Synology has been making decent quality NAS for a while now, and this week we have its DS211+ nestled firmly against our collective bosom. It's a two-drive affair, with two USB ports, one eSATA port and a gigabit Ethernet jack at the back, along with another USB port and, fascinatingly, an SD card reader at the front. The only other feature of note is a button that allows you to copy from a USB drive or SD card to a predefined folder on the NAS.
Inside is an Atom 1.6GHz processor and 512MB RAM, making this NAS more about just storage than performance.
So far, less grunt and features than the. This isn't surprising though, as each NAS is aimed at totally different markets — the QNAP is better suited to prosumers and SMBs, while the Synology makes more sense in the home, a point emphasised by the fact that it's a few hundred dollars cheaper.
Dressed in a rather fetching matte black, the only shiny bit is the hard drive cover, which sadly isn't hinged in any way. Instead, it completely detaches, and uses four large rubber plugs to hold itself in place. It works, but isn't really convenient.
Synology's install process is a little different, requiring you to download the firmware and install it yourself — at least this ensures that whenever you buy the NAS, you'll always start with the latest firmware.
Logging into the web user interface (UI) itself is a startling experience, as Synology has chosen to follow an operating system ideology, complete with icons, widgets, movable windows, notifications and a task bar. It's incredibly impressive, although it can feel like some options are hidden compared to QNAP's "just list 'em all" methodology.
The web UI is almost its own OS.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)
The features are still all there though, and are rather complete for what is essentially a home NAS. AFP, NFS, SMB, FTP, IPv6 and SNMP protocols are supported, as is user and group management. The staples of a LAMP web server with virtual host support, DDNS, UPS and printer management are in there, as is power scheduling and disk spin down. You can back-up using Rsync or Time Machine, telnet/SSH can be enabled, there's a built in firewall and you can receive notifications over email or SMS.
There's a DLNA media server in there too, with the ability to transcode FLAC, APE, OGG, AAC and AIFF if the receiving device doesn't understand them. For those with iOS devices, the DS211+ can act as an iTunes server as well.
There are other packages you can download from Synology's website to expand the feature-set: you can add Squeezebox support, add an application that gives stats for your website, or install PHPMyAdmin. You can even run an email service on the NAS, complete with its own web interface if you so desire.