Synology's DiskStation DS411 network storage device offers ease of setup, plus the ability to add numerous extra functions such as mail server, web server and printer sharing, which enable it to form the core of a small business network at a cost-effective price compared with PC-based servers.
Ease of setup and use, flexible configuration, supports extra services such as email server and web site hosting
No disks included as standard, single Ethernet port, no hot-swapping of disks
4-bay NAS unit, fits up to four Sata hard drives (not included), 1.6GHz ARM processor, 512MB DDR3 RAM, 1x gigabit Ethernet interface, 2 x USB ports for external storage and printers, 1x eSata port for external storage, 2.23kg
Synology's DiskStation DS411 is a network storage box aimed at small businesses and workgroups, and offers a relatively simple and low cost way of setting up a central pool of storage on a network. The little appliance also packs in advanced features including the capability to function as a web server and works in conjunction with iPhone and Android devices.
Launched in August, the DS411 is a compact box that requires a laptop-style power supply and can sit easily on a desktop as it doesn't take up much space with dimension of 184x168x230mm.
As well as acting as shared file storage for Windows, Mac and Linux systems, the DS411 can double as an email server, host a company web site, and serve as a centralised backup target for all PCs on the network. It can also share any printers or storage devices connected to its USB ports.
We found the new DiskStation to be an excellent NAS device for sharing files among a relatively small number of users. The unit offers a decent level of performance and is easy enough to set up that someone with only a moderate amount of IT knowledge should be able to manage.
Customers do not need to be running an Active Directory domain (very small firms are unlikely to have this), but it can integrate into a domain if required, so user accounts will not need to be recreated.
Drives not included
One slight drawback to the DS411, as with most Synology kit, is that hard disks are not included. Buyers must source and fit drives of their own choice, although some distributors can supply suitable drives, according to Synology. A list of compatible drives is available on the firm's site.
The DS411 can fit up to four Sata drives, and a minimum of two is recommended to offer some protection in case of a disk failure. As usual with Raid arrays, this leads to less overall storage space being available than the combined total across all disks, as some is required for redundancy.
The maximum quoted raw capacity of the DS411 is 12TB, but this figure was based on 3TB drives being the largest available, and 4TB models are now starting to come to market.
Synology's software which powers the DS411 can be manually configured to use various levels of Raid protection (0,1,5,6 and 10), but also offers a Synology Hybrid Raid mode which automatically manages Raid configuration.
This mode enables the DS411 to offer the maximum amount of storage space possible from the drives fitted, which do not necessarily all have to be the same size.
For our tests, the firm supplied two Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 7,200rpm drives with 250GB capacity. After installation and formatting, this left us with about 224GB of storage available for sharing. Only about half the total storage is available in a two-disk Raid system, but this trade-off means that, if one drive fails, data will not be lost and users can continue to access the DS411 while the faulty drive is replaced.
In tests, we wrote and read back a set of files to the DS411 totalling nearly 1GB. We found that it achieved a speed of just over 10MB/s in reads and writes with the configuration we set up. Synology claims a read speed of 105.3MB/s for the DS411 in a Raid 5 configuration, which requires a minimum of three drives.