Synology’s DiskStation DS712+ is a dual-bay network-attached storage (NAS) device that will appeal to small firms and is suitable for workgroups in mid-sized organisations [see picture].
Synology’s DS712+ was launched mid-October and is pricey at £400 - there are alternatives from other vendors, such as Zyxel and QNAP, that are £200 to £300 cheaper. But the included Disk Station Manager (DSM) software package (v3.1) has a comprehensive set of software and hardware features to get the best out of the system.
For example, the DS712+ can be configured using DSM to run web sites, act as a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) file server, or just as a standard NAS system. DSM can also be installed on Mac OS X systems and Linux distributions.
The network connection used on the DS712+ can also be configured to give twice the network capacity (2Gbit/s) of competing systems.
The DS712+ can use the highest capacity Serial ATA disks currently available - 3TB, to give a 6TB capacity – and also has a 5-drive expansion unit that connects through an eSATA connection, which can increase system capacity to a maximum of 21TB.
We used a couple of 500GB hard drives to populate the DS712+, which does not come with hard drives. It was simple to clip the drives into the lockable drive holders and clip these holders into the housing seating them on the SATA connections at the back of the drive bays.
To set up the DS712+ as NAS, we first installed Synology’s Disk Station Manager software (v3.1) on our Labs Dell OptiPlex 980 test system. After this we connected two LAN cables from the DS712+ to our Labs test switch, a 3Com 4250T model.
It was easy to set up the DS712+ in the two RAID options it could be used in – RAID 0 and RAID 1 [see picture].
RAID 0 gives better performance than RAID 1, but does not have RAID 1’s data protection capability. The RAID 1 set-up involves data being duplicated on each of the separate drives, so that if either drive fails, the good one can function until the faulty one is replaced.
Both RAID configurations took several hours for the DS712+ to configure, after which we could set the 1TB of hard drive capacity as a network share on our Dell OptiPlex 980 test system.
The DS712+’s two Gigabit (1Gbit/s) Ethernet interfaces could also be "link aggregated" - meaning these network adaptors can be configured to allow the system to function as if it had a 2Gbit/s link.
Synology Disk Station manager software
The DSM software is a comprehensive NAS management system that enables a variety of uses for the DS712+ NAS device. A look at the DSM control panel shows what the system can be used for [see picture].
The system can be used as a media server for dishing up audio and video content, as a file server and file backup system, a mail server, or a surveillance station taking video feeds from CCTV cameras and storing those video feeds.
The Synology DiskStation DS712+ has dimensions of 157 x 103.5 x 232mm and weighs in at 1.7kg minus the hard drives.
It has a USB 2.0 port on the front and two USB 2.0 ports on the rear, alongside the eSATA port used to connect the DS712+ to the five-drive expansion box (not included with our test system).
There are two Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be link-aggregated to function as a straight 2Gbit/s network link.
Claimed performance figures for a RAID 0 configured system using link aggregation are 181MB/s for reading, and 106MB/s for writing data.
Users will need gigabit switching systems to achieve this though, since the above performance figures equate to throughputs of 1.4Gbit/s and 0.8Gbit/s, not achievable with 100Mbit/s switching infrastructure.
A good, if pricey, NAS system made better by Synology’s Disk Station Management software, which allows users to set up the DS712+ in a variety of useful ways, for example file server or mail server, or straight NAS system.
Being able to boost network performance to 2Gbit/s through link aggregating two gigabit Ethernet will give a performance improvement.
Users will have to supply their own hard drives though, which adds extra cost.
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