Synology Disk Station DS408 ReviewNemo - March 3, 2009
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The Network Services section allow you to set some of the network-related settings on the DS408, but it is mainly used to enable additional services on the server. You can use it to share music and media files across the network, act as an iTunes server, set up a FTP server and more. Additionally, Synology has several services it classifies as Stations that allow you to use the DS408 to act as a audio player, share photos over the Internet, manage file via a web browser and capture video from IP cameras. It even has the capability of being run as a web server where you can host multiple web sites with PHP/MySQL support.
Under the Win/Mac OS subsection you can set up the DS408 to work on Windows workgroups by specifying the workgroup name. The server can also be integrated into a Windows domain through its support of Active Directory service. You can specify the domain name along with other domain-specific items such as the Kerberos authentication server address and the WINS server address. You can set up a recycle bin on the server to hold deleted files. When you enable this feature, the system creates a '#recycle' folder under the root directory. For Apple computer user there is the option to enable AppleTalk and define which zone to join.
Enabling the DS408 to function as an FTP server and all of the various settings are controlled in this subsection. You can use the default Port 21 or another port number of your choosing. The system uses a default data port range of 55536-55663 but you can specify a different range from 1025 to 65535. The range can contain up to 128 ports. The port settings are critical because you will need to know the port number and ranges in order to set up port forwarding on your router. You can also limit the number of concurrent connections, enable logging and set bandwidth restrictions. Other security-related features include only allowing SSL/TLS connections and specifying IP addresses to block.
The Web Services subsections contains a lot of features that allow you to manage your DS408 over the Internet using a secure connection as well as several web services such as photo sharing, hosting your own web site, enabling the browser-based file manager and the playing audio files using the included player.
HTTP Service Options
You can set up a secure connection to the DS408 so that you can connect via secure encrypted connection. This will allow you to access the various manage UI from outside the network. It's also useful if you are using the DS408 to host a web site and need a secure connection for a shopping cart setup. You can also specify an alternative port for the HTTP connection, a handy feature if your ISP blocks the standard port 80. You will need a security certificate in order to use this feature.
Here's where things get interesting in terms of some of the extra features offered by the DS408 for sharing various forms of content across the network and over the Web. The four different features are Photo Station, Web Station, File Station and Audio Station. As you can infer from the names, they are uses for sharing photographs, running a web site, managing files and streaming audio.
Photo Station 3 – Photo Station 3 is an online photo album that allows you to share photos and videos over the Internet. Enabling this feature automatically creates a /photo folder under the root directory. In order to use the Photo Station sharing feature, photos must be organized in subfolders under the /photo folder. Visual media files placed directly in the /photo folder without a subfolder will not be displayed. The DS408 provides a link on the setup page to a tutorial on how to set the system up and make it available over the Internet. If you don't have a static IP address, you can use a dynamic DNS service and point your browser to http://DDNS_hostname/photo/ where 'DDNS_hostname' is the name provided by the DDNS service. Requests are treated as http requests, so you'll need to forward port 80 on your router to the internal IP address of the DS408. Once connected, users can view the pictures as thumbnails and click on the files for a larger image or choose to view all items in a folder as a slide show.
Another feature tucked in with Photo Station 3 is the ability to create and publish your own blog. You can post blog entries and they'll be accessible through the same address as the shared photos – there's a link to the blog in the top right hand corner. The blog can be customized for layout and content. Users can post comments, search content and look at archives.
Web Station – You can host your own web site on the DS408 with the built-in Apache web server and support for MySQL and PHP. Enabling this feature automatically creates a /web share under the root directory and this is where you would upload your web pages. You can host up to 30 different web sites by creating virtual hosts that map to different hone pages. As with Photo Station, there is a link to a short tutorial on how to set this up. However, it is not a tutorial on how to build a web site. You can install PHP-based tools like phpMyAdmin to administer the MySQL database.
File Station - File Station is a web-based file organizer where users can access and manage files stored on the server remotely using a web browser. Using File Station is much more efficient, especially when moving or deleting files as the files require no routing through your computer as they would if you were using Windows Explorer.
Audio Station – Audio Station is a web-based music organizer and player where you can organize your music and play it on client PCs using the included audio player. Enabling this feature creates a /music shared folder under the root directory. You can use the organizer to create playlists and you can hook up a pair of USB speakers to the DS408 and play music directly from the DS408.
Once you have enabled the File Station and Audio Station, you'll notice two new icons on the Disk Station Manager page for File Station and Audio station. Clicking on these icons take you directly to the respective pages. From the web log in page you'll see new tabs for each of the stations so you can reach each, either as an administrator or user, without having to go through the Management tab.
You can use the DS408 as a repository for all your multimedia files and stream them to any UPnP enabled player. After checking the box to enable plug and play support, you can change the settings to match what is needed by the media payer.
In addition to the Audio Station and streaming media to a digital media adapter, you can also set up the DS408 to act as an iTunes server by simply clicking on a check box. The iTunes server name defaults to 'DiskStation' and you can change that to a name of your choosing. You can also require users to enter a password before they can see the shared music stored on the server.
Unless you have a static IP address provided by your ISP, accessing the DS408 from the Internet can be tricky as a dynamic address can be changed by your provider at any time. Using a dynamic domain name service (DDNS) can help solve this problem by assigning a fixed name and tracking the actual IP address to match it with the name. The DS408 supports several of these providers. Once you have registered with the service provider of your choice, you can enter your host name and login credentials and the DS408 will notify the DDNS provider anytime your IP address changes. This way you can always access the DS408 using the DDNS host name.
Surveillance Station is another web application provided by Disk Station Manager. With this application you can manage IP cameras on a LAN, and record video with them. Enabling the Surveillance Station will create the default share, /surveillance under the root directory to store the recorded video footage. I don't have any IP cameras to test with, but the Surveillance Station app will let you easily add and set up camera, monitor cameras through a live view assign privileges. The application also maintains its own log of events. This is certainly a handy application for users such a s small business owners that need a convenient and easy way to set up video cameras as part of a security system.
We come to the final web application offered by the DS408. Download Station is used to manage downloads, either through scheduled FTP tasks, BitTorrent or eMule. After enabling Download Station, you can either use the web application or install the Download Redirector software onto a local PC from the install CD. You can create a task and specify a file name, such as a torrent file, or a URL for FTP downloads. If you're logged in under the admin account you can specify the specific settings for different types of downloads such as the order, number of simultaneous FTP connections or specify the setting for download NZB files from a news server. Download Station also includes a BitTorrent manager you can for downloading torrent files and you have a range of options you can set including minimum and maximum download rates, port ranges and how long to continue seeding the file once the download is complete. Initial set up is straight forward and requires only specifying a default download destination. Download settings default to a specific port range and you should not have to modify them. Download/upload speeds default to unlimited and the download file will be seeded until the download is completed. You can adjust those settings as needed and will apply to all users. As an administrator you also specify the settings required for using eMule. Logging in on a non-administrator account you can set up downloads, but not modify any of the settings.
Creating a download task is simply a matter of specifying the file name such as that of a torrent metadata file or an FTP site URL and clicking the Create button. The download will begin immediately unless you have set up a schedule under the original setup page. You can monitor the download progress from the main task page or highligh the task and click Get Info for more detailed information on the file and transfer. You can also use the icons on the download page to pause, resume and delete download tasks.
The DS408 runs a version of the Linux operating system. For users comfortable with the command line interface in Linux that need access not provided through the web GUI, you can enable access through Telnet or secure shell (SSH) and then access the operating system.
There's not much to this subsection, just a single check box to enable the DS408 to be accessed by systems using the Network File System Protocol(NFS).
After you have enabled Surveillance Station and Download Station you'll notice two new icons have joined the ones for File and Audio Stations at the top right corner of the web UI. You'll also notice a new look to the login page with tabs for Surveillance and Download Station. The Web Station and Photo Station tabs have shifted to a second page you can access using the little white arrow off to the right.
That concludes our tour of the services and features available under the Network Services folder. Now let's check out the backup features on the DS408.