Synology DS211+ SMB NAS Review

by Ganesh T S on 2/28/2011 3:50 AM EST


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  • Rainman200 - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I've been a long time Synology user so I'm pretty familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the platform. All things considered you did cover most areas fairly well in the review but Synologys major weak spot is their DLNA server and iTunes service.

    The DLNA server is their own in house variant but it has languished over the past year or two and compatibility has gotten steadily worse though thats not exactly Synologys fault as the AV vendors (Sony, Panasonic, Samsung etc) produce all sorts of DLNA devices with little changes that break functionality.

    The iTunes service is the abandoned mt-daapd/firefly service which isn't really that useful at all and has been replaced by forked-daadp but Synology have not implemented it.

    I strongly recommend anyone doing network media playing use a samba capable media player.

    Lastly about Synology itself;
    * The wiki is often out of date.
    * Synology themselves rarely ever let users know whats coming down the pipeline in fixes/firmware updates until they release a beta.
    * New features are usually poorly explained to users.
    * They only release maybe one or two firmware updates in a year.
    * Their own English forum isn't that helpful (Synology employees seem to prefer to avoid posting comments in most areas) in comparison the German Synology forum is much more active.

    All that said they do produce some of the fastest samba NAS you can get with a nice GUI.
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, March 01, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the great comment. This is why I love Anandtech so much. Reply
  • ypsylon - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Who in the right frame of mind would require such solution at home. 2 drive bays, max 2x2TB over RJ-45... Running RAID0 is pretty much out of the question, because whole point of external storage is backup/redundancy. With USB3 now and Thunderbolt just around the corner, small NAS solutions are totally bonkers. NAS is the only option for unattended backups with much more disks and data (in large networks). At home waiting for transfer (e.g.) simple movie file over Ethernet will test even most patient of man. Watching HD over Ethernet is totally out of the question. And if you intend to regularly backup large amounts of data every day, it will seriously affect work flow. USB3 (or eSATA) is the only way for home when it comes to small scale storage/backup. Transfers will reach easily 125MB/s with only 2 drives. Add another 2 disks for RAID10 or 5 and up to 200 MB is not a problem. No need for expensive RAID cards or NAS at home. Reply
  • Visual - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    WTF are you on about?
    HD over Ethernet is no problem at all, what with Gbps rates now and all. Hell, HD over a 54Mbps ancient wifi is no problem at all too, as the files are compressed.
    USB3 or eSATA would only make the disks accessible by one computer, not by a home network. After that, you will still rely on Ethernet for access from the rest of your home. And you have to keep that one computer in which the disks are plugged always on, essentially turning it in a NAS box. Except a hot and noisy one in all likelihood, exactly what this solution is meant to replace.
  • jmelgaard - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    "because whole point of external storage is backup/redundancy"

    No... The point of Network Attached Storage is to Share Storage...
  • conejo99 - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Exactly, I have a DS411j that I use as a central source for three popcorn hour media players and several PCs. I actually use my PC hard drives as a backup for the NAS. Reply
  • dcaxax - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Are you mental? Why do you talk nonsense as if you have a clue and mislead other users?

    Running RAID0 is not out of the question, though it is pretty pointless since they device will easily stream 2 1080p videos concurrently even when using 2 low power green drives over gigabit ethernet...

    USB 3 and Thunderbolt are technologies that will likely never e put onto NAS systems or any other type of server except to connect external drives to that system.

    The average home network can easily benefit from unnatended backups of user files, photos, music etc on such a small NAS and as far as lanrge networks go, they are very unlikely to use NAS but more likely to go to a SAN or some enterprise class solution.
    There is no problem at all with "workflow" or whatever you mean by that.

    At home streaming or just plain downloading any 1080p movie is fine over ethernet, especially Gigabit.

    Basically everything you say is wrong! Do us all a favor and don't talk about things you have no clue about.
  • Exelius - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    So performance of Synology devices is SIGNIFICANTLY better than cheap NAS solutions from a company like WD that you may be used to. Synology makes good hardware. And 125MB/s is more than adequate for home usage; it's a hell of a lot faster than the write speed of whatever computer you're copying the file to.

    HD streams don't take that much bandwidth. I can stream 720p over a cable modem. Home users often significantly overestimate their bandwidth... USB3 or Thunderbolt aren't going to improve drive speeds, which is where the real bottlenecks are. Hell, it takes a 9 spindle SATA RAID5 to saturate iSCSI over gigabit ethernet.
  • BigMik3 - Saturday, March 17, 2012 - link

    Oh my gawd I must be bonkers. I use Syno NAS at home. Store all my media on it including HD content, music, photos so that I can watch anywhere in the house via XBMC and media clients built into Panny TV/Samsung TV. Use it as centralised backup server for 3 PCs and Macs (time machine). It all works like a dream.

    Me Bonkers? Ypsylon - you need to take a look in the mirror!
  • jabber - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I saw 'Security Centre' mentioned somewhere.

    Does it have encryption on the drives? I install a lot of NAS boxes for real world customers and in the real world they don't give a damn about disk or network transfer speeds.

    What they do care about is their data being encrypted within company guidlines so if the kit is stolen they don't get sued.

    So I ask again if a NAS has encryption facilities please can you cover that and also how its implemented.
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Yes, the NAS has encryption facilities. There is hardware acceleration for encryption, courtesy of the Marvell processor.

    When you create a shared folder, there are two options:

    1. Hide the shared folder in 'My Network Places' in Windows

    2. Encrypt the shared folder (provide encryption key)
  • Penti - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Well running over iSCSI you could simply use truecrypt for the drive. With the key/secret being in the computer accessing it (or on a USB-key on the user) rather then the NAS-box. It would make it moot steeling the NAS for accessing the data at least.

    Bitlocker don't support encrypting network drives or shares though. But it's far easier to steel data if it's just on a bitlocker (default) encrypted drive in a laptop that's just tied to TPM.

    Any encryption fully implemented in the NAS would be unsafe any way. The built in feature into this NAS is just an AES-encrypted volume/folder where you have to enter the key/password, which should provide some protection. Probably based on ecryptfs any how. is the feature.
  • Conficio - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I'd like to know what is the IPv6 support on this?

    Also what are all the USB ports for? Can it work as a printer server too?
  • oynaz - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I have a much older model, from 2006 I believe. The USB ports on that allows external storage (I use a Samsung 1Gb HDD), and printers - yes, it can act as a print server.

    I would be very surprised if the 2011 model did not offer the same features, and more.
  • jmelgaard - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Printer Server9
    Max Printer #: 2
    Printing Protocols: LPR, CIFS, AppleTalk

    Guess that's a yes. Also for UPS', Speakers (Um... o.O) and ofc. USB storage devices.
  • mino - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    What good is a review of a NAS with CUSTOM softwares without even mentioning this stack's behavior?

    Thumb down AT, this is another PCWORLD-class review.
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Thank you for the constructive criticism.

    We will keep this in mind for future NAS reviews using units from QNAP, Thecus etc.

    DSM will also be probably covered in detail in the next Synology review.
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, March 01, 2011 - link

    Wow, you have better composure then I do. :) I agree it would be important to include this in future reviews but the OP could have used a bit more tact. Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, March 01, 2011 - link


    Can you let me know what sort of evaluation of software stack you want?

    I have already mentioned in the article that DSM is built on a a standard Linux kernel. User visible applications are as shown in the UI pics (Photo Manager / iTunes Media Server / DLNA etc.).

    Our aim is to deliver what the reader wants, but it would be great if you could be a little bit more specific.

  • Nehemoth - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Maybe someday (I hope sooner than later) we will be able to get a decent 4Bay NAS for less than 200US.

    I would love to have a NAS, I have already 3 Hard Drives (4TB) almost full of media files, so a NAS its a must for me, sadly I can not afford it right now.

    I have the knowledge to build one, sadly is that in my country is very difficult if not impossible to get smart computer parts Like a decent case, everything that arrive here is like the worst things from China or even worst what they're think are the best.

    Anyway for now I'll continue dreaming about it.
  • Rasterman - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    a comparison to the previous model would be nice Reply
  • MadMan007 - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    The prices on NASes like this always make me shudder and laugh at the same time. For much less than $400 you could build something like a low-end C2D setup (used parts, if not a new cheapie combo) that is still reasonably power efficient (My e7300 WHS box with 4 HDDDs pulls 50W idle with a 450W 80+ PSU which honestly is a touch large. Spending more on modern parts like a Clarkdale would get closer to this device's power draw.) That costs me an extra ~$22 in electricity each year over this device except I could probably put it together for around $200-ish 8-10 years to make up the difference? Oh, and it' much more expandable and also acts as an emergency backup PC.

    I know these are for 'consumers' who don't know jack about assembling a PC but for anyone who can I just don't see the appeal or economic advantage. I guess it's good to have a little basic PC knowledge, I kind of feel bad for the consumers who 'have to' buy these hings.
  • MadMan007 - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    *note: not that price with 4 disks, just the hardware for an apples-apples comparison Reply
  • WackyDan - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    "I know these are for 'consumers' who don't know jack about assembling a PC"

    Bull. I have two Synology NAS and I'm a systems engineer for a rather well known tech company. I have several PC's in this house, sitting around idle in my attic. I chose Synology for the energy consumption, to be quiet, and SIZE. They don't crash, auto restart on power loss, and have been bulletproof. *which with my wife, is important.

    If you want to pay likely more than the $22 in extra power than that is your opinion, and right to it. Some of us like more refined solutions, and for NAS Synology is it.
  • V864 - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Power consumption has implications beyond simply cost of energy. Your homebrew system would require more than twice the UPS capacity than the DS211+ to attain the same level of uptime if you lose power. Reply
  • Exelius - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Don't bullshit yourself, you really couldn't build anything comparable for less than $400 unless you have a crapton of parts just lying around. Then there's the issue of your time having any value at all... Old PC equipment isn't necessarily cheaper; after it's been end-of-lifed it disappears from the marketplace pretty quickly. I guess there's always eBay, but anyone who's tried to buy computer hardware off ebay knows what a crapshoot it can be between mislabeled or non-functional gear. You can blow your savings in a hurry.

    There's also something to be said for a headless unit that you can manage through a web browser. At the end of the day, you're going to spend somewhere in the ballpark of $400 and have a device with similar functionality, but you'll put in a LOT more work. Why not just buy the $400 device and be done with it?
  • fteoath64 - Tuesday, March 01, 2011 - link

    Not true. Here is the parts list:

    Intel Atom D525DW OEM = $70
    2GB DDR3 SODIMM = $25
    Thermatake Element Q case = $80 { included 90w PS}
    Total = $175

    Download ZFSGuru in a USB stick install and configure. Done.
    You have 2 SATA ports , 6 USB ports, a PCI slot and mini-PCIe slot for expansions.
  • blckgrffn - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Performance looked OK for raw data access, but how does it stand up to something like iometer? Hit this thing and give us an idea of how its cache works, etc. :) Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I agree IOMeter can give info about the cache behaviour.

    However, NASPT is the benchmark which actually gives the real world performance. More info here:

    That said, I will definitely try to integrate IOMeter in the next NAS review.
  • Pandamonium - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I own a DS209 myself, and I think there's a major flaw in the Synology DSM OS.

    There is no way to schedule SMART tests on your disks. You have to manually initiate the tests on each drive. Unless Synology has some kind of unpublished mechanism whereby it verifies data integrity, I'm pretty sure that automated SMART tests are a necessity.

    For most home users, a NAS is a place where you can centralize your music, photo, and video collection. And while I realize RAID 1/hybrid RAID isn't true "backup", it is a relatively acceptable solution. I think we are all more likely to have a HDD fail on us before we are robbed or our houses suffer catastrophic damage.

    That said, say you've got 1 TB of stuff stored on the NAS. That data isn't generally accessed on a regular basis. We all have media that hasn't been accessed in years. When one of your drives begins to go, you might lose a bit here and a bit there. And you would have no way to know that your drive is failing unless you were manually running SMART tests or other HDD diagnostics. When all is said and done, your RAID 1 or hybrid RAID would be inconsistent. What guarantee is there that the Synology DSM could tell which hard drive contains the "right" data?

    As far as the competition goes, QNAP definitely supports automated/scheduled SMART testing.
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Let me talk to Synology PR and get back to you. Reply
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Here is the official response from Synology:

    Currently there is no way to schedule S.M.A.R.T. tests - running these tests taxes the hard drives and it is not recommended to be run frequently. As with some other advanced features of DSM 3.0, S.M.A.R.T. testing is meant to be used by system admins as it is not likely most end users would be able to accurately interpret its results.

    S.M.A.R.T. testing is not a deterrent to bit rot and is not meant to be run frequently enough to require scheduling. As always, the only way to prevent data loss through bit rot/fire/flood/theft/etc is to have off site backups.
  • Pandamonium - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Thanks Ganesh- I'm glad that you were able to get an actual response from them.

    Customers have posted far more eloquent explanations for why they want scheduled/automated SMART testing than what I posted here and on Synology's forums, and neither they nor I have gotten satisfactory responses.

    I'll be the first to say that I am quite happy with my Synology DS209; but I'll also be the first to tell you that this lack of customer service is driving me towards QNAP when it comes time to replace my NAS.

    I fail to see the problem with scheduling a quick SMART test every week and a long test every 3 months or so. Synology's canned response to your inquiry seems pretty lackluster. Off-site backups are primarily used to protect against catastrophic failures from theft/disasters/etc. They are not used to protect against bit rot. AFAIK, only checksummed filesystems like ZFS and SMART testing helps protect against bit rot. I'm sure Amazon S3 has something like this in place. While licensing issues may understandably prevent Synology from implementing ZFS, I see no reason stopping them from giving users the option to schedule regular SMART tests.

    Maybe I've got a fundamental misunderstanding about data integrity and backup. But I'm a customer with a concern shared by other customers, and this concern could be remedied with a relatively easy fix. Synology's responses really rub me the wrong way, so I plan to put my money where my mouth is and go with a different manufacturer in the future.
  • Penti - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    As always with NAS-boxes they simply use Linux kernels soft RAID-1 or some other (their own) software RAID scheme. Which of course don't protect for other things then pure drive failures.

    If you want to use ZFS you could simply build your own box with OpenSolaris.

    Makers like Synology could also build their boxes with FreeBSD if they like ZFS support.
  • Penti - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Of course they could also use ZFS on FUSE. So nothing is really stopping them. Reply
  • LTG - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I think one thing to consider when deciding between buying a NAS unit vs. a traditional PC is that you won't get transcoding with NAS.

    For example, want to have all your DVDs/Blu-Rays/Home Movies stored and watch them on any mobile device, tablet or remote location automagically? Not gonna happen without creating/managing special copies for every possible device.

    Secondly, I think Drobo and QNap should be mentioned here even if they haven't been reviewed yet. The reason is most people usually end up wanting to compare Synology/Drobo/QNap. So without a review it's still helpful to know the most discussed players.

    Finally anyone considering a multi-disk setup should look very carefully at the RAID technology used.

    Forget what you know about RAID 0/1/5/6. For home users, the newer quasi-raid technologies are much more practical. Some let you remove a single disk and view it's files on a separate system which is totally impossible with traditional enterprise raid (other than straight mirroring). Some let you upgrade 1 disk at a time, I believe the Synology requires you upgrade 2 at a time to see a storage bump.

    So I'm not making a recommendation here, but trying to point out some of the bigger differences that may drive you one way or another.
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Some members in the ReadyNAS lineup have transcoding using Orb. We will hopefully be evaluating it shortly.

    I did mention Drobo and QNAP as competitors :) Of course, with no unit to compare with, there is nothing much I can write about them.

    Your comments add lot of information that I should probably have put in my review itself :) Thanks for the same, and hope the readers take note!
  • ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    One note about Synology requiring upgrades of 2 drives at a time:

    With SHR, this is not the case. You can upgrade one by one. In fact, if 2 are pulled, the volume could fail.
  • donb123 - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Review is OK...a little light for IMO.

    I have been using a NAS in my home network for at least 10 years. For many, many years I built my own and either used a Centos Linux OS or later on the Freenas OS. Performance varied a lot depending on my hardware selections and power consumption was always a concern with our seemingly endless rise in energy costs. Also, managing failed drives etc didn't also go as planned. I never lost data but I did have a few very stressful moments with my DIY NAS's.

    Enter Synology. I decided to go the Synlogy way for two main reasons:

    1/ Very low power footprint
    2/ At the moment in time when I purchased, there were no other comparable 4-Bay NAS's for the price point. All were significantly more. (I initially wanted a Qnap device)

    I own the DS-410j configured with 4 WD green 1 TB drives. I am completely happy with this device.

    What I do with it:

    - SAMBA for 3 Windows 7 boxes using shared data and also backing up to the NAS device daily (using the Synology backup client) and also services my Android tablet.
    - Mac support for an iMac and a Mac Mini also accessing the shared data
    - NFS support supporting my Linux VMs as well as my Beagleboard also accessing the shared data
    - Use download station regularly
    - ssh service enabled

    Now for the above features it works absolutely great! No complaints. Performance is pretty much exactly as advertised for this product averaging 28 MB/s R/W regardless of protocol.

    Also of note, the DS-410j was on and running since the day i purchased it until we had an extended power failure 2 weeks ago. I was probably a month short of a year from the moment I powered it on for the first time. I don't know of many consumer devices that can make that claim as far as uptime and reliability is concerned.

    It's worth noting that I've played around with many of the other features on the Synology device but they don't really fit into my workflow so I can't really offer and opinion beyond, "yeah it seems to work".
  • Aikouka - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Hi Ganesh,

    My thought when looking at a NAS like this is, "how much of a performance hit do I take versus a full-blown PC?" I think this really comes into question when the diskless cost is ~$400, which you could build a decent file serving machine for only a little bit more (depending on need to buy an OS or whatever else you can scrounge up). I mean, I could look at the numbers and say, "well, I usually see 90-100MB/s transfers to my C2D-based server", but that's a poor analogy, because I don't use the same HDD as the review unit.

    So, what might be helpful to see is how fast the drives are by default, and how fast they would be when shared (SMB) in a computer with a fast processor.
  • mino - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    Power consumption aside, the value of an off-the-shelf NAS is in the software stack.

    Had any of us enthusiasts started to bill ourselves for the time spend setiing up a DYI box the price comparison would start looking VERY different ...
  • bobbozzo - Tuesday, March 01, 2011 - link

    True, but it doesn't take that long to install FreeNAS or OpenFiler. Reply
  • KLC - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I don't understand why these NAS boxes are so expensive. A year ago I bought an Acer home server that had an Atom cpu, 4 hot swappable drive bays, the WHS OS and one 1 tb drive for $350. Reply
  • Jambe - Monday, February 28, 2011 - link

    I'd love to see more NAS reviews like this, particularly in the $2-500, 2-drive arena where there are so many competing products! Reply
  • Hrel - Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - link

    I started looking into and either you have to pay obscene amounts of money or you have to suffer through 10MBPS max transfer speeds with glitchy software... based on newegg user feedback. I couldn't find a decent system with good reviews for 300 or less. I want 2 2TB hard drives in RAID 1; 300 is the most that's worth.

    Since no one is offering a system like that I'm just turning an old P4 system into a NAS using FreeNAS, a PCI RAID card and two 2TB WD Hard Drives, total cost... 220.
  • caragon80 - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - link

    I am considering buying a NAS Server for my home and I need your advice and some recommendations please. I prefer a NAS setup for several reasons, namely:

    1. I like the RAID concept. It affords the best data protection option in the event of hard drive failure.

    2.I need a lot of storage space since I will be making a lot of HD quality videos (I make short movies as a hobby).

    3.I need media server functionality in order to stream my music and video files to my TV and other devices throughout the house.

    4. I would like to have my own personal cloud setup, one that will allow me to access my data from anywhere in the world via a browser.

    5. I also need a reliable storage option that is capable of doing automated back-ups.

    I am sure there are other important functions that a NAS can be used for, but these are the ones that are most important to me. With this said, I would love to hear your thoughts on the following technical considerations:

    1. Will a 2-Bay setup suffice or should I consider 4-bays so I can have a RAID5 setup instead?

    2. What is the difference between a RAID1 and a RAID5?

    3. In a 2-Bay setup I was thinking of buying two 2TB drives for a total of 4TB in RAID0 or 2TB in RAID1. What do you think about this setup?

    4. What processor speed should I be considering for the NAS? 800hz? 1Ghz? 1.6Ghz dual core?

    5. How about system memory? I noticed the NAS Servers in the market can vary greatly in this regard. Some have as little as 128MB and go up to 1GB. How much do I really need?

    6. What brands should I be considering? From what I have read Synology and QNAP make the best NAS Servers and have the best user friendly software. What brands do you recommend and what models within those brands do you think would be most appropriate for my home given what I have stated above?

    Any feedback and/or recommendations you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  • Blimundus - Thursday, January 26, 2012 - link

    Home use NAS reviews always make me *want* to add a NAS to my own setup. I have never really felt the *need* for a NAS. Although I have several computers, only the main Ubuntu desktop is used on a daily basis, and there is automatic backup to an external harddisk.

    In other words, if I would buy a NAS, I would not care much for capacity or performance, I just want to play with the possibilities it offers. That is why I am thinking of getting an entry level system: the single bay DS111. (There does not seem to be a DS112 model?)

    I can see that a dual bay system would have certain advantages (capacity, redundancy). Those advantages are not very important to me.

    I am hesitant about buying a single bay system for another reason: upgrade flexibility. If I ever replace the hard disk, or if I move to another system, will I have difficulties doing so if I have a single bay system? Or will I be able to do this by moving the data (temporarily) to another external hard disk, or even by linking up the old (single bay) NAS with the new (single or multi bay) NAS?
  • flight553 - Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - link

    Since Sept 2011 when NAS manufacturers started switching to the updated version of AppleTalk, and how this has annecdotally affected people running OSX10.7 Lion or higher, AFP protocol seems to be faster than SMB now. For me, a share through AFP was twice as fast as the same one via SMB. Reply

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