QNAP has garnered a reputation for creating professional-level NAS devices with impressive features for small businesses and high-end users. While not the user-friendliest of NAS devices, the TS-259 Pro TurboNAS is a network-attached storage device with a flood of features that will take you days to explore.
The TS-259 isn’t meant for your average consumer, so if you don’t have a lot of experience with NAS devices, I recommend getting a more approachable unit. Just like you wouldn’t want your first bike to be Harley, you don’t want something with such high features and adaptability right away—simply, it’s a lot of machine. However, the best support feature that QNAP offers is the extensive community forum. If you’ve never used a NAS device before, there are step-by-step guides for higher end functions, such as setting up a download station.
The small black and silver TS-259 enclosure has two drive bays; with a pair of 2GB hard drives, the TS-259 can host up to 4TB of storage. According to QNAP, the unit features the new Intel Atom D510 1.66GHz Dual-Core processor and 1GB DDRII RAM. The TS-259 supports both SATA I and II drives and features iSCSI service for virtualized and clustered work environments. The enclosure sports two eSATA ports, two Ethernet ports, a VGA port, and four USB ports (to further augment the QNAP’s dual drives). The drive bays can also be secured with a key to ensure on-site security.
In order to start using your TS-259, you’ll need to run the install disk for the drive’s interface, then plug the NAS device into your local network and the power cord into an outlet. You’ll also need to install a hard disk into each of the bays and this requires a small screwdriver to manipulate the tiny screws.
Once the drives has been installed, you’ll need to install the Qfinder application, which acts as a method to detect the network and launch the browser-based interface. From the browser, you can immediately manipulate administrative controls of the unit. The application will prompt you to do a set-up right away, and once you’ve connected it to the network, you’re good to go. This will likely take you longer than the five minutes a typical desktop hard drive would, and is a more involved process than Synology’s NAS devices.
Through the QNAP interface in Safari, it was easy to manipulate the different functions of the drive. Alternatively, it was easy to find the TS-259 through Finder and drag and drop files. This is important, because the QNAP’s Web File Manager is an archaic piece of software. You can’t upload folders, only individual files, and there’s no option to eliminate hidden files from view, so every database is cluttered with temporary and .DS files.
Overall, the TS-259 Pro’s browser based interface is pretty simple to use. Large icons can be scrolled through and chosen in a matter of seconds. From the browser, IT managers can do everything from editing user groups to setting up start/shut down times for the server. There’s also a ton of ways to customize even the most basic features. For example, the One-Touch Copy button can be configured to copy data from/to devices to/from single specific folders within the server.
As far as setting up the system preferences, the device does a good job of simplifying everything, despite the somewhat crowded interface. Even with features the average user may not be familiar with, such as Access Right Management and External Backup Preferences, the QNAP’s interface has short punchy descriptions for all the major services and settings that are clear and easy to understand.
Company IT personnel and project managers will enjoy the easy-to-use security features of the drive, allowing the administrator to dictate who gets access to what. For example, if you want a group of users to have access to the same folders, it’s just a matter of checking off the right boxes. Similarly, every file in the server can have access dictated on a read and/or write basis.
Different sections of the drive can be enabled or disabled by the admin. If you don’t want to have iTunes, or you don’t want users to be able to download files from the server, you can set the preferences to fit that need. Adding contents to iTunes is also easy; simply drag and drop the files into the multimedia folder and you’re good to go. Unfortunately, this only works for music and not video. Smart Playlists can also be added through the Web File Manager, but the process is not readily apparent and is easier through iTunes.
The TS-259 is Time Machine compatible out of the box (as long as the hard drives being used are formatted with HFS+)The unit can be used as a destination for backup, and you can also set a maximum capacity for any backup. There’s also an option to externally backup the TS-259 through an additional hard drive. Single backup, automatic, or frequent syncing can be enabled.
The TS-259 Pro has quite a few options for stacking data. Not only can you mirror disks, but you can also set up both drives as one linear volume, or both as a single disk. Also, you can scan the drives for any bad blocks or corrupted data, as well as format your disk configuration if needed.
Despite the TS-259’s fan and its dual bays, the unit runs relatively quietly and coolly even when being taxed with intensive tasks like moving large amounts of data. I say “relatively” because the drive will occasionally emit a loud “beep” when its finished a major task.
The TS-259 Pro has many more features to enjoy and explore. A print server and FTP server were easy to set up, but setting up a web server to download data proved difficult because the instructions offer nothing specifically catering to the Mac platform.
For the advanced user, a surveillance system can be set up, as can encrypted remote replication, flexible multiple LUN management, and secure IP SAN environment deployment.
Macworld’s buying advice
QNAP has many competitors in the small business NAS market. While the TS-259 admirably features iSCSI service for virtualized and clustered work environments in addition to extensive security and administrative features, there are some missteps and annoyances that make it less appealing than the competing Synology DS710+.
For one, the QFinder only detects the network and then launches the browser while Synology’s Assistant gives more information on everything from memory usage to network flow. It’s also less buggy than the TS-259’s interface, which has a tendency to disconnect or ask you to re-enter passwords.
Setup on the TS-259 isn’t a breeze, and the clunky Web File Manager, while an improvement over its predecessor, still has a long way to go. The QNAP’s contents are also often cluttered by temporary files and .DS items, and while the wealth of features of the TS-259 are impressive, there still is a great deal of troubleshooting involved if you want to access them. To get the best of the QNAP, you need to be an IT manager with a lot of patience.
[Chris Holt is a Macworld associate editor.]