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NAS Reviews

Features

Like QNAP and Thecus, Synology takes the approach of supporting the same feature set across its NASes. Of the three vendors, Synology is the only one to have completely moved to a modern AJAX-based GUI, Disk Station Manager (DSM) 2.1, on all of its products (Figure 6).

Home page

Figure 6: Home page

We have explored Synology's feature set in previous reviews, most recently the DS508's, which provides a DSM overview and details on the IP cam Surveillance Station and Photo and Audio Stations. The base feature set was covered long ago and has changed mostly via the updated look-and-feel provided by the DSM.

Update 5/9/09: Corrected UPnP server information

The Synology Feature Comparison Chart is the best place to match up the 109s' feature sets against your shopping checklist. But because the Chart is a bit unwieldy, I'll summarize the key features below:

  • Network file sharing via SMB/CIFS, NFS, AFP
  • Telnet / SSH admin and root access
  • FTP and secure FTP with bandwidth control
  • HTTP / HTTPs file access
  • Built-in Dynamic DNS for DynDNS.org, 3322.org, NoIP.org, Two-DNS.de
  • Joins NT Domain / Active Directories for account information
  • Attached Backup: Immediate or scheduled supporting FAT32, EXT3 formats (built-in formatter)
  • Network Backup: Immediate or scheduled to other Synology or via rsync w/ encryption, block-level and incremental options. Schedule can be as often as hourly.
  • Client Backup: Synology Data Replicator 3 (Windows only)
  • User quotas
  • Email alerts
  • Logging
  • USB print server
  • UPS shutdown synchronization
  • LAMP webserving with MySQL, SQLite databases, phpMyAdmin, Joomla
  • Media servers: UPnP AV, iTunes, Audio Station (proprietary), SqueezeCenter (optional module)
  • Web photo album
  • BitTorrent / HTTP / FTP download service w/ scheduling
  • IP camera recording and playback (5 cameras for DS109, 10 for DS109+ )

The latest DSM version also adds a "user home" feature where a private folder is automatically set up when a user is created.

Even more features can be added via installable modules, which include the Mail Station email server, SqueezeCenter for supporting Logitech Squeezebox products like the SqueezeBox Boom and Webalizer for analyzing the built-in Web Station's traffic. And since full LAMP webserving is supported, you can install WordPress, Joomla, PHPBB and more PHP-based applications (verified PHP application list).

Finally, you can check any or all of these features out yourself via a live DSM 2.1 demo of the DS209+.

In Use

The AJAX GUI is responsive and logically organized and I didn't run into any hiccups during testing. Both 109s ran quietly although with a low hum from the fan and drive in each.

I'm going to go into a little detail on the Backup features, since I have recently added it to my testing. Figure 7 shows the Backup summary with the network and local test backup jobs that I created. Both jobs were created via a wizard, that guided me properly through all the required steps for each type of backup.

Backup summary

Figure 7: Backup summary

My only gripe is that for networked backups, you get all the way through the wizard (Figure 8) before it checks that the backup target has the required backup service enabled. The good news, however, is that the wizard lets you go fix the problem and try again without losing the settings.

Backup wizard summary

Figure 8: Backup wizard summary

Once a job is created, editing it is easy (Figure 9). Might be nice to let folks create backup jobs this way in addition to the wizard, since everything is logically presented and organized. Note the encryption, block level and incremental options. The encryption option uses an SSH-encrypted NAS-to-NAS connection and doesn't encrypt the files themselves.

Backup edit

Figure 8: Backup edit

Backups can be done to USB and eSATA drives, which can be formatted in FAT32 and EXT3 (the 109 internal format) via the built-in formatter. I had no problem formatting the Iomega UltraMax Pro that I'm using for attached backup testing, with either format.

I also was able to unmount and remount the Iomega drive using USB and eSATA connections without having to reboot the 109s—something that I appreciated since I tested both formats via USB and eSATA connections (results are in the Performance section).

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