The proliferation of affordable centralised storage in homes and SoHo has been on the increase for some time. Most storage vendors are offering some sort of "large" capacity storage with sharing capability aimed at the home market primarily. Synology however, offers more than just a dumb block of magnetic media for storing and serving files.
The build and finish of the Synology DS-412+ is of high quality, the unit has a robust feel to it despite the primarily plastic outer casing. The 4 hard drive bays are hidden behind a glossy black panel that is held on by small rubber feet which makes it a little easy to dislodge if one is not careful moving the unit.
The single word to describe the unit is minimalist. There is a power button and an USB port in front of the unit, all other connectors are on the back. Hard disks are mounted by four screws to each tray. An array of five (5) LEDs provides an instant status report for the system and each HDD bay.
On the back of the chassis is:
* 2 x Gigabit RJ-45 ports
* 2 x USB 3.0 ports which can support USB printer, flash drives, USB hubs, UPS and others
* 1 x eSATA port
* 1 x power connector
* Kensington lock security slot
The initial setup procedure requires the use of the Synology Quick Start CD to discover the unit on the network firstly, then to install the Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM) software onto the unit. The bundled CD came with version 3.2-2027 of the DSM software which was not supported by the DS-412+. I did have to go to the Synology website and manually download the latest revision being 4.0-2888.
Much of the process was fairly painless and Synology makes it easy to obtain the latest DSM software on their website although I would have much preferred a supported version of DSM came bundled on the CD. As part of the Quick Start process, an IP address can be assigned to the unit. I opt to use a single port during the initial setup.
Once DSM is loaded, there is a Quick Start icon that gives an overview of the next steps. The wizard provides links to each necessary steps to fully commission the DS-412+
The first step is volume creation which is straightforward and the space is available immediately. The full initialisation of the disk array, however, could take a while. In my case the DS-412+ was loaded with four (4) Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB drives (WD2002FAEX) and it took best part of a business day to complete the initialisation sequence.
Unlike traditional NAS systems, the Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) removes the need to under the difference between RAID types and requirements. It offers the ability to have mixed sized hard disks in the environment with an array created based on the smallest sized disk and creating redundant storage based on any left over space.
Next on the wizard list comes the file sharing, file sharing protocols, application center, cloud station and EZ-Internet. Only file sharing was of immediate interest it creates the necessary folders for depositing files. At this point at a bare minimum, there is a working centralised storage device that can be accessed by Windows, Mac and *Nix clients.
DSM 4 comes with a comprehensive list of features, judging by the amount of icons on the control panel. Some of these features are useful for all scenarios such as Network Backup, other features such as FTP, WebDAV are target more specifically at power users.
Through the Package Center, additional functionalities can be added with an appropriate package download. Synology publishes the following additional packages:
- Antivirus Essential - free antivirus application that can be easily installed to safeguard the system partition and files on your DiskStation.
- Audio Station - web-based audio application, allowing access to the music library on your DiskStation or Internet radio, and play music on your computer, iOS/Android devices, or AirPlay devices.
- Cloud Station - file sharing service that allows you to easily sync files between your DiskStation and computers.
- DHCP - add DHCP server functionality within LAN to assign dynamic IP addresses and manage DHCP clients.
- Directory Server - provides LDAP service with centralised access control, authentication and account management.
- Download Station - web-based download application, with BT, FTP, HTTP, NZB and eMule support.
- HiDrive Backup - provides a quick and flexible way to back up DiskStation shared folders to STRATO HiDrive online storage.
- Mail Station - webmail service to access emails stored on your DiskStation. In addition, you can also receive mails from any other mail servers to keep all your emails in one convenient place.
- Media Server - multimedia service to browse and play the multimedia contents on Synology DiskStation via DLNA/UPnP home devices.
- Photo Station - online photo album integrated with a blog to easily share photos, videos, and blog over the Internet. You can also browse photos and watch videos saved on your DiskStation with your iPhone, iPad and Android mobiles on the go.
- Surveillance Station - web-based application that can manage IP cameras to safeguard your home or office environment. With Surveillance Station, you can watch and record live view videos, set up scheduled recording, playback recorded events via web browser, VisualStation, or mobile device for remote monitoring. Notifications can also be sent to you whenever important events occur.
- Syslog Server - centralised log management interface for gathering and displaying log messages from network devices.
- Time Backup - backs up DiskStation data in multiple versions. You could browse among versions and easily restore data to any version of specific time.
- VPN Server - turns the DiskStation into a VPN server supporting both PPTP and OpenVPN, providing a secure way of connecting to a private LAN at a remote location.
- iTunes Server - share the music and videos on your DiskStation with all iTunes clients within a local network, and to browse and play these multimedia contents with iTunes.
Third party packages provides functionalities ranging from content management, eCommerce, Plex media server and ERP for example. A detailed list of featured packages is available here. Download can be via the link or directly from within DSM.
So just how well does the Synology DS-412+ perform? The test rig consisted of the DS-412+ with a single NIC patched into a gigabit switch along with a notebook also directly patched into the same switch. Using robocopy to copy a 4 GB file, the write speed achieved was 27.09 MB/sec and read speed was 44.47 MB/sec.
This is a far cry from the official rated speeds of 182.66 MB/sec writing and 205.68 MB/sec. The issue with testing is always that every setup is different and sometimes we can create bottlenecks in our own testing procedures that could reflect differently on the true capabilities. The obvious bottleneck in my test is the SATA hard disk on the test notebook.
We here at DigitalReviews Network do not do exhaustive testing for that reason. Our user experience should reflect the Value-for-Money factor in every review, rather than concentrating on the bits and bytes of every product that passes our desks. Our real-world tests are probably more indicative of what the average user would encounter.
One question that I was asked when I first received the unit was the viability of running Plex media server on the unit. The short answer is yes, Plex is available as a supported package. The longer answer is that I found it to struggle a little to transcode 1080p files. Without doing much analysis, I suspect adding more RAM to the system will help alleviate this issue. The file structure stipulated by the Plex installation does not allow me to utilise the DS-412+ in the fashion I prefer to so it was removed fairly quickly.
CPU Frequency : Dual Core 2.13GHz
Memory : DDR3 1GB
Internal HDD/SSD : 3.5" or 2.5" SATA(II) X4 (Hard drive not included)
Max Internal Capacity : 16TB (4 X 4TB HDD) (Capacity may vary by RAID types)
Hot Swappable HDD
External HDD Interface : USB 3.0 Port X 2, USB 2.0 Port X 1, eSATA Port X 1
Size (HxWxD) : 165 X 203 X 233.2 mm
Weight : 2.03Kg
LAN : Gigabit X 2
Wake on LAN/WAN
System Fan : 92x92mm x2
Noise Level : 19.3 dB(A)
AC Input Power Voltage : 100V to 240V AC
Power Frequency : 50 / 60Hz, Single Phase
Power Consumption : 44W (Access) ; 15W (HDD Hibernation)
Operating Temperature : 5°C ~ 35°C (40°F ~ 95°F)
Storage Temperature : 15 to 155°F (-10 to 70°C)
Relative Humidity : 5% to 95% RH
Maximum Operating Altitude : 10,000 feet
Certification : FCC Class B, CE Class B, BSMI Class B
Warranty : 2 Years
Networking Protocols: CIFS, AFP, NFS, FTP, WebDAV, iSCSI, Telnet, SSH, SNMP, VPN (PPTP, OpenVPN)
File System: EXT4, EXT3 (External Disk Only), FAT (External Disk Only), NTFS (External Disk Only)
* Max File System Size : 108TB
* Max Internal Volume # : 512
* Max iSCSI Target # : 32
* Max iSCSI LUN # : 256
Supported RAID Type : Synology Hybrid RAID, Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 5+Spare, RAID 6, RAID 10
RAID Migration : Basic to RAID 1, Basic to RAID 5, Basic to RAID 5+Spare, RAID 1 to RAID 5, RAID 1 to RAID 5+Spare, RAID 5 to RAID 5+Spare, RAID 5 to RAID 6
Volume Expansion with Larger HDDs : RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 5+Spare, RAID 6
Volume Expansion by Adding a HDD : RAID 5, RAID 5+Spare, RAID 6
File Sharing Capability
* Max User Accounts : 2048
* Max Groups : 256
* Max Shared Folder : 256
* Max Concurrent CIFS/AFP/FTP Connections : 512
Windows Access Control List (ACL)
Windows ADS Domain Integration
* Domain Users login via Samba/AFP/FTP/File Station
Virtualization: Vmware vSphere 4, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Ready
* FTP over SSL/TLS
* IP Auto-Block
* Encrypted Network Backup over Rsync
* HTTPS Connection
* Auto DSM Upgrade
* Administrator Group
* Push Notification – MSN/Skype/Mobile Devices
* Email/SMS Notification
* Customized User Quota
* Syslog Support
* DDNS Support
* IPv6 Support
* VLAN support
* Resource Monitor
* Connection Manager
* UPS Management
* Scheduled Power On/Off
* Custom Management UI HTTP/HTTPS Ports
* HDD Hibernation
* Dynamic Bad Sector Mapping
* Synology Assistant
* Synology Data Replicator
* Windows XP onward
* Mac OS X 10.5 onward
* Ubuntu 9.04 onward
* Internet Explorer : 8, 9
* Safari (MAC) : 5
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In the Box
* Synology DS-412+ X 1
* Installation Disc X 1
* Welcome Note X 1
* Assembling Kit X 1
* AC Power Adapter X 1
* AC Power Cord X 1
* RJ-45 LAN Cable X 2
As good as the Synology DS-412+ is, there were a few issues that were discovered during this review. Firstly I had an explained loss of DSM initially when I was changing IP address range, luckily this was resolved by a simple reboot of the unit.
Secondly I lost access to an externally attached USB drive which could not be resolved by removing and reconnecting the USB drive. Again a simple reboot of the unit fixed the issue. No tragedy but annoying to have happened.
Lastly I had issues copying files to any shares on the unit one time, no matter if the share was on the internal array or the USB connected drive. A copy process would start and fail after a period of time. The system logs showed no anomalies and yet another issue fixed by a restart.
The Synology DS-412+ can replace a server in some businesses and remove the need for a high level technical resource. With file share with full access control, impose disk quota at a granular level, support for users, groups, printer sharing, reporting. With a little more effort there is mail server, intranet, MySQL, search tools amongst the plentiful list of features. A particularly important and usually overlooked feature is the online expansion or RAID migration ability, in some environments it removes the need to perform a full system backup, rebuild and expand the RAID set then perform a system restore.
For my particular goal of centralising my data stores, providing a repository where I can stream media to various smart phones, tablets and to the TV, the DS-412+ will serve well as this particular beast of burden.
The Synology DS-412+ is available for between AUD$700 to $800+ without hard disks in the bay. For the potential and features in this unit, this is a very reasonably priced device. A list of Australian resellers is available here.