You’d share disks like that for any number of reasons.
One reason is for extra storage and backups of laptops and tablets.
Another reason is that all data storage fails, eventually. Every hard disk you have, every SD card or built-in gigabyte of storage on your phone or tablet will eventually cark it, losing whatever you have stored on it. Lots of data can and should be backed up to a cloud storage service, but for the very bulky stuff at the least, you should do local backups.
(You should probably be backing important files locally, too, just in case your cloud system goes out of business, or you forget it’s there, or forget the username, or something.)
Of course, the fact that all storage fails means the drives you put into your Synology NAS will fail eventually, too. But like all NAS devices, the Synology can be set up so that all its data is backed up internally. When one hard disk fails, you just pull it out, replace it with a new one, and the system will automatically restore whatever was on the broken drive, good as new.
This month, Synology has released a new version of the operating system that runs its NAS devices, DiskStation Manager (DSM).
As well as an appealing new user interface – accessed via a web browser on some other device on your network – DSM 7 also supports a hybrid storage system that will store files on Synology’s servers in the cloud and bring them down to your device when you need them. Known as Synology C2, it was in beta testing during this review, and we were unable to try it. It looks promising but, like all cloud storage, it could get pricey if you use it for all your storage needs.
Part of what we love about Synology NAS devices, though, is that they’re not just capable of running their own DSM software and the dozens of DSM apps. Some of the more powerful models (including the DS1821+) can run virtual computers, too. If you have, say, Windows or Ubuntu Linux running in a box under your bed to control your home automation system 24 hours a day, you can run that as a virtual PC inside DSM.
Better yet, DSM supports a system, known as Docker, that lets you run all manner of “containerised” apps if you can’t find DSM versions or want to run newer versions than those available. (Plex, the excellent home entertainment sharing system, often has a newer version available as a Docker download than as a DSM download, for instance.)
It so happens that many of the Internet of Things devices here in the Digital Life Labs, such as lights, power switches, doorbells, video cameras, heating controllers and motion detectors, are running as a series of device-specific plugin programs inside a brilliant program known as Homebridge, which is in turn running inside Docker, which is running inside DSM 7, which is running inside the DS1821+, which is under my desk.
It’s like the Russian doll of the digital world, except it doesn’t get smaller, the deeper you delve into it. It gets bigger.
Likes: Easy to use. Very powerful. Incredibly useful.
Price: $1599 plus cost of disks, plus more for optional C2 cloud system, plus even more for solid-state disks that can speed up its performance.