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Qnap QTS 4.3.4 Review

There may be an enormous choice of NAS appliances on the market today but the biggest differentiator between the various vendors will always be their operating system (OS) software. A well-developed and feature-rich OS can turn a good hardware platform into a great one and in this hands-on review, we take a close look at Qnap’s latest QTS 4.3.4 software.

We’ve always been impressed with Qnap’s QTS OS and this latest version delivers a remarkable range of new features. Qnap states its focus with this release is on the ‘essence of storage’ and QTS 4.3.4 is designed to make its NAS appliances more versatile, faster and secure..

 

Improved storage management

The new Storage & Snapshots app delivers a wealth of management tools all neatly integrated in a single interface. All storage tasks are easily accessed from its side pane and the overview screen reveals everything you need to know about hard disks, SSDs, pools, volumes and capacity usage.

QTS supports static, thick and thin volumes so you can choose the type that best suits your anticipated workload and performance requirements. Enterprises using Qnap’s larger appliances to store mission-critical data now have more protection options with support added for RAID50 and 60 arrays.

Qnap’s snapshot technology scores over the competition as it supports standard EXT4 file systems and doesn’t require BTRFS. Vendors such as Synology and Thecus must have volumes formatted using BTRFS to support snapshots.

This is an important differentiator as Qnap’s 32-bit and 64-bit appliances can provide snapshots. Home users will approve as these are available on many of its entry-level home user appliances – some of Synology’s entry-level products don’t support BTRFS so can’t provide snapshot services.

QTS 4.3.4 also extends these services to most of Qnap’s ARM-based appliances. Minimum memory requirements have been cut to 1GB allowing the Annapurna Labs Alpine-equipped home appliances to offer snapshots.

Using snapshots

Snapshots are a valuable feature as they take near-instant backups of selected volumes or IP SAN targets and require very little storage space. They’re easy to use as QTS allows them to be taken on demand and scheduled to run at intervals as often as every five minutes with no further user intervention required.

To create NAS snapshots, just select a volume or iSCSI LUN and from the Snapshot menu at the top, take one immediately or use the Manager to schedule them. Smart snapshots reduce wasted space as if enabled, the app won’t take a snapshot if the volume data hasn’t changed since the last one.

Data recovery is a simple process as we chose a NAS snapshot, viewed its folders and could restore any of them to their original location. They can be restored to a new shared folder or a remote mount point such as another network system or a cloud provider and the app can also clone NAS and iSCSI LUN snapshots for creating perfect copies.

The new File Station 5 can also recover NAS snapshot data and we used it to browse share snapshots, choose folders or files and restore them with a few clicks. There’s more as the app’s Snapshot Replica feature can secure share and LUN snapshots to remote Qnap appliances although in our review of the TS-453BU-RP rack appliance, we found they can be very slow.

Storage performance boosts

In our tests of Qnap’s enterprise appliances, we’ve shown that QTS allows them to deliver an impressive performance. Consequently, to get top NAS and IP SAN speeds, choose the best hardware you can afford and also consider appliances with integral 10-Gigabit ports or the option to add an upgrade card – Qnap has plenty on offer.

There are numerous options in QTS 4.3.4 that can improve performance further. Supported on Qnap’s x86 appliances, the new Qtier 2.0 feature in the Storage & Snapshots app introduces tiering on demand. Previously, Qtier could only be configured during storage pool creation but this can now be added to existing pools as and when required.

It’s a simple wizard-driven process which identifies newly installed SSDs, offers to create a new high-performance tier and upgrades the storage pool on the fly. Data migration between tiers can be controlled on demand or by applying a schedule and you can choose which tier new data should be first placed in but note that once Qtier has been applied to a storage pool, it cannot be reverted

Qtier 2.0 is well suited to Qnap’s enterprise SAS3 appliances as it supports up to three tiers. These allow you to create an ultra-high speed tier of SSDs, a high-speed tier of SAS drives and a capacity tier using low-cost SATA drives.

A simpler performance boost for smaller appliances is to use SATA SSDs as a standard cache which can be assigned to selected NAS volumes and iSCSI LUNs. QTS 4.3.4 supports global SSD caches which can be assigned to all volumes and LUNs without incurring any service downtime.

File Station 5

Along with facilities to directly access snapshots for data recovery, the File Station 5 app now supports a wider range of external devices. These include mobiles and optical drives and when plugged in to the appliance’s USB port, these appear in the app window so you can browse and manage their files.

When these devices are detected, File Station 5 presents a wizard asking if you want to open and view their files, manage the device’s storage settings or set access privileges. Where appropriate you can use them as backup devices and for appliances that have the USB One Touch Copy Button, the new Smart Import feature can secure the contents of mobile devices as soon as they’re plugged in to the front USB port.

Once you’ve installed the Connect to Cloud Drive app, you can use File Station 5 to remotely mount cloud storage repositories. We used this to mount our Dropbox cloud storage and could view all folders and files in our account, download them and copy files to the cloud

Apple iOS devices are fully supported and we tested this by connecting an iPad directly to our test appliance’s USB port. Once accepted, we could use File Station 5 to view all photos and videos stored on the device.

More data protection

Now out on official release, the Hyper Backup Sync app provides a wealth of data protection tools with facilities for copying selected folders to a local backup repository, the cloud or remote NAS appliances. From a single console, you can manage all local, remote, RTRR, Rsync plus iSCSI LUN backups and create schedules to run them at regular intervals.

Installing the Cloud Backup Sync add-on activates one and two-way sync jobs with cloud providers including Amazon Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive. Although not as clever as Synology’s Active Backup for Servers app, you can also use the Hybrid Backup Sync app to synchronize files between PCs or servers with the appliance over CIFS/SMB and FTP.

You can create a private backup cloud with the Qsync Central app. On our Windows 10 PCs, we linked the Qsync desktop app with the appliance and ran jobs for real-time file syncing between folder pairs – Qnap also provides iOS and Android apps for backing up data and photos on your mobile devices.

App choices

For app development, Qnap has focused primarily on its x86 appliances so you’ll find that the ARM-based models have a more limited range. Before choosing your Qnap NAS appliance, we recommend checking its App Center download pages to see which ones are supported.

For Qnap’s x86 appliances, there’s a huge choice with the Virtualization Station 3 app allowing them to host VMs running virtually any OS. In fact, virtualization is key focus as the Linux Station can host Ubuntu Linux alongside QTS while the Container Station runs multiple LXC and Docker apps in lightweight containers.

Abundant multimedia apps makes QTS well-suited to consumers with the Music, Photo and Video Stations providing easy access to their stored tunes, pictures and films. Support for 360-degree viewing of compatible photos and videos has also now been added.

Choose a Qnap appliance with HDMI ports and you can use the HybridDesk Station app to link it directly to an HD TV and employ the HD Player app to playback movies, music and photos. Another bonus of the HDMI ports is you can use Qnap’s Surveillance Station to create a standalone monitoring solution – something Synology’s general purpose appliances can’t do.

Qnap appliances can also be used to monitor and manage your network devices. The new QRM+ app discovers all devices on the network and presents a secure browser GUI with customisable dashboards for monitoring critical hardware sensors and sending out alerts.

It requires a QRM agent installed on Windows and Linux systems and can interact directly with IPMI controllers although this is currently limited to IEI and Supermicro platforms. Where supported, you can initiate KVM remote control sessions and remotely control a device’s power.

Conclusion

Qnap’s latest release of its QTS software is its most feature-rich yet and it clearly has a keen focus on enhanced storage management and data protection. The new Storage & Snapshots app is very intuitive and snapshot support for standard EXT4 volumes means you don’t have to juggle with multiple file systems.

Qnap wins out on app availability as it currently offers more than any other NAS vendor making QTS-powered appliances highly versatile. However, you should check before buying as Qnap’s ARM-based appliances support significantly fewer apps than its x86 models.

Big businesses will find much to like to about QTS 4.3.4 with additional support for large RAID50 and 60 arrays plus the Qtier 2.0 data migration service. The latter makes QTS quite unique as no other NAS vendor in this market sector offers anything similar.

Overall, we think QTS 4.3.4 is a winner and recommend that existing Qnap users upgrade to reap its benefits. If that’s not enough, Qnap already has QTS 4.3.5 in the pipeline which aims to leverage the latest 10GbE-enabled appliances.

It will be introducing a new Network & Virtual Switch app that’s designed to optimize 10GbE links and provide end-to-end high-speed connections for appliances, hosted VMs and containers plus client systems. Other features to look forward to our support for faster wireless networks with Qnap’s new QWA-AC2600 adapter card and the QVPN 2.0 app which will offer greatly enhanced VPN services for secure remote access.

9.5 Total Score
Pros and Cons for the QNAP QTS 4.3.4

It will be introducing a new Network & Virtual Switch app that’s designed to optimize 10GbE links and provide end-to-end high-speed connections for appliances, hosted VMs and containers plus client systems. Other features to look forward to our support for faster wireless networks with Qnap’s new QWA-AC2600 adapter card and the QVPN 2.0 app which will offer greatly enhanced VPN services for secure remote access.

Installation
10
Performance
9.5
Features
10
Usability
8.5
Value
10
PROS
  • Vastly improved storage management apps
  • Excellent data protection services
  • Snapshot support for EXT4 file systems
  • Qtier 2.0 data migration
  • Largest choice of apps
  • Great multimedia services
CONS
  • Many apps not supported by Qnap’s ARM-based appliances
  • Qtier 2.0 can’t be reverted
  • Snapshot Replica service can be slow
User Rating: 5 (2 votes)
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