Synology NAS devices ship with their own, praised DiskStation Manager, or DSM. It’s linux based windowed operating system. Unlike some Linux variants, this is a fairly user-friendly system that even a novice user would fairly quickly be able to work in. Once you open the DSM you see a desktop with a few icons, widgets and a taskbar along the top. There is a button in the right hand corner which is equivalent to a Windows Start button, in that it opens up the main menu, and any open programs also have icons showing on the Task Bar.
It is very easy to create an icon for an application on the main screen, by opening up the main menu, and dragging the appropriate program to the screen. A suitable icon is instantly created.
It is notable that if you remove a drive (either drive) the DiskStation Manager is still available, so it must be installed on both drives.
There is a widget on the right-hand side of the desktop, which contains all the relevant NAS system information. This is quite detailed and even includes graphical information about the NAS’s performance.
The first time you open the DiskStation Manager you are met by a Quick Start Wizard which walks you through your initial configuration of the NAS. You can open up the Storage Manager to create single or multiple volumes. You also get the chance to set up various RAID arrays, initially SHR RAID, RAID 1, RAID 0 and JBOD. If you have the expansion units with extra hard drives (the DX213 or DX513) you also have the options of creating RAID 5, 6 and 10 arrays. SHR RAID is a Synology system designed for those who aren’t interested in worrying about how they set up RAID – it automates the process.
The Quick Start Wizard also enables you to share folders on your NAS server, and you can set up access rights to these.
It also helps you enable Windows, MAC or NFS networking. It provides you with the File Station to move files between the NAS server and your workstation.
The Package Manager is where you get the opportunity to install any NAS applications (called packages). It makes the installation process itself very easy. There are many available packages to install including File Station, Download Station, Photo Station, Audio Station and Surveillance Station.
One package that you are particularly encouraged to install is the Cloud Station, and by installing DS Cloud on any smartphones you may have you can sync files between mobile devices. Continuing the Cloud theme, the EZ-Internet Wizard assists you in setting up your internet connection, and firewall, as well as setting up the DDNS service (assuming you don’t have a static IP) to find your NAS server IP whenever it changes.
Some more recent upgrades to the DiskStation Manager have included things like two-step verification, denial of service protection, a task scheduler and network printer support.
Another useful option is QuickConnect which enables client applications to connect to the NAS via the internet easily.
One feature that I liked was that you could set DiskStation Manager up to notify you (via SMS, email, Skype etc) if there have been any errors or status changes, e.g. a power failure, a backup failure, a disk running out of space etc.
There are numerous configuration controls, for example you can adjust the fan’s speed, HDD-hibernation modes, power recovery settings, and even control external USB and eSATA devices.
There is an application portal which enables you to adjust and configure the settings for any application. You also have the option to run any application in a separate browser window, even when not logged into the Disk Manager itself.
If you have another Syslog server you are able to send logs across the internet between the servers, so an IT person can easily monitor the status of their servers, no matter where they are. You can also back data up to another Synology NAS.
DiskStation Manager Station Packages
As you would expect from a web-enabled network system, you have the capability to share folders and files via the internet. File Station is where you actually do this and you can easily drag and drop files between systems.
The Download Station organises the downloading of files from the internet, directly to a designated NAS folder, bypassing any client PCs. It works with many types of downloads (e.g. FTP, BT, HTTP etc). In the case of torrents (BT) you can either search through its default search engine or a specific bit torrent search function.
This enables photo sharing across the internet, tying in closely with social media. It is effectively an online photo album and enables you to share photos and videos via Facebook etc, as well as simply enabling authorised people to view these photos using a browser or mobile device.
This application enables those on your network to work with web-based audio. Any music you have stored on a disk in your NAS can be played on a computer, or even a mobile device (iOS or Android based). Music can be streamed to media rendering and AirPlay devices. Individual users can set up their personal music libraries. As well as organising and playing the music stored on the disks, Internet Radio can also streamed to all the devices in the network.
This station is designed to monitor surveillance cameras over the internet to help you protect whatever you have the cameras aimed at. Depending on your internet speed, you can choose to watch and / or record live video footage as well as playing back previously recorded footage via your web browser or mobile device. You can even set it up to send a notification to you if an important event occurs.
The hardware will actually support up to 20 cameras, and depending on the resolution you use, the application can support up to 49 live-view channels simultaneously (although, as I have said, there may well be some internet bandwidth and speed-related limitations particularly if you are on ADSL).
There are a few video control options too. For example you can adjust pan, tilt and zoom, as well as adjusting your image quality, motion detection and alarms. There is surprisingly intelligent video analysis that can indicate things like missing objects, foreign objects, camera occlusion and loss of focus.
Synology had developed a number of mobile apps (all available for both iOS and Android) that make use of the DFS713+ NAS and which tie in with the Station packages listed above. These include:
This app looks at the status of the DiskStation itself, so you can see how it is operating even when you are out of the office. It will ensure that the IT staff will get any important notifications or messages.
This app lets you set the cloud synchronization of your files. You can pick which (of the potentially huge number of folders stored on the NAS system) you want to make available for synchronization for offline viewing, and indeed which types of files and their maximum size etc.
This enables easy interaction between your mobile device and the NAS (working with the File Station). You can easily browse files stored on the NAS disks from your phone / tablet and even transfer files between devices.
You can control your downloads remotely when on the go, using this app. You can set your task list of downloads and make any changes to it. You can set up new downloading tasks. You can also alter relevant settings, e.g. maximum upload or download speeds.
You can use your phone / tablet to browse photos and videos stored on the NAS (using Photo Station). You can upload photos and videos from your device to Photo Station, as well. You can do various things to the photos, e.g. add the location to a picture, and you can share photos with friends along with a photo or video commentary.
If you have movies or television programs stored on your DiskStation you can access and watch them on your mobile device using this app. There is only so much storage on a mobile device and video quickly takes up a huge chunk of it. Assuming that you have a fast enough connection this is a great way to get around those mobile storage limitations, and yet let you watch that great movie on the iPad (or if you insist, that all-so-important business training video).
You can use DS audio in tandem with the Audio Station to stream music to your mobile device that is stored on the NAS. DS audio is very user-friendly and makes browsing through the music files (even if you have many of them) easy.
If you have attached cameras to your system for use with the Surveillance Station you can use DS cam to control these cameras. You can have real-time streaming, control camera angles if you have the cameras set up to allow it, and search and play video recordings.
There was a time, when NAS hardware had just a few jobs. To save your data, share it, and keep it backed up with RAID. Times have changed a lot, and Synology DiskStation Manager shows you why. It’s feature richness makes term “Network Attached Storage” seem to be misleading, since NAS isn’t just a simple storage device any more. It’s a Network Attached Swiss Army Knife. If you are looking for NAS, you cannot really go wrong with Synology software wise. It’s packed with so many tools, that my best quess is that you’ll fell in love with DiskStation Manager.
If you are still in doubt, check it out yourself. Live demo of DiskStation Manager in the Synology’s website: http://www.synology.com/en-global/products/dsm_livedemo