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QNAP has traditionally focused mainly on home users with its NAS appliances but the latest TS-209 Pro signals a move into small business territory as well. There's a lot of competition in this market and this compact desktop box stands out as it takes all the features that impressed us from its TS-109 Pro and amalgamates them into a compact desktop box that supports a pair of SATA hard disks and brings hot-swap capabilities plus mirroring and striping to the table.
The TS-209 employs the same low power embedded 500MHz SoC (System on Chip) processor as its smaller brethren and this is also partnered by 128MB of DDR2 and 8MB of Flash memory. A single Gigabit Ethernet port is provided as are three USB ports which can be used for adding external storage devices or for sharing printers but you don't get the high-speed eSATA port as provided on the single drive models. The two drive bays are accessed from behind the removable front panel where you fit your choice of hard disk into the carriers, slip them into the appliance and screw them down. The appliance has a large fan at the rear which we found unobtrusive on the automatic setting but you can manually set the speed if you wish and the drives can be powered down after a period of inactivity if required.
The bundled Finder software locates the appliance on the network and on first contact runs through a ten-step installation phase which sets up the network parameters, initialises the hard disks and downloads the firmware. Four choices for disk configuration are on offer where you can go for a mirror, a stripe, a single linear volume or two separate drives. For testing we slipped in a pair of 150GB Western Digital Raptor 1500ADFD drives, which we configured as a RAID-1 mirror. To test hot-swap functions we pulled the lower drive to simulate a failure and the appliance duly noted this and showed the array as degraded. We replaced the drive and the appliance automatically rebuilt the array as soon as the drive had powered up.
QNAP has a reputation for cramming its appliances with features and the TS-209 is no exception although how many of them will appeal to businesses is debatable. Multimedia is high on the list as you get a TwonkyMedia server which can be configured from the web interface and an iTunes server as well. For the latter your music files are imported into a default folder and are made available to any system running the iTunes client. Photographs can be stored and viewed using the Multimedia Station, which creates thumbnails of your pictures after they have been uploaded. A slideshow runs through them at a preset interval in seconds and you can save them off and print them directly from the interface.