In an era of consistently updated selfies, high-res photos and constant video capture both relevant and otherwise, one element that keeps many an everyday end-user potentially awake is the possibility of losing it all. After all, your smartphones and PC’s can only handle so much data. External portable HDD’s are a very temporary solution in terms of backup, so the respite many seek is found in cloud storage solutions. Yet, roadblocks exist even in that solution, as the incredibly rapid increase in the size and frequency of content that we capture has had two implications: relatively limited storage limits vis a vis the data that would potentially in the long term, and increased storage rates. The potential stoppage of a service could also have dire implications, one example being Google Photos ending its free services this month.
Escalate these issues with data backup to a business level, and you have a serious issue to consider. For you need a solution that incorporates security, handles scalability and adapts to varied platforms in the business environment.
Which brings us to network-attached storage (NAS) devices. As its name implies, a NAS is high-capacity storage that connects to your home or office network so that you and other users you designate can access your files from mobile devices and PCs anywhere without plugging in to the drive.
Cue the Synology DiskStation DS920+. This four-bay network attached storage (NAS) device is the latest in Synology’s flagship devices, with specifications that make it perfect for home power users or small-to-midsized business (SMB) users. Easy to expand and easy to access, the Synology DiskStation DS920+ comes with a wealth of Synology and third-party apps, including Synology’s powerful Collaboration Suite and the DiskStation Manager OS.
Synology of course is an obvious choice given its much respected standing as an expert in data and service protection. In many ways the timing of this review is rather perfect as well, as Synology is all set to reveal DiskStation Manager (DSM) 7.0 and new features of their cloud backup solution for both enterprise and home users, Synology C2 Storage, in a few days from now.
In terms of looks, the DiskStation DS920+ looks very identical to nearly identical to DS918+ predecessor, with four front-loading, tool-free drive bays. In addition to the drive bays the front panel sports a USB 3.0 port, a backlit power switch, and LED indicators for system status and drive activity. Come to the back of the device, and there are two 1 Gbps LAN ports, a secondary USB 3.0 port, and an eSATA port. Interestingly, the 1 Gbps was a bit of a surprise in a flagship NAS, given the fact that 2.5 Gbps is now an almost common standard in flagship NAS devices.
The DS920+ is powered by a quad-core 2GHz Intel Celeron J4125 processor and has 4 gigabytes (GB) of DDR4 RAM that can be expanded to 8GB. It uses two whisper-quiet, multi-speed system fans to keep internal components cool and can be populated with hot swappable 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch SATA or SSD drives for up to 64 TB of internal storage. For cache acceleration, it also has two built-in M.2 SSD slots, which are accessible from the enclosure bottom. The DS920+ offers several RAID types, including Synology Hybrid RAID meaning RAID configuration support from RAID 0 to RAID 10. Add on a Synology DX517 Expansion Unit, and you can expand the storage to a massive 144TB.
The four-bay DS920+ comes as a driverless unit, which means you need to invest in suitable 2.5” and 3.5” SATA or SSD drives. Consider that key drives from Seagate [like the Ironwolf], Toshiba, and WD are specially designed for NAS use, and tested to run 24/7/365.
Key to the magic on the DS920+, is of course Synology’s DiskStation Manager (DSM, a Windows-like operating system that makes it easy to configure drives, handle security, monitor NAS health, and create shared folders, as well as download other specialized apps from Synology and third-party partners.
DiskStation Manager is a hugely integral part of the Synology NAS experience, and when you first launch DSM, you get access like File Station and Package Center. Tap the Package Center icon, and you are opening a literal treasure chest of application options. Indeed, this is the point at which you realise the sheer variety of applications that the DS920+ offers, right from file management and migration utilities, surveillance apps, backup and restore apps, development tools, multimedia server apps, security apps, VPN server apps, email server apps, and Synology’s Collaboration Suite, which includes a chat server, office productivity software, an email server, a file management server, and a group calendar utility.
DSM is all about ultimate control of the devices connected to the NAS. For instance, the Storage Manager utility lets you create and delete volumes, monitor individual drive health, create storage pools, configure the M.2 SSD Cache and pre-configure hot spare drives. Or use the Resource Manager for detailed system usage statistics, the Security Advisor to scan for malware, password strength, and updates, the Log Center for admin logs and the Universal Search which searches all drives, folders, and files.
So does this imply that there is a huge learning curve when it comes to installation? Hardly, for once you have installed your HDD’s, in our case the WD Red 12TB drives, you then connect the NAS to the router using the included LAN cable. Power up the device, go to http://find.synology.com, and install the latest version of DSM. Once you set up an admin account and set up the drives in the desired RAID configuration post an automatic verification process, the installation is complete, easy peasy.
Consider the needs of a business user, and one element we hugely recommend is Active Backup for Business (ABB), the modern backup & instant recovery software that comes free with Synology NAS. This allows you to back up unlimited Windows endpoints, VMware, Hyper-V and file servers without additional software license costs, making it a near priceless feature.
So then, in conclusion, what’s our impressions of the Synology DS920+? This is a definitive Power User NAS, whether managing your Marvel 1080p collection through Plex, accessing your memories in digital form or running run Virtual Machines alongside a personal cloud storage solution.
The Synology 4 bay NAS DiskStation DS920+ (Diskless) is available in the UAE at all leading retailers and on Amazon for AED 2,489