First generation consumer orientated NAS boxes were little more than a small case for a number of hard drives coupled to a network interface. These days users expect more and devices like QNAP's 409 Turbo NAS delivers. The 409 Turbo is essentially a file, web, database and iTunes streaming server in a box which is just a bit bigger than four hard drives.
QNAP produce two versions of the 409 Turbo. One has NFS support so Unices and Mac users can mount the file system using the NFS protocol while the other doesn't. NFS support entails the "Pro" tag to be added. In reality NFS mounting is a very simple software "modification" (if you can call it that), so it's a shame the standard 409 Turbo lacks it. Otherwise they represent the same hardware and capabilities. Both Unix and Mac users can still use the regular 409 Turbo through using the SMB protocol.
On the outside everything looks very unassuming. The front grille door is a little flimsy but unless you intend to open and shut this case every day, it'll be fine. The single fan at the back which produces enough noise to make it a slight annoyance. What you really want is to stick this thing in a cupboard and use HomePlug networking if you don't have Ethernet sockets nearby.
Installing the disks is trivial. The sleds have thumbscrews and you'll only need a screwdriver to attach the drives to them. The power adaptor isn't built in, so the 409 Turbo comes with quite a hefty power brick. Although it keeps the overall size of the NAS unit down, it does add to the overall clutter.
The whole shebang is powered by a 500MHz Broadcom chip which gives you some clue as to the added capabilities of this device. Four SATA hard drives can be installed with capacities all the way up to 1Tb. We confirmed this by running two of the superb Samsung F1 1Tb units without any problems. As the 409 Turbo supports simple spanning, RAID 0, 1 and 5 (with up to two hot spare disks), we put three Hitachi drives to use in a RAID 5 array, again with minimal fuss. It is this lack of fuss which is what makes the 409 Turbo such a joy to use.
In testing we tried all the RAID levels with various sized disks and the 409 Turbo was capable of getting arrays up in a very reasonable time. The Web interface, while not the most visually appealing, does have AJAX which means real-time updates on array creation processes and array space usage.
What makes the 409 Turbo worth receiving your attention is the software QNAP supplies. Not only does it make the setup utterly painless but even the online administration, although daunting at first, is a breeze. The 409 Turbo has a lot of options allowing for fine grain control yet the wizard driven interface allows you to setup perfectly adequate "shares" within minutes.
The 409 Turbo shares its disks through a Gigabit capable Ethernet port. This makes far more sense than using an unreliable, unsecure wireless network for this sort of device. It also has a couple of USB ports which allows you to connect other devices such as printers and share them on the network. This may sound simple but is excellent functionality.
The 409 Turbo has a one-touch backup button which allows you to connect a drive using another USB interface, this time on the front, and transfer all your files to that drive. They also provide a back-up application which works very well, monitoring files in two locations and synchronising the two sources. The applications are a little rough around the edges when it comes to look and feel but they are easy to use and get the job done perfectly.
While the 409 Turbo isn't a processing powerhouse, it does have enough grunt to push the embedded webserver and database server for small websites. Not only that, among its features is a web-based file manager allowing basic but easy-to-use functionality. Stick the 409 on a public IP address or even though a NAT with port redirection and you really have a very simple way of creating a file repository.
Another interesting and useful feature is the ability to set the 409 Turbo to download files off BitTorrent. All you have to do is download the initial torrent file and then add it to the queue, with the 409 Turbo happily chugging along.
Devices like the 409 Turbo represent an excellent proposition for home users. Instead of building great big file servers which not only take up space but cost a lot more to run, a 409 Turbo can do the basic job of sharing files and so much more. The 409 Turbo is a viable alternative to sticking a couple of huge hard drives into the HTPC to record content.
The combination of a very thorough feature-set and fine grain access controls means the 409 Turbo is a great NAS device. Coupled to the ease of setup and use, there's really very little going against this device. For home and small businesses, the 409 Turbo represents excellent short and long term value and comes with a very hearty recommendation.