QNAP TS-109 Turbo Station NAS Review

Author: William Henning
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, January 9th, 2008
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/qnap_ts-109/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

A Network Attached Storage (NAS) review on NeoSeeker? What gives?

Sometimes we just have to do something a bit different.

We all use computers, and let's face it - we often end up supporting our family's and friends' computers. Today, more likely than not, a typical family will have several computers - giving us essentially the same scenario as a small business might have:

There are a LOT of NAS devices on the market right now. Today we will be looking at the QNAP TS-109 Pro.

As you can see from the shot above, the unit itself is reasonably attractive, frankly it looks like an external 3.5" drive with more LED's. The solid metal construction feels hefty and re-assuring; it feels like you are getting something for your money. And there are a lot of blinking lights on the front that will reassure novices that their new purchase is indeed doing something!

The back - and side - of the box list the many features of the device:

The TS-109 Pro also supports Windows Active Directory Services.

Here are the hardware specifications:

Processor:

SoC 500MHz

Memory:

128MB DDR II RAM, 8MB Flash

HDD Capacity:

1 x 3.5" SATA I/II HDD, up to 1TB, expandable to 2TB via eSATA/USB (the HDD is not included)

LAN Port:

1 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet port

LED Indicators:

USB, Status, eSATA, HDD, LAN, Power

USB:

3 x USB 2.0, support USB printer,
disk, digital camera, pen drive, card reader, USB hub

eSATA:

1 x eSATA port

Buttons:

Intelligent USB auto copy button
Power Button
Reset Button

Alarm Buzzer:

System warning

Form Factor:

Portable desktop

Dimensions:

210(D) x 60(W) x 182(H) mm

Weight:

Net weight: 1.2Kg
Gross weight: 2.1Kg

Operation Environment:

Temperature 0~35°C
Humidity 0~95% R.H

Power Supply:

External power adapter, 12V, 36W, 100~240V

Power Consumption:

Sleep mode 6.6W
In operation 14.4W

Energy-saving Design:

Fanless, HDD sleep mode
Low power consumption & noise-free

Thermal Solution:

Heat dissipation by aluminum case

Secure Design:

K-Lock security slot for theft prevention
Power cord hook for kicking-off prevention

What's In the Box?

Ok, so what comes in the box?

As an aside, I really like the fact that the TS-109 Pro is fanless - I don't need yet another source of unwanted noise in my office!

Hardware Installation

Installing the hard drive was easy – the SATA drive just slid in, and snapped into the connectors. Snap the backplate back on, screw in two screws, and you are done.

The Setup Utility

After installing the QNAP Finder, it easily found the TS-109 on the network.

By clicking on the “Configure” button it brought up a simple dialogue for configuring the name, date, time and IP address of the device.

Clicking on the "Quick Setup Wizard" button brings up a series of other screens for configuring the QNAP TS-109 Pro:

With the “Connect” button – or double clicking on its name in the grid showing all QSNAP devices on your network (including their name, IP address, firmware version, server type and MAC address) – you can launch Internet Explorer on the main page of the device.

The “Details” button gives a bit more information about the selected device.

However, after using the machine for a while, I’d recommend only using the QNAP Finder to initially find the device – the web-based interface on the QNAP TS-109 is far more powerful and easier to use. Let's take a look at the web-based interface next.

The Web Interface

The QNAP TS-109 Pro has a HUGE collection of configuration screens within its web interface. I found it to be reasonably well organized, however it does have a tendency to duplicate the information on some screens.

The menu choices from the main page are:

•    Web File Manager
•    Web Server
•    Multimedia Station
•    Download Station

At the top of the screen you will also find “Administration” and “Change Password” links, an “SSL Login” checkbox and a language choice drop down menu.



Without logging in, you cannot go anywhere except the “Multimedia” folder – I think this is a good idea; this means that you can share your music on your local LAN without having to create accounts for kids or guests.

Ok, time to log into the “Administration” screens…



The Administration menu has the following options:

•    Quick Configuration
•    System Settings
•    Network Settings
•    Device Configuration
•    User Management
•    Network Share management
•    System Tools
•    Event Logs

 

The Quick Configuration Web Page

The Quick Configuration item takes you to a screen where you go through six steps before finishing the configuration.

You have to:

1.    Enter the Server name
2.    Change the Aministrator password
3.    Enter the date, time and time zone
4.    Select type of file name encoding for non-Unicode      applications
5.    Enter IP address, subnet mask and default gateway
6.    Initialize the disk



If you’ve previously initialized the server, it will show you your last choice as you go through each step – which is good, it will prevent novices from accidentally scrapping their current configuration.

Step 2 allows you to not change the password for Admin if you set the keep password checkbox; and I liked how Step 3 lets you select an internet based NTP server for setting the time – and it comes pre-filled with a popular NTP server pool address, which is a nice touch.

In Step 5 you can choose DHCP (automatic IP address allocation by your DHCP server), or set a specific static IP address, netmask and gateway. You can also set the primary and secondary DNS server for the TS-109. Step 6 shows you your current hard drive, and gives you the option to initialize it – fortunately the default action is to NOT initialize the disk, as otherwise beginners could wipe out their server easily.

The “Finish” screen after Step 6 summarizes the settings.

All in all, the quick configuration is very easy to use, and even a novice should have no problems getting their TS-109 running.

Systems Settings Web Page

The “Systems Settings” menu choice gives you access to the same parameters that are set up using “Quick Configuration” – nothing special here.

Sub-links let you access the following directly:

•    Server name
•    Date & Time
•    Filename Encoding Setting
•    View System Settings

I really like the design of the main menu – once you know what you want, it's easy to go directly to the screen you may need to make changes on.

 

The Network Settings Web Page

Another good example of menu design is the “Network Settings” screen – right from the main menu it gives you access to the following sub-pages:

•    TCP/IP Configuration
•    Microsoft Networking
•    Apple Networking
•    NFS Service
•    Web File Manager
•    FTP Service
•    Multimedia Station
•    Download Station
•    Web Server
•    DDNS Service
•    MySQL Server
•    Protocal Management
•    View Network Settings



The TCP/IP Configuration repeats the settings from the Quick Configuration and System Settings screens, and adds connection speed and MTU size status displays, as well as allowing you to enable Jumbo frames of various sizes on a Gigabit network.

The Microsoft Networking page lets you set up the TS-109 Pro as a standalone server or member of an Active Directory managed domain; it can also act like a WINS server or use a specific WINS server - and it can even act as a Domain Master.



Apple networking and NFS file service are easy to enable, as are the Web File Manager and Download Station.



The FTP Service screen allows very good control of the FSP server, including SSL, anonymous login, passive port range, maximum connections and even throttling.



The Multimedia Station settings allows enabling the “Multimedia Station” as well as “iTunes service” and UPnP MediaServer.



The “Web Server” allows enabling a standard web server with PHP on the port you specify. Globals are disabled by default, and you can configure an SMTP server as well as SMTP Authentication. You can also enable editing of the php.ini file.



The “DDNS Service” can be enabled, and allows you to specify the login information for your DDNS provider.



The “MySQL Server” can be enable, reset, and password changed; you can also allow remote connections and choose the MySQL port. Strangely, while this screen shows that phpMyAdmin should be accessible, it looks like it was not installed by default – hopefully this is something that will be remedied in the next firmware release.

The “Protocol Management” screen allows you to set the port at which the administration interface listens; by default it is 8080.



The “View Network Settings” screen does exactly what its name says;  it has two tabs, one for basic network settings, and a second showing what network services are enabled.
 

The Device Configuration Web Page

The “Device Configuration” screen has four sub-menus:

•    SATA Disk
•    USB Disk
•    USB Printer
•    eSATA Disk

For the internal SATA disk, it will display the drive model, as well as showing the total and free storage on it. You have the choice of formatting the drive, checking it for errors, or doing a bad sector scan.



For a USB Disk, you can choose which USB drive you are working with, and you can format it as either a Linux EXT3 or FAT partition. There's also an eject drive option, so that you avoid file  corruption by disconnecting it by pulling while the drive is possibly transferring files. You may also flag the drive for data sharing or Q-RAID1



You have the same options for eSATA disks as for USB drives.



For USB printers, the system is set up to automatically detect the printer, and you only have the choice of running a cleaning cycle on the printer. Being able to print a test page would have been useful here.



 

The User Management Web Page

The “User Management” screen incorporates three sub-screens:

•    Users
•    User Groups
•    Quota

For the users sub-menu, it;s easy to make new users – you merely have to specify a user name, password and the system will then take you to another screen to set what groups the user belongs to. Initially there are two groups – everyone and administrators. You can also change a users password, create a private network share for the user, assign what groups the user belongs to, delete the user, and set quota’s – if they are enabled.



You can create User Groups – such as “family” and “guest” to enable different access for different groups of people to shares. You can also create private shares, assign users and delete groups here.



Under the “Quota” menu you can set a global quota setting in MB of storage, and adjust it individually later using user management.

 

The Network Share Management Web Page

The “Network Share Management” screen has five sub-screens:

•    Create
•    Property
•    Access Control
•    Delete
•    NFS Access Control

As you can see, there are a number of pre-defined network shares:

When creating a share, you get to:

If you select a share, you can change its properties:

but be careful! the data will NOT be moved after your changes.

The access control is pretty easy, you have two list boxes - one shows what groups have access to the share, and one shows what groups don't have access to the share. You can also change the permission on a per group basis.

The NFS access control page lets you set the access level of NFS clients to the specified share by wild-carded IP addresses or domain names.

 

The System Tools Web Page

The “System Tools” screen has a pile of sub-screens:

•    Alert Notification
•    Restart/Shutdown
•    Hardware Settings
•    UPS
•    System Update
•    Change Logo
•    Remote Replication
•    Backup/Restore/Reset Settings
•    IP Filter
•    Network Recycle Bin
•    Remote Login

Alert notifications are pretty flexible, you can choose between:

You can specify the email servers IP address, enable SMTP authentication with a user name and password, and supply up to two email addresses - along with a handy send test email function.

You can obviously restart and shut down your server.

For hardware settings, you can enable the configuration reset switch, a hard disk standby mode with various timeouts, a "low on space" LED warning light when there is less than the specified free space left, and even set auto power on after unexpected power loss.

There is also decent UPS support - the TS-109 Pro can try to detect the UPS model and its IP address, and you can test it from here.

If you download new firmware from www.qnap.com, you can easily update your NAS from this screen.

If you really want to replace the QNAP logo, you can here. A corporate logo could go here, perhaps.

You can create, edit and delete remote replication jobs.

You can also backup and restore your settings - so if you want to be safe, backup your current configuration before making changes with the web administration screens.

The IP filter screen lets you allow or deny connections based on IP addresses.

A neat feature is a "Network Recycle Bin" - if enabled, any file you delete from the NAS will be stored here temporarily so you can undo those "OOPS!" moments.

Ahh... one of my favorites.

I really appreciate that QNAP has not tried to hide the fact that the TS-109 Pro is actually a small Linux server - as a matter of fact, you can enable both telnet and ssh access to it. They even placed telnetd on a non-standard port -- yet another nice touch on the QNAP TS-109.

Event Logs

The Event Logs screen shows you the informational, warning, and error messages logged by the TS-109

Frankly, I like its simplicity - you can choose which page of messages you are looking at; you can choose to see all messages, warnings or errors, and you can clear the log. How much more would most users need?

More sophisticated users can of course ssh into the TS-109 Pro to look at the raw log files.

Performance

I performed a couple of simple tests to gauge the performance of the QNAP TS-109 Pro:

Test #1: Copying a LARGE folder using Windows Explorer

Here at Neoseeker, we have a 20.1GB folder of benchmarks that we often use. It consists of 8,786 files in 901 folders - everything from tiny text files to an MPEG-2 clip 518MB in size.

It took 31 minutes to copy the 20GB to the NAS from the workstation, which translates to approximately 10.8MB/sec write speed.

This might sound fast, but really, it's not that great for Gigabit ethernet.

Read performance was somewhat better; it took 24 minutes to copy the folder back, which is roughly 13.9MB/sec.

Now these numbers did not match up with the numbers shown on the QNAP web site, so I thought I'd run another test:

Test #2: FTP a large file

I decided to download the 518MB MPEG-2 clip using the XP ftp client.

It took 21.5s to download the 518MB for a download rate of 24.1MB/sec - still nowhere near the theoretical capacity of a 1Gb/sec ethernet, but at least it reached 24% of potential wire speed.

Power Consumption

One of the primary advantages of such a small NAS device is power consumption - and here the TS-109 Pro does not disappoint.

While watching the Kill-O-Watt meter while it booted, I noticed that the NAS uses between 11W-36W when starting up - but it soon stabilized at 11W while idling.

Surprisingly, it stayed at 11W while downloading a large file - so there is a definite power savings to be had compared to a standard PC running as a server.

It's Linux baby...

Once you ssh into the TS-109 Pro, you can find out all sorts of interesting things about its Linux configuration.

The kernel is Linux version 2.6.12.6-arm1 (root@NASARM2)  compiled with gcc version 3.4.4 - at least for the firmware I am running.

/proc/cpuinfo tells us quite a bit about the hardware:

Processor: ARM926EJ-Sid(wb) rev 0 (v5l)
BogoMIPS: 332.59
Features: swp half thumb fastmult
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 5TEJ
CPU variant: 0x0
CPU part: 0x926
CPU revision: 0
Cache type: write-back
Cache clean: cp15 c7 ops
Cache lockdown: format C
Cache format: Harvard
I size: 32768
I assoc: 1
I line length: 32
I sets: 1024
D size: 32768
D assoc: 1
D line length: 32
D sets          : 1024

Hardware        : MV-88fxx81
Revision        : 0000
Serial          : 0000000000000000

And as expected, /proc/meminfo gives us a lot of information about how the NAS uses its 128MB of memory:

MemTotal:       126240 kB
MemFree:         45468 kB
Buffers:         11924 kB
Cached:          37112 kB
SwapCached:          0 kB
Active:          38644 kB
Inactive:        33364 kB
HighTotal:           0 kB
HighFree:            0 kB
LowTotal:       126240 kB
LowFree:         45468 kB
SwapTotal:      530136 kB
SwapFree:       530136 kB
Dirty:              12 kB
Writeback:           0 kB
Mapped:          31288 kB
Slab:             5836 kB
CommitLimit:    593256 kB
Committed_AS:   175388 kB
PageTables:        740 kB
VmallocTotal:   385024 kB
VmallocUsed:      8484 kB
VmallocChunk:   376432 kB

We are able to poke around all over the place, if someone felt so inclined:

Using the QNAP TS-109 Pro

Given everything it can do, there are many ways of using the QNAP TS-109 Pro - however, for the purposes of this review, we will concentrate on its target market, the entry level small business or small home server.

For every day use, people would normally just map their network drives to various shares on the NAS. It's simple, and easy to do.

Someone would have to manage the TS-109, and that person would usually start at the web interface, which has four "user" screens and the ability to enter the administration screens.

Here is the screen you see when you choose "Web File Manager":

The "Web Server", if enabled, starts out by giving you directions on how to set up your own web page:

And here is the "Web Download Station":

Which has on-line help:

We covered the administration screens earlier, and as you can see the general user screens are even simpler.

Using the administration screens, I set the TS-109 Pro to be in the same workgroup as my desktop, and I was immediately able to browse it in "My Network Places" - and it was painless to map a drive letter to shares on the NAS.

Once set up, its simple enough for my family to use.

For the power user, the TS-109 Pro provides plenty of possibilities - it is after all a full-fledged Linux computer, with more memory and processing power than many mini computers of twenty years ago. I found the selection of installed command line Linux tools to be adequate, and it should be easy enough to add other tools as needed. Please note that a firmware update will likely wipe out the manual configuration changes you may make, however, the configuration done through the web administration front end can be backed up at will.

Conclusion

The QNAP TS-109 Pro is a very easy to use NAS solution - it can easily handle the file, print and web serving needs of a home or a small business.

It is not a very fast server however - at the default settings you can expect to average write speeds of around 10MB/sec and read speeds around 15MB/sec, with somewhat higher speeds using FTP. Quite a bit of the less-than-stellar performance can be attributed to SMB networking; however, the processor was kept busy during massive copying, at times hitting CPU loads as high as 77%. Maybe with a bit of work, it could be possible to improve performance through tweaking the SAMBA settings, and the client workstation settings -- but this would probably be a bit too difficult for many TS-109 users to do.

On the positive side of things, the web-based front-end is easy to use, and while there are multiple redundant entries in the administration screens - i.e there is more than one way to accomplish the same thing, especially with the network configuration options - the pages are generally well thought out and easy to use.

Small businesses, and families who like sharing pictures, will especially appreciate the web server capabilities; and kids will love the easy multi-media sharing capabilities of the device.

I like how quiet the device was - with a Seagate 500GB hard drive installed, it was barely possible to hear the drive from a couple of feet away, even when it was seeking.

Power utilization was excellent, the device normally drew only 13W - so it would cost only $11.39 to run it for a year (assuming $0.10/kWhr) compared to a typical low end PC drawing 90W with the monitor off (costing $78.84 at $0.10 per kWhr) - the $67.45 yearly savings would pay for the device in just four years (or two in California).

For possible future revisions, I would like to see QNAP clean up the administration screens a bit - so that there is less duplication in the network configuration - and perhaps add a few missing tools such as Perl. But for its intended audience, small businesses and networked homes, the QNAP TS-109 Pro is an excellent choice, with a great feature set that's hard to beat.

»Neoseeker.com

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