QNAP TS-470 Review (Page 4 of 8)

Page 4 - Configuration and User Interface, Part I

Following the designation of my file server names, the QNAP TS-470 takes over as the main network attached storage system here at APH Networks. Therefore, it retains the name "Renewal"; used since 2007 -- and the sixth device to carry this name.

Setting up is as simple as it can get. LCD screen equipped units like the TS-470 permits the user to quickly initialize their NAS -- all without additional software. If you know the LAN IP address of your system, it can be configured for the very first time via the web based wizard as well. Once it is completed, your system is pretty much ready to go. That's about it! When I plugged in three identical disks, it intelligently asked me if I wanted to set up a RAID 5 array too -- just as I have intended. And so it is done.

QNAP also promises that all files and settings can be migrated from one system to the next seamlessly; all you need to do is plug the disks in the same order as your previous NAS, and everything else will be done and ready. To see how 'seamless' it truly is, I took three disks in RAID 5 from my previous TS-559 Pro II, and installed them in the same order in my new TS-470. Even though there is a firmware mismatch between the drive and the NAS, all files and settings were transferred without a hitch. It actually delivered 99% of what they have promised -- the 1% includes stuff like network port teaming settings. which did not copy over, but other than that, it is quite seamless.

The LCD screen does a great job and showing system information and status; once it is on, it will show the server name and IP address, as shown above. A secondary screen displays the model number (TS-470) and firmware version. Holding the "Enter" button for two seconds reveals a menu for various configuration and maintenance tasks, as well as displays some vital information such as system temperature. The screen will turn off automatically if it is not being used.

Those who have owned previous QNAP devices flashed to the latest system software would immediately feel at home with the TS-470. Using QTS version 4.0, this is yet another major upgrade since we have last reviewed a product from the company. The latest QNAP web configuration GUI takes the power of AJAX up another level; it combines with an extremely clean, smooth, and modern user interface in a virtual desktop environment in your web browser. With a powerful NAS device that offers as many features such as the QNAP TS-470 -- not to mention with tons of new stuff added in every update -- it is very important that a user friendly graphical user interface is implemented. And thanks to the excellent QTS 4.0 web interface, it not only excels in functionality, but also in speed and feel. QNAP's previous interface is already among the best I've seen for a network attached storage device, but the latest takes it up an entire new level. Generally speaking, it has all the features you want in a NAS box, yet it doesn't take some sort of post-secondary degree just to get it up and running!

After your system has been initialized, fire up your web browser of choice, and type in your server's name, or your TS-470's LAN IP address once again. You will be immediately greeted by its main screen. The main screen has been cleaned up since V3; now you will only get a login dialog box. Everything else is placed on your desktop after logging in. Enter your username and password, and you will have two additional options: Remember Me and Secure Login.

As aforementioned, the layout of its administration panel has been completely redesigned. The sleek, clean browser based desktop interface is powered by AJAX menus for snappy performance and convenience. At the top is a toolbar that is kind of like a fusion of a traditional Windows taskbar and Facebook's notification menu. Hitting the button at the top left corner reveals a menu for quick access to your programs or settings; conceptually, it is kind of like a pre-Windows 8.1 Start Menu. Next to the button, by default, an item is already on the taskbar with your server name on it. Clicking it will show the desktop. Additional items will appear on the taskbar once the user opens programs.

As you move towards the right, the Windows-like taskbar becomes more and more like a Facebook notification bar. The three icons to the left of the user is Background Tasks, External Devices, and Notifications, respectively. I found the Notifications menu particularly useful; especially when notifying the user of an error such as a disk failure. Clicking on the user will reveal a menu that shows information such as your last login time, and options such as changing your password or restarting the NAS. To the right of the user is Search, Resources, Language, and Desktop Preferences, respectively. These should be pretty self-explanatory options.

The main part of the desktop is a matrix of large icons, which reminds me of Apple's iOS. You can drag the icons around, remove shortcuts, and add your own items here, just like a real desktop. Like iOS, you can have three pages of desktop icons. At the bottom, there are three links to QNAP's website for the user's convenience. The Dashboard can be popped in from the right when clicked, and shows vital system information such as CPU load and HDD health, in which we will go over in just a moment. Meanwhile, a clock resides at the bottom left corner, as you can see in our screenshot above. QNAP's QTS 4.0 desktop concept is very user friendly an intuitive in my opinion. My only gripe is some items that appear to be mere tabs, such as Storage Manager under Control Panel, will open up an entire new window, rather than change the screen as the interface suggests. A little more consistency here will definitely be appreciated.

The QTS Dashboard provides a quick view of system status and statistics. At the upper section, the left column gives a high overview of your network attached storage's system and health status. The right column displays statistics in a more concise manner with live AJAX graphs; Instantaneous CPU and RAM usage are displayed in a vertical bar, while network adapter usage is plotted against time. A pie graph showing hard drive usage occupies the second large tile. Different volumes can be selected by a drop down menu. More detailed information such as total disk usage and individual folder usage can be found to the left and right of the pie graph, respectively.

At the bottom half, the hardware system monitor provides information to the system temperature, CPU temperature, and fan speed. Online users are also displayed here. A list with filter shows all the scheduled tasks. Finally, a feed containing latest QNAP news can be seen at the bottom right corner. Overall, I found the dashboard to be extremely useful; it provides vital system statistics all in one easy to access screen.

In the control panel, while I won't go over every menu, I'll briefly go over most of them -- since most of them are self explanatory anyway. Expanding the first menu item is System Settings. General Settings allows the user to adjust server name and port, date and time syncing options, as well as non-unicode file name encoding conversion. The Network screen has TCP/IP and DDNS settings. Here you can enable Jumbo Frames and Network Port Trunking (My favorite is set on Balance-rr mode with both Gigabit LAN adapters attached to my NETGEAR GS-108 switch). Service Binding allows the system administrator to selectively enable services based on the client connection interface. This is especially beneficial for security and network bandwidth optimization. Under the Security screen are three tabs: Security Level for IP access filtering, Network Access Protection to prevent brute force password attacks for various services, and Certificate and Private Key from a trusted provider. The screenshot above has the Hardware screen shown; permitting the user to configure aspects like disk standby mode and fan speed settings.

Under Power, options are provided to enable or disable Wake On LAN, power state after power failure, and on/off scheduling. The Notifications screen has three tabs: SMTP Server, SMSC Server, and Alert Notification; used to set your QNAP TS-470 to alert the administrator via email and/or mobile text when an error and/or warning occurs. The Firmware Update tab allows the user to manually upload an image or check for an update, but if Live Update is enabled, your QNAP TS-470 will do so automatically; and will prompt you to install it upon logging in.

Hitting Storage Manager opens up an entirely new screen, as aforementioned. The screen shown above is the Overview screen. On the left, a menu allows you to switch between tabs to manage your hard drives, create storage pools, and manage RAID arrays. A Storage Pool is designed to amalgamate multiple hard drives into a large storage space, and provide enhanced RAID protection for the volume. Under the Disks tab displays the state of the drive (A big, green "Good" is all you need to see haha), along with information such as hard disk model, capacity, temperature, test time, and test result on the side. In the Disk Health submenu five tabs for the user to easily work with their HDD SMART diagnostic data. The Hard Disk Information tab displays more detailed data, such as your drive's serial number and firmware version. The SMART Information tab provides a summary table on diagnostic results. The Test tab gives the user an option to run a Complete or Rapid test immediately; while the final tab, Settings, can activate or deactivate a temperature alarm, as well as automatic scheduling automatic SMART tests.

The Encrypted File System function is an encryption key management screen for volumes with 256-bit AES encryption enabled. The iSCSI section has options for configuring iSCSI targets and LUN snapshots. New to QTS 4.0 is SSD caching to improve file performance on frequently accessed data.

Under Volumes, you will have options to play around with your RAID array -- such as expanding capacity, adding a hard drive, migrate, as well as configuring a spare drive. Although we did not use a RAID configuration for benchmarking, a RAID 5 array using three Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB drives were installed regardless. Because they are not TLER enabled, it may be dropped out of a RAID array unexpectedly down the road. TLER stands for 'Time Limited Error Recovery', which is Western Digital's name for a feature that limits a hard drive's error recovery time to seven seconds (Seagate calls it ERC; Hitachi calls it CCTL). According to Western Digital, consumer hard drives may enter deep recovery mode, and could take up to two minutes to deal with a bad sector. During this time, the hard drive will not respond. Because of this, RAID controllers may mark the drive as unreliable, because it has failed to respond within a set period of time. Older Western Digital consumer drives can have TLER enabled using the WDTLER.EXE utility; unfortunately it no longer works on the latest models and revisions.

If you need hard disks that are guaranteed to play well in a RAID environment, enterprise grade or RAID edition drives are available from each respective drive manufacturer. This is where the problem comes in: Such products are usually two to three times the price of comparable consumer drives with the same capacity! Can the huge price difference be justified just for the home or SOHO user to get some data redundancy working with their small network file server?

For most users, the answer is 'no'. TLER and related RAID array configuration problems as aforementioned are more crucial with demanding business environments than a home or SOHO NAS setup. As far as your QNAP file server is concerned, the way RAID is implemented differs from dedicated hardware RAID controllers; Linux software RAID is much more lenient with consumer drives. Seagate and Western Digital lists possible usage of their consumer drives in consumer RAID environments on their website -- as in, software RAID -- and this is no different. QNAP claims that products contained in their hard drive compatibility list found on their website include RAID testing; Western Digital's Caviar Blue FALS drives are found on there (With a footnote), and I have experienced no problems with either running in RAID 5 in my past QNAP devices with absolutely no issues since 2010. No dropouts. Nothing. Everything is as perfect as it could possibly get, and I don't see how it can be anything different in the TS-470. Additionally, many other users have reported running non-TLER enabled drives in software RAID environments for extended periods of time with no problems at all. And to be honest, if your drive spends so much time dealing with bad sectors, chances are that you should put one through RMA anyway, haha. This is not to say that enterprise or RAID edition drives are completely unjustified, but unless you are in a more mission critical environment dependent on higher quality drives with longer warranties than their consumer counterpart, consumer drives offer significantly better bang for your buck. It would still be excellent if QNAP would offer user configurable drive timeout limit for the NAS, however.

Page Index
1. Introduction and 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. Final Thoughts and Conclusion