Last month I had the pleasure to take a look at the Synology DS715 [review here] 2-bay NAS and today I continue with Synology’s second recently released NAS, the Synology DiskStation DS215+.
The DS215+ is an all-in-one 2-bay NAS server that offers high performance while staying energy-efficient and providing a full set of business features. The dual-core CPU is powerful enough to handle multi-tasking applications and can help small and medium businesses to centralize their backups, protect critical assets, and share files quickly and efficiently – and that on a budget.
Inside the DiskStation DS215+, we find an Annapurna AL-212 dual core ARM processor with 1.4GHz with floating point unit and hardware encryption engine and 1GB DDR3 memory.
There are plenty of connection options on the DS215+ starting with the two Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 ports that allow you to set all modes of failover and link aggregation, including IEEE 802.3ad. The unit has two USB 3.0 ports for external drives and other devices as well as an eSATA port. Readers familiar with my reviews will know that I love it when they add the eSATA port as it is my preferred method of attaching external storage as it doesn’t have the same latency as USB does.
The hardware encryption engine coupled with the other improvements allow this unit to deliver twice the performance over the predecessor when dealing with encrypted storage.
Synology’s drive trays in these units are awesome and allow for a speedy setup as well as maintenance. The screw and tool-less design is as simple to use as pulling the sides off, inserting the drive and putting them back on. The trays are also lockable which is another bonus. You don’t eject them by accident and no false friend runs off with your drives that easy.
The software part is well covered by Synology’s DiskStation Manager (DSM), an operating system that has won a lot of rewards, and all well deserved. It comes with most basic and used features as standard and you’ll most likely find what is missing there in the add-on section. DSM is real easy to use and has great multi-tasking support.
One of the great features of DSM is the File station, a fast and secure way for sharing and managing your files stored on the DS215+. It has built-in FTP and email clients and allows drag and drop of files from both Windows and Mac OS systems. Mobile systems can do the same with the DS file app. HTTPS, SSL/TLS encryption, and link expiry dates also ensure file sharing over the Internet stays secure.
The basic file sharing on your network isn’t any problem for the DS215+ either as it supports it all. SMB2, FTP, NFS, WbDAV, windows AD and LDAP – you’ll find it all. Network recycle bin is also available on both AFP and CIFS shares.
The DS215+ allows for seamless account integration thanks to the User Home feature that automatically creates user folders to minimize effort while the Windows ACL support allows admins to fine-tune access controls and set up privileges through a familiar interface.
This is truly an all-in-one server as it is labeled with everything it supports. From file storage and media streaming over Mail servers and VPN servers, the DS215+ lets you do it all. It can also work as a print server with your USB printers and share them over the network as well as act as DNS server, Directory Server, RADIUS Server, DHCP Server, and Log Center. All that in one tiny box.
With the support of Windows AD, LDAP, and Domain Trust, DS215+ enables seamless account integration. The User Home feature can automatically create a “home” folder for every user account to minimize the administrator’s effort in repeatedly creating “home” folders for all accounts. Windows ACL support on DS215+ allows IT administrators to fine-tune access controls and set up privileges to files and folders on DS215+ through the familiar Windows user interface. With compatibility for major protocols, DS215+ can eliminate server configuration overhead and enhance IT administrators’ efficiency.
Backup and storage works in many ways and one very useful is the personal cloud the DS215+ allows you to set up. The Cloud Station allows you to sync files between devices in online and offline mode. The Cloud Station can remember up to 32 historical versions, encrypts the traffic, and can also sync between different NAS stations as well as mobile devices.
Security isn’t just well covered in the Cloud Station and Drives with the AES 256-bit encryption, the DS215+ also supports Antivirus and basic network security. You can also enable two-step verification for your users.
All of Synology’s mobile apps work great with this device, may they be DS note, DS audio, DS video, DS photo+, DS cloud, DS file, DS download, and DS cam. Everything right at your fingertips and on your smartphone or tablet.
That is a lot of functionality and features in one little device and one that saves both the environment and your wallet thanks to the low power consumption. When the HDDs hibernate, the DS215+ consumes just about 9W and less than 21 W when accessed. Thinking small can pay off in the long run.
A closer look inside
As always with the NAS devices that I test, I had to take it apart and see what is inside. The general design is made up of three PCBs, two small ones for the rear-IO and internal SATA bridge and one big that is the motherboard itself.
The processor is passive cooled, a thing that is easy to achieve with such a low power consuming SoC solution. We also see the four RAM packages below the CPU that make up the 1GB RAM. The network ports are controlled by two Realtek RTL8211 chips.
The SATA bridge isn’t so spectacular and basically and doesn’t feature anything besides the connection ports.
The rear-IO PCB on the other hand, has the EltronTech FJ168A USB Host Controller and hosts both the eSATA and USB 3.0 ports as well as the reset button.
System Specifications, Features & Power Consumption
Synology’s DSM has a very user friendly dashboard. You can add more shortcuts by simply dragging features to the desktop, it supports multitasking, and the widget feature helps you to keep a quick view on all the important things.
The chart contains the actual power consumption measured at the PSU connection and while loaded with a maximum amount of drives. The maximum power draw will usually occur during boot times and it is a peak value.
Setup – Initialization & Storage
Initialization of a Synology NAS is as easy as it could be. Within your NAS package you found the Quick Installation Guide that contains two links, either of these will work. Alternative, if you got network discovery turned on, your network surroundings in Windows should display the new NAS. Just right click and connect to the web interface to get started.
I used the URLs from the manual to get started and it instantly found my not-installed Synology DS215+ NAS. You can quickly get a view of the device and make sure it’s the right one, in the case that you should run multiple Synology devices on your network.
To install the NAS, you’ll need the operating system. You can download that from the official website and the installation provides you with the link for this. Just click it, make sure you download the OS for the right device, and you’re ready to install.
Your hard drives are now initialized and the system installed, but you still need to provide a couple basic information before it is ready.
The NAS needs a name itself and you’ll also need to specify a admin account name as well as a password for it.
It is highly recommended to select auto-update. There is a good chance that you won’t visit the control panel often once it is set up and you wouldn’t want to miss important security updates, not to mention new and improved features.
The basic add-on packages that most people will want can also be installed right away, but it is optional. You can always change that later, add and remove as it pleases you. Either Install or skip it.
The QuickConnect allows you to easily connect to your NAS, no matter where you are and from what device you connect. You can either connect to an existing ID or create a new.
And that was all, the NAS is ready to rock and we can continue with our basic setup.
The first time you enter the DSM dashboard, you’ll be greeted with a welcome guide that explains the basics on the system, where you’ll find what and how it all works. It is only a few clicks and you should pay attention to it if you’re a new Synology user.
One of the first things I want to set up is the network. The DS215+ has two LAN ports and I’ll of course want the best performance and security. So I’ll be setting up the two ports as a IEEE 802.3ad dynamic link aggregation.
To set up the connection, we switch to the next pane and create a new bond.
There are several modes that you can choose between, but in this case we’ll want the Dynamic Link Aggregation.
We only have two LAN ports on this device, so the choices are pretty simple. We select them all.
You’ll also get the chance to set the IP configurations as well as Jumbo frames and VLAN before you finish your setup.
Synology’s DSM will check whether your connection actually supports the setup you created, if it doesn’t it will show you in red text as you can see below.
And if the connection works as it should and following your setup, then it should like it does below. A 2000 Mbps connection to your beautiful new DiskStation DS215+.
Now that we got our network setup, we’ll want some shares. After all we need a place to put all our files. What you create and call it, that is totally your choice and depends on your needs and usage scenario.
User rights can be set right away when you create the share, but since we haven’t created any users yet, we only have the admin account here.
Setup – Users, Services & Backup
As we saw on the previous page, we lack some users. So let us get started and create some. You shouldn’t be using your admin account for other things than maintenance, so make sure you create a normal user for yourself too.
You can assign the user to groups as well as set permission for the shared folders that you already created.
In case you want to limit the amount of space a user can occupy, that’s not a problem either. Admin users will always have unlimited quotas and that is why it is set that way in the screenshot below.
Application rights and speed limits can also be set for each individual user. No need to worry about anything as you can define how it should work. That is how we like it, no surprises.
User groups help you maintain user rights on a bigger scale. It is a lot easier to change rights for a group than do it for every single user individually.
You get basically the same setting options as we’ve just seen for the users themselves, only it counts for the entire group and not just one person.
You can quickly add and remove users from the groups with the easy to use interface. A couple of buttons and a selection is all it takes.
File services is a big part of a NAS and Synology has it all covered. It doesn’t matter what system you connect from and what authentication method you’ll want to use – you’ll find it. Windows, Mac OS, and Linux/Unix are all supported with Samba, TimeMachine and NFS as well as WebDAV and FTP.
You can join the NAS to your domain group and enable the LDAP client if you got such setups, again Synology has you covered.
Setup – There is more, Add-Ons & External Devices
There is so much more in Synology’s DiskStation Manager and it is simply too much to cover it all. The review would never end, but there are still a few things that I want to show you.
In case you should be missing features in the control panel, hit the Advanced Mode link at the top left and it will display the icons you couldn’t find before. See above and below for comparison.
One of the really useful features is the previously mentioned QuickConnect. It allows you to connect to your NAS with an easy URL no matter where you are.
DSM 5.2 also supports a long list of dynamic DNS services and can keep them updated with your external IP address. You can also configure port forwarding for your router directly from the NAS OS if the router has UPnP turned on.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both supported with compatible USB sticks. This isn’t thought as much as a way of connecting your system to the network but rather to use as ad-hoc and connect wireless devices directly to the NAS. This could be useful in areas without normal wireless access.
Security is another important aspect of a NAS and Synology has it all covered from basic security features over to a firewall, autoblock features, and certificate usage.
The Info Center gives you a quick look at your systems status, from hardware info over uptime to storage usage and running services. No matter what you’re looking for, it’s found quickly.
The login page style can be customized and you can also pick the language for the DSM among a very long list of possibilities.
Media indexing and conversion is another cool feature and worth looking into if you’re going to use the NAS for movies, tv shows, and other media.
There are so many more things you can set up and customize in the operating system. It’s awesome.
External storage devices are a great way to transfer files, create backups, and so much more and therefore it’s great that the Synology DS215+ supports both eSATA and USB 3.0 drives.
SMART information and tests are also available for the drives that support it and you can also format them here if you want that.
You can set default permissions for the external drives too, so you don’t need to do it every time you plug in a drive. EXT4 Write Cache is also supported, but should be used with care as it can lead to data-loss in the event of premature disconnection or power failure.
There are a lot of add-ons in the Package Center. The most important ones are highlighted in the recommended section and they should cover most needs.
If you still are short of a function or two, then there is a very good chance that you’ll find it among all the other add-ons. There is also the possibility to install 3rd party add-on’s manual that you found somewhere else.
- Supermicro C7Z97-OCE
- Intel Xeon E3-1230Lv3
- Exceleram EP3001A 2GB PC3-10666
- Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD
- Sapphire R7 240 2GB
Drives used in Test:
- Intern: Western Digital RED 6TB 3.5-inch
- USB: Angelbird SSD2go Pocket 512GB
- eSATA: Angelbird SSD wrk 256GB
We would like to thank our sponsors for supplying us with the components needed for the test system as well as drives.
The performance of the system we use to test with isn’t a major factor when testing a device of this sort. The performance of the NAS box comes down to the network it is running on, the protocol used to connect, and its own internal hardware.
With a device of this sort having so many different applications, Intel’s NASPT software covers all the bases and also gives us a set of results that we will be able to utilise and therefore give a benchmark against other similar systems in the future.
Intel NASPT (Network Attached Storage Performance Toolkit) performs its test by transferring varying sizes and quantities of data to and from the device based on twelve different scenarios.
As part of the testing, the NAS is connected through a Netgear GS724TPS managed Gigabit switch and then to our test bench to give the best real world setup test that we can and the NAS itself will be packed with Western Digital’s latest RED NAS drives. Intel’s NASPT software does require us to drop the memory down to 2GB, as using any more would lead to data caching and therefore skew the results.
I will be testing the NAS box performance under each of the RAID options that it has available as well just a single drive. The USB 3.0 speeds will be measured with our trusted Angelbird SSD2go Pocket drive.
HD Video Playback
HD Video playback is a read test, where a single 2 Gb file is read in 256 kB blocks sequentially from the drive. This simulates where a 720p HD video is being watched across the network to a media player on the other end.
2x HD Video Playback
2x HD Video Playback works with exactly the same data set as the first HD Video test, however this time the same content is streamed twice from the NAS box simulating two simultaneous streams being made to external media players.
4x HD Video Playback
In the same way that the 2x Video Playback streams to the equivalent of 2 external media players at the same time, the test here doubles that again up to a simulated 4 media players.
HD Video Record
The HD Video Record test is as the name suggests a write test to the NAS box. A single 2 GB file is written to the device in 256 kB blocks sequentially to the disk.
HD Playback & Record
The HD playback and record test now put the drive under the same single record and playback tests as before, but now at the same time. This will factor for the quick changes needed to switch between reading and writing two large blocks of data across the network to the device.
For content creation, Intel have simulated access to via video creation applications. This is made up of 98 files with 12 MB reads and 14 MB writes in varying sizes of blocks. The activity is predominantly non-sequential with the majority of access time made up of writing to the drives. There are quiet periods of read/write activity interrupted with busy periods to present a difficult workload on the drives.
The office productivity simulation is very similar to the content creation, with a total of 607 files written to and read from the drive. A total of 1.4 GB of data is written to and read from the drive with a close balance between each made – the majority of write access is made up of 1 kB writes.
File Copy To NAS
This test quite simply put copies a single large file from the test system to the NAS box to show how well the system can sustain a single write speed. The 1.4 GB file is copied to the drive and written in 64 kB blocks.
File Copy From NAS
File copy from the NAS works in exactly the same way as the copy test, however it works in the opposite direction. The single 1.4 GB file is read off the NAS in 64 kB blocks.
Directory Copy To NAS
In the directory copy to NAS test, a directory tree representing that of a typical commercially available office suite is copied to the NAS to trace the bulk copy of a complex directory. A total of 2833 files making up 247 MB are moved, but the file sizes vary considerably with an average size of 41.4 kB. Due to the varying sizes of the files, only around 50% of the writes are sequential.
Directory Copy From NAS
In the same way that the file copy from NAS traces the same file back across to the test system, the directory copy from NAS does exactly the same but to the entire directory that it copied across previously.
Last of all is a test based around a photo album. When a photo album is viewed on-screen, only the images that you see are loaded from the drive and so when you scroll through the album, the new images have to be fetched and read. The album here contains 169 photos with varying file sizes based on the size, quality and detail in the image. Reading the files in a photo album puts an unusual read load upon the drive as the metadata is read, a thumbnail constructed and finally the image viewed.
Complete Benchmark: Average Throughput
Intel NASPT provides a summary at the end of each benchmark, included in this is the average throughput from all the previous test as one number. This is a pretty good overall view of a device and as such I’ve started to included this as well. The numbers below are the average of the previous 12 tests.
As mentioned previously in the review, security is an ever growing concern and encryption is a great step to achieve this. As such I will be including a comparison between an encrypted drive and a normal single drive for a basic comparison and to show if and how it will impact on your performance.
Our benchmarks are real-world tests and will variate a little. We see above that the encryption has some influence on the performance but the encrypted benchmark still shows some great speeds. I doubt anyone will feel the difference during normal workloads on the NAS.
The Synology DiskStation DS215+ diskless unit will set you back $339.99 at Amazon US and £256.28 at Amazon UK. German readers can find a great deal on Geizhals where it starts at €314.15 at the time of writing.
Synology’s DiskStation DS215+ is aimed at SMB usage, but it would also be a great NAS for SOHO users that want a NAS that is just a little more than usual. The DS215+ unit is an upgrade that users have requested for some time and I doubt any of them will be disappointed.
The new CPU with hardware encryption engine delivers up to double the performance when dealing with encrypted storage and that’s something that is worth highlighting. While we saw some performance impact on an encrypted drive, it wasn’t much and there will always be some performance decrease when dealing with encryption.
The 2-bay unit doesn’t just have a tiny footprint, it has an overall small form factor. That gives you the ability to place it the system pretty much where ever you want and you won’t have any trouble finding the perfect spot for it. The black design will make it fit well with other PC systems and monitors that mostly are black these days.
The two LAN ports allow for failover and link aggregation while the USB 3.0 and eSATA ports allow you to connect printers, WLAN sticks, storage, and much more.
With Synology’s DSM operating system, we know that we’ll find every function we want. It doesn’t matter if it’s a business oriented feature or a streaming service you need at home. From cloud systems and domain logins, it’s there. If it isn’t a default function, then you’ll most likely find it in the app center. It isn’t without a reason that the DSM system has won as many awards as it has.
We saw a great performance throughout all our benchmarks, and that includes the encrypted benchmark. The new dual-core CPU showed us what if can do. The only downside on this NAS will be limited to very few people, those who wish to upgrade the RAM. They’ll have to pick a different model. Otherwise, this is a great system and one you’ll be very happy with.
- CPU with Floating-Point and Hardware Encryption Engine
- USB 3.0 and eSATA connections
- Dual-LAN with Dynamic Link Aggregation support
- Good Performance
- DSM Operating System
- No USB on the front
- RAM not upgradeable
“Synology’s DS215+ is an amazing NAS unit that should perform equally well in SOHO and SMB environments. A NAS that won’t disappoint you.”
Thank you Synology for providing us with this review sample.