If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll have noticed a few posts alluding to the search of some network storage to replace my 2-drive unit. I finally settled on the QNAP TS-439 Pro. Read the previous post about it or go to QNAP’s site to read more. Basically, I needed a compact, four-drive unit. Why four drives? It allows either two mirrored sets of disks (note: not necessarily RAID1) or RAID5 (with or without a spare). Going larger (5, 6 or 8 drive units) adds exponentially to the price but I wanted the use of the few 500Gb disks I have lying around. 500Gb is quite small but if I put them in a RAID5 set, I get 1TB (n-1). Later when I move some of my main storage disks to 1.5TB disks, I get another 500Gb to slot in as a spare drive (3x500Gb + 1 spare).
Other highlights for me were the hot-swap disk trays (lockable), multiple USB ports for printer sharing and dual-Gigabit LAN ports. The other stuff are frills. The dual gigabit Ethernet ports give you a fair bit of flexibility. You can configure two separate links for two separate networks, or some form of load-balancing, etc. Mine is configured for link aggregation group (LAG) mode. If you want to read more on that, which can get technical, Google for 802.3ad. In a nutshell, what LAG does is to create an aggregation group of network links that share the same speed and duplex settings. This requires a switch that supports LAG though and few consumer grade switches support it. The TS-439 Pro does have another option of using Adaptive load balancing. This bonds the network interfaces on the 439 and allows it to aggregate without any switch support. There’s a slight drop in performance but if you don’t have a switch that supports 802.3ad, it is the way to go. Did I mention two links means redundancy?
My primary use is to serve as my iTunes and media server (uPNP/TwonkyMedia), download stuff (BitTorrent), IP camera recorder, and a common file store to use between my PCs and notebooks in the house. My plan is to copy my photos there from camera, then once they’re sort of done (processing, etc), they can be moved to my File Server (which has 6x1Tb) in a RAID1+0 config. I’ve used jperf to do some testing to check the LAN bandwidth/switch speeds and for the TS-439, some regular file transfer timings.
First off, my gigabit LAN between Win Server 2003 R2 (dual-core Athlon, 6x1TB, 3Gb RAM, single link, the onboard NIC is died earlier this year so I’m running an Intel Gigabit CT off the PCIe x1 slot) and my Vista 64 SP2 client. I ran jperf over a few minutes with a five second interval. Min speed reported at 601,274Kbits/sec, max speed reported at 879,761Kbits/sec. Average the 30 readings and I get an average of 795,208Kbits/sec, or 776Mbits/sec or about 97Mbytes/sec. So let’s see how the 439 Pro transfers — remember, I have link aggregation on the TS-439.
1. Transfering 14,521Mbytes of photos. What I have is a mix of small and large files sizes. Large as in on average 26,912kb and small as in about 9kb (the XMP sidecar file). Transfer took about 320 seconds. 45.3MBytes/sec.
2. Transfering only the CR2 files took faster, clocking in about 261 seconds, or 55.5MBytes/sec.
3. Dual client access. Transfer a directory of photos and sidecar XMP files (12,672Mbytes and 11,760Mbytes). Start the transfer on client A then client B. Same target on NAS. Client A finished at 262 seconds. Client B finished at 302 seconds. Note that client B started transferring at roughly the 30 second mark of Client A. Average transfer speed is about 48.3Mbytes/sec for client A and 38.9Mbytes/sec for client B. Not too shabby considering both were hitting the NAS at the same time for about 87Mbytes/sec. Good enough for me.
I’ve used it as a mapped drive for working on my photos and from Lightroom 3 beta 2 and Bridge CS4, the images feel very snappy. Not as quick of course compared to my local SATA drive but it’s not that obvious you’re working through a network. The lag on bridge in terms of refresh for example is noticeable only when you have three clients hitting the NAS but the fact is that its not terribly slow. My guess is that if Bridge refreshes my 800 photo directory on my local drive in 5 seconds, it takes about 8 or 9 on the NAS and perhaps 15+ seconds if you have multiple clients hitting F5 at the same time. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied. Maybe it’s time to look for dual-Gigabit port NICs for my client machines as well but I think the NAS will get faster when I up the RAM to 2Gb.
Overall, I’m pretty happy. It serves up my music to my iTunes, I can also listen to music/look at photos/watch movies on my Popcorn Hour C-200 via Twonkymedia server, record from all four of my IP cameras and work on a shared folder of photos. Not cheap but probably more cost effective to run than a standalone PC or server (if you factor in licensing, power, heat and noise). You can do other things with it as well though even thought I don’t such as running a Web or FTP server, etc.
If you want a more in-depth review, you can read it here.