Taiwanese maker of home and business storage and security products, QNAP, recently showed us its latest NAS boxes and mini home servers - some now featuring Intel's latest Atom dual-core N510 CPUs and an upgraded 1GB of DDR2 memory.
QNAP explained that while any company could bung half a dozen hard drives into a box and install Windows Home Server, it prides itself on its own custom Linux interface - which we have to admit is extremely snazzy and mostly intuitive to use (providing you’re versed in basic networking know-how).
The basic 2-bay model supports a standard JBOD and RAID 0/1, but the 4-bay upwards models can run all sorts of advanced RAID arrays including 5, 6 and 5+ or 6+ hot spares (depending on the bay capacity). Naturally the NAS boxes include the necessary online RAID migration and expansion, as well as comprehensive iSCSI features and support for a multitude of virtualised environments, virtualised disks and finally AES 256-bit drive encryption.
On the hardware front, the four, five, six and even eight-bay (not shown) models all feature an LCD display in the front and support for 2.5in and 3.5in drives. This means that if your need is either speed or I/O from SSDs or oodles of mass storage from large disks, they can handle it.
Every NAS we were shown comes with dual Gigabit Ethernet connectors for network load balancing and fall over support (including MPIO - Multi Path Input/Output - and MC/S - Multiple Connections Per Session), so if you do decide to bury it in the company basement and have subsequently developed an irrational fear of basement cats after many-an internet meme, then you should never need go near it.
Our two immediate concerns though are noise and possibly price. The boxes all come with quite large fans at 7-9cm (12cm is only saved for the 8-disk TS-859), but they could be larger to shift the same airflow with less noise. What's worse though is the tiny little 40mm PSU fan. Now the power supplies are built by Delta - so are very high quality - but QNAP claims the boxes only use, at most, around 60W. Despite this concern though, quality and reliability comes first and we'd rather see delta and have these will be buried in server rooms where they are unlikely to be the loudest object these by a factor of multitude.
They aren't cheap - the two bay TS-259 Pro will set your (company) budget back £450 – before drives - although for £1,200, the 8-bay TS-835 Pro doesn't seem that bad: at least it's not exponentially expensive. The company was keen to stress that it has no real interest in the much bigger, budget market – as its aims are to keep its brand quality strong and retain its “market leadership in technology”, while giving its products a long support and shelf life, which backs up the investment.
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The hot-swap drive bays are all lockable for security. Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Despite being a grey steel frame underneath, the brushed aluminium shell is lovely. Click to enlarge