QNAP TS-253B Review (Page 6 of 8)

Page 6 - Configuration and User Interface, Part III

One of the biggest selling features of QNAP's network attached storage systems is the concept of personal cloud. For me, it has become a part of my everyday life in moving data between my office PC and home PC. The implementation of QNAP's myQNAPcloud service is nothing too mysterious, however -- combining a built-in dynamic DNS service, and a wizard that lets you easily get desired services online, it makes it quite a breeze to configure the TS-253B for access anywhere in the world with internet. You can set up a QNAP account to manage all your devices, so you can control what devices are associated to you. When myQNAPcloud first came out, no user account is available, so all associated devices were just made in thin air. It is good to see how much the service has matured over time.

For users with UPnP routers, port forwarding setup is no more than a couple of clicks away. New to the system is CloudLink, a remote access service provided by QNAP. You can connect to your device and access all your files using the myQNAPcloud website, all without the need to configure port settings on your router. Furthermore, it allows access from QNAP applications directly to your network attached storage system. For enhanced security, you can purchase an assign an SSL certificate to your NAS.

Qsync Central is a feature to allow you to synchronize files across multiple systems with different file sharing or exchange options. This includes Team Folder, Shared Folders, and Shared File Links, which should be quite self-explanatory. In the latest version of Qsync, you can configure access rights for select users as well as viewing the connection status of all devices. Client policies can be set so everyone can configure the preferences of their client utilities or in Central Configuration Mode to have everyone use the same configuration settings of the administrator. Version Controls allow you to enable or disable the tracking of different file revisions, set the target folder, as well as setting the maximum number of versions retained. Qsync is very useful feature to include, as many people now have multiple computers plus a tablet or something, and keeping the information synchronized between them is very convenient.

QNAP heavily promotes their network attached storage systems' virtualization capabilities. With Container Station, according to the company, QNAP is the only NAS brand that integrates both LXC and Docker lightweight virtualization technologies into one system. LXC is for operating system level virtualization, while Docker is for application level virtualization. You can create containers for everything ranging from a full Ubuntu install on LXC to just running WordPress as an app. Heck, you can even run a Minecraft server on Docker.

Another way to take advantage of the TS-253B's virtualization capabilities is to download Virtualization Station. To see how it works, I downloaded a modified version of Scientific Linux 7.4 from the University of Calgary engineering website, and loaded it into my NAS. Setting up a virtual machine in QTS is pretty straightforward; if you have used any environments on your desktop in the past, the procedure is almost the same thing. In this application, you will need a dedicated network connection for your VM, so be prepared to plug in an extra network cable from your switch to your NAS. After everything was loaded, I started the operating system from the web interface, and it just blew my mind. It worked straight from my browser, and expecting it to a massive lag fest, the performance was actually very respectable. It is not flawless, but it is good enough for most casual users. Yes, you can run entire virtualized operating systems straight from your browser without the need to install any additional software or plugins on the client side. Furthermore, if you want, you can run operating systems directly from your TV or monitor directly connected to the TS-253B with Linux Station or HybridDesk Station, in which I will talk about in a moment.

To enable direct output from your QNAP TS-253B to your TV or monitor, besides Linux Station, you can also install HybridDesk Station. However, only one can use the HDMI output at a time. To start, simply log into your web interface, and install the HybridDesk Station package. It comes with Chrome, Clementine, DeadBeeF, Facebook, FileStation HD, Firefox, LibreOffice, Surveillance Station, MusicStation HD, QTS, OpenTTD, PhotoStation HD, Plex Home Theater, QVR Pro Client, Skype, Spotify, Supertux, TuneInRadio, VideoStationHD, Wesnoth, HDPlayer, and YouTube. They can all be controlled by a USB keyboard and mouse directly. You can also opt to use QNAP's Qremote app, which utilizes your smartphone to control your box over WiFi, or the included remote control via the onboard IR receiver for media center features. I am not going into specific detail about these applications, but if you have used any of them before, you will know exactly what to expect, haha. One thing to note is while the TS-253B can drive 4K displays, it is an HDMI 1.4b output only, so you are limited to 30Hz refresh rate only.

All in all, the web configuration interface on QNAP's TS-253B is absolutely brilliant as always, and I know have said this countless times before. But it is so good, I just cannot stop raving about it. Judging from past experience, the Linux-based backend should also provide simply matchless reliability and stability over time -- all of my previous QNAP NAS systems, with the TS-253B being my eleventh -- has only been down due to power failures. Other than that, the only complaint is that I found the startup and shutdown time to be quite slow. Booting and shutting down the QNAP TS-253B takes longer than any PC I have in the house. But since it remains on for as long as possible anyway, it should not be a significant problem in the long run. QNAP has undoubtedly gone seriously above and beyond what an average user expects from a network attached storage device. The amount of network features, multimedia functions, and virtualization options available on the TS-253B, thanks to the latest hardware and QTS 4.3.3, is absolutely crazy when it comes to both home and business needs.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware (External)
3. A Closer Look - Hardware (Internal)
4. Configuration and User Interface, Part I
5. Configuration and User Interface, Part II
6. Configuration and User Interface, Part III
7. Performance and Power Consumption
8. Conclusion