Synology NAS Storage Review

NAS Synology

There are so many storage options for small and medium-sized enterprises today. You could buy a couple of 2TB disks cheap and mirror them, you could buy a small external storage unit that connects to the server via USB, you could buy a nice (but low-end) hardware NAS/SAN, and more. In my case, I don’t have time to test them all and I only need something that will do 2 things:

  1. provide a NFS NAS and iSCSI SAN for my vSphere and Hyper-V virtual machines
  2. provide a reliable place to store my files

Now, I have played with some array features (like hosting my iTunes music and movies) but that isn’t my primary need (it’s just “nice to have”).

For more than 2 years I have been using the Iomega IX4-200D and it has served me well. I have about 2.7 TB usable space, I use NFS, iSCSI, and SMB on it. However, recently through Kendrick Coleman (his blog is KendrickColeman.com), I was introduced to Synology. He said that he really liked all that it could do. I wasn’t planning on getting one until a friend had one that he needed to sell. It was an opportunity to buy a slightly used Synology DS211+ for a very reasonable price. I figured, if nothing else, it would make a great place just to copy current storage files to in case there was a small disaster and all my Iomega files were lost.

Synology Storage Array LineupSynology offers a large variety of disk arrays, all the way from large business NAS solutions down to personal and small office solutions. Sure, you can pick up SMB disk solutions from just about anyone but most of them come from companies that do other things like networking and they start as USB flash keys and go up. Synology just does smart arrays and they do them very well. To me, what makes their units different is actually the software that is inside.

I actually have the DS211+ (the DS212 is shown in the picture and it just has a few internal very minor differences). This is a 2 disk unit and you can insert your own disks (bring your own disks / BYOD). It offers SMB Windows file sharing, Apple File sharing, NFS, iSCSI (and a few others).

I am using RAID 1 with qty 2 x 2TB disks to give me about 1.8TB of usable space. I have enabled Windows file sharing and iSCSI so far. Besides that, I have tried out a number of the really cool apps included with the NAS (discussed more below). Overall, I like the box. It is small, quiet, and it just seems to work. I do wish that my model had an LCD status display, but then I didn’t spend much of anything to buy it so perhaps that is something I would spring for when I upgrade in the future.

Besides the smaller units like mine, Synology offers large NAS/SAN arrays and they offer you free demo access to one of the web-based consoles for those larger arrays on their website at Synology Live Demo. I think that is actually really cool that they do that as anyone can get familiar with their very nice interface before making a buying decision. I have bought way too many products that look “cool” and well-designed on the outside, only to find out that the management interface was junk when I got them home.

As you can see, the Synology “DSM” (aka DiskStation Manager) can be quite beautiful.

Synology Management Interface

I also like how you can make the management interface look like your workstation’s desktop, adding and removing icons to it however you wish. I also think that it is user-friendly, I like how it starts with a “wizard” that will guide you through initial setup, and I LOVE that you can add other applications to the Synology unit (more info on that below).

Here’s what the very user-friendly control panel looks like (this also gives you an idea of all that it can do).

Synology Control Panel

Being the “VMware guy” for TrainSignal, one of the first things that I wanted to do with my Synology was to connect it to my vSphere (and even my Hyper-V server). I was able to do this with iSCSI (also could have used NFS) without any trouble. I created a couple of iSCSI LUNs (one for vSphere and one for Hyper-V) and then connected to them on their respective OS. Here’s what it looked like:

Using Synology

Using Synology

Using Synology

Amazing Applications Packed into Synology

Being an iPhone user, I really love “my apps” and the Synology DSM allows me to add “apps” to the NAS as well — what a concept. The applications are found in the “package center”. I can make my Synology into an email server, a VPN server, iTunes server, and even crazy things like a WordPress server!

Synology Package Center

Whoever heard of a storage array where you can do iSCSI, email, VPN, web hosting, FTP, backup and recovery, media services, photo sharing, LDAP directory services, HiDrive cloud backup, and even administer your PHP installs using PHPadmin (installed as a package on the array). Gee, it’s just so darn flexible!

In summary, I get no commission for saying any of this but, having tested a few different options for home labs storage, I think that Synology would make a great SMB storage unit. In my case (and maybe your case too) the Synology product would make a great home lab unit because it can do so many things in one little package. I like that you can install your own disks (so you know they aren’t over charging you for those and so you can select whatever sizes you want). For more information, checkout www.Synology.com.

Interested in hearing about more hardware for training and lab building? Post your comments here!

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