Updated 12/30/2010: Multiple edits to correct errors and omissions
Many of today's NAS manufacturers have adopted a unified feature set across their product lines. This is good for reviewers in that we can do a feature review once, then refer to it from many shorter reviews. But, frankly, I often don't bother looking up the last review that contains a feature review, which is not a nice thing to do to readers.
So, this review will attempt to remedy that problem for Synology NASes by providing a look at Synology's current NAS OS, DSM 3.0. Of course, the latest information about the OS will always be available at Synology's site, which hosts a handy live demo.
Here is a summary of DSM 3.0 features. Of course, volume types supported vary by the number of drives in a product. So don't expect to buy a two-bay NAS and get RAID 5 and higher support!
Here's a feature summary:
Volume Types, File Systems, Services
- Network file sharing via SMB/CIFS, NFS, AFP
- WebDAV support
- Hot-swappable individual drive, JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 5, 5 + spare, 6, 10 volumes
(volume support varies with number of drives)
- Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR)
- Online RAID expansion and RAID level migration
- Selectable EXT3 / EXT4 volume file systems
- FTP (and -SSL, -TLS) with upload / download bandwidth control
- HTTP / HTTPs file and admin access
- iSCSI target (maximum number varies by model)
- ISO mounts
- CIFS Recycle Bin
- Apache webserver
- USB printer serving
- Joins NT Domain / Active Directories for account information
- Users (maximum number varies by model)
- Groups (maximum number varies by model)
- Scheduled and immediate networked backup to other Synology NASes using proprietary rsync-based protocol or standard rsync servers with compression and encryption options.
- Client Backup: Synology Data Replicator 3 (Windows only, unlimited licenses)
- Scheduled Backup to attached drives
- USB device pushbutton copy
- Apple Time Machine backup
- Media servers: UPnP AV / DLNA, iTunes
- PS3 and Xbox360 media access support
- Remote music access
- Internet radio (via ShoutCast and RadioIO)
- Web photo album
- BitTorrent / HTTP / FTP / NZB download
- eMule download
- IP camera recording and playback (select models, maximum number vary by model)
- ioS and Android apps for remote music and photo access
- Roundcube email
- Squeezebox server
- More from third-parties including, Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Gallery, SQL Buddy
- UPS shutdown sync via USB
- Programmable idle drive spindown
- Scheduled shutdown / startup
- Wake On Lan
- Auto restart after power failure
- Link failover and aggregation (dual Network models)
- Dynamic DNS support
- Port filtering
- PPPoE client
- Email alerts
- Telnet / SSH root access
- SNMP management
- Resource monitor (CPU, memory, network usage graphs)
There are a few things that you'll find on NETGEAR ReadyNASes and QNAP NASes that Synology doesn't have.
- iSCSI initiator - You can create iSCSI targets and mount them from systems that have iSCSI initiators like Windows. But Synology NASes themselves can't mount iSCSI targets to form larger virtual storage pools
- Virtualization support - Many of QNAP's newer NASes are certified to use with VMware and Citrix virtualization technologies and also are compatible with Microsoft Hyper-V. Synology has VMware certification only for its DS1010+, RS810+ and RS810RP+ and is in the process of pursuing Citrix and Hyper-V certs.
- Easy Remote Access- DSM 3 has multiple features to support accessing the NAS from the Internet. But they still rely on the configuration of router port forwarding, dynamic DNS, etc. A hosted remote access service like ReadyNAS Remote or even simpler services like those offered by Buffalo, WD, Iomega and other manufacturers would simplify the process for less knowledgeable users.
- Easier add-on browsing and installation - Like ReadyNASes, you need to browse Synology's online catalog of add-on applications, download the app to your computer, then browse with the add-on installer to find and upload the file. QNAP's process is much simpler, allowing you to browse its add-on "QPKG" catalog from its admin interface.
- Cloud backup option - QNAP offers Amazon S3 and NETGEAR has its ReadyNAS Vault. Synology does not offer the option of backup to a cloud backup service.
Using the live demo is the best way to get a feel for DSM 3.0. Synology has taken an different approach from other NAS manufacturers (although LaCie's new GUI is somewhat similar). The screenshot below shows DSM 3's "desktop" style GUI with three apps or widgets open.
I set the browser width to 1024px wide and you can see that the "desktop" gets crowded pretty quickly. You can resize some windows, the Storage Manager, for example. But the Control Panel doesn't resize and eats up a lot of room on the desktop. So you'll probably be minimizing it to the bar at the top of the screen or quitting it entirely between uses.
Synology DSM 3.0 Desktop
The gallery below hits most of the highlights of DSM 3's feature set.
In all, Synology's DSM 3.0 has features to suit both consumer and business applications. But it needs to continue to enhance its business features to stay even with QNAP and NETGEAR.