Revamping my Business Storage! Part 1 – QNAP TS-451A NAS Review

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As a YouTuber, video editor, photographer,aspiring voice over artist, data hoarder, and general content creator – I use a lotof hard drive space.

A LOOOOT of drive space.

Video footage of ongoing project, archivedvideo footage from important projects, family photos, professional photos, raw WAVs of voicerecordings, movies, TV shows – terabytes upon terabytes of data.

Following me filling pretty much every driveI had earlier this year, my main YouTube storage array – a foolish leftover Raid0 array – crashed.

I lost a ton of footage, about a month ortwo worth of work, along with about a month of downtime trying to fix everything and getset back up.

It was time for an upgrade.

Enter part 1 of me getting serious about filestorage – my QNAP TS-451A.

This thing is a boss.

QNAP reached out and offered to send it overfor review, so I went ahead and grabbed some refurbished 2TB drives from Newegg on eBay.

Loaded it up into a basic JBOD array, copiedover some files and fell in love with the performance.

So much so, that I wound up deleting someof the footage I had stored on the device just in time for my unit to die.

The 4th drive slot kept dropping out, sendingthe unit into very loud beeping and continuously unmounting and re-mounting my array.

QNAP quickly replaced my unit and the newone has worked perfectly since, so I’ll write that up to bad luck – but still worthnoting that this happened.

The TS-451A (these NAS units always have suchlovely names) features a dual core Intel Celeron CPU with a base clock of 1.

6 GHz, and 2GBor 4GB of RAM.

Mine has 4GB.

Taking a tour of the front, we have indicatorLEDs for… just about everything, a SD card slot, a power button, a button to automaticallycopy footage from the SD card – something I’d use more if I didn’t need ALL of thestorage on the unit for archives already, I’ll work on this during future upgradevideos – and a USB 3.

0 port for connecting external hard drives.

Below that, there’s also a micro USB femaleend as well for their “Direct access” connectivity – more on that later.

We’re also greeted with the 4 drive bays.

These are easy to install and remove, andoverall setup was a breeze with tool-less hard drive mounting.

The sides and top are barren, with the bottomcontaining 4 great rubber feet.

Around back, we have a lot of fun stuff.

There’s a big, but quiet cooling fan, kensingtonlock, reset button and maintenance port – oh wait, that’s not the fun stuff.

There’s two gigabit ethernet ports – whichcan come in quite handy for the plethora of features available to this thing – HDMI videoout, 3.

5mm audio out and audio in, two more USB 3.

0 ports, and the DC power input.

That’s a lot of I/O for this thing.

Compared to the little single-drive WD NASunits I used to use, this thing is awesome, and basically a computer.

Oh yeah, it also has an IR receiver and afreaking remote control for the media center functionality of it.

Not bad.

Load it up with some hard drives and connectit to your network and it’s time to dive into the software.

I do want to go ahead and re-iterate thatthis is, essentially, a computer.

The capabilities and functionality built intothe software are a lot more than I could ever fully explore in one video, or just in myown usage of the device.

The base software is a web-accessible OS thatreminds me a lot of Android.

Intuitive and easy to use.

Then you have a variety of different “Stations”for using the device, and a plethora of “apps” to download and install to do even more withthe NAS.

There’s stations for streaming media overthe network to watch your movies and TV shows, to stream music as an iTunes server, to backupcomputers in your home, to be a cloud drive accessible anywhere, manage surveillance camerasin your home, and even run virtual machines! It’s pretty crazy.

Diving into the App Center, there’s emailservers, real-time antivirus scanning, Google Apps management, Azure storage, the ever-popularPlex, lots of syncing and backup apps, web server apps, WordPress, bittorrent clients,games – more than I’ll ever be able to fully explore.

It’s pretty crazy.

When I first got the unit set up, I went nutsand installed everything I thought I could have fun with, but my current, ongoing configurationis much more simple.

I mainly just utilize the normal file system- accessible on my computers over the network, I have mounted network shares and networkdrives – the antivirus app for occasional scans, Transmission for testing torrent downloads,JsTetris (because Tetris), and then the Linux Station for running VMs.

I also use the “Connect to Cloud Drive”app, which allows me to easily connect to my Dropbox, Google Drive, and Amazon CloudDrive to back up files.

Since I use this NAS primarily as my footageand YouTube archive, this makes it relatively easy to back up my footage to Amazon.

There’s some issues copying files sometimes,but it’s very handy.

I’m still in the early stages of tinkeringwith the Linux Station & Virtualization Station VM managers, and I want to do a dedicatedvideo on them – but I will say that it’s quite easy to set up and manage VMs, and youcan connect to them through your web browser or a VNC client.

I’m really looking forward to utilizingthis for future videos.

This is where, to me, the dual ethernet portscome in really handy: You can have one set of functions, like normal file copying, goover the first ethernet port while your VM connects over the second and isn’t impactedas much by network performance.

I love it, I just wish I had more gigabitswitches, or just a bigger one.

Running a graphical OS like ElementaryOS onVirtualization Station resulted in a fairly laggy experience, whereas running in the LinuxManager app was much more responsive and the display outputted over the device’s HDMI,which is pretty neat.

As far as Plex goes – I wasn’t super worriedabout this since I didn’t have the extra space to put my media library on this specificdevice anyway, and I already have a Plex server running on my video render server – videoon that soon.

To test it, I did set up a library of my YouTubeupload original files and tried playing a few.

It has 0 problems streaming the original filesover the network whatsoever, though it does eat up some CPU usage.

Transcoding to a different resolution andcompression, however, has never seemed to work.

It just loads for a long time and then eventuallytells me that the video cannot be played.

The “Video Station” app on the other handdoes a lot better job with actually transcoding and playing the media, but is a lot harderto use and set up.

Frankly, it was much easier to just play thedirect files over the network.

Performance on the whole holds up well – runningPlex and a VM pegs CPU usage in the 90 percent range, but things remain fairly responsivethroughout.

Playing a game like JsTetris seems to havevirtually no performance impact, which is cool.

There’s a great little Dashboard pop uptool that shows you a lot of information – uptime, disk status, connected users, network traffic,CPU and RAM usage, disk space allocation, and so on.

I use it a lot.

The unit remains fairly quiet, too, especiallyhidden under my desk on top of a PC tower.

Also, did I mention you can occupy all 3 USB3.

0 ports with external hard drives and share them over the network, too? I can’t get enough network storage, andthat will come up in future storage upgrade videos.

Lastly, I guess I would be remiss if I didn’tdiscuss the main gimmicky feature for this NAS unit – the “direct connection” USB3.

0 connection on the device.

Since this is a full computer and NAS, theability to hook it up just as an external hard drive can’t really be done.

Instead, the software for it creates a virtualnetwork connection to the NAS over the USB bus.

This is good if you can’t set up a wirednetwork connection for some reason, but won’t give you full USB 3.

0 speeds like a normalexternal hard drive.

This isn’t something I’m ever really goingto use – so I will instead point you to a video by Lon Seidman, who reviewed the 2-baymodel of this device and showed just how this functionality works.

On the whole, I’m very happy with this NAS.

My only limitations are my upload speed forbacking up files, and my financial ability to buy bigger hard drives for it.

The kind of mass storage I need is way tooexpensive for my wallet, whereas just a few TB for an average home or enthusiast useris totally affordable.

The problem, then, comes from the price ofthis device itself – almost $500 from what I’m seeing online.

That’s quite expensive for something youstill have to populate with hard drives, at least to me.

NAS units are at this weird point where thewhole setup is too expensive for the average user, despite being a useful home tool forjust about anyone.

They do have expansion bays that you can hookup to it, as well, which I hope I can look into at some point.

This concludes part 1 of my storage upgradeseries, and my review of the QNAP TS-451A NAS.

My important footage archive and YouTube uploadarchive both rest comfortably within the 8TB I loaded up into the NAS, and it’s backingup to Amazon Cloud Drive almost constantly.

I’m pretty happy with it, and maybe youwill be, too.

If you enjoyed this video, smash the likebutton, get subscribed for more tech videos, and I’ll see you next time.