Setting up the Buffalo Linkstation Quad Pro LS-QVL/R5 NAS (Part 1)

This is part 1 of the series on setting up the Buffalo Linkstation Quad Pro LS-QVL/R5 NAS.

The Buffalo Linkstation Quad Pro LS-QVL/E 4-Bay NAS


Recently I bought the Buffalo Linkstation Quad Pro 4-bay NAS (it was on special) and 4 no. Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB ST2000DL003 drives. The goal is to assemble a home NAS for my home network.

This article gives a rundown how i setup these drives but first, a short observation of the NAS. This is the first NAS i have owned and so i am not in the position to compare it with the other NAS such as the Thecus, QNAP, etc. But what i see so far, i like it.

What i like:

  1. In terms of hardware, i like the easily detachable front access panel. It clips onto the unit using magnet. I also like the compactness of the unit as it is not too obtrusive and gets the nod by my wife to put this in the living room. I put this near the media player for the TV.
  2. built in bittorrent server – not that i will use the NAS as the bittorent client to download stuff but this can come in handy one day.
  3. built in web server – this is useful.
  4. built in mySQL server – now this can be extremely useful one day. I don’t require this right now though.
  5. built in php support – now this is cool.
  6. built in ftp server – this is very useful for me as i often need to access files at home from the office.
  7. built in DLNA streaming – no idea how to use this in my network as i don’t do this kind of stuff.
  8. built in time machine backup – useless to me as i do not run MACs.
  9. built in print server – very clever – but this does not support MFC devices…but then again, MFC is rarely supported in any other print servers.
  10. built in web access – this is a cool feature and i like to be able to access the files using my iphone and from the net.
  11. I also like the inclusion of NovaBackup professional as part of the bundled software. I have used this software in the past and it is a pretty good backup software.
  12. built in flickr support – maybe useful to me since i am also a photographer
  13. built in eye-fi support – I don’t have the hardware that will make use of this feature now but who knows in future.

What i don’t like:

  1. I would prefer to have more USB ports but I can live with just 2 at the moment.
  2. The documentation is a bit confusing…..
  3. Lack of information from the net.

Assuming the NAS is setup correctly in the network, the following steps will set the box up.

Step 1 – Getting the Manuals

First, I make sure I have all the manuals handy. Buffalo’s manuals can be downloaded by clicking the “Read Manual” link at the header.

Here are some useful documentation for further reference:

Web Access Features

Manuals

Step 2 – Launching the Web Interface

It is important that the web interface can be accessed from the web browser.

Install the NASNavigator2 software that comes bundled with the NAS. Launched it and it should try to detect the NAS box on the LAN. If it does not, the NAS hardware is not setup correctly. If everything is setup right, the NAS box and its network information will be displayed. Right click on the selection and select “Open Web Settings”. This should bring you straight to the web interface.

Step 3 – Setting up the Admin Logins

I the proceed to set up the Admin password. Go to “Users/Groups”, press edit on the right panel. The default login username/password is Admin/password. I change this to the same username/password as the other routers on my network.

Step 4 – Setting up the IP Address

The NAS has a default setup to take its IP address automatically from the DHCP server (usually this is from the router). As this is a fixed appliance, I prefer to assign a static IP address myself. My usual practice is to assign static IPs between the range 192.168.1.1 and 192.168.1.99 and dynamic IPs between 192.168.1.100 and 192.168.1.244. This make it easier for me to associate IPs with various devices within my home network.

My router is now setup as 192.168.1.1, my 2nd router as 192.168.1.2, my NAS as 192.168.1.3 and finally my media player as 192.168.1.4.

To do the IP change, go to “Network” -> “Settings”. Click on “Modify Settings” and make the changes on the screen. I disabled the DHCP settings and set the primary DNS server address and default gateway address as 192.168.1.1 which is the IP of my primary router. After this is done, save the settings.

Step 5 – Setting up the NAS name, Time zones

This step is easy. Just go to “System” -> “Settings”. Set the settings as required.

Step 6 – Setting up the Drives

This is the crucial step. I have now with me 4 no 2TB disks. I have decided i will go with the following configuration:

1. Disk 1, 2 and 3 will form a raid array using raid 5. I would expect the effective capacity available to me would be near the 4TB mark (maybe less due to the overhead of the system), but this is good enough.

2. Disk 4 will form a standalone disk of 2TB size. Why? No particular reason…just personal preference.

Install all the drives onto the drive caddies. Make sure that the NAS is switched off and do not connect any network cable to the NAS! Install the first drive into drive bay 1. Switch on the NAS by holding down the power button on the front panel for 1 second or so. The blue power LED will blink as it proceeds to boot. When the function LED is lit red, press the function button. The function LED will then flash as the NAS proceed to load the firmware onto the hard drive. This takes about 10 mins or so on my drive. The NAS will reboot in the process and when the power LED is lit blue (note. not flashing blue), plug the network cable into the NAS. The first setup process is completed and we can now login to the web interface.

Now more about the firmware loading process. It would appear that the firmware in the NAS hardware is merely just a boot loader and the actual operating system will be installed into EACH of the hard drives, and the NAS will need to mirror this in ALL the drives so that in the event of any drive failure, the operating system can still be loaded from other drives.

I suppose the right step would be to complete the setup of one drive and then repeat the process for the remaining drives. According to some internet forums, it is recommended to set the disks up this way. I am lazy and decided not to follow this advice.

So I proceed to install the remaining drives into the NAS but I have to first shutdown the NAS. Now how to shutdown the NAS? For whatever reason, I could not find the part how to switch off the NAS but then this is simple enough. Just press the power button for 1 second or so. The blue LED will flash and the unit will shut down next.

Update: I now know that you can restart and shutdown the linkstation via the web interface. Just go to “System” -> “Maintenance”. Note the “Restart Linkstation” module and the “Shutdown Linkstation” module.

After putting all the drives into their respective drive bays, I disconnected the network cable and power up the NAS again, i find that all the green LEDs are now on and the blue LED is flashing. After 5 mins, the blue LED is lit steady and the function LED is lit red. I am a bit at a loss what to do with it so i press the function button for a short press…. the red LED stops. I am not sure if this is what it is meant to do but I proceed anyway.

I then connect up the network cable and see if i can login to the NAS. Well, I can login in alright but the page says the disks are being checked and formatted and until this is completed, fire sharing is not available. Now to my surprise, this went on pretty quickly and i can access the entire web admin in 15 seconds or so.

The first thing i did then is to go to “System” -> “Storage”. And I see this:

Then I see the power LED is now lit orange and it is flashing. What I am concerned is that the status for disk 3 and 4 is marked as “removed”. I suppose this is because both of these drives have not yet been formatted and the NAS has yet to build up the array containing these drives. I am also concerned that the NAS is not building the kind of array I wanted. So I delete the array. The deletion process require a confirmation no. to be entered. I follow the onscreen instructions and do so. The NAS now reported that it is changing the raid array..

The process takes about 2 mins or so. and the “System” -> “Storage” screen now says:

So I select disk 3 and press format. I choose the XFS filesystem. The power LED now flash orange. The process completes in about 5 mins and the “Storage” screen now looks like this:

I think I am heading in the right direction. So I formatted the 4th disk.

So all the disks are now formatted, I then proceed to define the raid setup.

So I Click “Array 1”, and the following screen will appear (be patient though as the update is not instantaneous).

With raid 5, I will need a minimum of 3 disks. I select Disk1, Disk2, Disk 3. Then select raid5 from the drop down menu. Then I click the “Create Raid Array” button.

A pop up dialog box will warn that all the data will be deleted. This is to be expected. So I click “Apply”. The array building process now starts and the power LED now turn orange and flashing. I would expect this will take ages. But the process completed in 1 min or so. It would appear that the array is still building in the background as the power LED continues to flash orange.

The “Storage” screen now looks like this:

I know the raid building process takes a long time (it says it requires 992 mins and this is 16 hours) but I would expect the entire process to complete much earlier. So if i were to do this all over again, I will start the build process before i go to sleep at night.

I do not think there are much things we can do on the NAS while the drives are being configured. I leave the thing running while I do something else.

After a long wait, the raid building process completed successfully. Total time is around 11 hours or so. The “Storage” screen now looks like this:

The disks for the NAS are now completely setup the way i want it, i.e. a raid 5 array (comprising disk 1, disk 2 and disk 3) plus an independent volume of disk 4.

Step 7: Defining the Shares

The next step I did is to define the shares. This process is relatively simple.

Go to “Shared Folders” -> “Folder Setup” and click the “Create Folder” button. This will bring up another screen. Enter the Name and Description of the share to be created, In the pulldown menu, select where this share should be located. In my case I can choose either Array 1 or Disk 4.

Select the shared folder attributes. Enable recycle bin. For shared folder support, I select everything. Enter a password for remote backup. There is an “Access Restriction” module at the bottom of the screen. With this module, it is possible to define the rights for each user/group and fine tune their access rights to the share. I ignore this module as I do not require this level of security.

This is how the share module for one of my shares look like when i am done.

I also created a share call “web” for the internal web server. But more on this later.

I did not pay too much attention to the share creation process as i know i can always come back to create/redefine the shares.

Step 8: Setting up Email notification

I think this is a good feature. Go to “System” -> “Maintenance” and then click on the “Email Notification” module. Enable the notification and put in the correct SMTP server address. Now I primarily use Gmail for my email needs. So the correct SMTP server address for gmail should be “smtp.gmail.com”. Set the SMTP port no. as 465.

Select the Authentication type as “Login (SMTP-AUTH)”. Select SSL/TLS. Enter gmail username and password. Note that the username should be of the syntax “johndoe@gmail.com” and not just “johndoe”. Under the subjects heading, enter something descriptive. The default is “Linkstation Status Report”. I think this is fine as it is. Lastly, add myself as the email recipient. To finish off the story, I tell the NAS to send the report at 12pm.

The completed setting should like this:

Save the settings and click the “Send Test Message” button to test the setup. An email should now be sent to the gmail account. If all is well, the email should read as follows:

Step 9: Setting up the Web Access

To set this up, I go to “Extensions” -> “WebAccess”. I also enabled uPnP in my DD-WRT router thinking that the Buffalo NAS will be able to work with the uPnP settings right away. For whatever reasons, I kept getting a port forwarding fail error.

The next step I did is to manually port forward port 9000 to the IP address of the NAS. But this did not work either.

Finally I click the “Advance WebAccess Settings” button, enter the following settings, and voila, things work okay. Use a unique name for the “BuffaloNas.com Name” settings and choose a good password as well. My settings go like this.

And how to verify that the webaccess is working?

Setup a share in the NAS. Put some files in there. If webaccess is working, these files should be visible from a web browser external to the network.

Step 10: Setting up the Web Server

I have no desire to run the NAS as a public web server but it is useful to have a private web server serving the home network only. Also, if I am successful to install tools such as rrdtool, imagicmagik and hddtemp to the NAS operating system, I can use the web server to display nifty graphs such as the hard drive temperature and possibly other parameters as well,

This step is really easy. Just go to “Network” -> “Web Server”. Click the “Modify Settings” button. Enable the web server, leave port 81 as it is and select the appropriate share name for the “Target Folder”. This is how my module looks like when it is done:

Note the PHP support at the bottom of the screen. I will leave this unconfigured for now.

Here are some helpful information related to the web server implementation by Buffalo. All extracted from the “help” menu.

[] Web Server Settings

Click on [Modify Settings] to change settings.

[] Web Server

Enable to use the Web server.

[] Port Number

Choose the port for web server traffic. The default port is 81.

[] Web Server Publishing Folder

Enable to use the Web server. Three directories will be created in the Web Server Publishing Folder, htdocs, cgi-bin, and log:
(web server publishing folder, ie. web)/htdocs/
This folder is used to store the contents of your webserver and the HTML files or PHP scripts you would like to include. Example: When you set up a share folder called “web”, the path via SMB will be \\LinkStation_name\web\htdocs.
(web server publishing folder, ie. web)/cgi-bin/
Use this folder to store your CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts. Perl is the only supported language. Script extensions should be either .pl or .cgi.
(web server publishing folder, ie. web)/log/
Logs from the web server are stored in this folder.

[] Testing Web Server Functionality

Navigate to http://LinkStation_IP_address:port_number. For example, http://192.168.11.150:81. If the web server is configured correctly, phpinfo will be visible. Phpinfo shows the PHP interpreter settings.

[] CGI file relationships


Language Extension Configuration path
Perl .cgi Only “cgi-bin” folder in web server public folder
Perl .pl Only “cgi-bin” folder in web server public ( share ) folder
PHP .php In web server public folder

[] php.ini

You can change PHP language interpreter settings (advanced users only). php.ini may be imported or edited from a connected PC.

Note: PHP scripts may not work as expected after you edit php.ini. You may go back to the default php.ini by clicking on [Restore Default Settings].

Testing the web server is easy. Point the web browser to 192.168.1.3:81. The following page should come out:

This is expected as there are no html documents within the /web/htdocs directory of the NAS.

Step 11: Setting up the FTP Server

This is a good feature for me as i can ftp into the NAS to retrieve whatever document I need when I am out of the house. Setting this up is incredibly simple. The only remark I have is that the ftp setting is buried under an obscure part of the NAS menu system. To reach this module, click on “Network” -> “Settings” -> “Network Services” and then click on the “FTP” link. Just enable the ftp server, save the settings and that’s it. Done.

This is how the module will look when done.

Step 12: Stress Testing the NAS

I am not going to trust any hardware storage medium (especially one with such a large storage as the NAS) without testing them first. If this is not done and there is a hardware glitch, all the data may be at risk and this is the last thing I want. Intel has a good software to stress test the NAS and it is free. Download the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit here.

Setting this up is pretty straightforward. Just follow the instructions and point the test target to the NAS. It is possible to batch run which will run all the tests for 5 complete cycles. The test takes a long time to run and i decided to let it complete its first batch run overnight. When I wake up the next day, I see the following error message on the PC screen.

Extremely curious (and slightly panicking), I tried to access the NAS. It turns out that everything is fine. The NAS has no problems whatsoever. So why Intel NAS Performance Toolkit return that kind of error is unknown to me at the moment. Checking the log files via the Analyzer also did not show any peculiar readings.

I think the NAS toolkit really hammers the NAS during the testing process and given that the NAS is still running (it could have been locked up and require a hard reset), I would say the NAS is completely setup and it is now ready to populate the NAS with data.

Step 13: BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP!!

A common misconception is that a NAS will be adequate to serve as a backup. This is not true. While a NAS has disk redundancy features, its purpose is to enhance the reliability of data being served to the end users. A backup is still important and I cannot stress this enough.

Buffalo included this wonderful backup program called Novaback Professional and I will be using this to backup important data on the NAS onto a trusted USB drive.

Side Note 1: Setting up the Spin Down Settings

The Buffalo NAS Central site has a good article that explain this. The article is here. An extract is pasted here for those who are too lazy to point the mouse.

“First of all, you should think hard about whether your setup actually allows you to spin down the hard drive. As the box to the right points out, ext3 writes regularly to disk, preventing a useful spindown. There are other programs known to write regularly on disk, such as ntp, exim and various logging daemons. Some workarounds have been posted on various places around the web, detailing how to prevent each of these from doing these regular disk writes. However, they have not (especially as regards the ext3 filesystem) been well tested on the LinkStation, and may cause problems.

Furthermore, you should note that a spindown must be done only for a long period if it is not to damage the disk, since the spin down/up cycle causes considerable wear. Desktop drives are not built for too many spin downs/ups. Laptop drives, are designed to some 500,000 spin downs/ups in compared to the sub 40,000 of a desktop drive. According to one estimate, if a disk spins up/down every 10 minutes, it will break within one year.”

So my personal take is: If power management is really important to you, set the Buffalo NAS to shutdown at night (say 12am or so) when it is anticipated that there will not be any disk activities and restart automatically at say 6am or so. To do this, go to “System” -> “Power Management”. Click on the “SleepTimer” module. Set the timer accordingly.

Personally, I wouldn’t bother with power management. I am happy to run 24/7 non-stop.

Side Note 2: Setting up a USB drive connected to the NAS

Before I acquire the NAS, I have several 1TB USB drives. It is good that with the NAS, I can still connect these USB drives (though one at a time) to the NAS to further expand the storage capacity or for backup purposes.

This section is unfinished……….

Side Note 3: Setting up a UPS connected to the NAS

This is a tough part of the project as the documentation regarding UPS support is so limited and rare on the internet. Apart from knowing that APC UPSes are supported (but these are also limited to those with USB output ports), I have no way of knowing the compatibilities of any other brands. I do not want to get an APC ups if there are an alternative brand that can do the job for a lower cost.

I do, however, have an APC SmartUPS 1000 unit with me (previously junked by my office because its batteries are dead). It has only a serial port output, and it appears that with the correct serial to USB cable, I might have a chance to get this to work with the buffalo NAS. I will need to replace the dead batteries though.

This forum thread is related the the Netgear ReadyNAS but it is still nevertheless a good source of information regarding the APC SmartUPS 1000.

This section is unfinished……….


Posted on April 10, 2011, in Buffalo Quad Pro NAS. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Setting up the Buffalo Linkstation Quad Pro LS-QVL/R5 NAS (Part 1).

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