With home networks now commonplace, it’s not just businesses who require some form of network attached storage (NAS). And with most NAS devices offering far more than simple data storage, such as BitTorrent downloads and scheduled backups, they’re becoming ever more popular.
With a small and stylish design, the DS409slim from Synology makes a good first impression and measures just 142mm long, 120mm tall and 105mm wide.
The front is home to a series of status LEDs and a single USB port. Power and Copy buttons sit on the left side; press the latter when a USB memory stick is attached and the contents will be immediately copied to the NAS. The rear is home to the drive bays, Gigabit LAN, eSATA and a further USB port.
The DS409slim differs from most NAS devices in that it uses 2.5-inch drives, such as are usually used in laptops. Not only are these drives quieter than their 3.5-inch counterparts, but they also run cooler and therefore don’t require noisy fans. The DS409slim does actually house a fan, but it’s extremely quiet and you’ll only hear it when up close. Synology quotes a noise level of 24dB, and the fan will only spin up when required.
It’s supplied without any drives as standard, but with four separate drive bays the DS409slim can handle up to 2TB of network storage. Installing the drives is a snip: simply pull out a caddy from the rear, slip in a drive, use the supplied screws to secure it and whack it back in. Once the drives are installed, the web-based interface lets you choose what type of RAID array you want; RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and 5+1 are all supported, along with JBOD.
The vast majority of 2.5-inch drives are supported, but it’s best to check the official list before purchasing.
Synology has done a great job with the interface. All too often NAS devices are let down by confusing, poorly-designed and downright ugly web-based interfaces, but the DS409slim’s AJAX-based menus are a refreshing change. Wizards are on hand to help users through the most common tasks, such as creating RAID arrays and setting up user accounts, while everything from disk space through to operating temperature can be monitored.
NAS devices are historically all about backup, and thanks to its Data Replicator 3 application the DS409slim is able to perform regular, unattended backups of any Windows PCs you have. Secure remote data access is also provided by both FTP and HTTPS. Thanks to built-in PHP and MySQL support, it’s even capable of hosting up to 30 websites.
A shed-load of media files stored on a NAS device isn’t much good if your media streamer can’t get hold of them, but being UPnP-compatible the DS409slim won’t have any trouble sharing content with streamers such as the NetGear EVA9150 Digital Entertainer Elite. Attach a set of USB speakers to the DS409slim and you’ll even be able to play back music through the device itself.
Powered by a 1.2GHz processor and with 128MB or RAM to play with, the DS409slim doesn’t disappoint when it comes to performance. To test it, we installed three 250GB, 5,400rpm hard drives in a RAID 0 array, making a total of 750GB available. We then set up a wired, Gigabit network and transferred a variety of content to and from the DS409slim.
When transferring small files, write speeds peaked at just under 50MB/s, while larger files saw the overall rate drop to 39MB/s. As always, read speeds were noticeably faster, with an average of 59MB/s recorded when transferring a 500MB file. Of course, if you’re transferring data via a wireless laptop, you won’t get anywhere near these speeds.
BitTorrent fans will be pleased to hear the Download Station feature lets you initiate PC-free torrent downloads, while those with IP cameras will be able to monitor them and store recorded footage via the Surveillance Station. It’s best to check whether your IP camera is supported, but if it’s not listed on the Synology site there’s still a good chance it will work (check out the unofficial compatibility list).
Up to five cameras can be monitored, but individual licences must be purchased for each camera. A single licence is included as standard, with each additional one costing a rather expensive £29.95. Alternatively, you you can purchase a four-camera licence for £99.95.
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