A Data Storage Server that’s GOOD for the Home Office and the Small to Medium Size Business
As I begin this report, I think you’ll agree with me when I say there’s never enough storage on hand for backups, archives, file shares, and virtualization, right?
If you relate, then I’d like to share with you that ever since I unboxed a QNAP, I’ve been obsessed with how amazing this white box storage solution is.
The QNAP Turbo NAS is simple to use, feature-rich, and it’ll save you $1000s. But there’s a lot more to this big brand alternative…
Imagine a white box data storage server that can be used like a Swiss Army Knife to solve more than just storage problems.
In a minute I’ll reveal the details of my review but before I get ahead of myself let me give you a little more information about QNAP, ok?
Then we’ll dive into the juicy report details and you’ll see why I think the Turbo NAS Rocks!
What is QNAP?
QNAP is the brand name – but I consider them white box storage since they’re not a big storage brand like NetApp or EMC.
And yet, I would say they’re a big brand based on how many 4 & 5 star reviews they get on Amazon.
Did I say yet – aside from being a aside from being a NAS – these data servers can also be used as a desktop system, Windows or Linux server, virtual host, cloud backup, multimedia hub and a lot more?
This is why I refer to them as a “Swiss Army Knife!”
In technical jargon, a QNAP is a multifaced data storage server for small, medium, and large workloads…
About QNAP Systems, the Company
QNAP has been around since 2004.
They have offices all around the world.
And in the U.S. they’re on the West Coast at 168 University Parkway, Pomona, CA 91768 – Tel: 1-909-595-2782.
Or you can visit them on the web at www.QNAP.com.
White Box Storage for Your Home Office
- Quad-core Intel Celeron N5105/N5095 4-core/4-thread burst up to 2.9 GHz with 8GB DDR4 RAM
- Dual 2.5GbE (2.5G/1G/100M) ports accelerates file sharing across teams and devices or streamline large file transfers
- Dual M.2 PCIe Gen3x2 NVMe SSD slots enable cache acceleration or SSD storage pools for improved performance
- Multiple USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports (type-A) with up to 10Gb/s transfer speeds, allowing compatibility with newer, faster USB drives/expansion enclosures for transferring large media files
- Centrally store and organize personal or family photos, music, and videos
- Direct-attached storage device via USB Type-C for Windows, macOS and Linux
- Use the TR-004 as external storage for NAS backup
- Expand the capacity of your QNAP NAS
- 4 x 3.5-inch SATA 3Gb/s (Diskless)
- Hardware RAID supports RAID 0, 1, 5, JBOD, and individual disks
- AnnapurnaLabs Alpine AL324 ARM Cortex-A57 quad-core 1.7GHz processor
- 2 X 10GbE SFP+ ports
- 2 x 2.5GbE ports
- 3 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports
- 5 x 3.5-inch + 4 x 2.5-inch SATA 6Gb/s (Diskless).4 GB SODIMM DDR4 Memory (Max 16GB)
Report Details: QNAP Review
As I said, a QNAP is a device capable of many uses.
With that in mind, let’s keep our review focused on 5 important use-cases that solve storage problems faced by many home office and small to medium size businesses.
Common Data Storage Problems:
- There’s never enough file share storage for desktops.
- Data storage backup and archiving keep growing.
- Extremely expensive storage for virtualization (iSCSI/NFS).
- Alternative virtual desktop solutions to VMware or Citrix.
- BIG brand storage vendors are eating up your budget.
Do these storage problems look familiar to you?
You’re not the only one feeling this pain.
Let’s see if we can solve them with a QNAP Turbo NAS…
1. File Share Storage for Desktops
(Shown above is the flexible volume setup)
Depending on the size of your operation, QNAP has a number of size options that can be easily turned into shared storage for storing files.
For small businesses or home offices, there are 2, 4, and 5 bay options as shown above that can be connected to a 1GB or 10GB network and then accessed like a traditional CIF share storage.
These smaller NAS devices can be customized to use low-cost 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 Terabyte SATA3 drives for space.
And to add performance all, you do mix in SSD storage to boost the IOPS by using the solid-state storage as cache.
The 2 bay QNAP Turbo NAS can run RAID 0 & 1, and the 4 bay and larger options can use various fault tolerance configurations depending on your level of desired redundancy.
For example, you can run a 4 bay with RAID 5 + 1 spare if you wanted.
Here’s a diagram of a basic shared NAS configuration.
Whether you’re a single user needing a safe place at home to store your files, or a business with a lot of users on Windows, Mac, or Linux systems, QNAP has a solution that can be customized to fit your needs.
Here’s a quick summary of how you can use a QNAP Turbo NAS as shared storage:
- Storing traditional work files on a shared network.
- Creating personal music and video cloud.
- Storing security surveillance video.
- Storing large video or other multimedia files.
- As a small 2 or 4 bay unit for personal use.
- As mass storage for a large organization with 100s of users.
What do you think so far?
Now let’s back up these file shares…
2. Data Storage Backup and Archiving
Data backups are always a big deal.
This is especially true because of how costly backup tapes and library hardware are.
If you’re like most operations, you’re backing up everything and saving it forever.
This is ridiculous and costly…
But it’s good for vendors who want to keep selling you more stuff, right?
It’s also a never-ending job fixing and updating tape drive software and hardware.
So let’s solve this problem now!
A QNAP NAS offers some options that can quickly be turned into mass storage for creating a virtual tape library.
Below is the traditional way QNAPs are used with backup software, but you can customize this as required.
Let’s consider a few common questions…
A. Can these white box storage shelves scale for a large environment?
Yes – Depending on the backup schedule, you can calculate the storage requirements, and custom builds a mass storage solution with 100s of terabytes using 8, 12, 16, or 24 bay units running low-cost 6TB SATA3 drives.
And when you need more capacity, just add an expansion unit.
B. Can it be used as backup storage for VMware ESXi and Hyper-V
Yes – Not only will this solution work with your current backup software but QNAP also works with Veeam to back up VMware and Hyper-V.
I know from my experience how painful backing up VMs can be, especially if you’re using a shared solution.
QNAPs are affordable enough that you can dedicate separate units for different workloads – VMs, databases, files shares, etc…
C. Can these white box storage units backup home users?
Yes – And for home users, QNAP has an app especially for us.
It’s called NetBak Replicator, and it’s free of charge with the Turbo NAS.
With NetBak Replicator you can easily back up files from Windows PCs.
It’ll backup entire disk drives, documents, pictures, music, videos or whatever.
It only takes a few clicks to schedule backup jobs from multiple PCs to a Turbo NAS.
Imagine this, NetBak Replicator also supports backing up via FTP through the Internet.
And for Mac users, QNAP has an app called Qsync that can synchronize files from multiple computers.
It creates a “Qsync folder” in your device where you can drop files and synchronizes the data to all your devices linked to the Turbo NAS.
We’re not done yet…
D. Are there any more backup options?
Yes – You can also install apps on the QNAP and turn the device into your backup cloud.
And if that’s not enough, QNAP integrates with 3rd party clouds to backup your local backup up to the cloud for offsite safety.
That was a lot of backup options to take in, right?
It’s keeps getting better.
Now let’s look at a storage topic that has been a big problem everywhere I have worked.
3. Quick and Easy iSCSI/NFS White Box Storage for Virtualization
Storage for virtualization has been everyone’s favorite storage problem for years.
And here’s why…
Because only until recently have there been real solutions available to solve the problems most IT organizations have gotten themselves into by oversubscribing their NAS or SAN units with 100s of IOP hungry VMs.
A. If solutions exist for virtualization, why is storage still a problem?
The simple answer is cost.
There are some amazing products on the market today but you’ll pay dearly for them, especially if they’re all-flash storage.
This is why unless you’re getting huge discounts, you could pay $5 – 15 per gigabyte – which BTW is a lot.
And after you factor in all the special licensing and support costs, a GB of storage could get as costly as $20 or more.
Paying that much per GB will add up real fast into tens of thousands of dollars…
B. Is QNAP Turbo NAS the fix?
Well, if you’re not hung up on brand names, then these low-cost white box storage devices can be customized for most home office or small business VM workloads.
A QNAP 12 bay unit can be loaded with 10 – 1 TB SATA3 drives and 2 SSDs.
And to boost performance, you can put 256 GB of flash cache…
White Box Storage for Your Business
- AnnapurnaLabs Alpine AL324 64-bit ARM Cortex-A57 quad-core 1.7GHz processor
- 4GB UDIMM DDR4 RAM (MAX 16GB)
- 8 x 3.5-inch SATA 6Gb/s, 3Gb/s (Diskless)
- 2 X 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet Ports
- 2 X 10 Gigabit Ethernet SFP+ Ports
- Intel Xeon D-1622 Quad-core processor, burst up to 3.2 GHz
- 32GB UDIMM DDR4 ECC RAM and upgradable to 128G
- 12 x 3.5 Inch SATA 6Gb/s, 3Gb/s Drives in the Front and 6 x 2.5 Inch SATA 6Gb/s, 3Gb/s Drives in the Rear
- Dual 10GbE SFP+ SmartNIC port and quad 2.5GbE RJ45 high-speed connectivity accelerates virtualization, intensive file access, and large backup/restoration tasks
- PCIe Gen 3 slots allow for installing additional Network adapters, QM2 cards, or Fibre Channel cards to increase application performance.
- AMD Ryzen Embedded V1500B quad-core 2.2 GHz processor
- 8GB UDIMM DDR4 (Max 32GB)
- 12 x 3.5-inch drive bays (Diskless)
- 2 x 2.5GbE ports
- 2 x PCIe Gen3 x4 slots
With this configuration, you’ll have both mass storage, and you’ll have high performance.
The real benefit for small shops is you can even switch things around and buy 8 – 3TB SATA3 drives (higher capacity) and 4 SSD, then put the SSDs in front of the SATA3 drives for more cache to boost performance.
Plus, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to set up storage for VMware, all you need is the willingness to think outside the box.
C. How much does QNAP storage cost?
The estimated price on the setup above is less than $1 per gigabyte.
And here’s another benefit, you can get all the parts to do this on Amazon without fussing around with vendors.
You can also buy extended support on Amazon.
D. How does the storage connect to ESXi?
QNAPs come with multiple NIC ports, and their storage can be set up to connect via iSCSI or NFS.
How’s that for a white box storage solution for VMware?
You’re probably starting to feel pain relief…
E. Are there any caveats? Yes!
Before you sign in to your Amazon Prime account, I want to give you the one big caveat I have found.
You can manage more than one QNAP from a single point, but they’re not redundant storage.
What I mean is there aren’t 2 controllers in these units operating in an active/active or active/passive configuration.
This means they are a single point of failure.
F. What does this mean?
It means you’ll need to take extra care to design around this limitation.
Which by the way is how I have learned to design for all storage platforms anyways.
Look, I’ve seen even best of brand storage fail (even those with active/active fault tolerance).
G. Am I saying move all your VMs to QNAP? No.
But I would move lower environments and backups there and get these workloads off more expensive storage.
This is especially true if you’re currently sharing the same spindles with Production, QA, and Dev.
The benefit of this change would free up IOPS for more important VMs.
H. Does QNAP only support VMware vSphere?
Check this out!
Hyper-V, Xen Server, and VMware are fully supported.
And QNAP offers a plugin for vCenter that makes using this white box storage alternative a seamless solution that plugs right into vSphere.
I. Does QNAP support VDI?
I thought this question would come up.
Next, we’ll cover another problem QNAP can solve – I’m talking about costly virtual desktops.
4. An alternative for Citrix Xen Desktop & VMware Horizon
If you’ve been toying with the idea of setting up virtual desktops, then I suggest you look at the QNAP vNAS Virtual Station as part of your proof of concept.
You’ll be amazed at the flexibility these white box storage servers have.
Aside from being highly customizable with drive and software configurations, they also sport Intel and AMD multi-core processors that can be combined with up to 32GB of memory.
A fully loaded QNAP is a powerful data storage server that can be turned into virtual desktop stations using the QTS software and KVM.
That’s right, QTS runs on Linux which taps into KVM to create virtual desktops.
How sweet is that?
A. Does QNAP Virtual Station cost more? No.
There’s far too much on this topic for me to cover now, but I can say from my testing that setting up virtual desktop systems on a QNAP is easier than installing and configuring Xen Desktop or Horizon.
And there isn’t any additional licensing cost – except maybe for the OS.
B. What OS can I install on QNAP vNAS?
QNAP Virtual Station can simultaneously run multiple instances of Windows, Linux, Unix, and Android VMs.
And as long as your system has resources available, you can keep adding VMs.
Are you starting to see why I compare QNAP Turbo NAS with a Swiss Army Knife?
These are amazing devices that can be easily customized to handle just about every storage or server problem faced by the home office and small business operations.
We’re almost done…
Only one more storage problem to solve before we wrap up.
Watch This QNAP Virtualization Station Video
5. STOP Big Storage Costs from eating up your Budget
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room…
I’ve been dealing with storage and server infrastructure for almost 2 decades and during this time I’ve seen the crazy things admins and vendors do to squeeze more gigabytes or IOPS out of their limited SAN/NAS.
A. What crazy things am I talking about?
De-dupe and thin provisioning for starters.
Both of these technologies leverage – isn’t leveraging responsible for the stock market crash of 2008?
Eventually, overloading financial markets and storage cause problems…
I call leveraging storage – oversubscribing!
B. Why do we leverage storage?
Simple, because best-of-brand storage is expensive.
C. Isn’t QNAP cheap network storage?
I realize the pride that goes into buying best-of-brands like EMC, Pure, and NetApp…
But I am going to share the truth because I’ve been on both sides – as a system engineer and as a manager.
The real truth is – any top brand of storage can fail just like a cheaper brand. No SAN or NAS is perfect, even with experts managing it. And you’d expect best-of-brand support not to suck, you’re wrong!
But I’m not comparing QNAP to any best of brand storage.
That’s not the point of this review.
I’m all for buying top brand storage when you need it…
However, listen, if you want to ask me if QNAP can provide:
- Low-cost storage for backups and archiving?
- Low-cost storage for virtualization?
- Low-cost storage for storing and sharing files?
- Low-cost solutions for virtual desktops?
- Will it SAVE you money?
The answer is YES!
Let me say it again…
Yes, QNAP can do all this and more.
As for my pride, here’s what I have to say.
Because of the utility value these white box storage solutions offer, I’d say QNAP is a perfect home office or small business storage solution.
I thought I was only going to cover 5 topics in this review, but I decided to add a bonus to my report since it’s been going so well.
Related reading: What is Whitebox hardware?
Bonus: Training Lab
1. Can your big storage solution do this?
The QNAP QTS software is a perfect solution for creating a DevOps lab.
It already has an Application Development Platform built right in.
All you do is click a button to set up a LAMP server that can be configured with any Linux-based Open Source Software available online including OpenStack, Chef, Ansible, and Jenkins.
You can also run Docker at the same time.
Or you can click a few more buttons and spin up a Windows server VM and create an IIS .NET lab.
And all this can be done with the smaller 2 bay Turbo NAS…
Before we wrap up, let’s review:
Is QNAP going to be the right choice for everyone? No.
Although, if you’re looking for a white box storage alternative to get you by until you decide which big storage option or VDI solution you want to use on an enterprise scale, QNAP can fill the gap.
In this review, I’ve only scratched the surface on the 5 or 6 topics we covered in this report.
Do your research and let me know if you also think this white box storage server rocks?
Then come back and share your comments and feedback below.
We’d love to know how you’re using your QNAP?
- Reference: QNAP Brochure
If you found this review about white box storage useful, I also recommend you check out this updated list of white box servers.
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