Synology USB Station 2
Neat networker for external drives and printers
Review Network storage is a ‘good thing’ in the same way as a Big Top; great as long as you don’t have to set it up. Selling Nas boxes to consumers needs the hassle taken out of the installation – and what if you already have a drive you’re not using? Synology’s USB 2 Station aims to ease both problems.
Making connections: Synology's USB Station 2
Network attached storage is pretty useful for media serving and back-up. There are plenty of Nas boxes for home networks, from companies like Netgear and Buffalo, but these are dedicated units, focusing on the drives. If you want something more general purpose, perhaps because you already have a spare drive or because you want to network a printer, too, Synology’s USB Station 2 may be more attractive.
The small white and slate box is a Nas without any drives. Instead you have two USB 2 sockets at the back, to which you can attach external hard drives, SSDs, USB drives or printers and make them directly available as network devices.
The networking side has a gigabit Ethernet socket, though if it’s connected to a gigabit network, data throughput will be governed by the speed of the USB 2 connection, usually a lot less than the 480Mbps maximum. Most homes, at which the USB Station 2 is aimed, still have 10/100 Ethernet, so swapping the Sata link in a typical Nas for USB 2 here should make little difference.
But why are there only two USB sockets? Synology suggests you use USB hubs to increase the number if you need them, but four sockets would be a more reasonable provision.
Drive data transfer speed is determined by the limits of the USB 2 interfacing
The unit is controlled initially from Synology’s DiskStation Manager 3 (DSM3), a Java-based applet which runs happily under IE 7, Firefox 3, Chrome 5, Safari 4 and any later versions. As a browser-based app, it’s not bad cosmetically, with funky transparent file browsers and neat little icons.
USB Network Printservers
There are plenty of USB Network Printeservers out there for 50$ or so. Be careful, because many cheapo printers require the computer to run the printing so the printserver would be inadequate (think of WinTel modems of yester-year and why they wouldn't work in Linux).
However, the Belkin F5L009 seems a much better solution than this crappy hardware. 5 USB ports and they can be independantly used by network PCs as if the USB device had been plugged directly into the computer. I actually use one of these Belkins for USB modems for a couple VMs. Gotta love being able to virtualize a server that requires a modem, and still retain VMotion and the like. :)
Wot no wireless part 2...
Yes most people will have a wireless router, however this device is also a print server. Most routers are where the phone line terminates, most printers are on a desk somewhere else, maybe next to a wireless PC if the house isn't wired with CAT5/6. Given that this has to sit beside the printer for it's USB connection wirelss would have extremely useful to save having to use a PC as a print server. This isn't a NAS device only, it would seem to be most useful serving portable devices for combined NAS/print.
Wot no wireless ????????????
The lack of wireless connectivity makes this a non starter for most users.
Lack of zero-copy support
"Most domestic nas devices are limited by the speed of the often feeble CPU in the NAS. At least that's the case with my Linkstation Live."
Well, not specifically the CPU -- I had a 90mhz Pentium file server that'd EASILY max out a 100mbps ethernet, with plenty of cycles to spare. The problem is, some of these NAS systems don't have a DMA engine. Linux has had a sendfile() call since kernel 2.2 that can read some amount of a file, and copy that data DIRECTLY from the hard drive buffer to the network card buffer with almost no CPU involvement (this is zero-copy by 2.4 kernel -- where the ethernet card can calculate the checksum automatically). This HUGELY cuts CPU usage of this type of operation (it's been a long time but my recollection was it cut CPU usage from above 60% to well below 10%). But crazily some of the NASes don't have this (approximately $1) chip even though it's meant so speed up exactly what they burn most of their CPU cycles doing.
Apparently, you missed the mention of manufacturer recommending USB hubs to extend the capacity >2.