Read on for our review.
While often thought of as unglamorous, NAS devices continue to be a relatively secure and cost effective way to storing large amounts of data - both for small business and increasingly also for Joe Average consumer. Of course, NAS devices just aren't what they used to be and calling the DS415+ a NAS device, almost misses the point.
At a glance, the DS415+ looks very similar to the previously reviewed DS415play. In fact, other than a small model name identifier and some rear port changes, the two units are visually identical.
The unit's front is predominately made up of a large curved high gloss black plate which hides four vertically housed drive bays. The plate sits securely on the unit via four rubber stoppers which is easily detached to allow for quick access to the drive bays beneath.
To the right of this plate are five LEDs - one to indicate the unit's overall status and another one for each of the drive bays. A blue power LED also accompanies the power button, as does a solitary front facing USB 2.0 port.
Like the DS415play, the drive bay caddies are secured in place via a robust plastic pull up lever system. The plastic drive bays slide out easily and feature Synology's clever screwless drive securing mechanism. Both 3.5" and 2.5" drives can be installed but only the larger variety takes advantage of the screwless mounting system, hence the inclusion of a small bag of screws.
The top of the DS415+ is unremarkable, as are the sides, save for Synology's customary logo venting cut out. The rear of the unit features two user replaceable 12.5cm exhaust fans which sit above two (aggregatable) Gigabit Ethernet ports, two blue colour coded USB 3.0 ports and a solitary eSATA port. A Kensington lock slot and a proprietary power connector round out the DS415+'s rear.
Utilising Synology's ingenious screwless mounting system, we populated two drive bays with our 500GB test drives, connected the Ethernet cable and fed the DS415+ some electrons.
Just over a minute later, the DS415+ announced its readiness and following the Quick Installation Guide, pointed our browser to <http://find.synology.com.>
Within 15 minutes, another beep informed us that the latest DiskStation Manager (DSM) software had been downloaded (and installed) and that our two 500GB test drives were configured as a single Synology Hybrid RAID array.
The setup process is incredibly simple and the onscreen prompts (when coupled with the DiskStation finder browser page) really allow even the most novice user to quickly and easily get the DS415+ up and running.
In our two drive configuration, the Synology Hybrid RAID array created what was essentially a RAID 1 array. With a full complement of four drives installed, the DS415+ supports JBOD, RAID 0,1,5, 6 and 10 as well as a variety of Synology Hybrid RAID configurations.
It is also worth noting that for most of our time with the DS415+ we used a beta version of the Synology DSM 5.1 software but for a week prior to publishing, managed to work with the final DSM 5.1-5004 build, which we used for all included benchmarks.
NOT JUST A NAS
As we mentioned earlier, Network Attached Storage devices have traditionally been used to allow for data to be stored and accessed via a network. In this way, the NAS device tends to seamlessly integrate into the local operating system experience and to the user, usually appears much like any other local file storage location.
In designing NAS devices, Synology seems to have forgotten this. Or perhaps more accurately, they have evolved far beyond this narrow functionality. Put another way, we all know the Apple's iPhone is more than a phone, so to the DS415+ is far more than just a NAS device.
While the hardware is a big part of the units ability to perform tasks, its the included software that really allows it to shine.
Synology's Disk Station Manager software has been around for a long while and it has evolved into a very powerful, easy to use and aesthetically pleasing user interface. The best way to really appreciate how good the DSM is, is to use it. Thankfully, Synology has a live demo of their latest DSM on their website which you can access, here.
We've reviewed a number of Synology devices in the past and often praised the DSM and the new 5.1 version is no exception. DSM 5.1 brings both improvements in usability and new features along with yet another coat of polish.
Like the initial setup, as soon as you login to the DSM for the first time, the DS415+ prompts you with helpful tips and suggestions. As a seasoned user of the DSM, I found the tips to be mildly informative and critically, both nonintrusive and easily dismissed. Clippy, they are not.
As we have already touched on, beyond serving files, the DS415+'s DSM allows it do do so much more than just store files. The AppStore like Package Center allows you to install over sixty officially sanctioned packages.
Popular packages include various anti-virus software; Cloud Station/Cloud Sync (Used to create and sync with your own private cloud); Download Station (NZB, Torrent, eMule, etc. downloader); iTunes Server; Joomla; Mail Station (Full featured local Mail server); PhotoStation (Online photo editing and sharing); Video Station (Video server, cataloguer).
And if that wasn't enough, with a little fiddling, you can install even more packages via third party repositories such as SynoCommunity.
With the 5.1 update, comes the new Security Advisor package which lets users quickly assess how secure their DiskStation is. Since the disclosure of the SynoLocker Ransomware, Synology have been very proactive with regards to security. Beyond the inclusion of this new package, Synology have been regularly emailing users to alert them of available security fixes and updates.
Another addition is the Note Station package which allows users to create a personal collection of always accessible notes. Much like the new Apple Notes system which uses Apple iCloud to store notes, Note Station features a rich text editor and repository for your notes. Of course, instead of being stored somewhere in the cloud, all your notes are stored on your DiskStation in what Synology aptly dubs, a private cloud.
Note Station, Video Station, Photo Station and File Station - which each provide private cloud access to your files - all have accompanying mobile apps - making this private cloud of data incredibly versatile and accessible from virtually anywhere.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The NAS industry should really look at finding a new name for these devices because the DS415+ coupled with DSM 5.1 is not a NAS. If we called it a Dedicated Small Task Network Server with Storage it would probably still be selling it short - as well as creating a rather unwieldily acronym the world could do without. What we do know is that NAS, simply isn't accurate anymore.
TESTING AND USAGE
While we predominately used the 5.1 beta for general testing and found it to be very stable, towards the end of our testing the 5.1 came out of beta and unsurprisingly proved to be just as rock solid.
Throughout our testing we had the DS415+ serve a multitude of files across our small network, including large video files and numerous photos and smaller data files which all worked without issue. In real life usage, transfer speeds felt quick and we had zero complaints with the DS415+'s basic ability to store and serve files.
To test the DS415+'s transfer speeds, we utilised our standard set of test files, AJA System Test (version 10.3.3) and new to our benchmarking line up, Helios LanSpeed Test (Version 6.0.0). All timed measurements were done with a manual timer and sincce they were undertaken on a live network, test figures should be considered more real world than best possible performance. Also worth noting is that all tests were also undertaken using only one of the DS415+'s gigabit ports and do not take into account any boost provided through link aggregation.
The test results showed that the DS415+ was roughly on par with the DS415play for large files but significantly faster when dealing with many small files transfers. The quad core processor really made light work of these small files, transferring all quantities nearly twice as quickly as the dual core DS415play.
CPU: 2.4Ghz Intel Atom C2538
Drive Bays: 4, up to 24TB storage capacity
Fully Supported RAID Type: SHR, Basic, JBOD and RAID 0,1,5,6,10.
External Drive File Systems: EXT3 and 4; FAT; NTFS and HFS+
Power Consumption: 32.6W (Access); 14.8W (Hibernation)
Noise Level: 20.2 dB(A)
Warranty: 2 Years
For full specifications, visit Synology's product page.
Like most of Synology's offerings, the DS415+ is what we would consider a prosumer product. It is sleek, performs very well and caters to both small business and consumers who want above average performance.
The DS415+ showed improvements over the DS415play model in most transfer tests which when placed under load in small business environments will likely come in on its own.
Running DSM 5.1, the DS415+ is much more than a NAS and while few users (be it small business or home users) will utilise every single feature, having access to such a breadth of functions will appeal to many offering a fantastic bang for your buck.
The DS415+ is available now for a street price of just over $700AUD.
For more information, please visit Synology's product page.