Qnap TVS-471 NAS device
Storage is far from boring when you have a device like the Qnap TVS-471 at your disposal
Qnap’s TVS-471 is the type of network attached storage (NAS) device that you could sit down and play with for days. It has functions that make it suitable for serious business, home storage, and entertainment tasks. It can be the centre of your life if you allow it.
Immediately noticeable is the solid build quality of the NAS. It’s made of metal and it has metal trays to hold the drives that you will have to install yourself. This model has four drive bays, and each is lockable with a little key. The front also has a screen so that you can see important things at a glance, such as the IP address, and you also get a USB 3.0 port with a copy button that can be used to quickly backup external hard drives and flash drives.
On the rear, you get a few things that indicate the power that this NAS holds. There are four Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be used for various tasks such as redundancy, extra speed, or as a network connection for a virtual machine. Then there are the multiple USB ports (two each USB 3.0 and USB 2.0), which can be used not only to connect more storage externally, but also to attach a keyboard and mouse. An HDMI port is right at the bottom so that you can hook up a monitor.
You can complete the set-up of this NAS without even connecting it to a network, just by connecting a monitor and input peripherals. But a NAS without a network is just an AS. Instead, insert a couple of hard drives, plug it into your router, wait until it’s assigned an IP address by the DHCP server in your router, look at the IP address on the front screen, enter the IP address into your Web browser, and wait to be greeted by QTS, which is the name of Qnap’s NAS operating system.
It’s an operating system that’s a pleasure to use, thanks primarily to a lovely desktop-like layout that makes sense. You get a couple of dropdowns from which you can access different areas of the system quickly, and there are also shortcut icons right on the desktop for the most common tasks.
The storage in our NAS was configured automatically in a RAID 1 array for data redundancy (we used two 6TB WD drives), and then later on we went ahead and added a solid state drive (SSD) as a cache drive. That cache drive can improve the performance of the NAS if you tend to access a lot of the same data over and over. It’s one of the Qnap’s advanced features.
For the most part, you’ll be able to use the Qnap to store all your files in shared folders so that they can be accessed easily from numerous devices on your network, as well as over the Internet -- if you’ll allow it. Qnap has a dynamic DNS service that you can sign up for and assign to the NAS. It’s called ‘myqnapcloud’, and it keeps tabs on the IP address of your NAS so that you easily connect to it from anywhere.
Some things need to be configured before you can get all this to work. Mainly, you need to install an app called CloudLink on the NAS, as well as configure your router to open the appropriate ports. If you have a proper universal plug ‘n play router (UPnP), then it will be detected by the Qnap and you won’t have to get your hands dirty in your router’s interface.
When you’ve given your Qnap a myqnapcloud address, you can use it to log in to the NAS from any Web browser wherever you are, and it can also be used in the Qnap's stock multimedia apps , such as Qmusic and Qvideos. Know that your data will pass through Qnap’s servers if you do use CloudLink and myqnapcloud. If that makes you sweat, then you will have to arrange for a different remote connection routine.
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We had no problems at all getting the remote features of this NAS working, and had a lot of good times streaming our music and videos onto mobile devices in particular. Mobile data will be consumed when viewing media files off your NAS remotely, and can quickly kill that joy. On a local Wi-Fi connection, the apps worked just as well, with the NAS getting detected immediately and allowing us to browse our the various shared folders.
The Qnap apps, such as Qmusic and Qvideo are okay, but we preferred to use ES File Explorer to browse files and them play them through the media players that we’re already accustomed to using on our mobile devices. The difference that Qnap’s video app provides is on-the-fly transcoding. You can elect to play files at varying resolutions and the NAS will do all the processing.
It has an Intel Core i3-4150 CPU in it, so it’s no mug. This is joined by 4GB of RAM. All this power is needed for the varying functions that are available. In particular, it’s needed for virtualisation tasks. You can make use of Microsoft’s Hyper-V, VMWare vSphere, or Citrix XenServer. A built-in Virtualization Station app allows you to install your own operating systems on the NAS and run them in a Web browser.
We used the Qnap’s built-in download manager to search torrent sites for Linux distributions, settling for one called Lubuntu. We grabbed its ISO file, which downloaded to the NAS device directly, and then we mounted that ISO in the Virtualization Station app. It’s a neat thing to be able to do, and Qnap’s interface made it all rather straightforward.
Other things of note: you can use this NAS for virtual private networking (VPN), both as a server and as a client (it worked fine as a server for us to connect to when accessing data remotely), you can make use of iSCSI targets, you can manage storage pools and volumes in an extensive manner, and you can even use it as a stand-alone media centre.
Through an interface called HybridDesk Station, which needs to be enabled on the NAS, you can install things like Kodi (formerly XBMC), Google Chrome, YouTube, and Spotify apps. If you have a wireless keyboard with its own receiver, you can plug that into the NAS, and sit back and control it from your lounge. We used a Rapoo E9090P keyboard, which has an integrated touchpad.
The overall performance of the NAS was swift during our tests. We wrote data from our desktop PC to the NAS at a rate of 100.2 megabytes per second (MBps), and we read data from the NAS to our desktop at a rate of 95.96MBps. The desktop had an SSD in it, and both the desktop and the NAS were hooked up to our Gigabit-capable Linksys router. The files were a mix of large and small, with a collective size of 50GB. We couldn’t really notice any real-world difference in performance with a cache drive that we installed in the third bay of the NAS, but the graph showed us that it was indeed getting hit.
There really is a lot to this NAS, and we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface. A selection of apps can be installed to add more stuff to it, and how you use it will depend greatly on what your needs are. You might only want it to serve music to iTunes, or to stream videos to DLNA devices in your home; or you might want to perform more advanced functions. The choice is yours. We have no problems recommending it for high-end home, and small business environments.
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