QNAP v3.8 Software Features
It seems like every time I review a new QNAP Turbo NAS, that 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 version 3.8.
The changes are mostly additions, so the bulk of what we use at Benchmark Reviews to review and test NAS products with 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 the year 2013 and version 3.8 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 version 3.8, not the full set.
Windows 8 Compatibility
Turbo NAS firmware 3.8 now includes support for the latest Windows operating system. Love it or hate it, you don’t have a choice. You have to support Windows 8, because new workstations, laptops and tablets are rapidly coming on line, to a network near you. Correction, make that YOUR network! Maybe the numbers aren’t as high as Microsoft is pretending, but they’re out there. Of course, IE10 is supported, and there are no restrictions on the use of the wide range of features that were supported in earlier versions of Windows.
Web setup portal – start.qnap.com
CDs and DVDs are old school when it comes to system setup. Of course, you can store the ISO image on your network, or better yet, take advantage of QNAP’s web-based setup portal. Just point your Windows, Mac, or Linux machine to start.qnap.com and follow the step-by-step instructions. Once the basic NAS functions are enabled and operating, take advantage of the powerful combination of flexible application privileges and single sign-on for all registered users. If the default user gets access to only the Photo Station, Music Station, and Video Station, they get instant access to all authorized applications with one sign-in.
Photo management software is a very personal subject. I’m not going to tell you that you’re going to love Photo Station, because you might be addicted to Flikr, and that’s never going to change. But, if you’ve got an open mind, here’s all the things that Photo Station can do:
Auto photo album creation, based on folders
One-touch upload from USB devices
Simplified album management tools
Slideshows with transition effects
Photo sharing on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter
Pixlr photo editor with RAW support
Music Station 3
Music Station also has a tough road to follow, because many people are already wedded to their favorite audio player. That hasn’t stopped QNAP from making a best effort and the fact that they’re on version 3 tells me that they aren’t giving up any time soon…. The interface is pretty clean and intuitive, and you have basic search functions that can index off an artist, an album, a song, or a genre. If you already have all your music ripped to a drive on your computer, it’s straightforward to upload it to the NAS. Just like photos, it’s a folder-based filing system. There is an Internet Radio service built into the application, and you can create a favorites folder. If you connect a pair of USB speakers to the NAS, you can even use it as an alarm clock. Your music selection comes on at the preset time; your choice, Heavy Metal, Wagner, or Easy Listening.
Video Station has less competition than the Photo or Music station, because people have been creating and uploading videos for a shorter period of time and they haven’t developed long-standing application preferences yet. Video is definitely growing in popularity though, if only because every cat and dog owner in the world has posted at least three videos on YouTube in the last year, alone. The QNAP Video Station allows you to host videos on the Turbo NAS server itself, or it has hooks to publish them on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Download Station 3
Download Station 3 is another app that has been improved several times in the last few years, and it’s a core functionality that has been a part of the Turbo NAS software for a long time. If you have a storage server on your network, it makes sense to relieve the desktops from download duty. After all, once you download the item, you’re more than likely going to put it on the storage server anyway, either for safekeeping or for distribution to other devices on the network. Some new features included this time are Smart Download Bandwidth Control, integration of QGet into Download Station, and an add-on app to D/L videos to the NAS via website subscription.
This is the antithesis of a business app, if there ever was one. With DJ Station, you create playlists and share them with friends on Facebook. Any bets on how many times this feature gets used on a corporate network. My guess is going to be pretty high, even though it ought to be zero. I’m not sure why I don’t “get” this one. It’s not like I’m too old for Facebook, it’s filled with Boomers and retirees that are a lot older than me. Maybe my self-esteem is too low, because I’m utterly convinced that no one cares what eight songs I think go really well together.
Surveillance Station Pro
The surveillance application is quite full-featured, which is not surprising given QNAP’s strong presence in the dedicated surveillance market. The latest release of Surveillance Station Pro extends the number of supported IP cameras to over 1,400 different models. Each TS-x70 NAS can support up to 16 camera channels; one free license is included with the unit and additional licenses can be purchased. TS-x79 models can support up to 40 licenses per unit, so plan ahead if you need a large number of IP cameras linked to a single unit. A surveillance cluster can be formed from multiple Turbo NAS units via multi-server hosting on a PC, over LAN or WAN. 128 channels can be combined this way into a single monitoring center, and the diagram above illustrates this configuration.
There are a number of features include in this app that are worth mentioning. Intelligent video analytics allow the user to have the application search long streams of video for things like missing object, motion detection, foreign objects, etc. This speeds up forensic video searches tremendously, and also avoids missing key details because a human has a hard time concentrating on surveillance video for long periods of time. An E-Map can be created that will highlight the exact location in the facility, when and where the camera detects an anomaly. Finally, most of these features are now available on your iOS or Android mobile device with the VMobile app. There is also a QNAP Surveillance Client for Mac, but it’s fairly basic in scope.
Proxy client support
In most SMB LAN environments, proxy servers filter and control Internet access. The Turbo NAS firmware allows proxy client settings to easily resolve IP paths to the Internet. When performing live firmware updates, updating virus definitions, or installing QPKG software packages, it’s generally more secure to use a proxy server for accessing the Internet.
There are a lot of other important and useful features available in version 3.8. Don’t let this limited description of the latest changes make you think that this is all there is. Go look at the Software Features page in this article, and you can read about everything these versatile machines can do, until your eyes get blurry.