Synology DS412+ Review Part 2 (Software and Speed Tests)

This is the second part of my review of the Synology DiskStation 4-Bay Network Attached Storage DS412+.  In the first part, I’ve covered the unwrapping and hardware of the machine.  Here, I’ll be covering the software aspects of the unit and also some simple speed tests that I’ve done.

I don’t think I’ll cover much on the features of the DiskStation Manager (DSM) 4.0 as this is the common software among all the Synology product range and is also the difference that Synology’s NAS make compare with the other offerings from other NAS vendors.

Software/Firmware Installation & Configurations

Using the latest copy of the Synology Assistant and DSM 4.0 downloaded from Synology’s Download Center, it took me around 5 – 10 mins to complete the installation and to be able to log into the unit for configuration of the HDDs.  Presented to me was the very familiar DSM desktop, very much like a typical GUI based OS will provide for us.  Clicking onto the Control Panel will bring you to all the window that allows you to complete all the configurations you wish to make onto your Synology NAS.  For me, usually I touch on the following ones as the basic setup

  • System (Network, DSM Settings, Regional Options, Notification, Power)
  • File Sharing and Privileges (Win/Mac/NFS, FTP, User, Group, Shared Folder)

These will be the fundamentals you will need to do to get your NAS up and running on the DSM 4.0.

After that, you can also explore the additional features provided by the packages that you can install using the Package Centre. For me, after getting the basic settings up and I’m able to see the HDDs, I quickly launched the Storage Manager to check the status of the 4 x Samsung Spinpoint F4 that I’ve placed inside. Luckily, all seems to be ok. Also, since I’ve transferred the HDDs from another NAS, the Storage Manager knows that there is an invalid RAID group in the disk and also informed me that I’ll need to erase the disks if I wish to use them. The setting up of the new SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID) RAID5 array, with 1 redundancy disk, took around 5 hours inclusive of the additional bad sector checks.

Notice the low temperature of the HDDs that this unit is operating at?  I’ve not even turned on the air-con in my study room yet!  Just a heads-up to those who wonder if the Synology DS412+ is facing the clicking problems as pointed out by a Bro in the HWZ forums, I’ve verified via

  • Physically listening out for the tell-tale clicks of the HDDs when in operation or when idling
  • Check the figures based on the S.M.A.R.T Info provided by the Storage Manager
  • SSH into the Synology DS412+ and checking the hdparm value of the APM_Level

that it seems that the Synology DS412+ on the DSM4.0-2228 firmware seems to be free from this issue.

By default, the File Station package is installed as this allows you to browse your NAS, remote or mounted drives as well as your local PC drives that you are accessing the web interface from all in one screen.  With this, you will be able to conduct file operations very easily.  The good thing about using this interface is that it allows you to copy/move files from remote folders into your NAS directly without going through a PC.  This will enable lengthy file operations to take place as a background job in the NAS directly without you having to u leave your PC on throughout the process.  This is extremely useful if you need to transfer files between 2 NAS that are in operations.

Speed Testing

I think most people will be most interested in how this new baby will perform in a real world environment.  I was pondering around on which tool to use for the performance testing or should I just use a huge file copy operation and check on the speed of the copying natively using the Windows Explorer features.  After some research, I decided on using a free tool call the NAS Performance Tester, reason being it’s simple to use and the results are simple to understand.  Basically this tool just do a write and read operation on a mapped remote drive of the NAS with options to control the file size to be used and the number of iterations to be conducted.

For this speed test, I’ve chosen to write / read a 2000MB file and loop it for 5 times to obtain an average speed for the tests.  In order to ensure that the bottleneck of the test will not be on the local HDD of my PC, I used the DataRam RamDisk Utility to create a 3GB RAM Disk to run the NAS Performance Tester from.  I will run the speed test for the 3 NAS (all connected to the same DLink 8 port Green Switch with my test PC) that I’ve got,

The D-Link DNS-320 has been my trust worthy workhorse since I used it to replace my old DLink DNS-323.  It’s really a value for money gadget for people who are looking for a NAS that serves it’s purpose yet without having to burn a hole in the pocket.  Actually I’ve got 2 units of these at home.  I’ve been using one as my 24×7 NAS to serve as a HD media storage and also a FTP server for my 3 x IP Cams at home. For this particular one that is undergoing the speed test, it’s actually my monthly backup storage which I used to keep copies of my critical files.  Hence, usually I only power it on once a month.

For the D-Link DNS-320, the Average Write Speed is about 23MB/sec and the Average Read Speed is about 47MB/sec.  Pretty impressive I would say for a sub S$150 piece of equipment.  Frankly, the test figures are actually very good considering that I noticed that my usual file copy operations with it doesn’t seem to go beyond 20MB/sec.

The Synology DiskStation 5-Bay Network Attached Storage DS1511+ is my other backup NAS that stores a copy of my media files and a second copy of my critical files stored in the DLink DNS-320.  Sound a bit kiasu right? but better be safe than sorry.. 😀 Using the same test parameters as before with the DLink D-Link DNS-320 , I ran the test again the Synology DS1511+.  The results this time round show the Average Write Speed is about 85MB/sec and the Average Read Speed is about 80MB/sec.  This brings the Synology DS1511+ performing more than 3 times faster than the D-Link DNS-320 in terms of writing and double that for reading.  I’ve also captured the resource utilization of the DS1511+ during the speed test and it shows that the CPU and RAM of the unit is not even “stressed” even at the peak of the network activities.  Makes me wonder why did I upgraded the memory of the Synology DS1511+ to 3GB when I purchased it the last time.

Something that puzzled me is that the Write Speed is faster if not on par with the Read Speed.  I would expect that reading of data is much faster than writing, similar to the case for the test in the D-Link DNS-320.  While I try to find out the reasons behind this phenomenon, at least for now, the write speed would be the minimum figures I would expect the NAS undergoing the tests to be performing at.

And now, it’s the turn for the Synology DS412+.  For this, it shows that  the Average Write Speed is about 97MB/sec and the Average Read Speed is about 93MB/sec! Meaning that the Synology DS412+ even out performs the Synology DS1511+ by almost 10%!!! In terms of resource utilization, the loading is almost similar to that of the Synology DS1511+ during load!!!

Comparing the 3 test results,  the new kid on the block, the Synology DS412+ seems give to the old man, the Synology DS1511+, a run for the money while the D-Link DNS-320 has been out classed by the Synology family.  Below is a summary of the results.

Package Centre & Add-ons

Having completed the NAS Speed testing, the next phase would be to look at the additional features of a Synology NAS.  This is delivered through the Package Center whereby Synology as well a Third Party Vendors will deliver their Add-ons to the Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM), enhancing it’s capabilities even further.  Below is a screen showing a sample of the available packages.  You can find out even more at the Synology DSM Applications page.

For this round, I’ve installed the Download Station to give it a try.  The installation is as easy as installing an App off your iTunes App Store or your Android Play Store, after which the Package Center will complete the installation and an new application icon will appear onto your DSM’s Start Menu.  You can also create a shortcut on the DSM Desktop by dragging it directly from the Start Menu to the Desktop.  A simple click onto the Download Station icon will then launch the application with a simple user interface as shown.  For the Download Station, it supports quite a number of downloading formats including torrents, FTPs and even NZB.  This means that I won’t have to have a dedicated PC running my newsreader software with this in place.

The next application that caught my eye is something call the Cloud Station which is currently still in the Beta mode.  Based on the description available on the website and the app, this application will function very much like your own personal storage cloud, not only within your own LAN but also over the Internet!  I’ll find some time to give this app a more in-depth drilling to see if it really lives up to its claims.

Conclusion

In summary, although the Synology DS412+ doesn’t come as cheap as the other consumer NAS, but you are paying your good dough for a much better performance even if you don’t even use all the fancy features available in the DSM 4.0.