It took years before I accomplished one of my goals: the purchase of a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device!

It would happen to be the QNAP TS-873, 8-bay NAS. It may sound silly, but one of the biggest reasons I bought it was because I didn’t want to go through the process of copying data from the old hard drive to a new one. I still had to copy the data to the NAS. But with the NAS and its capacity, the next time I may have to do that will be much longer. I hate the transfer process.

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I decided on the QNAP TS-873 for what now looks like very simple reasons. Trust me, it took me much longer before I bought it:

1) Capacity. The TS-673 is the exact same version and cost only $100 less and I get two less bays. So on a value basis, it was completely worth that extra $100. With the drives I bought, it gives me another 28TB of potential storage space. That $100 would extend the useful life of the NAS for at least another year. A no-brainer.

2) QNAP vs Synology. QNAP has been perceived as a better value NAS vendor when comparing to Synology. You get more performance and technology for your money. I say ‘perceived’. While you get more performance and technology for your money with QNAP, you get a vastly better interface and support experience with Synology. If you buy a QNAP, you better very confident with skills in IT. Setting up a QNAP is not for the faint of heart. Synology? Piece of cake.

3) 10Gbe and Expansion. Synology systems don’t give you much for upgrading your NAS. I knew I wanted 10Gbe on my NAS. I bought a 10Gbe network card when I bought the NAS. It’s absolutely fantastic. The speed. With Synology, I’m stuck with 1Gbe unless I buy a vastly more expensive system. Later, I will be installing a card containing slots for NVMe memory. For even more performance.

4) Price. The TS-873 is 2 – 3 years old. In fact, within a few days of buying it, QNAP stopped production of them! Not a bad thing however. QNAP will be supporting it for an indefinite period of time. There is no end-date for support. Makes sense. The system is quite generic. Basically, a slightly modified PC with a bunch of hard drive slots.

The newer version of my NAS has a newer process and technologies. But it’s not going to make a big difference for my needs. 8-bays in RAID 5 with a 10Gbe network card is going to be fast enough for years.

And it was going to cost me 2.5x as much as what I paid for my NAS.

That’s pretty much it. Simple reasons. But there are other NAS systems even within QNAP’s offering which made things a little more complicated.

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Let me say this: Synology systems are great. Absolutely. If you want a ton of storage space and don’t need that extra bit of performance, it can totally suffice. If you aren’t editing video directly off the NAS, and you don’t need to, Synology can totally work. In fact, years ago, I installed a Synology NAS for a law firm having approximately 30 people. The performance of the NAS was superior to the traditional server that was installed previously to it. Among 30 people.

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I’ve been incredibly happy and surprised by the performance of the NAS! Honestly, I only have 2 drives installed in it. So I’m not getting any performance improvement over 1 drive bay. But with the WD 14TB Red Pro drives I have installed, I guess that makes all the difference.

I chose the 14TB drives over the 12TB not for the size capacity, but the internal memory cache the hard drive contains. 512MB vs 256MB over the 12TB drive. With the bigger cache on the drive, it would make a nice performance improvement especially with photos. You can fit about 20 RAW images on the cache before needing to pull them directly off the drive platters themselves. When I perform a disk performance test on the NAS, results are insane:

Write: 271 MB/s

Read: 890 MB/s

And I ran this test with just one drive installed. Just give you a point of reference. My WD Passport external drive had R/W speeds of 90MB/s. 

The Read speed is this fast simply because the enormous cache in the hard drive is helping. When I get 4 or more drives installed, I’ll get easily over 1GB/s in Read performance for smaller data transfers. For sustained, big transfers which will rely on the platters instead of the drive cache, I’ll need 5 – 6 drives to get 1GB/s. Which is already the upper-limit speed performance of the 10Gbe ethernet connection. With that kind of speed, I’ll easily be able to edit 4k video off the NAS. With others.


For some of us who don’t have a dedicated office outside my home, it’s important. So, what’s the scoop?

The NAS itself is very quiet. But the WD drives I have installed are on the noisy side. I’m fine with them. I live in New York City. There is always noise. The only time noise is a quasi-issue for me is at 3am when the system runs through a self-diagnosis. Lots of drive chatter. So if you have a drive that’s quieter, like the models that have a spin speed of 5400RPM, it should cut down on noise quite a bit. You’ll lose performance. But that be okay for you.

It’s not going to be absolutely quiet. If you put it in a media cabinet in a room that needs to be dead silent, you might not notice it.

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For the most part, I’m happy with apps and their performance. I installed the OS on the internal SSD I installed. So that helps with general system performance and noise. Then when you install apps, you have the option of installing them on any part of storage pool. I have two choices: SSD or HD. If I had an NVMe storage pool that’s not used for cache, I would be able to install them there too. I installed the apps on the SSD.

I’m extremely happy with the performance of the apps and interface. Everything feels quite snappy. Probably also due to having 16GB of RAM installed as well. I don’t think the 10Gbe connection is as big a help for UI and app performance. We’re largely talking about the browser being updated from the NAS. 1Gbe is plenty.

There’s just one issue I have: backup software.

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It feels like junk. It works and has lots of functionality. But it needs a major overhaul with the innards of the app. This is what I found out before I started writing this article…

I had zero files that were updated on the NAS when a backup job ran. But, the backup job ran for 2.5 hours just to find out: 0 files backed up. The entire NAS was scanned for updated files so it seems. I can’t see any other reason why backup would take so long.

What an enterprise level backup should have is an internal database that gets updated when a file arrives or leaves. That way when a new file shows up, the backup system knows exactly what file it is and where. If this were the case, the 2.5-hour backup job from today would’ve taken less than a minute. Seconds. This would also save on wear on the drives. Can you imagine the wear and tear saved on the drive by not having to do a full system scan every night? That adds up.

And while someone says “But there are issues with keeping a database of files…..”. Yes, there are but backup systems like I’ve described have been in use for years. You can enable MySQL Server on the operating system and have the backup app utilize it. Problem solved. Not a deal breaker at all. It works and haven’t had any problems with it. Easy to use.

Okay, I lied. Two issues: USB devices.

QNAP supports all external drives that connect via USB. No issue. They also support WiFi USB dongles. They tend to be older devices which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

For my current home situation, I could use an older generation WiFi dongle that supports 150Mb/s speeds. Totally fine as my Internet connection goes up to 100Mb/s. So I’m good. Right?

It worked. For a while. Then it was just too unstable. If there was any WiFi connection issue, I had to unplug/plug the USB dongle. Backup would fail. I tried to deal with it for about a month. Contacted support. It just wasn’t a decent solution.

So what I did is I bought a Ubiquiti NanoStation M bridge and connected it to one of the ethernet ports on the back of the NAS. While this solution was 2x the price of the WiFi dongle (and it only cost me about $150), it is a superior solution. I have had zero problems with it. Internet goes down? It reconnects by itself and backup resumes. Zero maintenance.

So yes, other than hard drives, flash storage, mice and keyboards, don’t connect anything else to the USB ports. Even if QNAP says they support it. Synology just announced this exact thinking.

Image: QNAP

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What’s Coming

Three things I’ll be setting up on the NAS within the next few weeks:

• Virtual computer. I’ll be able to create a virtual computer in the NAS. Why? So if I need to do any computer work remotely but don’t have my laptop with me, I can remotely connect to the NAS and use the virtual computer with anyone’s computer and have access to everything I need. Apps and data.

• Virtual networking. Actually, I’ll need to set this up before I can setup a virtual computer. But what this will allow me to do is make the NAS turn into a network switch and I can connect other network-possible devices and access them from any computer. I have a printer I can connect via ethernet. Performance will be improved. It will also create some protection against hacking as well.

• Time Machine. Any Mac I have connected to the NAS can utilize Time Machine on it. Then when the computer is backed up, the backup data will be backed up into the cloud.

I have some other ideas coming down the line that I’ll be investigating but these are most important to me. Probably take a Saturday morning to complete.


In short, I really couldn’t be happier with my NAS. It’s only going to get faster and have more capacity as time goes on when I add NVMe, hard drives and more RAM.

For years! And no more stupid external hard drives!

Ricardo Gomez Photography

Originally from San Francisco, Ricardo is now a New York-based photographer specializing in editorial and commercial photography.
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