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QNAP TurboNAS TS-212

Network-attached storage

The TS-212 is a dual-bay network-attached storage (NAS) unit from network-hardware vendor QNAP. We tested the barebones unit, sold without drives, using a pair of 2TB Western Digital Red NAS-optimised hard drives.

Installation isn’t overly difficult, but it’s likely to prove intimidating to less-technical users. Inserting the first drive is easy, but the second drive lacks a shelf – you have to balance it as you attach it. There’s no fixed connector to ‘dock’ with; instead you manually connect the included SATA power and data cables between the tiny motherboard and the drive. No matter how you install the very short data cable it ends up awkwardly twisted.

It’s easy to set up the software using the utility included on CD (or downloaded from QNAP’s website). It quickly located the TS- 212 on our network, installed the latest version of the operating system (the TS-212 runs on a variant of Linux), and we were up and running within a few minutes.

We chose RAID 1 (mirror) for 2TB of fault-tolerant storage. You can also choose ‘single disk’, JBOD or RAID 0 for maximum storage capacity but no fault tolerance.

The TS-212 is operated via a simple web portal, which is clean and user-friendly. You need some technical know-how, but you don’t need to be an off-duty network administrator or IT guru.

There are some good web apps included, such as Photo Station, which gives you easy access to photos stored on the device. Music Station streams your NAS-stored music directly to your browser so you can listen anywhere. Multimedia Station combines the two and adds streaming video support. We watched 720P video from any PC on the network without lag or quality loss.

DLNA and iTunes Server functionality is also available, so you can access your media via any DLNA-compatible or Apple device.

Our favourite app was Download Station, which lets you direct the NAS to download files over BitTorrent, HTTP, FTP, RapidShare or Magnet. It runs entirely on the TS-212, and is controllable via the web portal, so you can queue up a set of large downloads directly to the NAS. If you have Windows, you can also use QGet, which includes drag and drop for download links. We had the TS-212 torrenting Linux installers, while downloading software from Microsoft’s Developer Network over HTTP. It’s likely more power-efficient than leaving your PC on overnight, and if you use QNAP’s ‘MyCloudNAS Connect’ remote-access service, you can queue up and manage downloads to your home NAS from anywhere.

ClamAV antivirus software (disabled by default), can be set to automatically update virus definitions, and perform scheduled scans of specific folders, file types, or the entire NAS; no need to scan the entire contents of the NAS using your PC antivirus.

You probably wouldn’t run an internet-accessible website from the included web server, but it makes a great ‘intranet’ option for small businesses. It’s also a good testbed for web development; you can play around without exposing your half-finished work to the internet.

Finally, three USB 2.0 ports provide print-server or external-storage functionality. The front-mounted port has a neat ‘copy’ button: just a USB drive, press the button, and copy the contents of the drive (or a pre-specified folder) to the NAS. Or vice versa.

There’s a lot more the TS-212 can do, and a lot it does well. Honestly, the only downside we found was the slight difficulty in installing the second hard drive. If you’re looking for a home NAS with great features to centralise your files that’s a bit simpler to operate than Synology’s DS-213 air (opposite), we thoroughly recommend the QNAP TS-212.

This review was first published in the March 2013 issue of New Zealand PC World.