QTS 4.0 New Software Features
Every time I review a new QNAP Turbo NAS, there’s a new version of the software available. There are two reasons why I can’t complain about this. One is that significant new features are always being added or improved. Two, the basic operation of the software doesn’t change randomly with every new release. I never have to fumble around with a totally new GUI layout, just because some web designer got bored at work and decided to change everything without really improving it. So, let’s take a look at what’s new with QTS version 4.0.
The changes are mostly additions, so the bulk of what we use at Benchmark Reviews to review and test NAS products hasn’t changed. When QNAP launched the v3 Graphical User Interface on their Turbo NAS servers several years ago, they set a new standard for this market. Fast forward to 2013 and version 4.0 offers a wide variety of enhancements that keep it at the forefront of modern networking applications. 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.
There are an overwhelming amount of features available to manage the QNAP Turbo NAS, as the huge list in the Software Features section demonstrates. In this section of the review, we will focus on a sample of new features released with QTS 4.0, not the full set of capabilities. We’ll start with some that are aimed towards the home environment and finish up with a couple noteworthy business features.
Some of the Quick Setup features were introduced with version 3.8, but QTS 4.0 expands on them, and provides a smoother user experience. The setup process is flexible, in that there are three automated ways to do it: online at http://start.qnap.com and click “Start Now”, a “Cloud” version of the online setup, which is easily accessed with a QR code that is printed on a label, and the old-fashioned way of using the supplied CD to access the startup files. There’s also the full manual setup, which is easy enough, once you know which files to download from the QNAP support website. We’ll take a closer look in the NAS Server Setup page of this review.
It seems a bit odd to be talking about file management as a “new” feature for a NAS server…. I mean, what else have NAS devices been doing for the last five years? Well, they haven’t always been stellar at cross-platform file sharing, for one. They also have almost always had strange, non-standard user interfaces for file management. The applications always showed their backup software heritage, which means that they were all non-intuitive and obtuse. With QTS 4.0 File Station, things look more like a typical O/S file manager, something we’re all a lot more familiar with.
The integration of TV and home network continues apace. For those who don’t want to ditch their large screen TV, just because it’s not a “SMART TV”, or if you’re afraid that it might spy on you when you’re not looking, QTS 4.0 offers a rich set of interfaces that use the built-in HDMI connection on the Turbo NAS. HD Station is able to display movies or videos stored on the NAS directly on the big screen, with controls that are conveniently integrated into your iOS or Android mobile device. On top of that, HD Station supports the Chrome browser, so the entire internet experience is available in your living room, via the TurboNAS network connection. The AirPlay and QAirplay apps stream media content to Airplay-enabled devices. QAirplay works without your iOS mobile device, so you don’t have to use up precious battery life on your mobile.
Qsync offers the file sharing and synchronization of cloud tools like Dropbox, without the fees and storage limitations that commercial sites impose. Your TurboNAS is much bigger, much faster, less expensive, and more secure than most of the alternatives available on the market today. Go ahead, ask Amazon what 12TB of storage on AWS will cost you, on a yearly basis…. All the same features are available with Qsync like selective synching per folder, anonymous download links for less sensitive documents, and shared team folders for more intense collaboration efforts.
Those are the highlights for a typical home user. Now, let’s focus on some of the new features that will benefit the business user.
It seems silly to be talking scale-up in a review of a four-bay NAS, but the TS-x70 series only starts with a 4-bay model; it ends with an 8-bay server, and the scale-up capability built into the new QTS 4.0 software means it doesn’t really end there either. The new Storage Manager built into the latest version of software makes a lot of things possible, including the ability to add about 400 TB to an existing NAS, all in the background without losing access to existing data. That’s right – no disruption in service, including apps that are running in the background.
Flexible Volume Management
If you are taking advantage of the expansion capability that QNAP offers with QTS 4.0, there will come a day when, even with 20+ multi-TB disks in play, some business unit runs out of storage space. Maybe it’s the Marketing team, with all their product videos, maybe it’s the Product Support team with their huge archive of legacy product data; it doesn’t matter. Someday it will happen, and on that day you will be eminently thankful for the Intelligent Storage Manager, Storage Pools, and Flexible Volume Allocation. Trust me on this!
Performance is a team effort. Big, efficient drives and fast drive controllers can’t push the data out any faster than the network interface can send it. SSDs have been hamstrung by their data controllers since day one. Every single NAS benchmark I did, before I got a 10GbE network up and running, was compromised by network throughput that topped out at ~ 125 MB/s. As much as I understand the controversy behind “You didn’t build that.” there is a time and place for viewing things from a systems perspective. The TS-470 offers SSD caching, SMB 2.0 support, and optional 10GbE networking, which combine together to deliver extraordinary results. Check out our benchmarks, later in this article, if you don’t believe me.
Proactive Data Protection
Hot RAID spares, global hot spares are pretty standard these days, but the RAID rebuilding process is usually slow and it impacts performance. With QNAP SMART data migration, data from a failed or misbehaving drive can be proactively migrated to a spare without going into a RAID rebuild process. In addition, read errors are tackled head on with an advanced RAID read error recovery technique. When bad blocks are encountered, data is recovered from other drives in the array and rewritten to new blocks. This process runs in the background, keeping all data up-to-date and correct.
Now that we’ve seen some of the new software features, let’s focus on the hardware for a moment.