Welcome to part one of our review of the Synology DS415+ 4 bay NAS. The first of our two part article will focus on the hardware and an overview of the excellent Disk Station Management software.
In late November, VR-Zone reviewed the twin drive Synology DS215J which we felt was an excellent NAS full of features for a home digital network. Today in our Synology DS415+ review, we move to a 4 bay SMB/SOHO focused device that offers even more for scenarios ranging from a simple media sharing home storage unit, to medium business use with hundreds of concurrent users.
Packaging & Accessories
The DS415+ comes securely packed in a sturdy box. It feels quite light weight; unsurprisingly given the NAS itself weighs just 2.05Kg without drives.
The accessories bundle consists of two network cables, 120w AC adapter with mains cable, some screws for drive installation and a quick start guide.
We are fans of the designs Synology uses for their disk station NAS units and the DS415+ is no exception. We like the subtle design with discrete LED status indicators down the right hand side along with a power button and a USB 2.0 port. If we had to nit-pick, we’d like this port to be of the USB 3.0 variety, though given we have two at the rear, this isn’t a major issue.
Moving to the rear of the unit, we see the DC power input, 2x USB 3.0 ports, dual GB LAN ports, eSATA port, Kensington lock slot and two 92mm cooling fans. Synology claim these fans work at 20.2 dB and we are happy to say they cannot be heard over the sound of the drives particularly when seeking. The DSM software has an option for a higher fan speed mode which we’d recommend in situations where the drives are constantly being accessed.
The USB ports can be used for expanding storage, connecting to a network via a WiFi dongle or attaching a printer to the rest of the network.
Let’s take a look at some of the key specs of the DS415+. Note here the use of an Intel C2538 quad core Atom SoC running at 2.4 Ghz. This is based on the Silvermont micro-architecture. This x86 architecture family is aimed at devices ranging from ULV applications in smartphones and tablets, to micro servers and what he have here in the DS415+, the codenamed Rangeley platform, specifically aimed at network and communication devices. It is built on the 22nm process and is rated at 15w peak power consumption.
This CPU offers hardware encryption and floating point capability. Floating point assists with things like thumbnail preview generation. Far more interesting is the encryption capability thanks to the AES-NI instructions included in the Silvermont core. This allows up to 256 bit AES encrypted encoding and decoding handled by the NAS itself, freeing up the client hardware and OS. Obviously in a business environment, this feature will be key.
Moving onto some of the other key specs, we have 2Gb of DDR3 memory and 6Tb HDD capability for a total of 24Gb internally. (This can be greatly expanded with external drives.) Synology tell us that drives larger than 6Tb are likely to be supported in the future as drives with capacities above 6tb are validated for use.
The twin GbE Ethernet ports offer Link Aggregation and failover support, this offers both increased throughput over a single connection as well as redundancy in the case of failure. Once again this is a key feature for business users.
The list of specs regarding drive support and expansion is extensive. With up to 108Tb in a single volume or 512 individual volumes and iSCSI LUN clone & snapshot support for example.
RAID is supported of course with 0,1,5,6 and 10 types supported as well as basic and JBOD modes. RAID volume expansion and migration is available for supported levels. Up to 2048 user accounts and up to 512 concurrent user support is provided.
We begin with the drive installation which is tool less and hassle free. The front of the unit is detached to reveal the four internal drive bays. These slide out and are held on rails to guide the drives SATA connectors to those inside the NAS. Installation couldn’t be simpler.
Once the drives are installed and the unit is powered on, initializing the DS415+ is as simple as entering find.synology.com into a web browser. There is also an option to install the Synology Assistant software, which is the method we chose for this installation.
The next step is to point the NAS to the DSM file which can be downloaded from the Synology website.
The disks are initialized and formatted, with the whole process taking about 10 minutes. The user has the choice of basic or RAID setup using one of the modes listed above.
Once the installation is completed the DSM main screen is shown. Here you are free to choose application or packages to suit the usage scenario.
Arguably the greatest strength of Synology’s NAS devices is their Disk Station Management (DSM) software. While DSM hasn’t been without a few issues in recent times, we are pleased that the latest DSM 5.1 is back to firing on all cylinders with an unbelievable depth and breadth of customizations, application catalog, security options, and of course, being a NAS: networking capabilities.
The DSM 5.1 software is a Linux based storage management system with an easy on the eye desktop style user interface. Applications can be added according to the user’s individual needs. We could write a book on all the available features and apps. All the features you would expect from any NAS are present. File Synching, sharing, multimedia, cloud sync and sharing, backup, security, surveillance.. it’s all there.
Rather than write a novel and go over all the features and applications, we’ll focus on the new and upgraded features of the DSM 5.1 software.
One of the more interesting new features is the Note Station and DS Note. This kind of feature could be a killer app for those who wish to centralize their data and access it from any web browser or mobile device anywhere in the world. We’d struggle to list all the examples where this could be useful, but think of business data like minutes or documents, traveling materials, lists, recipes, study notes… etc etc. All this data can be encrypted and synched across devices or in the cloud.
Speaking of the cloud, the DSM 5.1 software and DS415+ have cloud apps which comes with full range of public and private cloud based storage and sharing options. Most of the popular public cloud resources are available including Google Drive, Dropbox, MS OneDrive and Baidu amongst others.
An option called Selective Sync means that individual folders can be selected to sync to the cloud or another disk station. Other criteria such as the file type, format and size can be selectively synced.
Windows Access Control List (ACL) support is included. This is particularly useful for a business with collaborations or frequent accesses to certain files. This means the Windows PC client will show the user the level of access the administrator deems necessary.
Security and efficiency from the intranet is a critical pillar of every organization, so a feature like a proxy server is vital to create internal web policy rules as well as caching efficiency for things like software updates to prevent internet overload.
The security advisor is another new app that analyses system settings to best protect the security of the NAS. This includes password strength testing, malware checking and network and program/service auditing.
These are just a few of the new features added in the DSM 5.1 update.
NAS devices are no longer restricted to the realms of business or the tech savvy only. As we move well into the 21st century and the modern age of inter connectivity & mobility; data access, sharing & security is becoming a vital part of everyday life. A NAS with its vast range of usage scenarios is quickly becoming an essential tool for even a basic household with phones, TV’s, laptops, tablets and even watches being able to access, share and backup data. Once you’ve taken advantage of a NAS, you’ll wonder how you got along without it.
The Synology DS415+ is another excellent addition to the Disk Station range. With easy installation, excellent features and the class leading DSM software, we have a compelling choice in the 4 bay NAS market and a powerful tool for a vast range of applications.
Stay tuned for part two of our review of the Synology DS415+ as we put it through its paces in a range of home and SMB oriented workload and benchmarks.