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Due to a few new storage devices coming into the lab for testing recently, we have decided to finally publish our review of Synology’s DiskStation DS211j. Just to be clear before we begin, this unit was not provided by Synology but was purchased through retail for personal use. The choice to use a NAS device over a dedicated server was a tough one, but after seeing a demo of the DSM (DiskStation Manager) software we felt that this NAS device could provide the features that we needed without needing to use a full computer with a server OS. Of course, the speed of a NAS device will never match that of a home server, but for most tasks like streaming audio and video or basic file storage they are a good choice.

The DS211j is a two bay NAS that supports either 2.5″ or 3.5″ hard drives, but most users will opt for the standard 3.5″ drives for the extra capacity. The device is very small at 161mm(H) X 88mm(W) X 218 mm(D) and resembles a regular external hard drive enclosure. Under the hood, the DS211j has a 1.2GHz CPU, 128MB ram and can support up to 6TB of storage. The NAS we purchased did not come with any drives pre-installed, so we purchased two 500GB hard drives to start out. Even after picking up the hard drives, we still spent far less than a full server would have cost. The DS211j without drives will run about $199.99. Let’s check out the specs in greater detail.


Specifications (from manufacturer)

Budget-friendly 2-bay NAS Server for Small Office and Home Use

Synology DiskStation DS211j is designed to provide a cost-effective file storage and backup solution with RAID protection for your home environments. The operating system, Synology DiskStation Manager, delivers rich features for multimedia enjoyments, worry-free backup, Internet sharing, and energy-saving options.

  • 24/7 PC-Less Download Server
  • DLNA Certified Media Server
  • 3.5” and 2.5” HDD Support
  • Secure RAID Data Protection
  • Cool and Quiet

Your Own Entertainment Center

Download Station functions as a 24×7 BitTorrent, FTP, HTTP, eMule, and NZB download center without a PC. The eMule download engine allows search-n-download capability with a web-browser without installing additional desktop applications.
Audio Station supports music, Internet radio stations, and iPod playback with the optional speakers. An optional direction-free Synology Remote allows you to freely enjoy your music. Streaming mode allows your music to be shared with multiple users over the Intranet or Internet.
DLNA/UPnP Compliant Media Sever allows you to stream multimedia files with an UPnP Digital Media Adapter (DMA) to a stereo system or a TV-set. Sony PS3 and Microsoft Xbox360 are also supported.
iTunes® Server is an easy way to share music with other iTunes clients over the network. Password protection prevents unauthorized sharing.

Back Up Your Precious Data

DiskStation Manager offers comprehensive solutions for you to back up data stored on DiskStation or your desktop computer to the DiskStation.
Server backup includes two alternatives: Network Backup and Local Backup. Both allow you to back up data in the shared folders and databases. Incremental backup option and flexible schedules are available. All can be easily configured with a step-by-step wizard.
Desktop backup provides your Windows PC with Synology Data Replicator for backing up desktop data, Outlook, and Outlook Express emails to your DiskStation by choosing one of the three backup modes: Immediate, Sync, and Scheduled backup, while Mac OS X users can use Apple Time Machine backup application to back up their critical data to DiskStation.
USBCopy allows you to quickly back up your data from an USB storage device such as an USB flash or USB card reader to your DiskStation with just one single touch on the front-panel copy button.

Enrich Your Web Presence

Photo Station simplifies photo, video, and blog sharing over the Internet. The flexibility of photo theme customization, blog layout arrangement, visitor’s privilege setting, RSS feed, and the dazzling 3-dimentional photo browsing with Cooliris make Photo Station your state-of-the-art lifestyle sharing center on the Internet.
Web Station with built-in PHP+MySQL allows you to publish your own websites or install numerous popular open source programs.

Access With Your Mobile Device

The iPhone and Android App, DS audio, allows you to stream music stored on your DiskStation with your mobile devices where Internet access is available, while DS photo+ allows browsing and uploading photos and videos stored on DiskStation from your mobile devices.
If you own a mobile device running on Windows Mobile® 6.0, iPhone OS 2.2.1 onward, or Symbian OS 9.1, you can log on your DiskStation to view photos with Mobile Photo Station and read supported file formats with Mobile File Station wherever Internet access is available.

Eco Friendly

Synology DiskStation is designed and developed perpetually with the concept of energy saving. Compared with its average PC counterparts, Synology DiskStation consumes a relatively low amount of power and hibernates when not in use. This not only helps to save energy but also extends the lifespan of the hard disk.
Synology DiskStation truly earns the title of “green product” because of the unique Scheduled Power On/Off feature, and the smart fan design effectively cools down the system with minimum power consumption, yet keeps the system quiet on operation.
Finally, all Synology products are produced with RoHS compliant parts and packed with recyclable packing materials. Synology recognizes its responsibility as a global citizen and is continually working to reduce the environmental impact of the products we create.

 

Hardware

  • CPU Frequency : 1.2GHz
  • Hardware Encrypted Engine
  • Memory : DDR2 128MB
  • Internal HDD/SSD : 3.5″ or 2.5″ SATA(II) X2 (with 2.5″ Disk Holder) (Hard drive not included)
  • Max Internal Capacity : 6TB (2X 3TB HDD) (Capacity may vary by RAID types) (See All Supported HDD)
  • External HDD Interface : USB 2.0 Port X 3
  • Size (HxWxD) : 161 X 88 X 218 mm
  • Weight : 0.98Kg
  • LAN : Gigabit X1
  • System Fan : 70x70mm x1
  • Wireless Support
  • Noise Level : 20.8 dB(A)
  • Power Recovery
  • AC Input Power Voltage : 100V to 240V AC
  • Power Frequency : 50 / 60Hz, Single Phase
  • Power Consumption : 25W (Access) ; 10W (HDD Hibernation)
  • Operating Temperature : 5°C to 35°C (40°F to 95°F)
  • Storage Temperature : -10°C to 70°C (15°F to 155°F)
  • Relative Humidity : 5% to 95% RH
  • Maximum Operating Altitude : 10,000 feet
  • Certification : FCC Class B, CE Class B, BSMI Class B
  • Warranty : 2 Years

 


Accessories and External Design

Inside the box you will find the power cord, AC adapter, Cat 5e network cable, installation CD and instruction booklet.  The exterior on our unit is glossy white with LED’s for Status, Lan, Disk 1 and Disk 2. There is also a very bright blue LED for the power button. I cannot stress this enough because it is bright enough to light up a whole room and may bother some. The front of the DS211j also has a USB port with a button for performing a “quick” copy of USB thumb drive contents to a pre-determined folder on the DiskStation.

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The back of the DS211j has two USB ports, a Gigabit LAN port, power plug, reset button and Kensington lock opening. Here you can see the single 70mm fan that will cool the hard drives. There are two screws on the back of the unit for gaining access to the inside for hard drive installs.

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Interior

The inside of the DS211j is a very simple design. There is a cage for installing up to two hard drives with the included screws and a SATA backplane that the drives connect into. Installation is done by sliding the drives into the connectors and securing them with the screws. The design is very good in that there is a gap between the drives for good airflow.

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Software Installation

We did not use the supplied CD for software installation, but instead downloaded the latest version from the Synology website. There will be nothing installed on the DiskStation when you begin, as the DSM software will format the installed drives and partition them so the software can be installed. We first installed the Synology Assistant to detect the NAS on the network. Once the DS211j was detected, we were notified that no software was installed and pointed the program to the latest DSM software file that we had downloaded to our desktop.

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The install will format the installed drives and delete any data that is on them. The drives will be partitioned so that the OS resides on it’s own. A second data partition will be created automatically. We selected to use the RAID 1 option so that our data has a redundant backup copy.

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Once the software install is complete you will see the following dialog box and will then be able to log into the NAS. Our unit was now showing “ready” as the status, so we hit the connect button and were presented with the default login screen. The default login is “admin” and the password field is left blank. Once configured, this should be changed to prevent unauthorized access to the admin account.

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The image below is the first screen you will see after logging in to the DS211j. The two hard drives we installed are detected and we were prompted to choose a RAID mode. We wanted to set this up for data security, so we selected the “hybrid RAID” mode. Once the mode is selected, the disks must be selected. We used two hard drives from the approved list on the Synology website to make sure they were compatible. The DS211j will warn that all data will be erased from the installed drives.

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During the drive format procedure, we were prompted to perform a disk check to test for bad sectors. We selected “yes”, but this may take quite a while if larger drives are used. I would recommend doing the check if the data to be stored has any value to you.

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After the hard drives passed the disk check, we were asked to confirm the volume settings. Once confirmed, the formatting process began. This process will take some time, especially if drives over 1TB are used. We didn’t time the format, but it took at least 30-40 minutes for our two 500GB Western Digital Caviar Black drives to complete.

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Conclusion

The DiskStation DS211j performed well for all of our basic tasks. We were able to create shared folders that users could access from the network and set permissions to block out what we didn’t want shared. We also tested out the iTunes server to share out our entire music library to network users without them having to have copies of the songs stored on their computers. The iTunes server worked well for one or two users connected at the same time. If more than two users were using it at the same time, the music would freeze or skip briefly until the DS211j could catch up. The hardware for these types of NAS devices will always limit their usefulness when compared to full server computers. We noticed that file access and transfers were very slow, especially when more that one user was trying to do something on the DS211j. The DiskStation is a device that is best for a small number of users in a home network setting. In that type of environment, the DS211j is hard to beat for its ease of use and awesome software.