Synology - DS-106 NAS Server Review

Admin - 2006-12-18 00:13:26 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: December 28, 2006
Synology
Synology
Price: $300 USD

Introduction

Storage. Something that I always find myself short on and needing more of. Backups, that's the other word that I dread to hear, as when it comes time to backup that critical data, it can take hours or even days depending on the amount of data. Let alone the giant pile of CD/DVDs that you have to store, label, and then hunt through, if you ever need something. Synology has come to my rescue with the DS-106, an all-in-one home backup and SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) server solution. According to the spec sheet on this baby, it comes loaded with tons of features to make our lives easier. Synology may not be a very well known company, but they have a very strong lineup of backup solutions and various NAS’s. The DS-106 is one of the latest additions to this strong lineup. Today I will be taking a look at this unit and testing it to see if it's really worth its price, as well as whether or not it's actually useful for what it claims to do.

Closer Look

Upon getting the DS-106, I unpacked it and then gave it a quick once-over... something that I always do when I receive a new product to review. The outside of the box is adorned with a picture of the DS-106 and a brief list of specifications.

Upon opening the package, you can see that the unit is wrapped in plastic and suspended via cardboard end pieces. There is also a separate box which contains the power cord, Cat5 cable, and driver disc/instruction manual.


Taking the unit out of the box and examining it, I immediately noticed that there are vents all over the unit. The vents were on the top of the unit, as well as on the sides. These vents are not the only means of cooling though, as there is also a small, thermally-controlled fan mounted in the back of the unit.


The RJ-45 port, the power port, as well as a reset switch are all mounted on the back of the unit. For those of you that also have external HDD’s, there is an ESata port, and a USB 2.0 port on the back as well.


The front of the unit contains the various indicator lights, as well as the power on/off button. From top to bottom are the power, status, HDD and LAN lights. In addition to the various lights, the front panel is also adorned with a copy button & USB 2.0 port.

When you receive the DS-106 there is no HDD installed. Installing a hard drive is not that hard. Simply remove the two screws in the left side panel on the back, and slide it back. Then you lift the panel and remove it by unplugging the connector from the main board on the unit. There is a small riser board that has the interface for a HDD to plug into, and on the other end there is a bracket that locks the HDD into place.


Closer Look Continued

The CD that ships with the unit has the required software to get you off your feet and rolling. Once you pop the disc into your computer the auto-launch fires up and gives you a few options. One option is to install the Synology Assistant, which will allow you to interface with the unit and set it up according to your needs. There is a utility that will allow you to start a download on your PC, and then transfer it to the DS-106 to download... even when your PC is shut down! After installing the Synology Assistant and running it once, you will be brought to a screen that will find your DS-106. You will then be asked to log into it & once you are logged in, you have access to all the settings of the unit.

There are too many to list so I will give a VERY brief description of the key points as well as a screenshot for each section. After logging in you will be greeted with the Summary screen, which displays basic information and gives you links to the logs, shows the server name, server IP, and space used/available on the DS-106. On the left of the screen there are 7 sections: Home, System, Network, Tools, Device, Help, and Logout. Each section is broken down further into subsections which are accessible via tabs at the top of the window. These will allow you to setup the users, groups, shared folders, folder accesses, time, cron jobs, manual IP, ftp, web services, as well as a variety of built in tools. These tools include: shutdown/reboot, update, local backups, network backups, restore to factory defaults. The various sections can be seen below, and have individual setup options for all of the features of the DS-106. There are a lot of screenshots below, but they encompass all of the features of the DS-106 and as they say " a picture is worth a thousand words."

Installation

Installation of the unit is fairly basic. Remove the side panel of the unit and the bracket that holds the drive in place. Then place the drive down on the board and slide it into place, attach the bracket that holds the HDD and reattach the cord from the side. Then just put the side panel back on, plug in power and ethernet cables and you are ready to go!


Brand Synology
Model
DS-106
Port / Connector RJ-45, USB 2.0, ESata
Supported Protocols CIFS
Power 100V to 240V AC
Dimensions 8.4" x 7.1" x 2.4"
Weight
1.1 lbs.
Management Internal HDD Hibernation
Temperature 10 to 35°C
Humidity
5% to 95% RH
Internal HDD 3.5” SATA or SATA II x 1
Data Transmission Speed 10/100/1000 M
USB 2.0 port
3
LAN Gigabit
1
Fan
1

Features:

Apple Talk
Web-based Management
Firmware Upgrade
Email Alert Message
UPS Management
FTP
LPR
User Quota
Hidden Shared Folder
Removable Default Shared Folder
Share More Than just Data
Let the Music Play
Total Backup Solutions
Share Photos with Right Persons
Continuous Download without PC


Package Contents:

DS-106
Resource Disk
RJ45 Cable
Power Cord
Power Adapter
Rack mount kit

Test Setup

For testing the DS-106 was plugged into a gigabit switch which acts as the office backbone here. All computers, as well as the central internet connection are switched via a gigabit switch. The DS-106 was simply plugged into a free port and integrated into the system and assigned an IP from the router. Every device on this network is gigabit enabled.

This is the first time we at OCC have ever had the chance to benchmark and test a NAS (Network Attached Storage). After plugging in the unit and installing the software, I took a quick jaunt through the various option screens and setup the DS-106 to what sounded best for my application. After making sure it was setup to my liking I began a series of tests that I thought would give this unit a fair test. The first test was to copy about 500Mb’s of MP3’s to the unit and after the first 5 or so had transferred I began to stream them back across the network and listen to them. The unit handled this test flawlessly, never skipping a beat, but this was to be expected. Next I chose to measure a transfer speed, as well as time and how well it handled a transfer of a large file. The file I transferred was Sin City in high definition... which is a 16GB File. At first I simply dragged and dropped it into the folder on the DS-106, and then I transferred it again using CuteFTP across the network. I recorded how long it took for each transfer and those times can be found in the following graph.

I was a little surprised to see such a difference in speeds between the two transfer methods that I used. As long as you are not using the drive you are copying from, it looks like drag and drop is the way to go.


Next on the list was to play with some of the onboard features that this unit is packing. Firstly being the built in web hosting options. When you turn on the “Enable Web Station” feature you will see a “web” folder... simply drag and drop your website into that folder and BAM, its hosted. You can then access this page by entering your IP address into your browsers URL bar (http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx) and you will be brought to your index page. This feature takes ALL the hastle out of setting up a web server on another computer. With the native mysql and php support, setting up a business or personal website is a snap.

The next big thing that jumped out at me was the FTP service that this unit has. Setting up a FTP daemon on a home computer is a pain to say the least, your left jiggering with ports, and frankly all the FTP daemons out there suck. With a click of a button your new DS-106 is a FTP server. You can setup user accounts with limits, as well as quotas.. (Again all accessible via typing in your IP) In the menu to turn on the web service, there is also an option to start a photo station. When you enable this option it adds a photo folder to the root directory of the unit and when you add image(s) to that folder they are accessible via the web in a tidy little interface.

Last but not least I wanted to test the acclaimed php/mysql support that this unit has. There appeared to be no instructions on how to install/use mysql & php, like there were for other functions on the unit. I attempted making a simple test php website with links to a phpBB2 forum, Wordpress blogging software, and if I could get it to work, oscommerce. Installation of all of these test scripts was almost seamless... simply copy the install folders over as if you were doing a web install. You have to enable the web service, and then access via (http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx/phpbb2) where phpbb2 is the name of your script. Follow the installation instructions for your desired script and that’s it for installation!

The unit does have mysql support, though you need to use phpmyadmin or another type of database editor to set them up properly. The only problem that I encountered while testing out these scripts was with the installation of oscommerce. Although that could also be me, as we have a long history of not liking each other. I have never been able to completely get an installation of oscommerce to work correctly, although I should note that I did get farther than I usually do with its installation on the DS-106.

Last on the list to test is the “Download Redirector” which allows you to cue up downloads on your PC, transfer that cue to the DS-106 and then shut down your PC. I tested this by cueing up about 520MB to download, then shutting off my PC for 10 minutes and turning it back on. When it rebooted I fired up the download manager and the file was still ticking away. For some this is a great feature as it will allow you to download files while using less power, as you don't need to leave your computer on in order to download a large file. By this point you are probably saying “What DOESN'T the DS-106 do?” To be honest it, does pretty much everything anyone could want in a NAS and then some.

Conclusion

No matter what angle I look at this DS-106 from, I am always left with the same feeling of satisfaction. In my opinion, Synology has taken about 90% of the hassle out of tasks that previously were difficult or cumbersome to setup. The ability to host a website with a few simple clicks, to setup a FTP server, or to even share files with friends is brought to you in one simple, yet elegant package... and that package is the DS-106 from Synology. Throughout every test that I performed, the features of the DS-106 performed outstandingly. Since I didn't experience a single hiccup, the simple fact of the matter is that if you are looking for a backup, file/web hosting, or just network storage solution, the DS-106 fits ALL of those requirements. This is the first product that we have had the chance to review from Synology and this unit is the "icing on the cake" of their product line. The Synology DS-106, with its overall outstanding performance in backup solutions and network storage, has definitely earned a place in my books.

Pros

Cons