I've written about Synology products before, but unless you own one or are in the market for such a device, I'm betting you might not know what they do.
Synology is a company that makes several different products, but primarily it makes a line of network-attached storage boxes. I really like Synology NAS boxes and I use one at home, so occasionally Synology will send me a review unit when it releases a new model.
For the last few weeks, I've been testing the Synology DiskStation DS1618+ ($799.99, amazon.com), and while it might be a bit big for home use, serious computer users and small- and medium-size businesses should take notice.
The price above is without drives. Just so you know, filling it with six 12-terabyte drives will cost another $3,000. But the beauty of the Synology box is you can put in just a few drives of any size and replace them with bigger drives when your needs change.
What's a NAS?
Network attached storage is simply hard drive space that is not attached directly to any specific computer. Instead, the storage is connected via ethernet to your home network so it can be used by any computer or device on your network.
A NAS might be just a box with one hard drive, but most have more than one drive to let users combine smaller hard drives into larger storage volumes.
The Synology DiskStation DS1618+ has six drive bays. If you put a 12-terabyte drive in each bay, you'll be looking at 72 terabytes of raw space, although when you set up the drives to combine the storage (called creating a RAID), you'll lose some space that the system uses to keep track of the files and, depending on how you set up the RAID, there might be some redundancy (more than one copy of the data as a safeguard).
My review NAS shipped with four 4-terabyte drives, which gives the user 12 terabytes of usable space and 4 terabytes used for data protection.
You'll want to know that in the Synology world, the DS in the NAS model names stands for disk station.
Those NAS boxes are actually servers, run by the Synology operating system, which is called the disk station manager.
Once NAS is connected to your network, you set up and control it through a web browser on your computer. Inside that browser, you'll notice that disk station manager looks familiar, like most other computer operating systems.
You can see the drives and the storage volumes you've set up, but file storage is only one reason to use Synology.
Disk station manager also has a few dozen apps you can load to do everything from setting up your own personal cloud storage, web server or mail server to setting up a Plex media server to store and play your videos and music.
The disk station also excels at using its storage to back up devices on your network.
The DiskStation DS1618+ runs on a 64-bit Intel Atom C3538 (quad core) CPU with four gigabytes of RAM (expandable to 32 gigabytes).
It has six drive bays, but it can also connect up to 10 more drives through two drive expansion boxes.
If you fill all 16 bays with 12-terabyte drives, you'll have 192 terabytes of raw storage, although individual volumes max out at 108 terabytes.
The drives are hot-swappable, which means that if a drive fails, you can pull it out and replace it with the same size drive without losing any data.
The DiskStation DS1618+ has 4-gigabit ethernet ports, and their bandwidth can be combined to speed up file transfers to and from the NAS. The box also has three USB 3.0 ports and 2 eSATA ports.
The DiskStation 1618+ has a PCIe expansion slot that can hold dual M.2 solid state drives that can boost maximum throughput.
The slot can also hold two 10-gigabit ethernet ports that can really speed up data transfer.
The box is 6.5 by 11.1 by 9.5 inches, and it weighs a little over 11 pounds.
I've mentioned previously in my cord-cutting columns that I use a Plex server to store and play my movies and saved TV shows. It also lets me record my over-the-air shows I receive through my antenna.
The DS1618+ is a great choice to run Plex.
I also use Synology to back up Macbook Pros in my house wirelessly using Apple's Time Machine software.
I haven't tried it (it's on my list), but Synology has an app called Surveillance Station that can connect and record security cameras around your home or business.
I've only scratched the surface of what you can do with a Synology box.
If the idea of running your own server with tons of storage appeals to you, give Synology a look. You may want to look at a smaller unit; they start as small as one drive bay and top out at 24 bays.
The Disk Station Manager is the same for all the Synology boxes, and it is very easy to learn and use.
Pros: Easy to set up and use. Apps really expand the usability beyond file storage.
Cons: Things can get expensive when you start needing bigger drives.
Bottom line: Synology is a quite easy-to-use NAS solution that can grow with you.
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Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at email@example.com.
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