Hands On: Synology RS214 rack mount NAS Server
2 December 2013 | 0
The thing about smaller businesses is that despite enterprise level products and services becoming available to them, they still need every bit of kit to do more than just one job, and several if possible.
That is exactly what they get in the Synology RS214 NAS server. A 1u, twin bay rack mount device, the black box has better aesthetics than many such devices as it shares much with its consumer oriented stable mates at Synology. One of the shared features is the RS214’s management with the unified suite Disk Station Manager (DSM).
Although there are versions for home and business use, there is a uniformity to the interface that means if you are familiar with one, the other will be readily accessible, but also the business version benefits from the same level of ease of use and accessibility as consumer version. For the small businesses audience that is a good thing.
DSM 4.3 boasts full compatibility with both Active Directory and LDAP, ensuring that it is easily integrated into most existing infrastructures. It also has accessibility for Windows, Mac OS and Linux, but also multiple mobile platforms too via mobile apps, again ensuring the widest possible usage for smaller businesses. When combined with its VPN capability, handling up to five concurrent connections out of the box, the RS214 in its basic file sharing mode, can become an effective private cloud. But it does not stop there.
There are various modules both within the DSM4.3 suite and that can be added to it that allow the RS214 to become a print server, a mail server, a web server, a VPN hub and even a surveillance station as it can host up to eight IP cameras (on the free subscription).
The RS214 does not ship with drives, and for testing was fitted with a pair of 2TB Western Digital WD20EFRX drives. The test set up was basic in that the two drives were combined to give maximum space, but various RAID options are available to give redundancy, performance, resilience or almost any combination of these. This is particularly important for the RS214’s most likely uses, as a back-up centre, at which it performs particularly well. With throughputs of almost 70Mb per second for Windows file uploads, it can act as a back-up for an entire small business.
This level of performance is made possible by a 1.2 Ghz single core processor, supported by half a gigabyte of DDR3 RAM. There is both Gigabit Ethernet (x2) and wireless support (via dongle). USB 3.0 is supported on the back of the device with USB 2 ports on the front, which is a bit of a missed trick. The drive bays are hot swappable and accommodate either 2.5” or 3.5” drives for up to SATA III.
And this might be the only gripe, though a minor one. With such a wide level of capabilities, which are such a boon to small businesses, is two drive bays enough? Well, with a maximum of 8TB per drive supported, arguably not. But the benefit is that if 16TB combined is insufficient, the next one up with four drives, the RS812, can be slotted in the same space and provides even more capability, but again, through the familiar and easy to use management suite. So this is not a criticism per se, but rather tailoring to the space and budgets of smaller organisations.
Set up is easy and minimal downloading of updates sees you with the basic configuration screen for the various modules. Everything is wizard driven and the test unit was accessible via an Android 4 device in minutes.
The same ease of use applies across the mobile app, and the features combine very effectively to give Dropbox type capabilities without the security worries.
Power consumption is very low, and even the cooling fan is relatively quiet, bearing in mind that this is a rack-mounted device. The RS214 consumes 25.8W during active access, dropping to 13.6W in hibernation.
Overall, the RS214 appears to benefit from being developed alongside consumer devices. It is a very competent business device that is also attractive, easy to use and of high quality. Often in this segment business devices can have a bit of a rough and ready feel to them whereas the RS214 has the feel of a consumer device, while retaining the efficiency of a business machine. As a starter device for small or home office, its shared elements with other devices in the line mean that it can be easily built upon when it is outgrown.