Synology DiskStation DS916+ review
NAS stretches the edge of your SOHO network
NAS are no longer the preserve of SMBs and enterprises.
As personal data volume swells to rival that of small businesses, it is indeed time to bring home the NAS.
Network-attached storage (NAS), for those who may be unfamiliar with the term, is a file storage device that connects to a local-area network (LAN), offering shared storage through an Ethernet connection.
A NAS’ main selling point is the massive storage it offers, with potential to add several terabytes of extra storage space. All these files are centrally stored and then accessed from computers, smartphones, tablets, and TVs connected to the network.
One of the major vendors of NAS in the world is Synology. Its DS916+ that I reviewed is a four-bay NAS device, with a range of both enterprise and personal applications.
I can imagine the Synology DS916+ appealing to the creative professional, working from home, in search of a storage device capable of both work and personal multi-media consumption. This will be indeed the point from which I will be reviewing the device.
After unwrapping the NAS, the first thing you need to do is install the hard drive, which comes separately. For me, this was a Seagate 500GB HDD. The DS916+ will however work with major storage brands.
Next, connect the NAS to your network through Ethernet, install DiskStation Manager OS and create your login account.
You will most likely come across the term RAID during installation. RAID is a technology in storage that provides redundancy in case of part of part of system failure. You should know that redundancy is not the same thing as back-up. In fact the DS916+ does offer back-up as I will discuss later.
The technical specs include a quad-core Intel CPU, AES-NI hardware encryption engine, scalability up to nine drives, and 2GB or 8GB memory options.
DSM or DiskStation Manager is Synology’s proprietary browser-based operating system, and you may want to spend some time with the OS after installation.
The number and range of features with DSM is astonishing. You can hardly cover all of them in a single review-or three-so I can only highlight a few popular ones.
DSM is where you install the packages or apps you need. There are many, as said before, but a few stood out for me, including File Station, Cloud Station, Cloud Sync, Download Station, Video Station, Audio Station and Backup.
As a shared resource, you can share a Synology NAS’ storage space with others by creating a user account for each one, which ensures they can all access and exchange files in shared folders, while keeping private documents to themselves in their personal folders. You can go further and assign a specific storage quota, access to shared folders or applications, or even the bandwidth they are allowed to use.
I would imagine the typical user spending a lot of with the File Station app.
File Station allows users organize and share files saved on the NAS. There’s a full content search option to search through the content or metadata of over 700 types of files. A new feature, Document Viewer, enables you to view documents without having to download and open them with Microsoft Office and even edit text files directly on the NAS with Text Editor. The NAS supports FTP, WebDAV and other file sharing services, platforms familiar for many who have worked in an office environment.
Download Station is where you download files directly from the Internet, including searching for torrents directly via the NAS’ own search engine. We of course advice against any illegal download of online content.
If you are like me, you like your movies, and you will like Video Station. The feature allows for storing and organising movies and TV shows and then streaming them to your computer, smartphones, tablets, or TVs or through media DLNA-enabled devices such as Apple TV, Chromecast, Smart TVs, Xbox, PlayStation. Video Station supports 1080p HD and 4K videos and its transcoding capabilities means you can watch videos without having to install a third party player. You can download these to a mobile device and enjoy your movie offline, say on a long flight.
If your selfie-taking is getting out of hand, you will appreciate the Photo Station, an online photo album to centralise all your images. For your desktop, upload photos from your computer to your Synology NAS via Photo Station Uploader, or do so via the DS Photo mobile phone app. You can share these with your eager audience on social media accounts directly from the NAS or through a link. Pros can add watermark to protect copyright.
Photo Station also allows for creation of smart albums, to automatically group photos and videos according to set criteria.
Audio Station is another of my favourites. With the app, you can essentially build a personal music centre and stream music from your Synology NAS to your PC, smartphones, tablets, DLNA and AirPlay devices, as well as the Apple Watch. You can download these too to listen offline.
The main difference between the NAS of yesteryears and the DS916+ is the latter’s embrace of cloud and mobility.
Each of us probably uses a public cloud service like Dropbox. Cloud Station lets you build your own mini Dropbox, sans the risk of online hackers stealing your credentials. But just like its public cloud brethren, any changes you make it on a file are automatically updated across devices.
An extension of the Cloud Station is Cloud Sync which links your NAS private cloud with public cloud services you may already be using such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive and others.
To keep data safe, you can, and should, encrypt your information before sending them to public clouds to deter hackers, a security feature offered by Synology.
Synology DS916+ can serve as a centralised backup centre. You can back up content from your PC or phone directly to Synology NAS using Cloud Station Backup. Whenever you modify a file, the changes are backed up to DS916+ automatically.
If you are the editor of the aforementioned blog, you may not need to pay for email client again. MailPlus allows you set up a private mail server, directly on your Synology NAS. You can even attach stickers and emoji’s to your e-mails, supplied.
You can also set up the device as your VPN server and even host your website or blog on the device.
Note Station is your own free Evernote on your Synology NAS, allowing users to create, manage, and share content-rich notes complete with editing tools. All your diaries, notes, travel itineraries, are now centralised, available through search. Keeping notes on such a private cloud ensures greater security.
Several apps make it possible to access files remotely from the Synology NAS with smartphones and tablets, as well as multimedia streaming. Many of the desktop apps described above have their own mobile variants.
DS Video allows you to consume content on your smartphone or tablets on the go, streaming remotely from your home NAS. Ditto DS Audio, enabling music streaming to your mobile device. Synology now supports the Apple Watch. With DS note and DS audio’s support for Apple Watch, you can easily issue a voice command to create/search notes/to-do list and remotely select your songs and playlists.
DS Photo automatically backs up photos taken on your phone to Synology NAS and share them with others. You can also create and edit notes with DS Note on your mobile devices which are then automatically updated on the NAS and other compatible devices.
DS Cloud will sync your files across different mobile devices, seamlessly switching from the home environment and wherever you choose to work.
The mobile apps have really come in handy, and I have offloaded much of the imagery, recordings and video from my phone to the NAS, much to the relief of my hitherto overflowing iPhone.
Referring to a product such as the Synology DS916+ as a storage device negates the many things it can do. The DSM OS takes what is fundamentally a storage device and transform into a true collaborative and communication tool, with a nod to modern era thanks to mobile apps to take your home library, whatever that is, on the road.
Some of the features of the DSM are hard to come to grips with, and you are going to spend loads of time navigating your way through. The other issue I have is the many mobile apps you have to download if you want to take full advantage of the NAS. Hopefully, Synology can come up with a master app for all the services.
Overall, a NAS is a great device to have today. And they don’t come better than the Synology DS916+. For 550USD for the 2GB version, (600USD for the 9GB), you get a NAS device that does it all. From entertainment, to cloud integration, to collaboration, not forgetting its fundamental function of storage and backup, the DS916+ is a fully-loaded device that every professional needs.