NAS units may come and go, but the Synology DS214se has an ace up its sleeve – and this ace is Linux, as David Hayward finds out.
S ynology is a company with an outstanding reputation in the network attached storage industry. It produces quality hardware, engineered to last and to provide the best possible access for the individual.
It also has an intuitive Linux-based operating system built in to each of its DiskStation and RackStation models.
So when we had the opportunity to get our hands on the DS214se NAS unit, we jumped at the chance.
The feature list is impressive; with a Marvell Armada 370 800MHz CPU and 256MB of DDR3 memory running things in the background, this two-bay NAS unit can handle up to 8TB drive configurations in RAID 0, 1, JBOD, Basic and a Synology Hybrid RAID. It has a low-power consumption rating, a mere 19W, and it’s fast enough to serve your home network with HD content at speeds measuring up to 55MB/s reading, and 40MB/s writing.
There are two USB 2.0 ports on the back, along with a single Gigabit LAN port and power. The front of the unit is uncluttered and features a strip of identifying LEDs that indicate the status of the system, LAN activity and activity on each of the two installed hard drives.
Good looker It’s presented in a sleek, elegant white plastic case with sizable rubber feet and the Synology name acting as a vent across both sides, and won’t look out of place in the lounge. It’s reasonably compact, too, measuring 165 x 100 x 225.5mm and weighing only 0.87Kg (excluding any installed drives).
Installing a hard drive is a breeze: simply slide one of the panels and the unit and the SATA ports are revealed, along with a frame on which to mount each of the drives. Once installed, the rest of the process can be managed via the Synology DSM (DiskStation Manager). Here is the real star of the show – a flexible and very functional Linux-driven interface that’s leagues ahead of the competition.
The latest DSM is downloaded and installed once the unit is up and running and taking over the drive(s) installed; this means you’ll have the most up-to- date version to hand, without the need to compare version numbers for installed features. From here, maintenance and administrative tasks can be accessed without the need to trawl through the usual nested menus.
The DSM is quick, easy on the eye and intuitive; there’s a handy system health, resource monitor, log viewer and current connections gadget. The layout is the same as that of a standard Linux desktop, so navigation feels natural, and integrating new features is a single click away through the package centre, acting very much the same as a GUI package manager.
It’s the level of detail, ease of use and quality of the operating system that make using this NAS unit less of an administrative chore and more of an extension to your desktop. Different packages can be installed, updated and configured. Web services, users’ administration, router configuration and firewall settings can all be managed through the control panel. There’s even access to the DSM terminal through SSH or Telnet.
There’s a lot going on, and you can be forgiven for forgetting you’re dealing with a NAS unit after configuring the DSM to your liking. However, it does an admirable job of being a NAS for the home or small office, and thanks to the wonderful DSM you can guarantee you’re getting an exceptional device.