|by Misoprostol | July 12, 2007|
QNAP TS-201 dual bay RAID 0/1 Network Attached Storage (NAS) Review
QNAP TS-201 2 Bay NAS Review
Price: NCIX.com $375
Manufacturer Part Number: TS-201
Table of Contents
2- What is a NAS and why do I want one?
4- Exterior Impressions & Size
5- Instructions and Assembly
6- Instructions and Software Setup
7- Basic Usage
8- Long-Term Use & Conclusion
Here's what QNAP has to say about themselves:
QNAP Systems, INC. (QNAP) is a devoted and dominant provider of Internet Appliance products. With solid and integrated expertise on the Linux embedded platform, QNAP has delivered more than 30 models of network storage and surveillance products in the past 5 years. These products provide consumers with storage, backup, surveillance and many other professional applications that constitute the core competency of QNAP. Today, QNAP continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning servers. For example, TS-101 was honored “the best choice of Computex” and QBack-25 honored the 1st place by Chip Magazine. To keep the proud and success, QNAP is dedicated to providing top quality products and best support for customers.
Today we'll be looking at one of QNAP's Network Attached Storage (NAS) products, the TS-201. First, here's what QNAP has to say about the TS-201 on their website:
QNAP TS-201 is a full-featured, 2-bay, RAID 1, hot-swappable Network Attached Storage (NAS) server which is ideal for SOHO (Small Office/ Home Office) and SMB (Small/ Medium Business) users who have networked storage requirements across Windows and Mac environments and users who desire to maintain the server by themselves instead of the MIS people. TS-201 is also an all-in-one server. These robust, easy-to-use, valuable software functions such as File Server, Backup Server, FTP Server, Web Server and Remote Replication are designed for the best data protection and usability. There is no need to spend effort to install other complicated software; you can set up your own server without IT professionals' help!
This review will focus on the practical uses of a NAS unit for "Everyday Joe" type people. Rather than go into great detail about the various web hosting, torrent, and automated backup features, we'll stick with the basic functionality of the NAS. A network attached place to store things.
The test setup for this review is as follows:
NAS - QNAP TS-201
Switch - D-LINK DIR-655 Draft N Wireless Router with integrated gigabit switch
Desktop PC - Intel Q6600, 4GB memory, P35 chipset, Intel Pro/1000 PT network adapter
2- What is a NAS and why do I want one?
A NAS unit is basically a little PC that is dedicated to storing your data safely. It has an ethernet connection, 1-4 bays for hard drives, and is configured and administered remotely.
The TS-201 is small and quiet enough to sit behind a desk in an office, or even be tucked away somewhere like a laundry room if you should desire to do so.
Here are the primary reasons that the average users would want a NAS:
- To have a centralized media server for your house that never goes through any down time.
- If you have several PCs, a NAS is a great way to keep data synchronized between multiple desktops and/or laptops (especially in Windows Vista - more on this later)
- If you live in an area where a PC is likely to be stolen, a NAS can be hidden in a secure location so that even if you lose your PC, you keep your data
- Much simpler network file sharing than from PC to PC. Set & Forget.
- A mid-range NAS such as the TS-201 offers RAID-1 functionality for data redundancy across two hard drives.
A properly used NAS protects you from accidental deletion, viruses (which cannot be spread to the NAS), theft (if you hide your NAS away), and even physical failure of hardware (as long as both hard drives don't die at the same time)
QNAP's packaging for the TS-201 is colourful and informative, without being an eyesore, or containing an overwhelming amount of information. It has a picture of the unit, and outlines what the unit does, and why you should buy one.
Bravo QNAP for not overdoing your packaging.
The TS-201 arrived well packed with all the accessories you will need to start storing your files remotely (except for hard drives).
4 - Exterior Impressions and Size
The QNAP TS-201 is an attractive little unit. As all the trendy people know, in computers, white is the new black, but not everyone is a latte-drinking pseudo intellectual yet. Black is just fine with me.
The front has a glossy black finish and the sides are a matte powder-coated black
The back has a 60mm fan that is describes as "silent" on the QNAP site, but simple "put your ear close to it" testing revealed that although it is not intrusively loud, it's certainly not silent either. Many users may end up replacing that fan.
At the back you can also see two USB 2.0 ports, which can be used (among other things) to attach external storage drives and printers to the QNAP to boost capacity and to use it as a 24/7 print server for your home network.
Also at the back there is a Kensington lock, power receptacle, and gigabit ethernet port.
5 - Instructions & Assembly:
The included paper instructions with the TS-201 are a little bit rudimentary, but the included CD-ROM documentation is fairly thorough.
The setup process was painless, but in case you have trouble, we've outlined it below
Here's the front of the unit again. Accessing the insides is as simple as removing the 4 thumb screws in the front.
Once inside, you can see the two drive trays that are released by another 4 thumb screws (2 each).
The Push-in SATA interface is clearly visible once the drive trays have been removed
The included flat-topped philips screws are used to secure the drive(s) to the trays
Put the drives in, tighten the thumb screws, put your face plate back on and you're done. The whole process took about 15 minutes including taking pictures of it, so it can surely be done in less.
6- Instructions and Software Setup
We aren't going to go into all of the advanced features of the TS-201 in this article because the focus is on the useful aspects of a NAS for the everyday user. To cover all our bases in terms of current operating systems and networking configurations, we're going to look at what steps were involved in getting access to files over the network from a Vista 64-bit wired machine, and from a Windows XP wireless machine.
The included setup wizard DVD worked well on both the Vista 64-bit and Windows XP systems. It's an 11 step wizard and I'll let the screenshot speak for what it accomplishes
Rather than go through all the steps just so you can exercise your scrolling finger, I'm just going to show the hard drive setup page of the wizard.
Here you can see all the available hard drive configuration options on the TS-201. One thing I would like to see is a RAID 1 configuration that allows you to set it up with a single disk, then add another disk later without reformatting. As it is, you will need to have another disk handy on which to store your data while you format the two drives that will make up your RAID-1 array inside the QNAP.
Once the Wizard is complete, it even goes as far as to prompt you to map the TS-201 as a network drive. I was very surprised to see this included on Vista, and I appreciate the extra effort it took over at QNAP. Finding simple things in Vista like how to map a network drive can be a bit of a chore, and it's nice to see it included in the wizard.
7- Basic Usage
The most basic use for the TS-201 is to set it up as a network drive. Basically it will appear to your computer as a physical hard drive, but you will be transferring your files over your home network rather than to an internal drive.
The TS-201 is pretty much plug&play in this regard. It was very simple to set up once I had my permissions set on Vista, and the network was set to "private". On XP it's even easier. No permissions, just access to your files.
Playing around with the options for passwords and user accounts within the TS-201 showed me some very interesting options. It's possible to set users and user groups with their own set of folders they can access, as well as allocate a set amount of disk space to a particular user or group. This is a great feature for people who share the TS-201 with someone else.
One thing I noticed about the TS-201 was that even though my transfer speeds to my Vista machine were slower than I would like to see (although I believe this to be a Vista network configuration problem at this time), unlike streaming video over the network from another PC, I never encounter dropped frames or freezing like I did in the past. The streaming process is smoother, even when streaming from the QNAP to a wireless G device on the same network.
8- Long Term Use & Conclusion
My experience with the TS-201 hasn't been without its small problems. It took a while to get the user logins working properly on the TS-201, which ended up requiring me to restart the device. A simple fix.
There was also the problem I ran into with Vista automatically synchronizing files between the NAS and my desktop. It turns out that if you map a network drive to your "My Documents" folder in Vista, it will assume that you want a synchronization relationship to be set up. There is NO WAY to cancel this relationship, and a reformat is necessary, so never do this.
That was a Vista complaint though.
The bottom line is that for $375, this product will easily improve your quality of life. It's simple to set up, brings convenience, peace of mind, and exceptional functionality all in a little bundle. When is the last time your high end video card did that?
For anyone who has data that they remotely care about, I recommend the TS-201. For anyone with more than one computer in their house, I recommend the TS-201. For anyone who's looking for a neat little toy to add to their collection, I recommend the TS-201.
It's pretty easy to convince the wife/girlfriend/other sort of partner (it's Canada, we're liberal) that a NAS is a good idea because everyone cares about data access and security. How else will you save your cherished photos if a fire were to break out? Run a cable outside and keep the NAS in a metal box outside the house (secured of course). The possibilities are endless.
I'm going to give the QNAP TS-201 a Dam Good award because this thing is Dam Good and I use it every Dam day.
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Review by Misoprostol