Saturday, 02 May 2020 15:57

Synology DS1019+ NAS Review Featured

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Looking for a NAS that's not too big, not too small and offers the right balance of power and features? The DS1019+ may fit the bill.

We’ve been using Synology’s 1019+ Network Attached Storage for some time now and, as it’s still a current device, we felt it was due a review. These boxes tend not to get updated for the sake of annual marketing/refresh requirements and the bespoke software (which works across all Synology models) is updated frequently – so they’re built to last. Hence, if you need a NAS that can fit five, full-sized hard drives inside (plus two NVMe, PCI Express drives), this represents an attractive proposition. But is it any good?

The unit itself is 17 x 23 x 22cm – not much bigger than the drives themselves – and weighs 2.5KG unloaded. There are two USB 3 ports, an eSATA port plus two Gigabit Ethernet ports (which offer Link Aggregation Failover support to help ensure network connection can be maintained should one connection fail) so, getting data on and off the drives is neither slow nor difficult.

Up to five, 16TB 3.5-inch drives can be supported (using various RAID arrays) and they can be formatted using various standards. A full list of specs is available here. A further five drives can be added as an extension pack.

We’ve been using it to test wireless routers within a home – the appearance of Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) boosted WLAN performance so much that we needed fresh tests to push data transfer rates, across wireless networks, to their limits and the 1019+ has been a rock solid when doing that for many months now.

When it’s not being used, it sits quietly whirring and making the odd clicking noise. We’ve certainly found previous NAS boxes to be intrusive in their basic whining and clicking but the soft whooshing will blend into the background of all but the quietest homes and offices.

A 1.5GHz (2.3GHz burst), quad-core Celeron processor, plus 8GB RAM, powers it and takes care of video transcoding: allowing it to stream 4K video to multiple devices or transcode it as necessary.  

Software

NAS boxes are also defined by there software and here, choosing Synology makes for an attractive proposition – albeit with a few foibles. Synology’s DriveStation software is made by the same company that makes the hardware and Synology runs its own, internal, business operations on them to boot – so it passes the dogfood test. Businesses also don’t have to worry about regularly paying for third-party software licences to operate the hardware as the DiskStation licences are perpetual.

There are also hundreds of top-quality, third-party, plugin packages from major brands including PLEX, Apple iTunes Server, Apache, BitTorrent, plus numerous security, backup, web, coding and mail services; some of which are also made by Synology. A comprehensive list can be seen, here. We found that using it with PLEX server was transformative – the kids suddenly were able to watch all of their favourite shows on whatever device was in front of them; be it a tablet, phone or smart TV.

All settings and controls are accessible via a web browser which can be used across the LAN or the internet. While it's not completely intuitive, setting up secure, folder-sharing permissions is simpler than when using Windows. Our one gripe is that it still looks a lot like Windows 95, so a UX facelift wouldn’t go amiss. Still, navigating and finding all the important functions is simple enough.

Managing the device itself is relatively straightforward. Adding drives to different volumes with different RAID arrays is fairly simple. The only thing missing is the ability to break-up a RAID array to free up disk space – you have to transfer all of the data to another drive, change the RAID type to JBOD and then transfer it all back. While this doesn’t need to happen too often, it’s one of the few workflow headaches that bothered us – and a few others on the internet.

It’s worth dwelling on the ‘others on the internet’ factor. There’s a huge online community that supports Synology which is brilliant when you can’t figure out how to do something. Just Google your issue and you’ll very likely see either a forum post or a video spoon-feeding you the answer.

Business case

In the age of cloud storage, one might wonder why a NAS is required. However, in a country where the national broadband infrastructure has been designed around consumer (rather than business) needs, few will be able to rely upon off-site methods for storing, distributing and backing-up their most important data.

A recent role of mine saw a local business stuck with a choice of ADSL and 4G internet connection. Sharing 4G across a small office of 20 users only worked so well and with large media files needing to be shared across multiple MacBooks, local storage was essential. It fills the gap between having a full storage server and relying only on the cloud; providing local storage and security without relying on any third party services. It makes a great choice for a dispersed workforce or research group too – with all users able to instantly share and access up-to-date information on whatever device they happen to be on – knowing that there are no sync issues.

At $1,039 for the drive itself, it’s quite an investment for home users. Synology makes smaller models but they’re underpowered and limited in expandability. Much larger models (that can scale dramatically) are also available for large businesses. However, this is the sort of Goldilocks device that every home and SMB could make use of, in various ways, and it ticks every box in terms of storage, intrusiveness, features, power and usability. If you’ve been wondering which NAS will do it all for home or the office, it’s hard to look past the DS1019+.

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Nick Ross

Nick Ross is a veteran technology journalist who has contributed to many of Australia's top technology titles and edited several of them. He was the launch editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation online Technology section.

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