Review

Review: Synology DiskStation DS411; more than just NAS

Introduction

As digital media becomes mainstream, the ability to access this data from anywhere is becoming more critical and is something that users are constantly demanding. While there are many companies that offer cloud-based storage, the solution requires a constant connection to the Internet and streaming music and photos from the Internet to your personal PC can be a slow proposition. Even worse, nobody wants to be without their data if their ISP suffers an outage.

Because of this, more and more people have either home servers (such as Microsoft's Windows Home Server product), or simple network-attached storage (NAS) devices as the central hub in their home. This gives households the ability to stream photos and music to laptops, tablets, and gaming devices at speeds that are much faster than their ISP connection.

One of these NAS-based solutions is the Synology DiskStation DS411. The device bills itself as an, “affordable and full-featured network attached storage solution, specifically designed for small business and workgroup users who need to share and protect data cost-effectively, while increasing productivity with comprehensive office applications.” Although the DS411 does offer great storage capabilities, its range of features is actually much greater, including a built-in web server, MySQL database, IP camera control station, music streaming, backup service, and more.

When taking the server out of the box, you realize how small the device is. Its dimensions, in millimeters, are 184(H) x 168(W) x 230(D), which translates in inches to roughly 7 x 6.5 x 9. What this means is that the box can be tucked away in the corner and completely out of sight. It has two fans in the back that are extremely quiet and the only time you hear the device is when it's first powering up or when the drives are spinning up after inactivity. During our review, the DS411 was sitting only two feet from our desk and we never heard it.

The back of the NAS server is very unassuming, having only a specialized power connector, a single Ethernet port, two USB ports, and an eSATA port. The front of the box has a power light (blue), a status light (green is good), a light that blinks with LAN activity, and a light that represents each of the up to four hard drives that the device supports. The device is headless and in fact has no video output at all. While some may be turned off by this, it's a common trend in the “server as an appliance” space and there are several Windows Home Server offerings that operate the same way.

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21 Comments

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Does the HP ProLiant Micro Server need a monitor for conifguration? That's what puts me off building a NAS. I want something that can sit in the corner and be used/configured/updated from any laptop/desktop on the network.

kraized said,
Does the HP ProLiant Micro Server need a monitor for conifguration? That's what puts me off building a NAS. I want something that can sit in the corner and be used/configured/updated from any laptop/desktop on the network.

I've also been reading that the RAID controller on the HP ProLiant Micro Server is extremely limited (no RAID 5 or 6 support) which would be a lot better if all four bays are populated surely?

a couple years ago, before i bought my Synology DS409, i was pricing/specing out a self-built NAS and installing something like FreeNAS. in the end, i would not have saved any money building my own (at that time) and it would have taken a lot longer to build and setup. then there's the noise from the fans, the added heat and add'l power consumption of a self-built NAS. on top of all that, FreeNAS seemed pretty clunky and unorganized.

so, i paid about $50 more for my DS409 over building my own. the DiskStation software is amazing. it's super easy to use, stable and fast to setup. like the reviewer said, i havent even scratched the surface of all the available features.

Personally I think you would have to be mad to spend so much on the Synology Ds411, you would be better buying something like the HP ProLiant Micro Server which has been £129 after a rebate for the last 9 months.

Synology Ds411 4 Bay Nas Enclosure: £347 with no hard drive - http://www.ebuyer.com/280024-s...1-4-bay-nas-enclosure-ds411

HP ProLiant Micro Server £129 (after a £100 rebate and comes with a 250gig drive) - http://www.ebuyer.com/253305-h...ver-100-cashback-633724-421

Thats a £218 saving you could use to buy some nice 2 or 3 TB drives.

I'm sure most people here are capable of installing an OS on a computer, so could save £218 and have the freedom to run any OS they wanted on there Nas, along with any additional software. FreeNAS is free and Windows Home Server 2011 around £40.

The Synology Ds411 is probably good for people who don't have a clue and dont want to spend any time setting a NAS up, however in my opinion you would still be far better building your own NAS with something like the HP ProLiant Micro Server.

InsaneNutter said,
FreeNAS is free and Windows Home Server 2011 around £40.

The Synology software is lightyears ahead of FreeNAS. When I built my first home server a few years ago, I installed FreeNAS. The base install was fine, but the configuration after the fact was painful. It took me quite awhile to get the streaming to the Xbox 360 working properly, and even then it would frequently crash, forcing me to go back to the FreeNAS server and re-start the streaming software. It was a pain in the butt, and I was disappointed. I instead used WHS and while that streams perfectly to the 360, it doesn't stream automatically to the PS3. (and I haven't spent any time trying to make that work because I don't really need that functionality). With the Synology, a click of the mouse button and I was streaming to everything in the house and it worked fine during the entire review period. So if you're on a strict budget, sure - you can use FreeNAS or something to do similar things to Synology (although you can't really manage security cameras, have a webserver, and the like, but most people probably don't need that). But if you want a "fire and forget," and something that works VERY well, then Synology devices fit the bill and do a great job.

Having built my own PC's to use as a server at home and also having the DS409+ I can definately recommend Synology, it's just so easy and comfortable and the software is just fantastic.

Looks nice, but still fairly expensive for my liking. I could do with a dedicated NAS box but I haven't found one yet that is small, quiet and cheap.

I still don't know why they don't shove two ethernet ports on these boxes for redundancy.

I have the DS209+II and the DS1511+ and am very impressed by these boxes. Setting them up is a breeze. One thing I don't like about Synology is its warranty not being international. Yes I have 3 years for my DS1511+ and two years DS209+II, but it's limited to the country of purchase. For their price, Synology should implement international warranty, irrespecive of country of purchase.

I also have Synology NAS devices... for over 18 months now, and they're still powerful, reliable, insanely quiet, and amazingly low-power. Heck, I've even updated the firmware and software options at my own leisure without a single hiccup!

My favorite aspect is how it recovers from power failures -- it automatically checks all sectors on the discs (takes a while with 2x2TB drives in RAID config) then the lights go green when all is good. This happened to me during our move (obviously) but never got a bad HDD sector or inability to access files. A true champ!

I have the slightly larger DS1511+ (5 bay NAS) and I've been very impressed with it over the last 4 months I've owned it. The Synology software is very stable and works brilliantly. The throughput is particularly impressive too

majortom1981 said,
The problem with devices like this is at that price you can build a computer that does the same thing. Possibly cheaper.

Not when you factor in things like Operating System and running costs for something with the same configuration. Over a year, the cost would be higher on a PC than a NAS such as this.

majortom1981 said,
The problem with devices like this is at that price you can build a computer that does the same thing. Possibly cheaper.

While that is true, the guys over at synology have gone a great job in making it very easy to use and maintain in a very small package that is not only a lot quiter then a desktop pc, but also consumes much less power.

However, as you have said, you can build a cheaper PC or indeed use an older machine.
With a Windows Home Server license being as low as £40 for 10 client machines you could have a very powerful home server for the price of a few extra harddisks for storage.
Of course that all depends on how comfortable you are with building, configuring and maintaining your own custom built server.

After looking around at building my own and some of these network attached storage boxes, I've come to the concolusion its best to go with something like the HP Microserver.
Its currently £230 with £100 cash rebate (via ebuyer) so that works out at £130 for a server that is a little bigger then the DS411.
With space for 4 sata hotplug harddives drives (behind the front door) and can be upgraded to 8GB RAM, and has a has a 1.3ghz CPU that supports virtualised mode so you can use VMware ESXi. Its slient too, just like the DS411.

Most people who own a hp microserver tend to drop 8GB ram and populate the 4 drives with 1TB drives and make use of ESXi to install WHS and Linux at the same time as well as what ever else they want it to do.
Its a nice box for £130 after rebate, with the +8GB ram and 4TB of drive space bringing it still under the £340 price for a DS411. I know what I'd chose.

Edited by sagum, Sep 13 2011, 1:05am :

majortom1981 said,
The problem with devices like this is at that price you can build a computer that does the same thing. Possibly cheaper.

Yeah, you definitely can. What you're paying for here is simplicity. You don't have to update SSH, Apache, PHP, etc to avoid vulnerabilities - just click a button to update. In addition you don't have to manually configure anything -- it's all done with the click of a button. Can I manage these things myself? Sure, I'm a UNIX admin. Do I want to do that all day and then manage my home servers? Not really. Plus, the ability to manage things from your phone and/or tablet is pretty sweet too.

CrimsonBetrayal said,

Not when you factor in things like Operating System and running costs for something with the same configuration. Over a year, the cost would be higher on a PC than a NAS such as this.


Freenas is free though

majortom1981 said,
The problem with devices like this is at that price you can build a computer that does the same thing. Possibly cheaper.
is that really a problem? I like my **** to just work when i'm at home thanks... people pay me to find solutions to their computer related problems... i'd rather not do it when i get home also