Having set out its stall in the small business arena, storage appliance vendor Synology is looking to move up market with more scalable DiskStation 'xs' products, featuring faster processors, support for up to 100TB of storage, enhanced networking capabilities and even 10 Gigabit Ethernet if required.
The appliances are available in rack-mount and standalone formats, and Synology sent us a desktop DiskStation DS3611xs to test, capable of holding up to 12 hard disks. Using 3TB Sata drives, that gives it a capacity of 36TB (hence the name) putting it firmly in the mid-range market as far as network buyers are concerned. However, it doesn't have to stop there. The unit has a pair of 12Gbit/s Infiniband ports lurking round the back to attach expansion units, each of which adds a further 12 disk slots and £750 + VAT to the overall price.
External USB disks can also be attached using the four USB 2.0 ports provided, although these are mostly for backups rather than to expand the overall capacity.
To share all this storage, Synology has had to upgrade the processor on this model, opting for a dual-core Intel Core i3, accompanied by 2GB of ECC memory as standard. This can be expanded to 8GB using conventional DIMMs, although we found access a little limited here and it's definitely a 'power-down and find the screwdriver' job.
Fitting the disks is a lot easier. A screwdriver is needed, but only to secure the disks into the slide-out carriers provided, and you can opt for 3.5in or 2.5in drives, or a mixture of the two.
Sata is the name of the game here, which some may view as a disadvantage compared to the more reliable SAS interface, but it does keep a lid on the cost, plus the slots are all hot-swappable and there's a key-operated lock to stop accidental or malicious removal.
For our tests Synology supplied a set of 12 Samsung 500GB disks, although more or less any make or model can be employed. You can even mix and match different capacities and spin speeds if you want, leaving the Synology Hybrid Raid technology to make the most of what you've got.
However, you will lose out on capacity and performance if you go down this route, making it better to keep to matched sets wherever possible. We'd also recommend enterprise grade rather than ordinary desktop drives (like the Samsung Spinpoints we were sent), for reliability.
Having installed our disks we then connected the appliance to the network with an impressive set of four Gigabit Ethernet ports provided for this purpose. However, we were only able to use one initially. Although support for 802.3ad link aggregation is built into the Linux-based DSM firmware, a compatible 802.3ad switch is required and ours didn't have this option.