We could be the worst digital hoarders. To date, we have created more than 1000 videos and probably shot over 100TBs of raw footage. So when we got the chance to test out the QNAP TVS-472XT 4 Bay NAS (Network Attached Storage), we jumped on it to see if it can be more than just network storage. To be clear, we did not keep all 100TB of raw footage – whoever does that is just silly. Last I checked, we have 200GB on our Google Drive and 8TB in some external HDD that will probably never see the light of day, and that is already considered a sizable amount of data for most SMEs.
The QNAP TVS-472XT 4 Bay NAS targets Small-Medium Businesses and there are three variations of it. Ours runs on an Intel Core i3 4-core 3.1GHz processor and the other two variations run on Intel Core i5 6-core 3.3Ghz and Intel Pentium 2-Core 3.1GHz processors.
All come paired with 4GB DDR4 RAM and an integrated Intel 630 Graphics chip. The RAM can be upgraded to a maximum of 64GB but there are only two slots available. For connections, it has one USB 3.2 Gen 1 and two Type A and Type C USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports. The difference is that the Gen 1 USB 3.2 can go up to 5Gbps and the Gen 2 USB 3.2 can hit a maximum of 10Gbps. It also comes with two 1Gbps Ethernet connections and one 10Gbps Ethernet connection. This may be useful if you already have a network infrastructure set in place and with that, you can fully optimise data transfer speed of up to 10Gbps and the possibility to wire multiple computers onto the same network.
As we are working from home and most of our guys are working from different locations and regions, we are still reliant on our broadband speed to get good connectivity. Since the bottleneck for our speed is with the broadband, we would prefer the QNAP NAS to have a WiFi-6 module so that we don’t have to physically connect the NAS to our router via an ethernet cable.
With wire connections, it limits the placement of the NAS. If you do have your NAS placed beside your PC, you can take advantage of the two Thunderbolt 3 ports to get a transfer speed of up to 40Gbps and also keep your laptop charged. In our test, we can only get an average of 45MB/sec speed. The suboptimal speed that we are getting could be due to the Thunderbolt cable or the low 5400RPM read-write speed of the WD RED Plus HDD that we are using in the NAS. We also tried rendering a five-minute 1080p colour graded edit using our 2019 Macbook Pro. To our surprise, it took about the same amount of time to render the project whether the files were in our Macbook or in the NAS.
As I have mentioned, this is a four-bay NAS and you can install up to four 3.5-inch SATA HDD drives and choose to run it either as a combined storage space (Static Volume) or have more flexibility in tweaking the usage of the storage space by choosing either a Thick or Thin volume type (Flexible Volumes). For our usage, a Thick or Thin volume type may be more suitable as we can physically replace any of the HDD when it’s full. In our setup, we have installed four 2TB Western Digital (WD) Red Plus HDDs.
These HDDs are specifically designed for NAS use as the drives are properly balanced to reduce excessive vibration and noise. It is especially noticeable when you have a few HDDs running at the same time at varying speeds. They are also tested to last up to a million hours before it fails. For a NAS system that is always switched on and running, a normal desktop HDD might not be able to survive a long period in this rigorous environment. If you want even faster storage, you can choose to upgrade to an SSD via the two PCIe slots available, but do note that one is already occupied by the Thunderbolt 3 adapter.
There are a whole bunch of apps available for users to download and make the NAS do more. For example, you can download apps that will provide you with an easy way to navigate the interface if you want your NAS to double up as a media box for your TV. One other useful app will be the Qfile app that you can install onto your Android or iOS devices to easily back up your photo and video files straight to your NAS. This is especially useful as Google no longer provides free unlimited storage for your photos and videos unless you own a Google Pixel phone.
It also allows you to install multiple operating systems like Windows, Linux and even Android into your NAS. We tried using the Virtualization Station app to install a copy of Windows and we needed a few attempts to make it work. Installing the app was easy but there are additional steps like creating a Virtual Switch before it will even allow you to install a copy of the Windows OS. Even after installing the OS, we had to dig through the preference menu of the app to disabled reserved memory so that we can run Windows on 4GB of RAM.
The error message we get doesn’t point you to information on how you can get it fixed and we had to search for the solution online. Even though QNAP tried to make their NAS more environmentally friendly by removing paper instruction manuals and having everything online, we feel that the experience could have been better if they provide better step-by-step instructions and also links for solutions if one faces any error messages.
The reason why we wanted to install an instance of Windows onto the NAS is that we wanted to see if we can use it as a remote rendering station. As we have editors based all over the region and it is a hassle to transfer large files of 4K footage, we would like to have the NAS automatically create proxy files from the footage that we upload and have the video editors edit directly from the proxy files. After the edit, the editors can just save their projects and the NAS will automatically pull and render the project files in high resolution. This is technically possible if we install an instance of Adobe Media Encoder onto the NAS and create some Watch folders for it to automatically render files when it sees footage or project files in these folders.
This automated solution could free up time from downloading and uploading large files, reduce waiting time from rendering and possibly reduce the need for expensive editing machines to manage the heavy load. Having said that, Adobe does recommend 16GB of RAM for 4K projects.
So should you hop on the NAS bandwagon or go with everything Cloud? Well, it really depends on your needs and also how much time you want to spend tinkering with the NAS. Setting up a NAS for just storage use is fairly straightforward but if you want it to do more, you will need to have some advanced networking knowledge and probably spend hours or even days to get it to work for you. Some wouldn’t mind that because you do get more flexibility and can tailor it for your business needs.
Cost-wise, if 8TB or less storage is enough and you don’t need the system to do more, solutions like the 8TB WD My Cloud Home Duo or even a Google Drive subscription might be a simpler and more cost-effective choice. That said, if you need anything above 30TB of storage, it does seem like a NAS will be a more cost-effective solution compared to a Cloud storage solution like Google Drive even after taking into consideration the 5-year lifespan of the hardware.
Written by Lawrence Ng