|QNAP TS-659 Pro II NAS Network Server|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Network|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Wednesday, 08 June 2011|
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QNAP v3.4 New Software Features
When QNAP launched the v3 Graphical User Interface on their Turbo NAS servers, they set a new standard for this market. A year or two later on, and the latest iteration offers a wide variety of enhancements that keep it at the forefront of modern networking applications. Overall, the feature set is a mix of elements that are broadly targeted at either the home user, a small/medium business, or a full fledged enterprise situation. NAS products have gained in popularity to the point where network administrators consider them mainstream appliances, small businesses consider them a lifesaver, and they are gaining traction in the home market. It's important to meet the needs of each one of those potential customers if you want to be the market leader, and that is clearly QNAP's intention.
The first thing you see when you connect to the NAS is a new Administration logon screen. It seems like old hat now with version 3.4, but the QNAP v3 User Interface features a very attractive rounded GUI design made popular by Apple, and if I had an all-in-one computer with a touch screen the similarity would be further enhanced.
There are an overwhelming amount of features available to manage the QNAP Turbo NAS, as the huge list in the previous Software Features section demonstrates. In this section of the review, we will focus on some of the enhancements that were added recently with version 3.4.
RAID 10 - RAID 10 combines the advantages of RAID 0 and RAID 1. This configuration allows for one disk failure from each RAID 1 pair and offers better write performance for some database applications. There's a bigger penalty in array capacity for the redundancy that you get, compared to RAID 5, but for some it's definitely worth it. RAID 6 can withstand ANY two drives failing at the same time, whereas RAID 10 is only stable if one drive in different RAID 1 pairs fails. It's an extra chance you take for the increased performance. That's why they invented RAID 50 and RAID 60, for those enterprise-class needs.
Real-time Remote Replication - Allows real-time remote replication of one NAS to another over the Internet for maximum data redundancy. This feature is applicable to Intel-based NAS units from QNAP, so the lower-end units can't play. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of Atom-based Turbo NAS models to choose from if this is a needed feature. Don't think of this as a business only feature, it's just as relevant for home users who want to have an advanced remote backup capability, but don't want to pay a monthly fee. Just convince a family member or close, reliable friend who lives across town or across the country to join in a NAS sharing scheme. You can each back the other person's data up in real time. For most home users this is going to be overkill, but if you both have fiber running through your neighborhood, why not?
Advanced Folder Permissions - Enables you to configure access control to folders and subfolders for efficient management and better security. This is primarily aimed at business applications, but if you've got a house full of users, it makes sense to put some restrictions in place, and set up some safe areas where no one else has access. Kids and credit card data don't mix well, for example.
ElephantDrive Cloud Storage - Lets users save backups in cloud based storage in addition to their Turbo NAS for an off-site storage with continuous data protection. This is going to be a very popular option for home users. Just as Carbonite has established a nice market for their data protection services, ElephantDrive will work very well for NAS users who have consolidated storage. It's not as complex as setting up your own private cloud, and doesn't offer all the capabilities you get by doing that, but it's ideally suited for users or groups who are interested in off-line storage. Most of us should be interested, because the truth is 90% of home users are vulnerable to a wide variety of disaster scenarios.
Download Station V2 - Now easier to use with a new AJAX interface, broadcatching support (RSS download), and enhanced overall performance. For those of us intent on drinking from the fire hose, this new interface makes it easier to set up your various data feeds.
Advanced Print Server - Now supports Internet printing with permission control as well as Bonjour printing for Mac. Who doesn't have a printer in the house, that doesn't have an Ethernet interface, and you have it hooked to one of the desktop systems, and are using printer sharing to allow others on the network to access it? Well, as more and more of us are migrating to laptops, it seems wasteful to keep one desktop running, just for a printer server. Got a Turbo NAS, problem solved?
MyCloudNAS Remote Access - MyCloudNAS is a free built-in DNS service provided for users to register a unique domain name for their NAS. It further reduces the hassle of complicated Internet registration and allows users to quickly access their NAS through the Internet. This is the thing people have been waiting for, I think. When you hear discussions about Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud, this is what they're talking about. While some of the other remote access apps give you limited control of the NAS for specific tasks, MyCloudNAS gives you full access from anywhere in the world. Pretty cool, even if I'm going to want to read a couple dozen tech articles on network security before I try it. I'm chicken that way!
USB Wi-Fi Network Adapter Support - Allows you to deploy the NAS wirelessly. I can see this being worthwhile for smaller NAS units, but my old-school brain says I want this plugged directly into my router or into a Gigabit switch that connects to my primary workstations.
Two more features are included with the new version 3.4, but they're both for business-class IT environments, so I won't dwell on them here. They're more applicable to the high-end rack mount units that QNAP sells to the corporate world.
System Management Features - Import/export of users, host-based permissions control, enhanced Virtual Disk support, and direct file viewing via Google Doc
Virtual LAN Support - You can integrate the NAS into an existing VLAN on a virtualization infrastructure and configure the NAS as the storage system for other VLAN devices. This feature is applicable to Intel-based NAS
You can see that v3.4 was a major release in terms of new functionality. QNAP offers a huge selection of FAQs and how-to guides on their website that go into much more detail. It's one of the most informative sites I've seen, in any industry. They not only show what each feature does, they show you how to do it, with screen shots and real-world examples. As I said in the beginning of this section, QNAP clearly wants to stay on top, as the market leader in this segment. The high level of support that they offer for each user and each product is another example of how they intend to do that.