QNAP TS-559 Pro+ Review (Page 3 of 5)

Page 3 - Configuration and User Interface

Following the designation of my file server names, the QNAP TS-559 Pro+ takes over as the main network attached storage system here at APH Networks. Therefore, it retains the name "Renewal"; used since 2007 -- and the fourth device to carry this name.

Setting up is much easier than before. Instead of installing QNAP Finder, which you would really use once and then uninstall, now with its LCD screen permits the user to quickly initialize their QNAP TS-559 Pro+ for the very first time -- 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.

The LCD screen does a great job and showing system information and status; once it's on, it will show the server name and IP address, as shown above. A secondary screen displays the model number (TS-559 Pro+) 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's not being used.

Those who have owned previous QNAP devices flashed to the latest system software would immediately feel at home with the TS-559 Pro+. Using firmware version 3.3, I have nothing but good things to say about the company's web UI since QNAP V3 came out -- other than a few grammar and spelling mistakes they need to address. The brilliant QNAP web configuration GUI is powered by a large collection of AJAX based menus; combined with an extremely clean, smooth, and modern user interface. With a powerful NAS device that offers as many features such as the QNAP TS-559 Pro+, it is very important that a user friendly graphical user interface is implemented. And thanks to the excellent QNAP v3 web interface, it not only excels in functionality, but also in speed and feel. QNAP's current interface is truly among one of the best I've seen for a network attached storage device. With version 3.3, it also adds on valuable frontend features such as ISO mounting and QMobile for Apple iOS based devices. Backend updates include native support for Advanced Format drives, as well as System Migration to allow the user to easily upgrade from one QNAP NAS to another -- we will cover these in just a moment. Generally speaking, it has all the features you want in a NAS box, yet it doesn't take some sort of degree just to get it up and running!

Fire up your web browser of choice, and type in your server's name, or your TS-559 Pro+'s LAN IP address. You will be immediately greeted by its main screen, which allows you to slide between its large dock style icons, and select the feature you want to run. For example, if you want to enter the administration panel, simply click "Administration". An AJAX popup will come up, as shown in the screenshot above. Enter your username and password, and you'll have three additional options: Remember user name, remember password, as well as SSL login.

As aforementioned, the layout of its administration panel is absolutely brilliant. The sleek, clean interface is powered by mainly AJAX menus for snappy performance and convenience. At the left is a collapsible menu tree, while a static banner stretches across the top of your screen. The latest firmware adds on a search menu bar on the menu tree to allow the user to easily find the setting they want. Four icons are placed in the top right corner as shortcuts to Web File Manager, Multimedia Station, Download Station, and Surveillance Station, respectively. If the service it represents is disabled, it will be grayed out, as seen in our screenshot above. At the bottom is another static bar for QNAP's copyright line, and a drop down menu to select one of three available color schemes.

The main window is placed directly to the right of the interface's navigation bar. The home screen features six quick shortcuts to its respective labeled function, again, as seen in the screenshot above. Right under it is a section that has three different icons that links directly to QNAP's support form, forum, and wiki, in that order. A news feed shows latest software updates and news applicable to QNAP devices.

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 Administration. General Settings allows the user to adjust server name and port, date and time syncing options, as well as default language. The Network screen has TCP/IP and DDNS settings. Here you can enable Jumbo Frames and Network Port Trunking (Mine is set on Balance-rr mode with both Gigabit LAN adapters attached to my NETGEAR GS-108 switch). The screenshot above has the Hardware screen shown; permitting the user to configure aspects like disk standby mode and fan speed settings.

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 Import SSL Security Certificate from a trusted provider. The Notifications screen also has three tabs: Configure SMTP Server, Configure SMSC Server, and Alert Notification; used to set your QNAP TS-559 Pro+ to alert the administrator via email and/or mobile text when an error and/or warning occurs.

Under Power Management, options are provided to enable or disable Wake on LAN, power state after power failure, and on/off scheduling. You can also shut down or restart your NAS immediately on this screen.

New to QNAP V3.3 is the Live Update function under Firmware Update. When enabled, the system will automatically check if a newer firmware version is available for download upon logging into the web UI.

There are six options under the Disk Management expanded menu. The screen shown above is the Volume Management screen. Six icons are placed at the top with a brief description on each disk option: Single Disk, RAID 1 Mirroring Disk, RAID 0 Striping Disk, Linear Disk (JBOD), RAID 5 Disk Volume, and RAID 6 Disk Volume. Beneath it is a table containing physical information on installed hard drives, as seen in the image above. The Logical Volumes section displays how the disks are configured, along with three options: Format Now, Check Now, and Remove Now. The QNAP TS-559 Pro+ features native support for the EXT4 file system, which we have configured our disks to run on. Out trio of Western Digital Caviar Blue EALS 1TB drives shown on the list above are configured in RAID 5. With firmware version 3.3, the system had no issues handling the latest Advanced Format disks; I have three Western Digital Caviar Green EARS 1TB hard drives in RAID 5 running in my TS-559 Pro+ for a few days with no performance issues.

Under RAID Management, 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.

In the HDD SMART screen are five tabs for the user to easily work with their HDD SMART diagnostic data. Under the Summary 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. 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.

Under the Access Right Management folder tree are four options: Users, User Groups, Share Folders, and Quota. In the Users screen, a table lists all users in the system, as well as their respective independent disk quota and account options. Four icons represents four different account functions; of which they are Change Password, Edit Account, User Groups, and Private Network Share. The screen above is an AJAX popup displaying the Private Network Share option, which allows the administrator to set folder access permissions for each person. This can be seen in the screenshot above. In the Users main screen, you will also have the option to search, create, multiple create, and delete accounts.

The Share Folders screen also lists an array of folders on the system, similar to the table displayed for the Users screen. It also shows each folder's size, folders within, number of files, and if it is hidden in their respective column. Again, there are four management options for each folder: Properties, Access Control, NFS Access Control, and Refresh. Pulling up the Properties menu gives you the option to set the folder's path (If you have multiple single disks installed, you can also set which drive it belongs to), hide or show the folder, as well as locking the file. You can also enable write-only accesses over FTP.

The Quota screen allows you to configure universal disk quotas. Individual disk quotas can be set in the Users section.

Next up on QNAP's TS-559 Pro+ web configuration menu tree is Network Services. Each item should be self explanatory -- most of them are just enable or disable the service, and configure a couple settings such as default port number. Particulars that are more interesting under Microsoft Networking, which you can configure it to be a standalone server, or be a Microsoft AD Domain member. Here you can configure its server description, workgroup, AD server name, domain name, domain username, and password. You can also enable WINS server, use specified WINS server, and enable it as a domain master.

Shown in the screenshot above is the Web Server configuration screen. You can enable or disable its HTTP server, set its default public port, and turn on php.ini maintenance. In the Network Service Discovery function, there are two tabs: Enable/disable UPnP discovery service, and broadcasting services through Bonjour. These services include Web Administration, SAMBA, AFP, SSH, and FTP.

Again, the Applications submenu is quite straightforward as well. Most of the listed sections, as you can see in our image above, are simply used to enable or disable their respective services. Features such as Download Station lets you torrent things through the QNAP TS-559 Pro+, and Surveillance Station works in conjunction with compatible camera models. One to note in particular is the MySQL server -- the QNAP TS-559 Pro+ has built in PHP and MySQL support, as well as an option to install phpMyAdmin. This is covered in its subsequent section -- QPKG Plugins -- which lets you install packages premodified for you by QNAP to install on your NAS. This includes a few worthwhile mentions such as phpMyAdmin as aforementioned, as well as WordPress and Joomla. You can even get stuff like PS3 Media Serve and Twonkymedia 4 to handle all your media streaming needs.

Under the Backups heading are four sections. These include External Drive, USB One Touch Copy, Remote Replication, and Time Machine. In the External Drive screen, you can back up select data on your NAS to an external drive connected via USB or eSATA. (Now when you've thought your NAS is used for backups, you can even backup your NAS!) I have taken the screenshot for USB One Touch Copy, which as you can see configures the function of the front one touch copy button. You can use it to copy data from an external drive to a specific directory on the NAS, copy data from a specific directory on your NAS to the external drive, or disable it completely. Remote Replication lets you configure your QNAP TS-559 Pro+ to copy data to a remote server of the same NAS series, and backup from remote server to the local server as well. You can also set its port number, and allow/disallow remote Rsync server to back up data to the local system. QNAP V3.3 adds Apple Time Machine support. Once enabled, you can use the NAS as one of the Mac OS X Time Machine backup destinations.

Under External Device, you can configure your NAS to work with, well, external devices -- including management of an external disk drive, USB printer, and connected UPS. The QNAP TS-559 Pro+ has a print server function, and the USB printer configuration screen is shown in the image above. Of course, I have no printer connected at the time of taking that screenshot haha. Other than that, the final screen in this section is the UPS settings, which is quite self explanatory in its own context.

Last on the menu are System Status options under three specific sections: System Information, System Service, and Resource Monitor. The System Information screen provides a list of quick information on your NAS in text form, such as CPU usage, total memory, free memory, independent ethernet adapter's packets sent or received, CPU temperature, system temperature, independent hard drive temperature, system uptime, and system fan speed, as shown in our screenshot above. System Service displays statuses of various services under different tables. The Resource Monitor screen has live AJAX graphs showing CPU usage, memory usage, disk usage, bandwidth transfer, and running processes separated into their respective tabs.

Last, but not least, I want to talk about QNAP's Multimedia Station. Basically, it is a Flash based web application that allows you to view and play media files located inside your TS-559 Pro+'s Multimedia folder. With Web Server and QMobile for iPhone/iPod touch enabled under the Bonjour tab in Network Service Discovery on your NAS, you can now stream media directly from your file server to your Apple iOS based device through QNAP's QMobile app (Available for free in the App Store). The app is snappy and easy to use from my iPhone. As far as the media interface is concerned, as shown in our screenshot above near the bottom right, basically looks like a lower quality knockoff of Apple's own iPod interface. My biggest problem is that it will stop playing once you leave this screen -- but the rest of the system is fairly unique. QMobile works over WiFi and 3G, so as long as your network attached storage is web accessible, you can access your music, photos, and videos from anywhere with internet access. Where data coverage may be unavailable, you can also cache up to 1000 songs on your Apple mobile device. With that sorted, as I would loosely quote Taio Cruz, you can now rock this club... and you can rock all night... just watch your bandwidth caps, haha. You can even upload images from your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad directly to your TS-559 Pro+ too.

Overall, the web configuration interface on QNAP's TS-559 Pro+ is absolutely brilliant, and I know I've said it before. But it's true! Judging from past experience, the Linux-based backend should also provide optimum reliability and stability over time -- my previous QNAP TS-409 lasted over 221 days uptime, shut down only due to a user management error on my part. My QNAP TS-439 Pro did not crash once in a whole year of daily usage. The web file managed has also been updated to the latest AJAX interface with ISO mounting -- just right click an ISO file, and click "Mount" -- that's it! Other than that, the only complaint is that I found the startup time to be quite slow. Booting the QNAP TS-559 Pro+ takes longer than any of my Windows 7 Professional machines I have in the house, haha. But since it remains on for as long as possible anyway, it should not be a significant problem in the long run. I think QNAP has already gone above and beyond what an average user expects from a network attached storage device -- the amount of features available on the QNAP TS-559 Pro+ for home and business users alike is impeccable.

Page Index
1. Introduction and Specifications
2. A Closer Look
3. Configuration and User Interface
4. Performance Benchmarks
5. Final Thoughts and Conclusion