Review: A Closer Look At The Synology DS212+ NAS
A have previously looked at a number of NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices, including offerings from Buffalo and Seagate, however this is the first time I have looked at a solution from Synology. The particular NAS device from Synology in this review is the DS212+ which is aimed at the small business although, from spending time with the device, it does also seem to offer a number of features a home power user may also find interesting.
In its most basic form a network attached storage device, such as the DS212+, can be used as a shared hard drive by offering a virtual drive and folders to network connected computers (security can be managed through user accounts). However, these days we expect more from our NAS device and they often from part of our back-end infrastructure acting as mini file and print servers by offering up files, streaming media, and even offering virtual windows into our network surveillance systems.
The Synology DS212+ is one of a latest breed of NAS device and the makers describe this unit as the "New NAS Experience". In this review we will be taking a closer look at the DS212+ to see what it has on offer.
In The Box
The DS212+ box is neatly presented, highlighting some of the key features including iSCSI, Windows ADS, File Server, Backup, and Encryption, whilst inside the box components are easy to access. In the box you get the NAS unit itself, a power adaptor and cable, a 2 metre network cable, installation DVD, tray screws (supporting both 3.5” and 2.5” drives), and a welcome sheet.
The welcome sheet is quite short but contains some important information so be sure to read it thoroughly, for example it says to get the best out of the unit you should really check the Synology website for compatible hard drives.
Both a Quick Installation Guide and Users Guide are included on the installation DVD and both require Adobe Acrobat Reader. Also on the DVD is the Setup Utility and Data Replicator 3 application which should both work on Windows 2000 upwards and Mac OS X 10.3 upwards (there are also instructions on the DVD for getting the unit to work on Linux) although, for this review, I did not install the Data Replicator application.
The NAS Unit
The size of the unit is 165 (h) x 108 (w) x 233.2 (d) mm and the specification sheet says it weighs around 1.25 Kg with no drives loaded. The NAS includes a 2 GHz processor and 512 MB on-board memory and it can support two internal drives up to a maximum of 6 TB although typically you would at least mirror these drives so expect a real maximum of around 3 TB.
On the front of the unit are activity indicators (Status, LAN, Disk 1, Disk 2), SD Card Slot, USB 2.0 port, a quick Copy button and the power button. The Copy button is a neat feature so when you insert a USB drive or SD Card you can simply press the Copy button to copy the contents of the drive to the units configured drive.
On the reverse of the unit sits a large fan, two USB 3.0 ports, a LAN port, eSATA port, a recessed reset button, power adaptor socket, and an areas to attach a security style lock.
The eSATA port can be used to connect an external SATA disk or a Synology Expansion Unit so you can extend the system as your data needs grow.
When powered up I was surprised, bearing in mind the size of the fan in comparison to the unit, how quiet the unit was. I have some equipment in the office that create quite a lot of ambient noise due to whirring fans so it is good to see a device that operates quietly.
An important aspect of any NAS is the support for quickly installing drives. The DS212+ unit itself does not include any hard drives, as standard, but it does support up to two 2.5” or 3.5" SATA(II) hard drives (make sure you check the site for compatibility).
The drive bays, to which your hard drive units should be attached, are light and, whilst of a plastic construction, feel pretty sturdy and its good to see you get the right screws included in order to attach the drive units.
Each tray has an embossed indicator of which way is “up” and the trays slot into position, guided by slide rails in the NAS itself, quite smoothly plus there is a satisfying click when they are docked.
To undock a drive bay you need to press the release mechanism on the unit itself which allows you to pull out the associated tray.
Once the NAS is installed and powered up the next step is to install the software from the CD which involves the installation of the Synology Assistant. The Assistant should detect the drive on the network and allow installation of the correct DiskStation Manager (DSM) firmware (.pat file).
At this point you can also configure an administrative password, give the device a suitable name, enter network information, and opt to create a default volume post installation. The Synology Assistant can also be used to configure any printing devices if you wish to use the NAS as a print queue device.
Once installed you will be able to access the management application which offers a GUI based interface into the back-end of the NAS and you can go on to configure the NAS for say Surveillance Station if, for example, you have network attached webcams that you want to hook into.
As there are so many features to explore in the DiskStation Manager I plan to take a closer look at the application in a future article.
The Synology DS212+ is a neatly presented and fascinating proposition for a small scale NAS device. The quieter operation makes it more comfortable to use in an office environment and the feature set within the DiskStation Manager make it a highly flexible device for a range of activities from file sharing and backup to print server and surveillance station. The price (checked on 9th November 2011) is around £279 whilst a couple of matching 1TB drives are around £120 for a pair (Seagate ST31000524AS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA Drives – price checked on Amazon) though you can find a list of supported drives on the Synology hard drive support page.
For more information head over to the Synology website: Synology DS212+