QNAP TS-412 TurboNAS device

QNAP TS-412 review: A 4-bay NAS device with plenty of features for home and small business users

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QNAP TS-412 TurboNAS

Pros

  • Huge array of features, hot-swappable drive bays, relatively easy to use

Cons

  • Some features could be implemented better

Bottom Line

The QNAP TS-412 TurboNAS is a 4-bay network storage device with a stack of useful features. Not only can it be used as a storage and backup point for your data, it can also stream multimedia files locally and remotely. It can even be used as a Web server. It's a good choice for home and small business users.

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The QNAP TS-412 TurboNAS is a four-bay network attached storage (NAS) device that can support four internal hard drives and up to six externally attached drives. It's a comprehensive NAS device that's aimed at home users as well as small business owners, and it's not too difficult to set up.

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The QNAP doesn't ship with any hard drives — you'll have to supply them yourself. It can support drives up to 3TB in capacity (the largest currently available), meaning you can equip it with up to 12TB of storage if you use a RAID 0 or single volume drive configuration. But you're better off using one of the TS-412's fault-tolerant RAID modes: RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, or RAID 10.

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In addition to the four internal drive bays, the TS-412 TurboNAS has three USB 2.0 ports located on its rear, along with two eSATA ports. You can attach external drives to these ports to back up data from the NAS, or to just expand its capacity. A USB 2.0 port on the front allows you to easily plug in external hard drives and USB keys and back them up onto the NAS by pressing the Copy button.

The QNAP connects to a network using Gigabit Ethernet, and it has two such ports on its rear. Both ports can be used simultaneously to boost the throughput of the device on a local network. Alternatively, the NAS has a built-in DHCP server so that it can dole out IP addresses to an attached network peripheral, such as an IP camera. An optional Wi-Fi adapter also allows the QNAP to be used wirelessly.

Disk set up

We tested the QNAP with three- and four-drive configurations using RAID 5, which stripes data across three or more disks and also includes parity data in case of a single drive failure. Using RAID 5, if one disk in the array fails, you can easily swap it with a new one without losing your data. It's a hot-swappable NAS device, meaning you can remove and replace drives without powering down the unit.

In our tests, we removed one of the disks in our RAID 5 array and replaced it with a new disk. The QNAP quickly recognised that the RAID 5 array was in degraded mode and it beeped at us. When we inserted the new drive it beeped again and then proceeded to re-build the RAID 5 array. Even while rebuilding, the QNAP stayed online and we were still able to access our data during the process (the rebuilding process took over six hours in our tests using 1TB Seagate Constellation ES disks).

You can easily expand a RAID 5 array simply by adding another disk and telling the QNAP to add the new drive to the existing array (via the RAID management page in the Web interface). During this process, copying files or streaming media off the QNAP will be slow and the expansion of the RAID array itself will take a very long time — it took over 12 hours for our three-drive RAID 5 array to be expanded with a fourth 1TB drive.

The QNAP automatically formats and configures a drive as soon as it's inserted, so you won't want to insert a disk that already has data on it that you wish to keep. It can use only the EXT3 or EXT4 file systems for internal drives, while external drives can also use NTFS, FAT32 or HFS+.

Web interface features

The TS-412 has a comprehensive Web interface. You can use it not only to share files among users on a local network, but also to serve a Web site (using Apache); to serve a MySQL database; to allow remote access to stored files; to download files independently of a PC using BitTorrent; and also to record video from IP surveillance cameras.

We had some difficulty using all of the QNAP's features after updating its firmware — the Download Station (for downloading BitTorrent files) and the Multimedia Station (for streaming music and videos through a Web browser) didn't work until we updated the firmware a second time (using the same version). Apart from this, the rest of the device's functions played ball. Setting up users, user groups and permissions was not difficult and we were able to use the built-in MyCloudNAS service to access files remotely. If your router supports UPnP, then you don't even have to forward ports — the built-in wizard will do it all for you. You can use other dynamic IP services, too, such as DynDNS.

You can use the QNAP as a server for iTunes, but it is fiddly to set up. If you already have music on the QNAP that you want to serve, you have to create a new shared folder called 'multimedia' and move or copy all your music into this folder. Otherwise, iTunes simply will not see it (it will see the NAS device, but it will give you an error — 3260 — when you click on it).

QNAP has made available Android and iOS apps (called QMobile), which allow you to stream music and video content directly from the NAS either locally or over the Internet.

The QNAP supports video recording from IP cameras that are attached to your local network; in our tests with a Linksys WVC54GCA camera, the Surveillance Station application required ActiveX in order to view video. If you use Internet Explorer 9, then you may as well forget about viewing live and recorded video through the QNAP as it will be a royal pain the behind to get it working properly. We could not get it to work at all even after enabling all ActiveX features in the security settings and telling IE it was okay to install the QNAP's controls. It worked on an older Windows XP-based system running IE6, though.

Conclusion

As you can see there is a lot to the QNAP TS-412 (even more than what we've mentioned, so check out the specs page). It's a versatile device with lots of built-in functions and more can be added via plug-ins; it has good hardware credentials as well. It can take a long time to set up and some of its features could be better implemented, but overall it's a worthy product for any home or small business user that wants a manageable and fault tolerant network storage device (as long as you use a fault tolerant RAID array). If you want simpler solutions, the two-bay TS-212 and single-bay TS-112 are also available.

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