Network storage has come a long way in recent years, with advanced features now on offer – from even modest devices. Synology’s Diskstation DS212j is another good example, offering some industrial-strength capabilities, in an affordable two-bay enclosure.
With its white all-plastic case, it looks quite stylish, but it needs to be dismantled in order to fit the 3.5-inch SATA hard disks. So, if you’re looking for hot-swap capabilities, look elsewhere. Adapters for 2.5-inch disks, will cost you a few pounds extra.
The case is split into two halves, with two small screws securing it at the back. The rear houses two USB ports, which can be used for a printer or multifunction device sharing. There is also a Gigabit LAN connector, but the lack of e-SATA ports and a front USB port confirm its budget status. Diskstation’s large fan runs quietly, and the whole device consumes about 18W – maximum.
As with most NAS manufacturers, software is shared across the range, so despite its low cost you get the full benefit of the outstanding DSM management console. At the time of writing, the DS212j shipped with firmware version 3.2, but the revamped version 4 is in beta.
The setup and installation is slick, with the Synology Assistant utility taking care of device discovery and launching of the setup wizard. By default, it formats disks using the Synology Hybrid Raid (SHR) system. This allows the use of different sized hard disks, while maintaining single-drive failure protection. It also offers the addition of a disk without losing data on the existing volume. Standard arrays such as RAID 0,1, single-disk volumes or JBOD arrays can be used instead, if desired. The system checks all disks before creating the array, which can take quite a while.
Once the firmware is installed, the DSM interface can be opened, where the Quick Start wizard helps with creating volumes, shares and users, plus giving a quick intro to accessing files and using the bundled applications.
DSM uses a desktop-style, browser-based interface, with intuitive windows and icons making it easy to get things done – without having to wade through menu trees. It’s one of the best NAS interfaces out there, making it easy for even novices to get to grips with the advanced features. There’s always plenty of clear help on hand, too.
Like many NAS devices, a modular system of add-on applications is used. The pre-installed ones include a DLNA Media Server, Photo Station, Audio Station (which can play web radio), Surveillance Station, iTunes server and Web Station. Other packages, including a WordPress blog, are easily installed via the Package Center. Most of these apps are well-designed and easy to use, again with plenty of help for novices. There is also an EZ-Internet wizard that simplifies the process of setting up remote access, using a dynamic DNS provider.
With two 250GB Hitachi CinemaStar disks installed in a Synology Hybrid RAID configuration, we ran Passmark’s Disk Test on a mapped volume. The overall Disk Mark was not brilliant at 463.7, and a lot lower than the same disks in the QNAP TS-219P II, mainly due to a poor random read/write score of 13.8MB/s. Sequential reads came in at 75MB/s and sequential writes at 39.4, not far off the QNAP’s scores.
Although hardly dirt-cheap, it offers acceptable performance and as much, if not more, functionality than some more expensive rivals. Whether this is an acceptable trade-off will depend very much on your needs, but if you want a quiet, easy-to-use system with excellent applications, look no further.
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- Supports mixed-size disks; excellent easy-to-use interface; well-designed applications.
- Disks not hot-swappable; no e-SATA ports; plastic case feels a bit flimsy.
One of the best consumer two-bay NAS enclosures out there – the DS212j has a wonderful range of features for the price, even though it has a modest hardware specification.