed to check out most of the features offered by the TS-509. To conserve space I won't cover all of the results beyond those already mentioned in the review. I found everything to work as designed with the exception of the drive hibernation feature which I could not get to work. Other than that one exception, I had no issues and was pleased with the way things worked. I also found the user manual to be organized in an easy-to-follow manner than closely mirrored the way the UI was configured. My only complaint would be that a n inexperienced user my find the manual lacking in detail in a few parts. However, in areas such as RAID management, RAID migration and expansion, the TS-509 offers additional online resources that explains many details a non-technical person will find helpful.

Conclusion:

The QNAP TS-509 is a full-featured and powerful NAS server designed to provide centralized data storage for businesses and enterprise workgroups. The unit offers support for a full range of storage volumes including RAID 0/1/5/6/5 + hot spare as well as single drive and JBOD configurations. In addition to these features, the TS-509 offers RAID level migration and volume expansion that not only allow you to add additional drives but to replace existing drives with ones of higher capacity. These features ensure the unit can grow along with your storage needs. Additional features such as dual LAN connections with failover and load balancing only add to enhance its attraction as a solid business-oriented storage server. The unit also has several features for sharing multimedia files and other functions such as a Web server and automatically downloading files. These features may be more of a nod to the serious non-business user, although that is not the primary target market.

The TS-509 simply means business and would make an excellent choice for those looking to have a solid, reliable repository for their data, especially for businesses that don't possess a dedicated IT staff. Even experienced IT shops will find a lot to like in the TS-509 and QNAP has made sure that the TS-509 has all the features needed. I found the Web UI to be well-organized and laid out, although a bit frumpy looking when compared to the polished look and feel of the Synology DS408's AJAX-based interface. Performance wise the TS-509 turned in some very impressive numbers, especially in the Office Productivity tests that simply slaughtered the competition. I only wished I could have seen better power consumption numbers and that the drive hibernation feature had worked. At a suggested price of $899 the TS-509 is priced beyond what all but the most serious home user would consider and may give pause to some smaller businesses as well. However, the TS-509 is serious about provided a safe and secure place to store data and that is a small price to pay for one of the most precious assets a business has.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: