A recent entrant into the increasingly crowded dual-drive NAS market, Synology’s DiskStation DS710+ is expensive compared to the competition. However, with its Gigabit Ethernet interface and Intel Atom processor it’s a lot faster than most, can be expanded beyond just two disks and runs the latest version of Synology’s Disk Station Manager (DSM), which leads the field in terms of features and functionality.
As with earlier dual-drive Synology products, the DS710+ is housed in a compact and smart desktop case with power supplied by an external AC adapter. Unlike its predecessors, however, you don’t need to take the casing apart to install the disks. Instead there’s a pair of pop-out plastic carriers round at the back which make fitting a doddle. A screwdriver is needed (to secure the disks), but screws are included in the box and there are holes to take both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch SATA drives.
Network attachment is via a single Gigabit Ethernet port, again located on the back panel with a pair of USB connectors just above. A third USB port is to be found at the front of the unit: plug a USB flash drive into this and press the button above to copy the contents to a pre-defined network share.
The USB ports can also be used to attach external drives, as can a separate eSATA connector which, unlike USB, allows disks to be accessed at full interface speed. Either way, external drives can be used to add extra storage or to take backups using the built in backup application which comes complete with its own scheduler. Backups can also be taken to other Synology appliances as well as rsync compatible backup servers and the Amazon S3 cloud.
Unfortunately, ordinary external disks can’t be incorporated into RAID protected shared volumes, each, instead, being assigned its own individual network share. You can, however, expand and add to the internal storage arrays using a plug-in eSATA expansion unit – the DX510 (£320 + VAT) – which adds an extra five disk bays to bring maximum capacity up to an impressive 14TB (using 2TB drives).
With the basic dual-drive setup you’re limited in terms of RAID to simple disk mirroring. But with the DX510 attached, more ambitious setups are possible, including RAID 5 (with or without hot-sparing) and RAID 6 where two disks can fail without loss of data. In addition the latest DSM 2.3 software implements Synology’s Hybrid RAID technology (SHR) where disks of different sizes can be incorporated into the same array, although capacity on the larger disks will be lost if you take this option. Volumes can also be extended when new or larger hard disks are added, although it’s not automatic and can take time.
Logical volumes can be configured for sharing on mixed Windows, Mac and Linux networks with FTP as an option if wanted. Performance will depend on the disks used and how volumes are configured, more complex RAID processing having a significant impact on throughput. That said, we were impressed with what the DS710+ managed to achieve in our tests, touching raw read levels of over 100MB/sec. That, though, was with the appliance configured as an iSCSI target, another key feature in DSM 2.3. Ordinary file sharing was slower, topping out at around 90MB/sec, but still a lot quicker than on other NAS appliances we’ve tried.
Management proved easy, thanks to a fast and intuitive AJAX-based browser interface with lots of wizards to help out when it came to configuring and managing storage. In addition you get a whole bundle of ancillary applications, including a Web server complete with PHP support and a MySQL database, enabling us to load up and run a WordPress blog-site on the Synology box.
USB printer sharing is another nice feature, as is the built-in iTunes server, plus you can record video from up to 16 IP cameras to create a DIY surveillance network (additional licence pack required). A basic, yet usable, SMTP mail server is yet another option in the latest DSM 2.3 implementation and, because it’s Linux based, the software can be further extended and customised if needed.
The only real issue is cost. Supplied diskless, the Synology DS710+ is around twice the price of some other dual-drive NAS appliances. Such as Netgear’s ReadyNAS Duo, for example, which can be had from £125 + VAT, and Buffalo’s LinkStation Duo (£135 + VAT). However, it beats both hands down in terms of functionality and speed, and for buyers looking for more than a basic dual-drive NAS appliance the extra money is well worth it.