Thursday, January 21, 2016

QNAP TS-451 Network Attached Storage



Subtitle:  The Upgrade NAS Proof of Concept

To start with the conclusion and punchline, the QNAP TS-451 has passed the next-generation NAS upgrade testing with flying colours

Why NAS
The typical NAS is a small dedicated Storage server for your whole household.  At the very least it stores your Media and Data files, and the modern NAS can be capable of much more, for example running a Web Server, Information Wiki, Photos Database, Surveillance station.   And more.

In the old days it was commonplace to have one primary computer in the house, with most of the media and data files on it, and share it's contents out to other members.

Today this is I feel this is dated and suboptimal, despite the fact that that single user who has access to the files via DAS  (Directly Attached Storage), will still have far superior access in terms of speed than putting those files on a NAS.

So why recommend a NAS?

- Typically a small self contained computer
- Runs a dedicated low maintenance, storage focussed Operating System  (usually based on Linux)
- Has a programmable timer, so it switches on and off automatically for maximum power efficiency and total silence when not needed e.g. at night
- Much lower power requirements than a dedicated repurposed PC
- Almost totally silent
- Running RAID, your data is protected against disk failure ( you still need to consider theft though)
- Supports the big Three:  Microsoft, Apple and Linux computers and protocols and services  (e.g. iTunes)
- Any time you are upgrading all the other computers in the house, you know that even on your worst cock up, your data, and machine backups, sit quietly and securely on your NAS.


Today,  in a home with more than 1 active computer user, my considered opinion is that you would be a total chump to dismiss having a NAS in your home instead of 1 large server/ workstation that others can access.


Why Synology or QNAP
We have tried various brands of NAS, or repurposing an older unused computer and running some dedicated NAS software like FreeNAS.  But nothing worked slickly. What has worked is NAS devices from 

Synology
QNAP

The others are so far behind I don't even bother checking them regularly.

And when we say ahead I primarily mean

- Nothing to do with the hardware
- It's their software
- Same OS from entry level to professional (per vendor:   QTS for Qnap and DSM for Synology)
- So many facilities that it leaves me quite dizzy


What is the Plan?

- A replacement to our > 4 year old existing Synology NAS.   The Synology is doing a 100% fine job, but I was always curious as to whether QNAP could perform as well or eclipse its rival.

- Idea is to buy an entry level capable QNAP NAS

- And test it to exhaustion!


Elements of the Test

- Is it quiet
- Is it low power
- Can it power on and off to a schedule
- Can it just act as a file server
- Can you aggregate the Ethernet and go faster
- Can I upgrade the memory to 16GB
- How does the SSD caching work
- Can you host a Wiki
- What apps are in their App store
- Can it be a VPN client
- Can it be accessed as Cloud storage from outside
- What's the max security configuration
- How long to create a Raid Array
- How does an  disk replacement work
- How long does an Array rebuild take
- What are the simple backup options
- What are the complex backup, machine to machine options
- What are the USB 3 ports speeds (for backup)
- How does Virtualisation Work
- Is virtualisation practical  (does everything else come to a halt)
- How do Snapshots work, and try them out, what is the granularity
- How do complex UNIX style iScsi and NFS work
- Can I do anything with the Linux command line
- Can I use the HDMI out and keyboard facilities
- Can I use the Remote control for anything


Some QNAP Features
(in pictures, click to enlarge)























Some Hardware Pictures














The Big Conclusions

We tested the QNAP and we report a successful POC  (Proof of Concept)

- Like Synology, the QNAP is small and quiet and takes little power
- The 4 bay TS451 has enough oomph to handle file serving and the other more exotic activities
- For many people the TS451 might be all they need
- QNAP has expandable memory (to 8GB or even 16GB in some cases) on its Intel NAS systems
- The capabilities of File serving, redundancy, snapshotting, iSCSI, backup, cloud access,  security, virtualisation, Linux command line,  Applications and support, Wiki, Ethernet aggregation, Media Server,  all tested out fantastically.
- For us, if funds allow we'd rather have a larger NAS to allow for future expansion and some SSD caching


The QNAP is currently for bargain sale  and then we have to save up for a larger QNAP and make a purchase and then a data migration plan.




Links
Other NAS articles
Small Net Builder TS451