Review: Synology DiskStation DS411; more than just NAS

Setup

After plugging in the power and connecting the device to the network (note: DHCP required for the initial install), you have to install software from the included CD onto your workstation. The tool, called the Synology Assistant, is a program that scans your network and finds all Synology devices that you have. The only other real feature of this tool is the ability to “Connect” to your device, which simply launches a browser and plugs in the IP address and port number of the DS411.

The Synology Assistant

After logging into the subsequent webpage, you’re presented with a desktop with four icons – File Browser, Control Panel, DSM Help, and Quick Start. There’s a search bar in the upper right hand corner, and a down arrow in the upper right hand corner. This down arrow contains some of the advanced, but lesser used features like the initial setup of volumes, performance data, and the ability to install packages. The File Browser is used to view the file system that have been created and copy data to/from your PC. The Quick Start and Help contain useful information to learn about the DS411. The heart of the interface is the Control Panel, as this is where you not only setup user access and configure shared folders, but you also are able to manage what services you want your Synology DS411 to run.

The Synology DS411 Control Panel

The first thing you’ll want to do is to create one or more volumes to share on your network. From the Storage Manager tool, click the “create” button and follow an easy to use wizard. The process asks you to select the disks to use in the volume, what type of data protection you want (RAID-1, RAID-5, etc), and whether you want to check the drives for bad blocks. The process can take quite awhile (hours for a four disk, RAID-5 configuration if you check for bad blocks), but it's a one-time process.

Screenshot of the the desktop and setting up a new volume

Once the volume is created, you create folders to be shared on your network. You can make whatever folders you want, but for most people the first step will probably be to go to the “Media Server” option in the control panel and turn on DLNA/UPnP to allow streaming of music, videos, and photos across your network. Doing this will automatically create three volumes for you: music, photo, and video. After creating the volume and copying some MP3s into the music folder I was immediately able to listen to the tunes on both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. The Media Server even has a handy option to automatically transcode FLAC/APE, AAC, OGG, and AIFF files if your receiving host can’t play them natively. Along the same lines, the DS411 also gives users the ability to play music from the server via iTunes.

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