Synology DiskStation DS410 Nas box
Review Synology’s DS410 is a four drive Nas aimed at the small business market – or home use if overkill is your thing – with claimed read speeds of up to 110MB/s in RAID 5 whilst keeping power consumption down to 56W.
Synology's DiskStation DS410 four-bay Nas
Initial impressions are as expected, a high build quality coupled with a pleasing front panel design incorporating an informative row of status LEDs. Drive installation is somewhat more complicated than other Nas boxes, which use screw-less tray systems, but what are a few screws in a system not designed for hotswapping?
Although it’s intended for small business use, there are certainly users out there who use devices such as this in their homes. Indeed, the DS410 has a relatively small footprint at 168 x 184 x 230mm and is certainly not intrusive.
Acoustically, Synology claims noise levels to be around 23dBA and in use the device is fairly inaudible above the ordinary operating noise of other equipment. However, in the home it’ll be enough to become irritating if you live in a studio flat and are running overnight.
If you are more concerned about the power drain related to extended runtime than noise, don’t panic – as claimed, the DS410 does indeed draw very little power, consistently using under 55W during testing, although the hibernation figures of around 20W certainly leave room for improvement. For those who are iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad users, there are three remote management applications: DS Audio (Audio Station), DS Photo (Photo Station) and DS Cam (Surveillance Station) all of which are free on the iTunes App Store.
Interfacing includes an eSata port for expansion options
These apps hook up to the DS410 using Synology’s DiskStation Manager 2.3 firmware, which powers most of its current product line. It is this core firmware and application set which gives the DS410 a host of wonderful features such as HTTP/FTP servers (with PHP & MySQL support), DLNA and iTunes media streaming, and in-browser tools such as a music manager (Audio Station 2), BitTorrent/eMule/NZB Client (Download Station 2) and file manager (File Station 3).
Backup is not fit for purpose
The backup to USB drive feature is seriously buggy. You cannot interrupt a backup and then have it pick up from where it left off. It just starts all over again.
Much worse still, if you have a scheduled backup, but the drive is not connected when it starts then next time you do a backup it also starts from scratch. It also deletes all the files of any previously successful backups! Not good.
Finally, unless your external drive is formatted ext3, it will take literally days to backup just a couple of hundred gigs. Couple that with not being able to restart failed or cancelled backups from where they left off and you are in big trouble unless you can leave it on 24x7 for days at a time with the USB drive connected. Kind of negates the usefulness of having an offsite USB drive backup.
One other gripe. It starts thumb nailing any pictures you put on the drive. This took two weeks (yes you heard me right) to complete with 2500 pictures. The thumb nailer process burns all the CPU, so whilst it is going on the transfers rates are right down. The only way round this is to manually ssh into the NAS and stop the thumb nailer service manually.
Shame, because it's basically a nice box.
I was of much the same mind, until I started doing the maths on hardware RAID 5 and power consumption.
In the end, it was a bit of a no-brainer. The DS-410j I eventually bought can be had for €275 ex drives. Chuck in a pair of WD Caviar Green 1Tb drives in RAID 1 and for about €400 I had a 1Tb NAS which draws peanuts in terms of power consumption when compared to a 'real' PC.
One comment worth making is that e.g. the WD Caviar Green drives run into trouble with Linux systems (including the Synology boxen) because of their habit of unloading heads after a fews seconds. This is not trivial for the average home user to solve (requires hanging the drive on a PC, booting to DOS and running a WD command line utility)
The train now arriving
All the additional benefits of the 410 over the 210j are part of the spec of the DS210+, launched 17/5/10 according to a brief google/browse having studied the spec chart linked to.
So you can have a 2 disc set up with the processor/memory/eSATA for less.
Mmmm... very nice
I've got a DS408 (i.e. two generations previous to the DS410) running very happily at home - it's never crashed and for the non-Linux folks amongst us, it just works, so long as you are happy to stick to the GUI and pre-packaged apps (see the Synology website). If you want something more then somewhat inevitably it probably won't be anything like as simple as installing a program on a Windows/Mac machine.
Re the noise levels for home users, it's worth flagging up that this model has a scheduled on/off feature (my DS408 is set up to turn itself off overnight) as well as wake on LAN. It also has auto reboot after power failure, which is great for when you're nowhere near home.
The four bays might be overkill to some, but obviously do allow for RAID configurations beyond RAID 0/1 and much more storage space. The OS also (I think) supports live volume expansion so you can just swap in larger drives as and when you need more space and the volume expanded accordingly, and you can also change volume type on-the-fly.
I think that ext4 is now the default file system, meaning that drive volumes of much greater than 8TB should be possible, subject to drive compatibility. However, don't quote me on that - if it's important to you then speak to Synology who are usually quick to reply to emails.
GUI is very good, although I found with earlier versions that copying/pasting/moving large numbers of files was difficult. That might have been fixed with DSM 2.3, and I would strongly recommend applying the latest version as part of an initial install (which itself is an absolute breeze). In any event, for most people and most of the time it can be easiest to do file operations on your PC/Mac/whatever desktop, having set up mapped drives etc.
Overall, the Synology DS4xx series is seriously nice.
That £400 would buy quite a lot of basic PC on which to run FreeNAS or similar. Hopefully there will be a few bundle deals where the combined cost will be lowered - all too often the vendors actually charge a premium for having drives already fitted.