Synology DiskStation DS215+ 2-Bay NAS and All-In-One Server Review

Introduction


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.

Synology Displays New NAS Units at Computex

Computex 2015 – We’ve seen the new Router from Synology already, but it wouldn’t be an NAS manufacturer if they didn’t bring those devices along too.

On display is the DS216se, a budget friendly NAS server perfect for home and personal use. The two-bay NAS unit allows for easy drive mirroring, network sharing and it is also DLNA certified for streaming to your TV, consoles and set-top boxes.

Moving up the scale a bit and we get to the DS215+, an NAS unit designed for Small and Medium Businesses. It delivers great performance up to 209MB/s reading and 139MB/s writing thanks to the dual-core CPU and dual-LAN ports with link aggregation and failover support.

You also get USB 3.0 and eSATA ports along to connect extra external storage including the Synology DX513 expansion unit.

The DiskSTation DS715 is a completely new unit and doesn’t succeed any previous units. It is built around a powerful quad-core 1.4GHz CPU that offers hardware encryption engine.

The DS715 SMB NAS comes with 2GB RAM and can deliver a great performance with up to 205.5MB/s reading and 77.62MB/s writing.

The dual LAN ports support failover and link aggregation as they’re supposed to and you can expand the unit with 5 more drives using Synology’s DX513 expansion unit.

Enterprise users are also covered well by Synology’s lineup, especially with their rack units. The RC18015xs+ for example brings a quad-core processor, up to 32GB RAM as well as advanced snapshot technology for flexible point-in-time data backup and recovery.

The RXD1215sas is a high-redundancy expansion unit offering dual high-speed 6Gb/s SAS modules and allows for stacking with up to 15 units for a total of 180 drives.

QNAP Turbo Station TS-431 4-Bay SOHO NAS Review

Introduction


I loved what the QNAPs TS-x31 series sports right from the first time that I heard of it. It just sounded like the perfect SOHO device for people who want a lot of features, easy setup, simple maintenance and a reasonable price.

Today I’m taking a closer look at the QNAP TurboNAS TS-431 4-bay Personal Cloud Storage for Home and SOHO users. It features an ARM Cortex A9 1.2GHz dual-core processor that delivers performance enough for multitasking, creating your personal cloud for digital notes, and multimedia streaming via DLNA & AirPlay.

With the TS-431 you can build a private cloud-based notebook and share it with friends and colleagues with Notes Station and Qnotes mobile App. It allows you to easily organize and manage files and backup tasks in one centralized location and synchronize files between computers, laptops, tablets, phones and other devices. You can archive, manage, watch and share your media collections with the dedicated Photo Station, Video Station and Music Station apps as well as enjoy all these moments on the big screen via DLNA and AirPlay streaming.

That is all pretty much default for QNAP devices, just as the 24/7 surveillance center you can create for your home or small office. The CPU in the TS-431 also allows you to transcode videos offline and enjoy smooth video streaming even when your network connection or playback possibilities are restricted.

The Freescale ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core CPU runs at 1.2GHz and gives the NAS a great performance ratio. It can provide transfer speeds up to 110MB/s reading and 80MB/s at writing. Maybe you need to increase your data safety to prevent unauthorized access to the files, well QNAP has that covered too with full NAS volume encryption with speeds of over 30MB/s with AES-256 bit.

The network connectivity on this device is safeguarded with dual Gigabit LAN and support for the latest 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi adapters. It further features three USB 3.0 ports and one eSATA for attaching high-speed external storage. The LAN ports support multiple port-trunking modes, allowing you to set up link aggregation to increase data transmission capabilities, as well as failover and dual IP for continuous system operation. The supported port-trunking modes include: Balance-rr (Round-Robin), Active Backup, Balance XOR, Broadcast, IEEE 802.3ad, Balance-tlb (Adaptive Transmit Load Balancing) and Balance-alb (Adaptive Load Balancing).

QNAPs operating system is better than ever and it keeps improving. The ‘intelligent’ desktop allows you to find the desired functions quickly and it allows you to create shortcuts of your choice for even quicker access. You can monitor the NAS’ vitals, install new function or change in your user setup with just a few clicks. Automated backup function can be set to kick in as soon as recognized devices are connected, creating backups to and from your drives and NAS, this includes rsync, QNAP’s NetBack Replicator and works equally well with Windows and Mac OS X Time Machine systems.

The new myQNAPcloud allows you to setup your NAS even easier and quicker than before. Just connect and power on the NAS and go to the URL from the sticker either manually or by scanning the QR-Code. Enter the key (partially whitened in the above image) and you’ll have your NAS setup in a couple of minutes, ready to use. Thumbs up to QNAP, the system works like a charm. You will of course need a network where the NAS gets it IP automatically and an internet connection. Don’t worry if you don’t, the old-fashioned way to initialize it works just as well as it always has.

The cross-platform file-sharing covers all sides with SMB/CIFS, NFS, and AFP protocols for sharing across Windows, Mac and Linux/UNIX. Data, logs and ISO image of CDs and DVDs can be centrally stored in the TS-431 and protected by an integrated antivirus solution. You can even manage your files via the internet by use of the File Station. It brings conventional desktop styled file operation to web browsers, allowing you to easily upload, download and manage your files no matter where you are, as long as you got a connection via LAN or the internet. It even supports file extraction, smart search as well as sharing specific files with friends and family via unique URLs.

One of the key aspects of this device is the capabilities for your private cloud. I’ve mentioned some functions above, but most of all it gives you a lot more space without a monthly cost. It also eliminates security concerns you might have by using public cloud services. The TS-431 is ready to establish a secure and large-capacity private cloud just for you and the myQNAPcloud service allows remote access without any tricky setups and router configurations.

Thecus N4310 4-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


We don’t all have equally deep pockets and not everyone can get the top-of-the-line high-end NAS devices that are out there. Most budget oriented NAS devices only offer 2 drive bays, and that might not be enough. Thecus comes to the rescue with their 4-bay N4310 NAS. The N4310 doesn’t lack on features or performance, so don’t be fooled by the term budget; that term only refers to the price in relation to other 4-bay systems on the market.

The Thecus N4310 has a normal NAS layout with 4 hot swap bays, LEDs and power button on the front and it also has a convenient USB copy key to perform pre-setup copy actions to and from plugged in USB drives. As useful as this feature is, it is a shame that there isn’t a front USB port to use it with. You will have to fumble behind the device to plug in your USB device before you can push the button on the front.

Each hard drive has its own LED light for activity and connection, and there is one for USB and Network activity as well. The power LED also indicates devices status besides just shining to show that it’s running.

When turning the device around and looking at the rear, we find two USB 3.0 and one RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet connections. It is nice to see USB3 added to a budget device as this allows the owners to backup those files in much faster way.

A unique feature in this market segment is the dual power supply support. You can connect two power bricks to this unit to create a fail-protection for continued uptime despite a possible PSU failure.

The internals of the Thecus N4310 is quite impressive all things considered. It is built around an AMCC 1GHz SoC with 1GB DDR3 memory, has hardware support for AES 128-bit encryption, and CPU offload engine.

The storage controller allows for RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, and JBOD, but the EXT4 filesystem is limited to 16TB. The network adapter supports Wake on LAN (WOL) and the USB ports can be used to connect printers too.

The software part is pretty good and a pleasant surprise. ThecusOS 6 has a more traditional approach in the web GUI than some other manufacturers, but it is really easy to use. It offers a load of functions besides serving as a file locker, such as Transmission download server, PlexMedia center, DDNS setup, Optical disk burning, as well as mobile apps to access your library on the go.

Thecus thought of almost everything and a little bit more.

The start-up is simplified with the Intelligent NAS utility that “boasts a 5-minute complete installation” of your device. With a power consumption of just 30W in operation, this could be an all around winner. So let’s take it for a spin.

Synology DiskStation DS215j 2-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


It isn’t long since I had the pleasure to review the new Synology 1-bay NAS for home users, so I’m really looking forward to giving the 2-bay version a spin in form of the brand new Synology DS215j.

The J series, or Junior as I tend to call them, is aimed at average home-user. But since there really isn’t such a thing as an average home-user, Synology has created a cost-effective NAS that still covers all the important aspects, features, and functions. This might very well be the a perfect entry device into the world of NAS.

The DS215j is built around a powerful dual-core Marvell Armada 375 (88F6720) processor with floating point unit and hardware encryption. These are already some impressive features and will help to accelerate media decoding as well as encrypting your sensitive data. It has 512MB DDR3 memory to run everything and that might not sound like much. It should however be enough for you to run your download manager, stream media to your TV and/or computers and backup your files on a regular basis with enough to spare for additional plugins of your choice.

This small 2-bay NAS doesn’t offer a hot-swap feature or an easy tool-less mounting of your drives. But both aren’t really needed in our normal home environment as we don’t run around and replace our hard drives on a regular basis nor does it matter if we have a downtime of 20 minutes while we replacing a drive. It still only takes 2 screws to open the enclosure and another 4 per drive, so it isn’t a big task no matter what.

The DS215j takes two 3.5-inch drives as it is, but it does require adapters to work with 2.5-inch drives. This is simple due to the method of floating drive mounts and not a big issue. When it comes down to it, 99% of everyone will use 3.5-inch drives in an NAS like this anyway. If you want that extra bit of speed, the DS215j, of course, also supports the use of solid state drives.

There will come the time where you’ll want to attach other devices to your NAS. This could be storage devices to backup files in one direction or the other, it could be your printers, and it could be your security IP cameras. The Synology NAS lineup can  also act as print-server and surveillance station. Every Synology NAS comes with a 2-camera license, making it ready to go.

The DS215j has one USB 2.0 port for the printers and other devices that don’t need the high-speeds that the USB 3.0 port can give. The USB 3.0 is also present for those who have blazing fast external SSDs and thumb-drives and wish to connect them to their local network via the Gigabit interface of the DS215j.

The upgrade Synology gave the 2-bay junior series is impressive and it is said to achieve speeds 19% higher than its predecessor. With measured speeds of over 111MB/s while reading and 87MB/s while writing it performs just as well as many SMB units. And it does that at a low power consumption of just 13.42 watts during access and 5.28 watts during hard disk hibernation.

Once you have all your media files stored in a centralized area, you’ll want to be able to access them in the most convenient way possible. Synology offers a wide variety of options and it has a DLNA media server built-in that can stream directly to your TV or other DLNA capable devices as well as specialized streaming to Samsung TV, Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku.

Synology also created the QuickConnect that allows you to easily connect it with the internet without having to configure your local network and router for it, nor any need to set up dynamic DNS addresses or similar. This will allow you to easily access your files from any device anywhere while still keeping all your files secure.

The QuickConnect also helps with the comprehensive cloud services Synology offer. You can easily create your own personal cloud using this NAS and save yourself the trouble, costs, and privacy concerns with commercial cloud services. The Cloud Station lets you synchronize files among your DiskStations and multiple devices including Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs as well as iOS, Android, and Windows mobile devices. You can also sync files between multiple Synology DiskStations as well as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Baidu for hybrid cloud storage.

Synology Unveils DiskStation DS215j 2-Bay NAS

Following the launch of the DS115j that we recently reviewed, Synology has launched their DiskStation DS215j today. A 2-bay NAS server designed for home and personal users to manage all their data while keeping their digital assets safe and secure.

The new line of J series NAS from Synology hits just the right spot with excellent performance at a low price point, and it does that while maintaining all the great features we’re used to from other Synology devices. The DS215j is using a dual-core MARVELL Amada 375 processor with Floating-Point Unit and Hardware Encryption Engine and it has 512MB DDR3 memory. This is more than enough for home environments and the DS215j can deliver read speeds over 111MB/s and writes over 87MB/s. That’s a 19% increase over its predecessor.

“The DS215j is packed with advanced technologies to deliver feature-rich applications for users to organize and share their data. Its appealing price tag and intuitive user interface make it a perfect fit for users who are looking to upgrade their NAS or to use NAS for the first time,” said Michael Wang, Synology’s product manager.

The DS215j has one USB 3 and one USB 2 port next to the Gigabit Ethernet port for additional external storage devices, printers or surveillance cameras. The power consumption is only 13.4 watts under full load and the noise level is rated to 18.5 dBA.

The recently released DiskStation Manager (DSM) 5.1 comes preloaded and is better than ever with increased functionality, security and connectivity options. The DS215j has started to ship globally and should become available very shortly. Amazon UK currently has it listed for £138.00 which is a bargain for a device like this. We will also have a review on this NAS coming soon, so keep your eyes on the page.

Thanks to Synology for providing us with this information

Images courtesy of Synology

Synology DS415Play 4-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


In the early stages of this year we saw the arrival of Synology’s DS214Play – a 2-bay system which offers users the ability to stream media connect across the network to everything, including mobile devices thanks to its onboard transcoding capabilities from Intel’s latest Evansport processor. Little did Synology know, this unit has turned out to be one of their most popular 2-bay systems to hit the shelves this year and as users embraced the transcoding power, the demand for a bigger and better system soon followed.

Aside from the obvious extension to four bays, the DS415Play features the same Intel Evansport 1.6GHz CPU, featuring Floating-Point Units, giving the system its popular ability to transcode media on the fly for streaming across to mobile devices as well as processing image thumbnails much faster than that of a typical SoC based system.

Connectivity wise we find an extra two USB2.0 ports on the rear of the system in place of the eSATA port that the 215 features. On paper this means that we should expect to see at least the same levels of performance as on of this years top-selling 2-bay systems, with an easy, too-free setup and a user interface that I consider to be one of the most user-friendly solutions on the market today.

Like a large number of Synology’s systems, the DS415Play comes in a rather non-de-script box, with only a few labels on the outside indicating which unit is inside. From a business point of view this means that on the grander scale we are looking at lower packaging costs – which in turn means a cheaper end product for the consumer. Inside we find a similarly comprehensive bundle with little more than a power cord, patch lead and a quick setup leaflet.

Western Digital Release System Update for My Cloud EX4 NAS

When I took a look at Western Digital’s My Cloud EX4 NAS a few months back I found the system to be a strong contender in the SOHO and SMB markets, offering up not only the ability to access your data from anywhere on the globe with the confidence that it is not being scanned by any third parties, but also the security of redundant storage. Whilst the EX4 has heaps of features on offer, the local network performance that was experienced left the EX4 a little behind other 4-bay systems in the same market segment.

Since our review on the EX4, Western Digital have been continuing to improve the My Cloud range and for the EX4 this has meant a major firmware update. Granted this is not something that I would normally cover in a news article, but for the EX4, WD state that the performance increase that is on offer from the update is quite considerable, bringing the system up and in line with the systems that previously left it standing behind. In addition to the read and write performance experienced over the network, the update also pays attention to the reliability of network connections, correcting the issue where some users were observing dropped connections when working remotely, better sustained file transfer rates, faster backups, faster build and recovery times of the systems RAID array(s) and finally improved CPU utilisation to improve the overall speed of the admin panel.

The firmware update is being rolled out to EX4 systems with a flag that a the new firmware revision is available for download, or alternatively users can download the latest firmware directly from WD at http://support.wd.com/product/download.asp?groupid=905&lang=en.

Source: Press Release

 

Thecus N2310 2-bay Intelligent NAS Review

Introduction


In the opening weeks of this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I took some time to meet up with the guys from Thecus to see what they had coming to the market in 2014. Although their stand was comparatively small compared to the hundreds of other vendors that made an appearance, their goal was straight and to the point, displaying a small selection of their latest systems and letting the performance and strong recognition within the market do most of the talking. For those who may not know, Thecus are part of the top ten NAS vendors globally, covering every sector of the market; from the home based entry-level user, right up to the large enterprise environment that we see in data centres, for example.

Of the items that Thecus had to show off, one of the systems caught my attention due to its slightly different design and also the highlight of Thecus’ new ‘Intelligent NAS’ Software. Built for a new line of systems, Intelligent NAS is designed to make the setup and management process of a network storage system less daunting for the first time user, where the thought of having to connect through IP addresses and look for a system manually is, for many, quite scary. As a result of the reservations that are put against network storage, the result is the addition of hard drives to computers and sharing the content out from there – this in fact can be a lot harder than using a NAS; believe it or not.

Ease of use is not the only factor that entry-level users look at when they’re shopping around for a new bit of tech. With today’s market bursting at the seems with different products that pack tons of features and the latest hardware to deliver top-level performance figures for their class, budget solutions right on the entry-level end of the scale are limited and once the cost of drives is taken into account, the overall setup cost can be a little off-putting. This is where the N2310 comes into play. This compact 2-bay system takes a small step back in the processor evolution, resolving back to a single core SoC running at 800MHz along with 512MB DDR3 RAM, USB3.0 support and a Realtek Gigabit Ethernet port. Mix this in with Thecus OS6 user interface and an ultra low price point of around £120 in the UK and $150 in the US and what you have is the recipe for a feather-weight champion in its class.

Ultimately the performance for the price is where we will be most interested along with the question if single core processor is able to drive a strong battle against the bigger, more beefy and more expensive options that are out there on this end of the scale.

The contents of the N2310 package are relatively standard for Thecus. A warranty card, setup CD and quick installation guide, along with screws for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives, a patch lead and mains power adaptor give all that is needed, although I’ve still not worked out as of yet why sixteen screws are included for 3.5″ drives considering there are only twelve holes to fill.

QNAP SilentNAS HS-210 2-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


When we look at where a NAS is typically designed to be placed, integration into a home A/V setup is not overly common surprisingly. Whilst there are a countless number of two and four bay systems that offer media playback capabilities, which I will add is great to see for the SOHO markets, their tower like design is not always that convenient to fit in with the DVD players, surround sound systems and game console stack that many of us have underneath our TV’s in the lounge – like the photo above funnily enough which is a quick glimpse into the system that we are taking a look at today.

QNAP as we know are one of the big players in the NAS market, lining up alongside Thecus, Asustor and Synology to name but a few and like everyone else, their product range spreads out from the basic single bay systems that are found on the entry-level end of the scale, right up to the 16+ bay rackmount systems that are built for enterprise and datacentre use. What QNAP have noticed though is that there is a gap in the market for systems like the one in hand today and considering many home users are now looking towards a network storage solution for their home media, now is a perfect time to hit that market with a system that blends right in to the A/V stacks that we all have in one way or another.

Built around a two bay design and supporting the latest 5TB drives, the HS-210 SilentNAS is, as the name would suggest, a system that takes noise head on and following some carefully planned design work, they have created a system that is totally passive with no fans included in the system. No fans = no noise and whilst we do have to account for the fact that spinning platter do generate a certain level of acoustic output, they are nowhere near as acoustic as they were only a few years ago. Another challenge that QNAP have decided to take on is hiding the drive bays away from view. Whereas having drive bays on view on a typical desktop NAS, in a home theater setup they’re not the most elegant of objects to look at, so a front cover that hides the bays away acts as a simple, yet effective solution.

In addition to offering up the looks that home theatre users are likely to want, QNAP are aware that the price point is also key to securing the purchase, so a price point of around $290 / £240 should whet the appetite of any tech enthusiast – at least that is the theory.

There is no surprises in seeing a simple and to the point kit list with this being an entry-level system. Along side a quick setup guide and a couple of sets of screws for 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives, we get a single Ethernet cable and a DC power adaptor with regional mains cable to suit.

Synology DS1513+ 5-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


When we look at the number of bays that each and every NAS on the market has to offer, typically we find the bays rising in multiples of 2, although we do find that there are 5 and 7 bay options out there as well for those who want to bridge the price gap between the 4-6 bay price bracket and additionally the 6-8 bay bracket.  Typically in the home environment we find users buying 2-4 bay systems and with capacities of up to 16TB on offer, this is generally more than enough to suit the majority of users in this group. On the other end of the scale in the enterprise market, 16-bay systems are not uncommon and in some cases 24-bay systems can be found, but in between these two extreme ends of the market is the SMB (Small-to-Medium-Business) and SOHO (Small Office / Home Office) group of users. At this level in the market, 4 bay systems are ample solutions to go for but in most cases they are just a starting point, with users and businesses soon seeing that they need to go up to a 6 or 8 bay system to suffice their needs. As said though, the price difference in some cases is quite notable and this is where units such as Synology’s DS1513+ come into play.

The Ds1513+ is by no means a new system to the market, in fact it was released in the mid-part of last year, but what is significant about this system is that it has five drive bays to work with in a desktop format which allows for up to 20TB of RAW storage, but even more importantly it has four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back, allowing for high-levels of bandwidth and throughput when setup with a compatible switch. So why I hear you ask am I reviewing a product that is nearly a year old? Well the simple answer is that whilst there have been a fair number of new products in the SOHO and SMB classes come to market since the launch if this system, I have until this point only looked at consumer level and SOHO based systems which are ideal for the home user, but not quite what the business user is after, both in terms of functionality and performance. Whilst I could have chosen a more recent system to put to the test, Synology were keen to show me that their DS1513+ is still s class leading product long after it hit the market – or that’s what they tell me.

So what sets a business level NAS apart from a consumer level product? To move up to the next level a NAS in my eyes needs to offer up a number of additional features. The first of these is multiple Ethernet ports; a home user for the most part is never going to fully saturate a single Gigabit connection, whilst in a business environment where multiple users are likely to be connected, creating a potential bottle neck as one Ethernet connection struggles to deliver data fast enough. The second thing that I look for is scalability; commercial environments typically create volumes of data much faster than one would at home and buying a larger system every 6 months for example is not what one would exactly call practical. Expansion units can simply connect into the existing system and drive volumes to create additional storage space with ease and lass hassle. The last thing that I look for is stronger performance levels. Going back to the LAN point that I made above, yes a home user may see a slight difference in performance between a RAID 0 and a RAID 1 array, but only just, whereas in a busier environment this difference in performance is noted far quicker as many users try to access the system. A strong storage controller is the key here.

The DS1513+ has all the basic credentials that I need for it to be classed as a business level system so the real question now is, can it really deliver those promised levels of performance and still shine through as a class leader nearly a year since its release? That’s what we’re about to find out.

Unlike some of the consumer level systems that Synology have in their catalogue, the DS1513+ has a more concise accessory set included with little more than a pair of Ethernet cables to get connected, a UK mains plug (in our case), a set of screws for installing 2.5″ drives into the drive trays and a pair of keys of locking each of the drive trays in place.

Viewsonic Ergonomic Monitors For Office Environments Unveiled

In certain market areas, selecting an appropriate monitor for the working environment is rather important, image editing and video editing applications naming just a couple of these key tasks. in the general working office however, the need for a specific type of monitor is virtually nonexistent and thus we find a whole host of differing options available and in use. There is however a catch with some of these panels and this is where Viewsonic have come forward, offering up a panel that is designed for the needs of a typical office environment, with the power consumption also playing a key part.

Shipping in two screen sizes, 22″ and 24″, the VG2233SMH and VG2433SMH displays offer up a full 1920 x 1080 HD resolution along with an exclusive SuperClear Image Technology which produces highly vivid colours in a true-to-life format and a super wide viewing angle of 178 degrees. To make the viewing of these displays far more comfortable for the office user, each panel allows full ergonomic adjustment through a combination of height, tilt, swivel and pivot which reduces eye strain and fatigue thus reducing downtime from work.

For the business the advantage doesn’t just stop at reduced employee downtime from work, there is also the potential for a financial saving to be made when in ECO-mode, with up to 50% savings on running costs on offer whilst also prolonging the life of the display. Once the total cost of ownership (TCO) is taken into account, there are a huge number of advantages to be made by switching over to Viewsonics commercial grade hardware, even if the current hardware is well within its lifespan.

In order to evaluate the potential cost savings, Viewsonic have created a simple and straight forward online tool that will allow businesses to calculate how much their current displays are costing to run versus one with Viewsonic panels installed. This tool can be found at: http://www.viewsoniceurope.com/led-tco-calculator/

Both panels are scheduled to be available towards the end of next month and with low prices of £119 and £139 (exc VAT) along with an option to register for a four-year warranty, the incentives to invest in these panels are certainly clear and strong.

Source: Press Release

Thecus Introduces Pydio App To Create Personal Cloud Storage

Over the last year or so we’ve been seeing a rapid growth in the popularity of cloud storage and on top of that the introduction of personal cloud solutions such as the EX4 from Western Digital has changed the way that we think about accessing our data on the go. In order to keep up with the demand for personal cloud storage, NAS manufacturer Thecus has announced the introduction of the Pydio open source platform to their App Centre. The Pydio platform is a completely open source platform that is designed for enterprise level storage devices and once installed on a server, it allows users to seamlessly access their data when on the go through a web-based interface or the optional mobile application.

With your data stored and accessed from your own servers, there is the reassurance that your data is not being accessed or monitored by any third parties and this also adds that element of satisfaction that you know you can access it anywhere, any time and with no restrictions at all. Over other cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, there is also no restrictions on the storage capacity that is provided (the storage capacity of the server naturally is your limit) and there are also no annual or monthly fees to keep paying.

The Pydio platform is free to download from the Thecus App Centre and will work with all recent systems that can access the add-on store. As well as mobile access to your data the add-on will also benefit users by providing alerts, branding and white-labelling of business names, compatibility with various directories, high levels of  security and a wide level of compatibility.

Source: Thecus

Image courtesy of Pydio.

Asustor AS-302T 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Since we had our first look at an Asustor product little over four months ago, the freshman to the NAS market have been busy extending their product line-up with the addition of four systems in a new entry-level ‘Personal to Home’ category. As seen when I put the AS-604T through its paces, the subsidiary company of Asus have clearly not lost their edge when it comes to modern design; even though two and four bay systems generally follow the same basic design pattern.

The AS-302T that I’m going to have a look at today is part of the ‘Home to Power User’ group of systems that Asustor have to offer; however there are one or two distinct features that will set this system apart over say the AS-604T that I previously reviewed. Whilst the main specification of the system is, as expected, lower than some of the more premium units, home entertainment and media serving capabilities are included to wet the appetite of any home entertainment technophile.

There are a large number of systems these days that claim to offer the home user the perfect system for streaming audio and video content from, but what most of these lack is the ability to do this directly from the NAS, as opposed to stream the content through a 3rd party system such as a smart TV or laptop. The AS-302T however has this covered. On the rear of the system is a fully operational HDMI port and inside the box we find a remote control. Place these together with a range of downloadable media playback applications that include the popular XBMC front end and what we have is an all-in-one file storage system come media centre in one compact package.

Inside the box, Asustor include all the basics needed to get the system up and running with an AC power adaptor, CAT5e patch lead, two sets of screws for 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives, installation CD, quick start guide and we have also been given the optional remote control for the systems media functions.

3D Printed Toys Made Their Way To 4,000 Disadvantaged Children This Christmas

3D printing has been one of the biggest trends of last year. Just about anything could be printed out, from guns to smartphone motherboards. It has been one of the most favourable tech discoveries form all times, and very useful indeed. Although the full extent of its usefulness cannot be measured at the moment, it did however made a big difference for 2013’s Christmas.

According to a BBC News article, the charity Kids Company made use of the 3D printing technology to print out toys for disadvantaged children. They had their doors opened for everyone to come and see how toys are made live, and maybe donate if they were generous enough, in Soho, London. The duration of the fund raising event spanned from December 13th up until December 18th, where people visiting the event could donate via text message and even choose the next toy design afterwards from six toy design templates.

World-famous animators Aardman, the people behind the nation’s much-loved Wallace and Gromit characters, have lent their support to the cause and have created two exclusive and limited edition toy designs for the event. The other toy designs have been made by companies Tado, Triclops, and Ultimaker.

After the fund-raising event, all toys were taken to the Kids Company Christmas party event by Santa, where 4,000 children enjoyed Christmas and opened up presents.

Thank you BBC UK and 3D Printing Insider for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of BBC UK

Synology DS214Play 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


When the imminent arrival of the DS214 was brought to people’s attention earlier in the year, hardware transcoding was a hot topic and the news that a NAS with improved on-the-fly video transcoding for mobile devices was also on the horizon only stirred more interest towards Synology. So without any more delay, it’s time to delve into the world of the DS214Play.

We’ve recently seen a few of Synology’s 2-bay systems and prior to  this review we had a look at the DS214Se – a special edition NAS that has budget users in mind – giving them a simplified NAS feature list. On the outside, the DS214Play looks nothing like the DS214Se and there is a good reason for this; whilst the DS214Se wants to make its stand in the budget end of the market, the DS214Play is aiming for a more premium look, whilst not hitting the same high prices that we see some 2-bay systems reaching. With the design and build blue-print derived from the DS414 and the little brother to this system the DS214 looking almost identical, the difference as always is what lies inside the system.

The crucial difference with this system over everything else is the Intel Eversport CPU that Synology have chosen. Many NAS options are not capable of transcoding media files – such as video – into another format for mobile devices such as phones and tablets to playback, however hardware transcoding is where the DS214Play pulls its weight. Thanks to the floating-point unit ability of the Evansport CPU, transcoding is a key part of the systems design, giving users the flexibility to watch whatever format of content they like without the worry of file compatibility.

When we look at the performance figures later on in this review we will be looking at the systems performance figures for video playback and processing photo albums as these are the two main area where this system should [in theory] top the charts. This is why we are here, so does it make a difference or is it all a load of pointless sales talk?

The DS214Play brings us a new lease of life to Synology’s packaging with a bright white and green design to the packaging, whilst inside the box there is the usual array of accessories for a system of this size.

Synology DS214Se ‘Special Edition’ 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Synology have been hot on the market recently with the release of the DS414 4-bay NAS – the latest revision to their popular 4-bay desktop range as it replaces the top-selling DS413. One of the main focus points of the DS414 is the price point for a pretty good level of performance. As we saw it may not be the fastest 4-bay system available, but when it’s priced considerably lower (>£100) than some of its rival units, it’s a bit of a no-brainer for anyone who is focussing more on raw capacity over performance.

Keeping on the same line, every NAS vendor has a few budget units in their product catalogue, however Synology have a more equal distribution across their range in the terms of performance and cost. As a brand Synology are not afraid to advertise that they build cheaper systems that offer lower performance figures and there is a good reason for this. When you take into account the overall cost of a typical 2 or 4-bay system with the cost of hard drives on top can easily tip over the £500 mark (or more if you go far a higher performance system); that price tag for some people does equate to a substantial chunk of money. For a number of users, the cost is simply too much to churn out. Typically those fighting the battle of cost is the home user, especially with today’s credit crunch here in the UK – where the cost of living when marked against your income is a bit out of proportion. As a result the goal is to get as much raw capacity as possible and for as little as possible.

As we’ve seen before, Synology use a simple naming system for their products, and those ending with a ‘j’ are built with capacity over performance in mind. To take things a step further, Synology have now re-written the rule book as they create a 2-bay system that is more budget conscious than ever. Bring forth the DS214Se. In the same way that the DS414 is the successor the DS413, the DS214 is the new model to the DS213 and the Se (Special Edition) marking puts this model in a position where it is even more budget friendly than before.

With the aim of the game keeping the overall purchase cost down, Synology have removed a number of features from the DS214 specification and have been more ruthless than ever. As a result, the DS214Se is going to be ideal for anyone who is a) on a very tight and b) not needing to run multiple features at the same time.

Whilst the systems specification has been cut down, the bundled extras include everything that you’ll ever need. Alongside the NAS, there is an AC power adaptor, Ethernet cable, a quick installation guide, warranty leaflet, and finally two sets of screws for fitting the drives and for holding the enclosure together.

Thecus N2560 2-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


In the NAS market, Thecus is one of the biggest names out there alongside QNAP and Synology and as we have seen in the past, the performance and features that they have to offer for the price are very well suited making them ideal for SOHO, SMB and enterprise users alike. Focusing today on the SOHO market, typical home users generally are in line to buy two and four bay systems for storing movies, music and photos on to share across their network to TVs, computers and wireless devices such as tablets.

Over the last year or so we have been seeing a slow migration by many vendors to produce products that are white in appearance to target the home user as they offer a cleaner and more conservative look to them that makes then more suited for a home environment rather than a black system that can look a little out-of-place or realistically – less stylish.

The N2560 that I’m having a look at today is one of the first white systems that Thecus have produced, the first being its little brother – the N2520 – and following its showing at CeBIT back in march, the storage giant has been making last-minute tweaks and adjustments to optimise its performance and functionality, in the process bringing the N2560 the line-up as well as the N2520. Over the previewed N2520, the N2560 offers up double the RAM with 2GB of DDR3 and a slightly faster Atom SoC, clocked to 1.6GHz over the N2520’s 1.2GHz chip.

Compared to Thecus’ over 2-bay solutions, the N2560 offers up a tool-free installation with drives that simply slide into the chassis and get closed in behind a simple front door making the unit far more user-friendly for the novice buyers out there. Supporting up to 4TB drives and offering the same host of functionality as any other Thecus system, this Atom based system is internally just like any other NAS that Thecus has to offer.

Thecus always offer a simple, to the point package, with all the bits you’ll need to get up and running. Alongside the usual array of paperwork including a warranty card, there is a UK IEC kettle lead and DC power inverter, a patch lead, two re-usable cable ties and in the instance of this unit, two sets of clip-on drive rails to give the unit its tool-free capability.