Since the year 2000, Synology has manufactured a range of products with Network Attached Storage at their core. From two bay devices aimed at the home market all the way up to 24 bay enterprise units, there is a product on offer for nearly every company size and home user.
Synology has sent us their DS416 Play DiskStation to review. The DS416 Play would be right at home in a small office but its impressive media capabilities mean it is also an excellent choice for more advanced home users.
Many consumers may be unfamiliar with what Network Attached Storage (NAS) is but they will no doubt be familiar with cloud storage providers such as Dropbox or Google Drive. At its most basic level, NAS is a storage device such as a hard drive attached to a network which makes that storage available to any connected device.
As “cloud” is a buzzword right now and companies like Google and Apple bundle storage with their devices and services, people have become more familiar with storing their data in an offsite location. Photos, videos, contacts, documents all get stored or backed up to another location and while this has huge benefits for consumers, it also presents some challenges.
NAS devices offer the same basic capabilities as cloud storage but while most cloud storage services have a limited set of features available to users, backing up photos and documents is only scratching the surface of what’s available from a properly spec’d NAS device.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to both NAS and Cloud based services. They shouldn’t really be directly compared as such and the correct strategy for people who really want belt and braces protection is to have a mixture of both local and off-site storage. If you put all your eggs in one basket it is a single point of failure so a strategy that provides the most suitable solution for your location combined with off-site backup is usually the most preferable.
There are so many features available on the DS416 Play that this could have turned into a 20,000-word review were we to cover every aspect in detail. So with that in mind, we’re going to concentrate on the main features users will find most interesting.
Inside the box, you get the DS416 Play, a power brick and two RJ45 cables. There’s also the usual documentation and a quick start guide. The DS416 Play comes diskless from Synology so you’ll need to install your own suitable hard drives.
The DS416 Play is a 4 bay unit which comes with an Intel Celeron N3060 chipset which is clocked at 1.6Ghz but can burst to 2.48. It includes 1GB of RAM and has a max capacity of 40 Terabytes (4 x 10TB).
One feature of note, which is often forgotten about when spec’ing units, is its incredibly low power consumption figures. At idle, the unit draws just 12 watts and while being accessed draws 29 watts.
If you were to build a home server based on a normal PC tower you would have a power supply of at least 350 watts. At a time when we are all trying to reduce energy consumption, the savings here are clear.
There are three USB 3.0 ports (one on the front and two around the back) and 2 Gigabit RJ45 connections which allow for duplexing.
A full list of the unit’s specs can be found here.
To review the device we installed two 2TB WD Red hard drives which are specifically designed for NAS units. While you can install any hard drive you like, it is highly recommended that you use hard drives that are designed specifically for NAS units of this size. NAS hard drives are designed to run all of the time, have a longer mean time between failures and can withstand the vibrations caused by having multiple hard drives all spinning/ reading/ writing in the one, close proximity, location.
Both Western Digital and Seagate produce suitable hard drives that are reasonably priced but still feature many near enterprise level features.
The read/ write speeds achievable will vary depending on setup and hard drives used. We tested the WD Red hard drives by transferring files from a computer to the DS416 Play via a wired connection and also over a wireless connection via 802.11ac to a dedicated router connected to the same network. Using the wired connection we averaged 100MB/s and over the wireless connection, our average was 44MB/s.
Synology has made the setup of the device really simple.
First, you need to install hard drives in the bays. The bays in this device have a plastic carrier that allows you to install the drives without any tools, once you are using 3.5″ drives. If you want to use 2.5″ drives, Synology includes some small screws which allow you to mount the drives to the larger carrier.
Once you have the drives installed you power up the device, wait for it to beep and then it’s ready to begin the operating system installation.
The Synology operating system, DSM 6.1, is browser based. To get things going you navigate to find.synology.com in your browser and this identifies the NAS unit on your network.
From there you go through a series of options which asks you to install the latest version of DSM, set up admin accounts, pick when critical updates will be performed and create Synology accounts for later use.
From start to finish the whole process only took about ten minutes and we were ready to go.
During the setup, you can allow everything to be set up automatically which will result in the system using Synology’s proprietary RAID system or you can manually choose one of the more traditional RAID options to be implemented.