The DS1511+ offers basically all the features you'd commonly see in a high-end NAS server, including the ability to work as an FTP/HTTP server, media streaming servers, support for user accounts, Active Directory, external hard drives, printer, iSCSI, and Time Machine backup for Macs.
On top of that, the DS1511+ has features that you're unlikely to find in others, organized in a set of "stations," such as Surveillance Station, Download Station, File Station, and Photo Station. All of these stations can be accessed via the local network or over the Internet. Some of them also come with mobile applications for the iPhone or iPod Touch or Android-based smartphones.
The following, by the way, are just a few noticeable features of the DS1511+ that we have tried out and were impressed by. The server offers a lot more, but it would make this already long review much longer to talk about all of them.
The DS1511+'s Surveillance Station supports up to 20 IP cameras. This means you can use the NAS server as a video recorder and managing station of a very comprehensive surveillance system. Unfortunately, only one camera license is included, and additional camera licenses cost $49 each. Other than that, this feature worked really well in our trial. We could view live images and record them based on scheduling or motion detection. When multiple cameras were used, we could even synchronize the playback to see what was recorded by different cameras at a given time. The server supports a long list of IP cameras and is able to automatically detect those connected to the local network to help facilitate the setup process. Synology also offers an app called DSCam for both the iPhone and Android devices, so you can manage your surveillance via your mobile device even when you're out and about.
The DS1511+'s Photo Station allows you to easily organize photos into albums. Once activated, a share folder called "photo" will be created. Photos stored in this share folder will be automatically placed in well-organized, customizable albums, one for each subfolder. You can then browse the album via a Web browser, as with Google's Picasa Web albums, and very easily add captions and comments to each photo. The Photo Station also offers a complete blogging engine for those who want to chronicle their lives with both photos and texts. The Photo Station includes a mobile app called DS Photo for the iPhone and Android platforms. The Photo Station has a separate set of user accounts from those of the NAS server. This allows the owner to share photos and blogs with others without compromising the security of other types of data and services on the server.
The Download Station allows the server to download files from the Internet by itself and is able to download files from Web sites that require authentication (such as RapidShare). It also supports the eMule and BitTorrent file-sharing services. You can manage your download any time from anywhere via the local network or the Internet by accessing the server's Web interface. This is an excellent feature for those who want to download large files, as no other computer needs to be running, other than the NAS server itself, during the downloads.
We did find a few things that could be improved about the Download Station, however. First of all, other than RapidShare, Megaupload and BitTorrent, the station doesn't remember usernames and passwords for any other download services or Web sites. This means if you download a lot from some other Web site that requires authentication, you'll need to manually enter the credentials for each download, which can be a hassle. The second issue is that its Download Redirector desktop software, which allows you to manage downloads from a computer instead of having to log in the server's Web interface, doesn't work over the Internet, but just from within the local network. As many other features, such as the Surveillance Station, can work over the Internet, we don't see why this would not be available for the Download Station. These are minor shortcomings, however; the way it is right now, the Download Station is still one of the best offered on an NAS server.
Any local computers, Mac or PC, can access the DS1511+'s storage via its share folder, similar to browsing for shared data between computers. However, if you want to access the server's storage via the Internet, you'll need to use its File Station. To do this, you'll need to know how to set up a dynamic domain name system (DDNS) connection or access the Internet via a static IP. The DS1511+ made it a little easier for users by adding the ability to automatically change the settings of the router if it supports UPnP. Still, the process is not easy and intuitive enough for those with little networking know-how. Once set up, the File Station enables you to access data in the NAS server's share folder over the Internet. You can download a single file or a whole folder to the remote computer and can upload files or a whole folder to the NAS server. Multiple users can use this feature at once from different locations.
The DS1511+ has built-in backup options that are focused on backing up its content onto an external storage device or a network location. For backing up files on your computer to the DS1511+, there's the Data Replicator desktop software. This is a simple, straightforward backup application that allows you to quickly copy data, much like copying and pasting using Windows Explorer, from your computer to the DS1511+. Also, the software has a nice feature that helps you find and quickly back up e-mail archives, which generally are buried deep in layers of subfolders within a user profile. In addition, it allows scheduling and keeping track of the backup process via e-mail notification. However, we found that the software is a little buggy at times and might kick you out of some applications, such as a game, when the backup process starts.
We tested the DS1511+ with its Hybrid RAID and RAID 0, and the server's performance was stellar via Gigabit Ethernet, even with with Link Aggression turned off.
In Hybrid RAID, which is similar to RAID 5, the server scored 99.21MBps and 109.89MBps in write and read, respectively. These are about the same speeds as a USB 3.0 external hard drive, and even faster than some. The server did even better in RAID 0, which is optimized for performance at the expense of data integrity, with 104.9MBps write and 112.28MBps read.
It was also interesting that the writing performance and reading performance of the DS1511+ are similar. For most NAS servers, the write speed is significantly lower than the read speed.
All in all, we were very happy with the DS1511+'s performance. It was consistently the fastest we've reviewed. The server also performed quietly in our labs, where there is a rather high level of ambient noise. In a quiet room, you might hear the subtle humming of the ventilation fans.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
As with other NAS servers it has released, Synology backs the DS1511+ with a three-year warranty from the date of purchase, which is one year longer than for the DS410. Phone tech support is available Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. At its Web site, you can find Synology's forum, download software, and the latest firmware, and get more information about its products from its Wiki page.