by Hugh Barros
12/21/2011 | 07:59 AM
High-performance network attached storage equipment is currently based on the x86 platform whereas simpler products use ARM processors from Marvell. Although the latter do not differ much in terms of clock rate or system memory support, they are viewed as inferior to the classic x86 architecture. The performance of the ARM platform can be scaled up easily by increasing the processor’s clock rate, though. So, it was just a matter of time for a Marvell-based NAS with the maximum clock rate of 2 GHz to come about.
It is the TS-419P II model from QNAP, one of the leaders of this market. It is only the processor frequency that sets it apart from its predecessor TS-419P+. The extra 25% of clock rate can hardly be a strong argument in favor of an upgrade but should certainly be considered if you are shopping for a new NAS. Another innovation in this model, QNAP’s firmware has been updated to version 3.5. It has introduced a number of exciting features like full compatibility with Mac OS X 10.7, antivirus software, RADIUS and TFTP servers, and much more!
The TS-419P II is shipped in a nice-looking and robust box. There is a lot of information on the packaging: photos of the product, its technical specs, usage scenarios, etc. The accessories are standard and include an external 12V/10A power adapter with cord, two Ethernet cables, mounting screws for HDDs, a brief installation guide and a CD with software and user manuals. HDDs are not included.
The external 120-watt power adapter is large and heavy. I don't think that modern HDDs can consume up to 30 watts to make it necessary, but the manufacturer may know something about upcoming high-capacity HDDs that I do not.
The included CD contains electronic user manuals, the QFinder tool for searching for and setting the NAS up, QGet for managing downloads, and a simple backup tool called QNAP NetBack Replication. The first two utilities are available for both Windows and Mac OS X. You can find latest updates for the software and documentation at the manufacturer's website.
QNAP has been unwaveringly following the same design guidelines in its midrange and top-end products: a stern-looking dark case with a plastic face panel and an aluminum top. There is a dual-line dot-matrix display at the top of the front panel. The two buttons nearby are supposed to be used for changing some of the NAS’s settings but I guess a full-featured navigation block with several buttons would be much handier, especially as there's a lot of space for it here. There are LED indicators below: system status, LAN, USB, eSATA and one indicator per each HDD.
To the left of the disk bays there are Power and Copy buttons. The latter is combined with a USB port, which is a questionable solution in terms of ergonomics. The disk bays are compatible with both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch devices. They lack the lock which is present on QNAP’s top-end models.
The back panel is dominated by the fan grid. There are two eSATA, three USB 2.0 and two Gigabit Ethernet ports here. You can also see a power connector, a Kensington security slot and a Reset button.
Although the power adapter is external, the TS-419P II has the standard dimensions of a four-disk QNAP NAS: 18.0 x 23.5 x 17.7 centimeters. The overall impression from the exterior design is good but the buttons near the display aren't handy.
The new NAS is similar to QNAP’s older products in its internal design. The HDD rack is the chassis the rest of the components (PCB, front panel, back panel with fan) are secured on. The TS-419P II is equipped with a Marvell 88F6282 processor, 512 megabytes of DDR3 memory, 16 megabytes of flash memory for the bootloader, a 4-channel Marvell 88SX7042 SATA-controller, and a USB hub GL850G. The network controllers integrated into the main processor are complemented with a couple of Marvell 88E1318 chips. The external eSATA ports are based on the processor, too. There is a console port on the PCB.
The main processor has a clock rate of 2 GHz, which is the fastest ARM chip we’ve ever tested. The TS-419P II also has an additional card with an indicator, front USB port, and buttons.
The interior design hasn’t changed since the previous QNAP model. The PCBs, front panel and external casing are all fastened to a metallic chassis. The NAS is cooled by a 92x25mm fan (Y.S.Tech FD129225LB, 12 V, 0.15 A) that uses 4-pin connection. You can only clean it by opening the case and breaking the warranty seal. The noise level is below average, making this NAS suitable for home users.
According to the manufacturer, the TS-419P II needs about 6 watts of power in standby mode and up to 26 watts when working with four 500GB HDDs. That’s why the 120-watt power adapter looks so odd.
The Getting Ready part is almost the same in each of our NAS-related reviews: you install disks on the frames and into the bays, connect the cables and turn the NAS on. The second stage is mostly invariable, too. You install firmware to the system partition created on the disks. Some NASes require that you use a special utility for that, which may be inconvenient (for example, if this utility is not available for your OS or if your user rights do not permit to run it). QNAP's solution with a mini web server stored in the integrated flash chip is more universal. You only need to launch your web-browser and identify the NAS’s network name, e.g. by its MAC address or DHCP server logs. You can use QFinder for that purpose, too.
The initial setup wizard helps you load the firmware file, partition your HDDs, specify some basic NAS parameters (admin password, network name and address, etc) and enable the services you need.
I tested my TS-419P II with firmware version 3.5.1 (1002T).
Every NAS from QNAP offers a user-friendly multilingual setup interface that uses modern web technologies. Besides choosing the administration mode, the start screen allows you to access extra features such as file download or video surveillance systems, if you have them enabled on your NAS. You can also see links to a wiki and a forum focusing on the TS-419P II.
Despite a lot of new features, the interface has retained the same structure. We've got a menu tree on the left and a page with setup options in the center. There are a few dozen items on the menu, but the logical structure helps you find your way easily enough. The start screen offers links to frequent tasks such as creating user accounts or network resources. News from the manufacturer's RSS feed is shown at the bottom of the screen.
QNAP’s firmware has long expanded beyond NAS functionality proper and offers a lot of extra capabilities and services, e.g. streaming of multimedia content, backup copying, downloading of files, and video surveillance. The recent additions include cloud services, an antivirus module, RADIUS and Syslog servers.
The TS-419P II connects to a LAN via two Gigabit Ethernet ports with support for Jumbo Frames up to 9000 bytes. The two ports can work independently (on two LANs) or jointly (in different modes including 802.3ad). You can also use a wireless USB adapter to connect the NAS to your WLAN. An integrated DDNS client is available; IPv6 is supported in auto configuration mode.
You can distribute the NAS’s services among its interfaces. For example, you can make its FTP server available on your office LAN and the video surveillance server on a dedicated LAN with video cameras. Security features allow building “black” and “white” lists of clients by individual IP addresses or their ranges. The NAS can block attempts to guess a user password and allows loading your own SSL certificates.
It supports UPnP and Bonjour for easier access on Windows and Mac OS networks and SNMP for integration into corporate network monitoring systems.
Modern NASes often require that HDDs be reformatted when installed into them. This helps build a universal partitioning scheme which allows to move HDDs between different devices (from the same maker) or upgrade RAIDs without losing your data. The TS-419P II having four disk bays, you can have several RAID arrays simultaneously, choosing from JBOD, RAID0, 1, 10, 5 and 6. You can assign replacement disks for RAID1 and RAID5.
Although you can install up to four HDDs into this NAS, you may eventually find out that you need even more storage. In this case you can upgrade your fault-tolerant array by sequentially replacing its HDDs with larger-capacity ones. There are also other migration variants, e.g. from RAID1 to RAID5. Refer to the manufacturer's website for details.
You can check out the file system on a disk volume for errors. There is an integrated bad block scanner for individual HDDs. SMART is supported including built-in tests in manual and automatic mode.
The iSCSI support has been expanded. This protocol can be used for virtual machine storage and other business applications. Disk volumes of the iSCSI type are created on existing partitions. You can now limit LUN access by client names and back up a LUN to local folders or to network resources via SMB or NFS. The TS-419P II can also connect to remote iSCSI volumes for creating network folders for user files. Different file systems, including NTFS and HFS, are supported by iSCSI disks.
The NAS allows to access its data via the standard protocols: SMB/CIFS, AFP, NFS, FTP and HTTP/WebDAV. When on a Windows network, the TS-419P II can be an autonomous or domain-integrated server but it is also able to provide WINS and Master Browser services. LDAP is supported here.
The FTP server supports passive mode. You can specify its port numbers, enable encryption, limit the number of connections and session speed. Unicode is supported for non-Latin filenames.
User access control is based on a standard username/password system. It can be a local, domain or LDAP database of users and groups. Besides usernames and passwords, you can specify disk quotas. If you’ve got a lot of users, you can employ the integrated mechanism for creating multiple accounts in a batch. Importing and exporting of user accounts is supported, too. The administrator can increase the complexity of user passwords by specifying certain requirements to them.
Shared folders are created on disk volumes for storing data. The NAS has a few predefined folders but you can add your own ones. The listing of folders indicates their current size, which is handy for analyzing disk usage. You can provide access to a folder by putting users and/or groups into the no-access, read-only or full-access sections in the folder’s properties. The access rights are the same for SMB, AFP and FTP. For Windows networks you can additionally specify a list of IP addresses from which the folder can be accessed. With NFS, you can allow full or read-only access for IP addresses or their ranges. A separate user database is used for the WebDAV protocol.
The TS-419P II supports extended access rights for subfolders but you should use this feature with discretion. A network recycle bin can be enabled for SMB and AFP.
There are two new features in the network resource section: creating a virtual network folder out of an ISO image (with read-only access) and collecting up to ten remote network folders into a single shared folder on the NAS.
The TS-419P II offers four USB 2.0 and two eSATA ports for external devices. The most popular usage for them is to connect an external disk for backup purposes. You cannot integrate disks connected via eSATA into the NAS's RAID arrays. The following file systems are supported: FAT32, NTFS, ext2, ext3, ext4 and HPS+. Each disk volume is represented by a dedicated shared folder that has a name like USBDiskN or eSATADiskN (where N is the number of the volume). By default, the admin is the only user to be able to read from and write to the external storage device, but these access rights can be changed. You can safely turn an external disk off from the NAS’s web-interface and format its partitions as FAT32, NTFS, ext3, ext4 or HFS+.
The TS-419P II is not very stable with USB hubs, but its four native USB ports should suffice for most applications. The front-panel USB port can be used together with the accompanying button in two modes: to copy data from an external disk to a shared folder on the NAS or to copy from a shared folder to an external disk. External disks can also be used for backup purposes: you can program the NAS to automatically back up data as soon as a disk is connected. You can even enable real-time synchronization so that changed files were backed up immediately. Otherwise, the backup task can run by a schedule.
Several printers can be connected to the NAS concurrently and shared on your LAN. You won't be able to use any extra features other than printing, though.
To make the NAS more reliable, you can connect an uninterruptible power supply to its USB port. The UPS will be reporting to the NAS so that when its battery is low, the NAS will shut down safely without losing any data. Multiple NASes can be used together with one UPS: one of the NASes works as a server for the others.
The NAS’s USB ports can also be used for a Wi-Fi adapter to connect the TS-419P II to a wireless network.
The server name is likely to be changed first. Then you can set up the integrated clock to have a correct log file and to be able to schedule tasks. The ports for the web interface (with and without encryption) can be changed, which may be necessary if your router cannot translate between different external and internal ports.
The TS-419P II offers some hardware settings, too. You can choose the operation mode of the cooling fan, disable the Reset button, turn off the sound alarm, and specify the timeout for switching HDDs when idle. The NAS can be powered up and down according to a schedule and current backup tasks. It can also be shut down remotely or started up automatically when there is power supply (the latter option is used together with an UPS). You can also shut down or reboot the NAS on this page.
Besides a log of system events and a list of current connections, the administrator can view a full report on operations on different protocols. The NAS can send event notifications by email, SMS or Windows Live Messenger. If you use email, you need to specify your SMTP server parameters. The other two options require your registration with the appropriate service. There can be two recipients of an email or SMS notification. You can choose the importance level of events to be sent via each of these services. Syslog is supported; the integrated server should be handy for small networks.
There are several pages for monitoring the NAS’s status. On the first of them you can view system information: name, firmware version, uptime, serial number, the IP and MAC addresses of the network interfaces, CPU and memory usage, PCB and HDD temperature. The second page shows you the currently running services. The third page shows real-time information about CPU load, memory and disk usage, network speed. You can also see a table of running processes here.
Standard options are available for managing the NAS’s configuration and updating its firmware. The latter operation can be performed automatically each time the administrator logs in.
The latest versions of QNAP’s firmware have introduced new backup features. The TS-419P II can act as an Rsync server and offers QNAP’s exclusive Real-Time Remote Replication technology. You can program any number of tasks for folder copying or synchronization to be launched at a user’s request or by a schedule. RTRR can work with remote FTP servers or local external disks. You can specify a separate list of backup tasks for the latter, by the way. Filters by size, date or file type can be applied.
Notwithstanding the integrated support of the AFP protocol, for Mac OS X’s Time Machine to work you first need to set the NAS up by choosing a disk volume and password. You can limit the maximum backup size and remove outdated copies.
Following the latest cloud trends of the IT market, the TS-419P II supports Amazon S3 and ElephantDrive which provide a simple and easy way of securing your important data. The cost of the service may turn out to be too high for large amounts of data, though. On the other hand, cloud services are a perfect solution for storing data remotely. Backup tasks are managed in the NAS's web interface for Amazon S3 and through the dedicated interface for ElephantDrive.
The cloud topic goes further in the MyCloudNAS feature. It helps users implement web-based access to the NAS's services. It’s easy to publish services with MyCloudNAS: just choose a third-level domain on the servers provided by QNAP and specify your services. Your router must support UPnP and you have to provide a public IP address. That’s a handy alternative to learning the details of dynamic DNS and router’s port translation.
Like most modern NASes, the TS-419P II can run a Web server. It supports php and MySQL for complex websites. You can also use HTTPS/SSL and virtual hosts, change port numbers and edit the php.ini file. A few programs are available as QPKG packages for this usage, including Joomla and WordPress.
Users can access documents remotely via their web browser using Web File Manager. It supports access rights defined by the admin and can do everything a typical file manager can do. Security is ensured through HTTPS.
The TS-419P II offers a few multimedia features for home users. Multimedia Station allows publishing a photo album, music or video online to share them with your friends. This system has a dedicated user database and cannot compromise the rest of the NAS. Multimedia files can be grouped into folders or albums and assigned different access rights. Comments can be added to photos. Audio files can only be listened to. Videos are played in a web-browser using Adobe Flash technology or after being transcoded into FLV (the transcoding is rather slow on the NAS's processor).
If you have iTunes on your PC, the NAS’s iTunes server can provide a network collection of music and video for it. The only disadvantage is that you can only access it from a mobile device when your iTunes PC is turned on.
The TS-419P II has a DLNA server as well. It’s implemented with the TwonkyMedia software, like in other QNAP products. This server can index files in any folders, supports all modern high-definition video formats and is compatible with a large number of client devices. It has a dedicated web interface for setting up. You can additionally install a SqueezeBox server as a QPKG package or update the default DLNA server to the latest version.
Downloading files without using a PC is one of the most frequent applications for a NAS, but QNAP hasn't revised the interface and functionality of this feature for years. The number of simultaneous download tasks for the BitTorrent protocol is limited to 10 in the TS-419P II. The setup options are standard: port numbers, speed and connection limits, and seeding limit in percent. The NAS can also download files via HTTP and FTP and supports rapidshare.com accounts. The download station can work by a schedule (two periods per day with a precision up to 5 minutes). Downloads can only be managed by the admin via the web interface or the QGet utility.
If you are not satisfied with the functionality of the integrated download software, you can install the popular Transmission tool which offers more setup flexibility. It can be managed via a web interface or specialized client software.
QNAP is known for its specialized video surveillance products, so the company’s NASes can work with IP cameras, too. The number of cameras supported simultaneously depends on the NAS’s performance. The TS-419P II can record video in four streams, using MJPEG, MPEG4 or H.264 codecs. PTZ, audio recording, camera's motion sensor are all supported, too. The compatibility list includes all the prominent brands, including Axis and Panasonic. The video surveillance system can only be accessed by the administrator. You need Internet Explorer with extra plugins for full-featured work (live streaming and watching archived videos).
Four new features have been added to the NAS with the latest firmware updates. The first of them is the Syslog server which can be used for storing and processing logs of various network devices, e.g. routers or the NAS itself. The second server is RADIUS. It can be used for access control (for example, to control wireless clients connected to an access point).
QNAP has introduced an antivirus feature based on the ClamAV software. It can be scheduled to perform regular scanning of folders specified by the user. If it identifies a virus, it can report to the user, move the file to quarantine or remove it altogether. It can scan archives and apply filters for file types. Its virus database can be updated regularly via the Internet or by the user.
The integrated TFTP server may come in handy for some applications. You can specify the root folder in its settings and limit the IP address range of clients, if necessary.
QNAP NASes support a special format of plugins, making them easy to install via the web interface. At the moment of my writing this, a few dozen plugins are available, including file download systems, media servers, content management systems, application servers, etc. If necessary, they can interact with the already installed software, e.g. with the web-server.
You can gain console access via telnet or SSH. The access ports can be changed for the sake of security. SFTP is supported.
You can also install the Optware package management system on the NAS in QPKG format and then access it via the console.
I benchmarked my TS-419P II using Western Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS disks, a PC with an 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 4 GB of system memory, a Gigabit Ethernet switch, and Intel NASPT 1.7.1 software. I enabled Jumbo Frames for the NAS, created a disk volume, a shared folder and a user account with appropriate access rights. I didn’t change any other default settings. I tested the NAS with a single HDD, with two HDDs in RAID1 mode, and with four HDDs in RAID0, 5 and 6.
In our tests of early Atom-based NASes we could see different types of RAIDs varying greatly in terms of read speed. As for the 2GHz ARM processor in the TS-419P II, it can ensure a read speed of 100 MB/s irrespective of the array type when reading large files. So, such processors seem to be quite competitive as yet. The same goes for many other subtests, the only exception being the speed of writing large files. The software RAID implementation increases the CPU load with RAID5 and 6 whereas the lack of parallel writing into multiple disks affects the performance of the striped and mirror arrays. Anyway, the data-transfer speed is quite high even in this case. It’s only with RAID6 that the write speed is considerably lower than that of the single HDD.
Although the TS-419P II can accommodate as many as four HDDs, you may want to add an external disk to it. So, I benchmarked the performance of an external WD5001AALS disk, connecting it via eSATA and USB 2.0. I checked out two file systems: ext4 for maximum performance and NTFS for Windows compatibility. The results are shown in the next diagram.
The eSATA interface is generally faster than USB 2.0 and almost as fast as the internal SATA interfaces in terms of read speed. Writing is only half as fast, though. This must be due to the use of a processor-integrated disk controller for the external ports. The effect of the file system can be noticed with small files: NTFS is slower than ext4. The maximum speed of USB 2.0 is 30 MB/s at sequential operations. Writing to an ext4 partition is performed faster, though.
The numbers suggest that you should use eSATA and ext4 to achieve maximum performance with your external disks. And if you use an NTFS disk connected via USB for backup purposes, you can accelerate the process by using tools that convert small user files into large backup files in special formats.
The modern ARM platform has proved to be quite appropriate for midrange NASes. It is as good as the x86 platform unless you've got some special software to use or plan to load your NAS very hard.
Talking about the particular model, the QNAP TS-419P II is a typical NAS for demanding home and business users. It offers four disk bays for up to 12 terabytes of storage. You can also connect external disks using its eSATA and USB ports. Its two Gigabit Ethernet ports can be used to connect to different networks or to ensure higher bandwidth or reliability. Its data-transfer rate is high for its class.
QNAP’s firmware offers a lot of extra features that transform this NAS into a powerful server. The TS-419P II can work as a web or video surveillance server, download files from the Web, stream multimedia files to compatible devices, etc. The recently added features include Syslog and RADIUS servers and an antivirus plugin. The QPKG package management system helps you easily install more packages (email server, content management, blogging and many other systems).
Home users will appreciate the nice-looking exterior and high quality of manufacture of this product. Its cooling system is efficient and quiet (but four HDDs may prove to be too loud for a bedroom). The only thing I don’t like in the design of this NAS is that it comes with an external power adapter although its case might have accommodated an internal one, like in QNAP’s top-end NASes. The integrated display is not very functional as it is accompanied with only two control buttons.
The TS-419P II costs somewhat less than NASes based on the x86 platform, which looks like perfect positioning to me.