WebDAV gives you the ability to transfer files to and from your network attached storage, securely, from anywhere in the world, just as easily if you were attached to a local USB drive. Windows PC and Windows Server 2012 use features built into Internet Information Services (IIS) to enable WebDAV. QNAP is no different, only the configuration is much easier. All you need to do is check off a box in the QNAP web server configuration panel. The downside is that it’s a little more difficult to set up WebDAV on the client using QNAP. Windows allows you to use HTTPS to map a WebDAV drive within Windows Explorer. QNAP suggests you use a third party client and recommends one by name that’s free for non-commercial use. Afterward, you use Windows Explorer for file transfers just as if you were connected to a local disk drive.
QNAP provides detailed and easy to follow instructions for it’s network attached storage devices. Their instructions for WebDAV are here. Their recommendations for client connection software and configuration tips are here.
I assume that the other smart NAS manufacturers offer similar WebDAV capabilities.
OK, Now Why Do I Need You To Tell Me What They Already Say?
Good question. Here’s what they left out or maybe marginalized a little. WebDAV, like HTTP, comes in secure and not secure flavors. If you’re someone who believes that bad guys will overlook you because you ignore them, good luck with that. QNAP mentions, but doesn’t stress, secure WebDAV. Using WebDAV without SSL is a little like using postcards in the mail for confidential information.
QNAP supports SSL and it’s remarkably simple to set up, at least remarkably simple in relative terms. SSL is somewhat complicated in itself, and, with respect to SSL, Windows technology is a little more difficult than NAS technology to configure. QNAP SSL Management is described here. It also links to foundational information about SSL and DDNS.
NetDrive, the QNAP recommended client software, has one annoying characteristic. Once you open it, it stays open even if you close the window. If you double click the icon on the desktop after closing it, nothing happens. To re-open a NetDrive window, double click the little icon in the lower right desktop icon area.
Do I Need WebDAV Just To Get a File From a NAS box?
No. If you’re on the local network and want to connect to any network drive:
- Open Windows Explorer
- On the top in the entry area, enter the name of the NAS (ex QNAPTS120) with two backslashes in front; \\QNAPTS120. Microsoft calls this the Uniform Naming Convention (UNC). This technique works with all devices attached to your local network, not just NAS devices.
- Windows explorer will open the NAS just like it opens any other drive. Double-click and open or right click and map any local network folder you have permissions for. Somewhere in there you’ll be asked for user id and password information.
A Few More Pictures
QNAP provides clear instructions for both WebDAV and NetDrive. Here’s a little more.
Turn WebDAV on in the web server by checking the boxes. You’re done with the server.
On the Shared Folders panel, use the drop down list on the top to select WebDAV access. Decide which folders you want to access with WebDAV. Then decide who can get in remotely. You’re done with user permissions.
NetDrive is easy to use, but includes a couple of subtle kinks that will cause much frustration if you don’t know about them.
On the left panel, click Advanced. Then check off Use HTTPS.
On the right, WebDAV allows you to to get into folders you have permissions for. You must name the top folder in the Site IP or URL box. It is case sensitive. ‘Download’ is not the same as ‘download’. In this case, the Site IP or URL box would contain Your-URL.com/Download/.
Here’s the mapped drive. It looks local.
To disconnect, click Disconnect.