Qnap TS-1263U-RP review
Qnap’s affordable business NAS appliance comes 10GbE-ready out of the box
Prices for 10-Gigabit (10GbE) networking kit are dropping rapidly making it much more affordable for SMBs. This hasn't gone unnoticed by most NAS appliance vendors with Qnap the first to include a 10GbE SFP+ fibre adapter with a NAS, specifically the TS-x63U series.
Another feature that makes this family stand out is its wholesale adoption of AMD's 2GHz GX-420MC SoC (system on chip). This low-cost embedded x86 processor has four cores running at 2GHz, supports DDR3-1600 memory and has a low TDP of 17.6W.
The flagship TS-1263U-RP on review is a 2U rack mount system with 12 hot-swap SATA drive bays and dual hot-plug PSUs. You can add only a single external disk shelf, either the eight-disk SATA UX-800U-RP or the 12-disk UX-1200U-RP. Qnap's 10GbE card nestles in the single PCI-Express slot but it doesn't come with a transceiver so you'll need to source one separately - the Avago 850nm models we use cost around 80 ex VAT.
Build quality and deployment
The appliance exhibits the classy build quality we've come to expect from Qnap with a solid steel chassis and sturdy metal drive carriers. The lid is easily removed for upgrades and the dual internal cooling fans are very quiet.
The appliance is supplied with 4GB of DDR3L memory on a single SO-DIMM module. You can fit up to 16GB, but as there are only two memory slots you'll need to dispense with the pre-installed 4GB to max it out.
Installation is deftly handled by Qnap's cloud portal as we entered the unique cloud key on the label on the lid and followed the quick start wizard which installed the latest QTS firmware. We also popped in a quartet of 4TB WD Red NAS Pro SATA drives and let it create a RAID5 array from them.
The discovery web portal helps set up storage but make sure you choose thick or thin volumes if you want snapshots
New storage features
Qnap's latest QTS 4.2 firmware has a wealth of data backup features including excellent support for a wide range of cloud storage providers. We successfully backed up folders on the appliance to our Amazon S3 account using the Backup Station app, but Qnap also provides free apps for Amazon Glacier, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Storage and many more.
Qnap offers an impressive range of backup apps and supports a multitude of cloud providers
Workstation backup gets a boost as the new Qsync Central Station app allows users to link up with authorised shares on the appliance and synchronise folders with them. The Qsync Windows app is easy to use and for swift file restoration, it provides a direct link to the browser-based File Manager.
The File Manager also gets a makeover and now supports direct links to cloud storage providers. We linked it with our Dropbox and Google Drive accounts but it also supports remote links to FTP servers and allows folders to be remotely mounted using WebDAV.
No self-respecting NAS vendor would now be seen without snapshots and QTS 4.2 supports them for both thick and thin multiple volume types (but not static volumes). You can run them on-demand or schedule them regularly for NAS volumes or iSCSI LUNs. You use the Snapshot Manager app to keep track of them.
Scheduled smart snapshots can save storage space as the appliance will only take the next snapshot if the data has changed since the last one. The Snapshot Manager makes light work of data recovery. We could view snapshots and use the Revert option for full recovery, or view NAS share contents and restore individual files.
The new Windows Snapshot Agent can be used to take application-consistent snapshots on iSCSI LUNs. Whenever the appliance wants to take a LUN snapshot, it'll inform the agent first which instructs the host system to flush all data from memory into the LUN.
Snapshots can be scheduled and Qnap's Windows agent makes sure they're application-consistent
Good management and performance
If you have multiple Qnap appliances then you can use the new Q'centre app to centrally manage and monitor them all from a single console. We used custom dashboards to create views of the appliance with graphs of storage pool and volume usage plus appliance hardware utilisation.
Qnap now offers Q'centre as VMware and Hyper-V virtual appliances. We tested the latter on our Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V host. After importing the free VM, we found it delivered all the same features as the on-appliance version.
We used the new Q'centre Hyper-V VM to centrally manage the lab's Qnap appliances
For performance testing, we mapped a share over 10GbE to an HP ProLiant DL380 Gen9 rack server running Windows Server 2012 R2. Iometer reported fast raw read and write rates of 9.2Gbits/sec and 5Gbits/sec.
Real world NAS speeds are good too, with drag and drop copies of a 25GB test file returning read and write speeds of 412MB/sec and 316MB/sec. Backup operations are reasonably fast with our 22.4GB test folder and its 10,500 small files copied to a share at an average of 183MB/sec.
Pricewise, the TS-1263U-RP is a winner as even though you'll need to source a 10GbE transceiver, it's still excellent value. Synology's 12-bay RS2416RP+ for example, costs nearly the same but has no PCI-Express slots and so can't be upgraded to 10GbE.
And then there's Qnap's own TS-1280U-RP which comes with a 3.4GHz E3-1200 v3 Xeon, dual PCI-Express slots and a massive expansion potential but costs around 800 more. If you're looking for a 10GbE-ready network storage appliance with a balanced combination of features, performance and price, then the TS-1263U-RP is well worth considering.
Limited external expansion but this 12-bay appliance scores highly for storage features, its 10GbE readiness and its price
Chassis: 2U rack
CPU: 2GHz AMD GX-420MC SoC
Memory: 4GB DDR3 (max 16GB)
Storage: 12 x 2.5/3.5in SATA hot-swap drive bays
Array support: RAID0, 1, 5, 6, 10, hot-spare, JBODs
Network: 4 x Gigabit Ethernet; 1 x LAN-10G1SR-D 10GbE SFP+ card
Other ports: 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2
Power: 2 x 250W hot-plug PSUs
Management: Web browser
Warranty: Two year limited
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