Synology DS212j review (part 1)
Synology provided me the opportunity to test a NAS device: the DS212j. In the next couple of weeks, I will write a review of this device split over a number of blog posts. It will be a rather untraditional NAS review, because I will also spend time looking at its features for running .NET and PHP code, how easily it can run developer tools and finally I will have a look at the SDK.
- The Synology DS212j (this article)
- Setting up a Development environment on the NAS
- Running custom .NET/PHP/… code
- A look at the DSM4.1 SDK
What’s inside the box
When you open the box you will find the DS212j unit itself, a power adapter, an UTP cable and some screws that can be used for installing the hard disks. In the box you will also find a CD-ROM containing the necessary software and a small printed manual explaining how to install the hard disks. If you have some experience with computer hardware, the installation of the hard drives is quite self-evident. I opted to plug in an older Western Digital hard disk I had lying around.
The NAS contains a Marvell Kirkwood ARM CPU running at 1.2Ghz combined with 256MB ram. When powered on, the DS212j works almost silently. The only noise sometimes hearable is that of the hard disk. Synology also claims that the DS212j consumes less than 18W when accessing the hard disks and around 5.5W when the hard disks are in hibernation. I unfortunately do not have the necessary electrical tools to verify this claim.
The DiskStationManager Operating System
In order to use the NAS device, I had to use the Synology Assistant software package. This tool automatically detected the DS212j on my internal network and allowed me to install the DSM (DiskStationManager) operating system. I downloaded the latest stable version available at the moment of writing (DSM 4.1-2668) and I will use this version during the rest of my review.
After the installation of the DSM operating system, all the further configuration can be done using a web based interface. I was quite impressed by this interface. It basically offers a complete multi window environment made possible by HTML5. In the past, I was used to have simple HTML pages available to configure a network device from my browser. The DSM OS offers a VNC like experience without requiring any browser plugins to be installed.
The DSM OS is built on top of the Linux kernel and other open source software such as for example Apache and Samba, but users do not need to know how to configure these software packages directly. DSM provides a control panel that allows changing settings like network shares, user management, regional options, USB devices, printer sharing … all with a user friendly GUI.
The main functionality of a NAS is of course file sharing. The DS212j fulfills this role perfectly and supports Windows, Mac and Linux network sharing protocols. The DS212j can also be integrated in a Windows Active Domain. This is of course a feature mainly interesting for companies. Besides the basic network sharing protocols, FTP can also be activated on the device.
USB printers can be shared with the desktops on your internal network. Optionally, the DS212j can also make your printers AirPrint and Google Cloud Print compliant. This allows printing from your mobile phones or tablets.
Multimedia files can be shared with devices either supporting AirPlay or DNLA. So in theory with basically every modern device. And as previously mentioned, interoperability with your smartphone is supported if you install the necessary apps.
We currently live in an age of “apps” and the DSM OS is no exception, using the package manager a user can easily install additional official and 3rd party software packages. The official software packages are quite impressive. They all hook into the web based GUI. For example the Video Station and the Audio Station apps work completely web based and allow to play video and music files respectively on the NAS straight from the browser. More business oriented applications are also available such as a virus scan, a DHCP server, a DNS server, a LDAP Directory server …
Besides the DSM OS Apps, Synology also provides a number of apps for mobile devices. These allow to access certain functionalities of the NAS. I was quite surprised to discover that a number of these apps were also available on Windows Phone; a platform neglected by a lot of vendors. The DS Audio, DS Photo and DS Video apps allow to respectively stream audio, photo and video files from the NAS to your mobile phone. The apps are OK, although I personally prefer to have my files locally on the device. The apps only work if the mobile phone is in the same Wi-Fi network as the NAS and they require the user to enter the IP address of the NAS manually. They unfortunately do not contain an auto discover feature.
When you look for a NAS, I definitely recommend the DS212j. It is a great device and thanks to its DiskStationManager operating system it is very extendible and pleasant to use. It supports a ton of features. Making it a great corner stone for a small network. The only showstopper might be that you must be able to buy the correct hard disks and install them yourself. There is no version available with the hard disks pre-installed.
|Almost silent operation||Hard disks must be installed manually|
|Low power consumption|
|User friendly interface|
In the next parts of the review, I will investigate if the DS212j can also be recommended for setting up a small development environment. How easily custom .NET and Python code can run on the device and how to develop apps interoperating with the DiskStationManager OS.