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Synology DS207 2-Bay NAS Server

Date: August 16, 2007
Author(s): Greg King

While there are many NAS products available, there are none that we’ve crossed that have matched the feature-set of Synology’s DS207. There are too many features to mention in a small intro, so read on to learn more about the product we had a difficult time finding a fault in.



Introduction


In the world of network attached storage, there is a fast growing list of participants. Of the competing companies, there has really only been one that has the BYOD (Bring Your Own Disk) NAS market locked up… Buffalo. In past reviews, we have taken looks at a handful of NAS devices from companies such as Thecus, D-Link and Vantec.

Of those companies, Thecus is by far the most aggressive attacker of Buffalo’s market share and judging by their products (we reviewed the N2100 this past March and are testing their single drive N1200 currently), they are a major contender in the consumer NAS market.

One company that has recently made a name for themselves in the NAS market is Synology. Founded in 2000, Synology has built a loyal following in the home and small business market. Offering devices ranging from single drive NAS all the way up to four drive devices capable of RAID 0, 1 and and 5, Synology has the goods to keep smaller needs organizations and homes happy.

Today we are working with their DS207, a RAID 0 and 1 capable NAS box geared specifically towards power users and small businesses alike. With the ability to install up to two hard drives and allowing the user to also host their own web sites with it’s built in Apache web server and pre-installed PHP+MySQL. For the data security minded users, Synology includes encryption options when using FTP and network backups. Other notable features include an iTunes server, print sharing, download management and photo sharing.

In our evaluation of the DS207, we will be looking at the device and its features. On paper, the device looks quite promising but before we get into the details, we can’t make a call on it’s overall worth. With that said, let’s get to the review.

Packaging and Contents

Synology has chosen to ship their products in a straightforward package crammed with information about the unit on all sides. Conveniently placed on the top of the box is a handle for easy transportation of the box and its contents.

Once opened, the DS207 is seen securely wrapped in bubble wrap and placed within a set of ends to secure it during transport. There is also a large box that contains the extras necessary to setup and use the NAS.

Removing the contents of the boxes, we can see that included with the DS207 is a power brick and complimentary power cable as well as a CAT5e network cable.

Also included is a small quick start manual, a setup disk and a small welcome card.

To get the BYOD DS207 up and running, Synology has included the necessary hardware to secure the hard drives into the drive cage and connect them to the devices main board. This hardware includes custom length SATA cables, a pair of SATA power cables and the appropriate mounting screws.

Synology has made it a point to include a few extra screws because inevitably, one or two will get lost here and there and it’s nice to have a few more lying around when you need them. I just with all companies would do this as it can’t cost anything to throw a couple extra into the bag before the packaging process is completed.



The DS207

Out of its protective packaging, we get our first look at the DS207. With the incredible popularity and consumer allure to anything Apple-ish, it’s not surprising to see more and more companies adopt their white look. This was true of the D-Link DIR-655 that we reviewed a few months back and it’s true of the Synology lineup of products, this DS207 included.

Taking a closer look at the front, we see four lit indicators that show the devices status, network connectivity and activity as well as the activity of the hard drives. Directly below the lights is a single USB port used for convenient thumb drive backups. Moving down there is a set of buttons. The top button is marked with a “C” and is used to initiate the thumb drive copy should an actual flash drive be installed. Just below it is the power button and a light to alert the user if the device is power on or not.

The back of the DS207 is where the remaining I/O ports are located. At the top of the DS207 is a large fan (relative to other NAS boxes that we have seen) used to keep the internal system temperatures at a reasonable level. Under it we have a pair of USB 2.0 ports, a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, a small reset button and power port.

Molded into the body of the DS207 is a power cable clip. It should be mentioned that should your network support it, the Ethernet port on the DS207 supports jumbo frames in increments of 1000 to 9000. Most either wont know what jumbo frames are or simply wont need them but for those that can use it, its there.

On the bottom of the DS207, there are small ventilation slots to allow air from the mounted fan to flow across the hard drives and expel out the bottom of the chassis. There are also four rubber feet to keep the DS207 in one place as well as dampen the device’s vibrations.

Inside and Installation

To install a hard drive or hard drives if you have two, there isn’t much to getting the DS207 apart. There is a set of small screws, located at the top and bottom on the back, that need to be removed. Once these screws are taken out, the left side of the DS207 (if our facing the back) will be gently pulled back while the right side is push forward. It will split apart like so.

With the side off of the device, we can get a good look at what we are working with. Using a pair of “shelves,” the hard drives will simply sit on these metal tabs and then be secured with the provided screws.

To circulate air across the drives, there is a 60mm fan on the back of the unit, just behind the area where the hard drives will be installed.

At the front of the NAS, we can see the internal LEDs that will light up the front panel lights as well as the front USB port and the power and reset switches. Along the front of the PCB there are the two SATA II connectors and on the far left, there is a pair of 4 pin power connectors. These have SATA power connectors on the end and will provide the 12v power to the hard drives.

With the hard drives installed into the device, secured with the provided screws, we can now connect the data and power cables. As stated earlier, Synology has provided the cables and it’s good that they did. The two cables that they have included are of different lengths. This makes installed the cables in the cramped area inside the NAS simple as the shorter cable obviously is connected to the lower drive and the longer… on the top drive.

With everything in place, we place the two sides of the DS207 back together and secure them with the pair of screws we originally removed. To get an idea of how the DS207 stacks up in terms of size compared to the other devise we have worked with, below is a picture with it next to its small brother, the DS107e, the D-Link DNS-323 and finally, the Thecus N2100.

As you can see, the two Synology NAS boxes are a bit taller than the Thecus and tower over the D-Link. The DS207’s width is just under the D-Link’s and a bit more than the Thecus. All in all, it’s a simple, compact design.



Setup and Features

To start out, we connected the DS207 to our bench router, the D-Link DIR-655. Once everything was hooked up, we used Synology’s provided searching assistant and off we went. All the search assistant does is scan the network for any attached Synology devices and when it finds them, it allows you to connect to the NAS and begin the setup process. Once connected, we will want to run the setup wizard.

The first thing we need to do is give the device a name. By default, it’s set to name the DS207 “Disk Station.” We left this alone and setup a administrator password.

The next step is to tell the DS207 how to obtain a network address. You can either set it up to manually received a network IP address automatically, thanks to the beautiful thing that is DHCP, or you can manual assign an address on your own.

After we have that completed, we need to set up the local time and calendar information.

In this next picture, we see that the DS207 gives us the option to join it to a workgroup. One notably feature of this device is its ability to use a networks active directory tree. This allows us to join the DS207 to a domain instead of a workgroup. We will get more into this later on in the review.

The next screen prompts you to verify that you want to finish the setup process.

When we click finish, it gives us a run down of the current settings that we just finished setting up. From here we want to select “continue.”

With everything finished, we now need to setup the disks that we installed not to long ago. To do this, we first need to login to the DS207 using the information we setup earlier in the setup. By default, the user name is simply “admin.” This is something that can be changed later on if you choose to do so. If the device is already setup, you can log into the DS207 under a user name that can be setup within the web interface. Not wanting to get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s simply build our RAID array with the drives we just installed.

Once logged into the GUI, we now have an extensive list of things that we can do. We will get more into the details later in this review… for now we need to get this array setup. To start out, we need to click on the storage text on the left side of the screen. When we do, we see three tabs at the top of the page.

To setup the drives, called a volume in the GUI, we need to click on the volume tab and choose how we want to set our drives up. On this example, we have selected both of our Seagate 750GB ES drives and have chosen to use them in a RAID 1 array. Once we have everything the way that we want, click OK.

A small window will pop up giving us a rundown of the settings that we are about to implement. There is the obligatory warning of complete and total data loss but with this being the first time we are setting this up, there isn’t any data to loose so we click OK and continue on.

The progress of the format and initialization can now be seen.

When everything is setup, we can log back into the GUI and check on the status of our drives. This status screen gives us the network information, the drives in use and also the temperatures of the drives.

With everything setup and a healthy RAID array in place, we can now get into the home screen. From here, we can access the entire set of options to control the DS207. It is on this page that we are given the name of the device, network address, uptime, system temperatures and available space on the volume. Running down the left side of the screen, there are links to the different functions available on the NAS.

Now that we are working with a healthy array, we can get into the vast amount of options available in the Synology’s software. During testing, we received an email from Synology concerning an updated firmware version that added a significant amount of extra features.

These extra features are clearly aimed at the home user in the attempt to build on their many business oriented features. We will get more into this later on in the review because now we are going to take a look at the core features available to the system admin.



Setup and Features Cont.

In an attempt to regulate the overall length of this review, we are not going to go too far into the core features with pictures but rather, we are going to list them all, including each options sub features along the way.

The first screen that we come to is the INFORMATION menu. The options found on this screen are what one would expect to find in a menu titled “information.”

SpecificationBasic information about the DS207, temperatures, IP address, System and total operational time
StatusMAC address, IP address, DNS, Gateway, Workgroup, hard drive and USB disk information
LogSystem, Connections, Current connections, backup, USB and network backup logs
AboutCopyright information concerning the DS027 and Synology

Moving down the menu, we get to the SYSTEM screen. This screen houses the settings for the device itself such as factory reset, email alerts for failed hard disks and firmware updates.

LANServer name, IP Settings, Link Status, Jumbo Frame
TimeTime Zone, Time Server, Manual Setup
NotificationSMTP Server, Email Alert
Power Management Power Recovery, HDD Hibernation
Restore Defaults Format with Current Settings, Format to Factory Defaults, Reset SQL Database Password
Firmware Upgrade Upgrade Firmware

The next menu is titled STORAGE. This menu gives us the option to change the way not only store our data on the DS207, but to also divide up the disk space to allow personal folders for as many users that you want to access the volumes.

HDD Management Write Cache Support
VolumeVolume Information, Creation
ShareShared Folders for PC & Mac users

Moving down the list, the next one is something that I find quite enjoyable… PRIVILEGES. When setting up any storage device on a network, there are undoubtedly files that are sensitive enough that you don’t want stray eyes wandering across them.

Fortunately, Synology has thought of this and allowed the device’s admin to create users and groups, as well as assign privileges to each user created on the DS207. This is where the joys of active directory come in. For those that might be unaware of what Active Directory is, it’s simply a way to authenticate and authorize services, assign policies and apply critical updates centrally as opposed to laying hands on each and every PC that needs to be modified.

While I have only been a network admin for a little over a year now, I am so comfortable with active directory, and well aware of what it brings to the table compared to networks before AD, it honestly makes company wide network administration quite simple. The fact that Synology has included the option to use Active Directory places the DS207 well above any other NAS that we have reviewed to date.

UserSet up users, either local or tied to a domain
GroupSet up groups for local and domain users
PrivilegesUser and domain privileges include no access, read only and writable

With any NAS, there are always features that set the device apart from other offerings from other companies. In the case of the DS207, the features are its most appealing selling point. From the NETWORK SERVICES area of the GUI, most of the features are available to activate or disable. These features include:

Win/MacWIN: workgroup/domain, WINS Server, Apple Network
FTPSetup FTP, Restrict Bandwidth, IP Block
WebHTTPS, Additional HTTP Ports, Photo Station, Webstation, My SQL
MultimediaEnable Multimedia Service, UPnP, DMA
iTunesStart an iTunes Server, Password Protect, Playlist

One of the most appealing services that a NAS can provide is the ability to backup critical and important data easily and conveniently from anywhere on the network. With the DS207’s BACKUP section in the GUI, this can all be setup. Backups can be directed into particular volumes on the drive to further segregate the data coming into the NAS.

Configure Backup Backup user, group and shared files to a .dss file
Local Backup Backup HDD contents to an attached USB storage device
Network Backup Setup a network backup recover

In the EXTERNAL DEVICES section, the DS207 gives us the option to manage all devices that are connected to the NAS. This includes USB hard drives, printers, thumb drives and if applicable, uninterruptible power supplies.

USB Disk Manage connected USB devices
USB Printer Setup the DS207 as a print server
USB Copy Copy contents of an attached USB thumb drive
UPSUninterruptible Power Supply

The last menu option is the DOWNLOAD SERVICE. Here we can manage our downloads as well as enable the download station. We will get more into the download station in a bit but for now, lets take a look at what this area of the GUI has to offer.

Download Management Setup a download
Download Service Enable the Download Station


Added Features

Halfway through our testing of the DS207, we received a notice from Synology concerning an upgraded firmware/software that not only improved the existing features of the NAS, but added a considerable amount of value to the overall package. After downloading the file from Synology’s website, we quickly installed the file and started poking around the new and improved feature set.

Once we successfully upgraded the firmware of the DS207 to the latest version, we noticed a few extra options on the sign in screen. Instead of the basic login screen that allowed us to log into the management area of the DS207, we now had the ability to log into Synology’s Audio Station, File Station Web Station and Photo Station.

We plan on looking at all of these “stations” and hope to find that the actual functionality of the extra options is worth the upgraded firmware. There are also pair of programs that come along with the DS207 that we will take a look at as well. One allows us to set and control downloads to the NAS while the other one is simply a backup program used to store our most sensitive data.

The first feature that we are going to work with is the Audio Station. In this “station,” Synology has given the users the ability to expand the capabilities of what would be a boring NAS to most. Adding the capability to play music directly from the NAS does add more functionality as you can play the music stored on the DS207, as well as stream internet radio stations through the NAS and play directly from an attached iPod.

There are four main pages to the Audio station that are represented by tabs at the top of the page. The “music player” is found on the first page/tab. This is where the current song playing will be shown as well as additional information about the station or song that is being played. Notice that there are links at the top of the player for music, radio (internet) and iPod. This allows us to quickly switch between audio sources.

The following screen is the music page. This is where we can see then contents of the music folder in its entirety. The columns are dynamic and therefore can be adjusted according to their numerical or alphabetic value. I do wish that the categories could be manipulated more such as bringing up individual albums; perhaps allow the file tree to be displayed much as it is in the File Station (which we will see shortly).

The Audio Station allows us to create our own playlists as well. On the third page, we can select which list we would like to play.

Finally, we get to the internet radio section. There are quite a few stations preloaded onto the DS207. There is also the option of adding your own stations should you have a list of favorites that you would like to listen to through your DS207. In our case, we chose to add ESPN radio to the list.

The next feature worth mentioning is the Synology Download Redirector. This is included on the disk that ships with every Diskstation and can also be downloaded from the Synology site as well. This program allows a download to be schedules without the need for a host PC to be present. The DS207 only needs to be provided with the URL of the desired file and from there, a time and date needs to be given to let the NAS know when it needs to seek out the file and download it. It’s a simple and relatively painless process.

To initiate a scheduled download, the Redirector first needs to find the Synology device on the network. It will scan the entire network until the proper device is found.

Once found, we need to log in using our already setup logon credentials. Thanks to the DS207’s ability to work with active directory, my profile was already created. All we needed to do was set my permissions.

Once we are logged in, the program itself is a colorful piece and easy to navigate.

For our example, we went to Synology’s site and grabbed the URL for the latest firmware of the DS207. By entering the link into the field, we have now told the DS207 where to look to complete the download.

As the file downloads, we can follow the progression of the transfer and see how quickly (or slowly dependant on your connection speed) the file is downloading.

Next we are looking at the File Station. In this feature, we can explore the contents of the drive and move files between folders, all through a web browser.

One of the most appealing features of any NAS is that it’s a convenient and simple place to dump important files that you might not necessarily want to loose. Not only will your data be backed up, but if your network is broad enough, you can store the NAS in a location somewhere away from anyone that might pose a threat to the device.

To help keep our data safely backed up, Synology provides Data Replicator II. Once the program is installed, we can get right into setting up a backup schedule that will keep our data secure and safer from disaster. At first, we are greeted with window with the entire file tree of the DS207. From here, we can select anything from entire folders, all the way down to individual files.

We can also select if we want to do a quick, immediate backup or if we would like to schedule one to occur at a later date and time. If you have a folder that is constantly updated, you can set the Diskstation to simply synch up the folder on the DS207 with the folder on your PC that you constantly update.

If you don’t want to backup an entire drive, you can expand the tree down to grab individual files if you want, or you can select any subfolders in between.

Once the files that we want to backup are selected, we can now pick a time that we want the backup to run. In our example, we have told the Data Replicator II to backup the selected folders everyday at 5:54 pm. We went with that time simply because it was a few minutes past the current time during testing.

If you want to get precise, you can even select file types that you do not want to have backed up. You can also set the number of restore points that are stored, have the program validate the backup once it’s completed and delete any files on the DS207 that do not match up with the drive of the client PC.

As with anything that wants to either get in or out of your PC, Data Replicator II must be registered with the built in Windows firewall. Before you can finalize your scheduled backup, you will be prompted with this choice to add the program to your firewall’s exception list.

When we are finished registering the program with the firewall, all that is needed is to choose a destination folder for the backup to be stored in. The Data Replicator II will then scan the Diskstation for all available folders. Once it is finished, it will allow you to choose where you want to house the backed up files.

Its as simple as that. We now sit back and let the DS207 do its job. While it was backing up our critical files (songs) we were still able to work with the device and grab files as we went. There was a small delay in response but nothing unreasonable as we were still able to stream music normally.



Performance, Final Thoughts

To test out the Synology, we ran our standard test of transferring a 600 MB file across to and from the NAS. We timed each transfer and after running the same test three times, we averaged the times. Each test, write and read, was ran in a RAID 1 configuration. My general consensus is that users are going to purchase a dual drive NAS to be used as a reliable backup solution. Regardless, our results are what we imagined they would be.

The Synology DS207 has effectively taken our idea of what a perfect NAS would be and raised the bar considerably higher. From a hardware point of view, there isn’t very much, outside of external appearance that really separates this NAS from any other. Like all other BYOD NAS, you open the device; install your hard drive(s) and you’re done.

However, unlike the D-Link DNS-323 that we looked at a few weeks ago, you actually have to mount the drives inside the DS207 whereas with the 323, you simply slid them into the enclosure itself. While the entire process is a bit more involved than that of the D-Link, with the Synology, I personally got a feeling of security knowing that the drives were securely mounted inside the NAS.

I will say, while we are commenting on the external appearance, that the white “Mac” look of the DS207 is attractive but I personally would have enjoyed it in a black case. However, that’s irrelevant simply because most consumer products could be “better” if they were colored to suite individual users but we all know, that’s not financially feasible for the manufacturers.

Hardware aside, the Synology truly shines through its features. While it won’t impact many home users, the ability to use a network’s existing active directory tree is great when using the DS207 to share files with many different users across a network. With the latest software updates, Synology has also added quite a few features to distance itself even more from the NAS pack.

Its ability to play music without being connected to a host PC is neat but not really that exciting. With this option, you basically have a $300+ music player. Although I must say that it is quite convenient to connect an iPod to the DS207 and play though it but ultimately, it’s not going to be a selling feature for most. Of all the features however, the most important to many, and what will set it apart from the rest, is the Apache web serving capabilities.

Coming with PHP+MySQL installed, you can run your own personal website on the DS207 itself. This is a huge bonus for anyone who might use this option. In our review, we didn’t get to deep into this function but the fact that it’s offered is a huge feather in the Synology hat of features.

As with many other NAS boxes, you have the default FTP, iTunes server and back up utilities. Of these, the Data Replicator II is easily the most interesting feature. The program is a small and easy to understand and navigate app. It gives the user the ability to easily schedule backups of individual files as well as multiple files and folders. Couple this ability with a RAID 1 array and you can be pretty confident that your most important data isn’t going anywhere. For those like me who have a lot of multimedia that has been building up over the years, this definitely gives you peace of mind.

With everything in mind, the only drawback of the DS207 is the price. Found online between the mid and lower $300s, the DS207 isn’t cheap but if you can use the features it ships with, it’s money well spent. With that said, we have caught wind that the price might be dropping below $300 soon. If this is the case, the DS207 is that much more appealing.

If your looking for a cheap NAS that can do basic NAS functions, the D-Link DNS-323 is one that should get your consideration. However, if you’re in the market for a full blown, big boy NAS, and can take advantage of some of the unique features, this should be at the top of your list. While a bit expensive, the features easily outweigh the price, earning it a perfect 10 out of 10.

We haven’t given out many 10 here at Techgage, mainly because there hasn’t been a lot of hardware that has deserved a perfect score. This is usually because of performance, price, functionality or a combination of the three. In the case of the DS207 however, every single aspect of the NAS is solid, allowing us to easily look past the higher price of entry.

After all, this is aimed at small businesses that more often than not, are more willing to make the investment into a device like this. Along with the perfect score, the Synology DS207 earns an editor’s choice award.

Stay tuned as we look at the DS107e in an upcoming review and see if it can live up to precedent that it’s bigger brother has set.

Pros

Cons

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