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Review: Synology DS413 Network Storage Drive

4-bay NAS drive with muscles

Synology make some top class NAS drives.  I’ve reviewed several of their home models before and they’ve all scored highly.

This is the first of their office models that I’ve taken a good look at, and it’s been interesting.  On the face of it the DS413 is just a beefed up version of one of Synology’s home drives, but there are some subtle differences.  Read on to find out more.

Design

The DS413 has a very nice look and feel to it.  It’s certainly a lot more reserved than some of Synology’s other 4-bay models, such as the DS411j.  The matt black finish of casing contrasts well with the high gloss front fascia panel, and it shouldn’t look out of place in any office environment, or living room for that matter.  Build quality looks and feels very high.

Front

On the front panel you’ll find the power button and LED, a status LED and individual LEDs for the four hard disks.  There’s also a 3rd USB port (this one only rated to USB 2.0).

To the rear of the device you’ll find the power connector, twin USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, Gigabit Ethernet, a Kensington lock hole and twin 80mm cooling fans.

Back

The front panel of the DS413 can be removed easily to reveal the hard drive caddies.  It’s only held in with foam rubber mounts, but it still feels secure.  It’s a strange decision to not include a more permanent fixing, but I guess it allows users to quickly and easily swap out hard disks, which is a plus.

The hard disk caddies themselves are held into the chassis with retention clips, which makes swapping out disks a simpler affair than on some other devices.

Drives

As with some other Synology drives, you can mount either 2.5″ or 3.5″ hard disks in the caddies, which gives you some options when it comes to noise levels and power requirements.  In this case it’s kind of moot point though, the DS413 is designed for office environments, so performance and capacity are more important, and that means 3.5″ drives.

If you do opt for 3.5″ drives (as most users will) then each caddy includes rubberized mounts which should cut down on noise levels from vibration.

Setting up

Getting started with the DS413 is a pretty simple affair.  The first step is to install up to four hard disks in the removable caddies using the supplied screws, then clicking the caddies back in to place and replacing the fascia.

Once you’ve done this it’s time to fire up the DS413 and setup the device for your network.  This is a relatively easy process to undertake, you can use the utilities provided by Synology for Windows and Mac, or you can just type “find.synology.com” into your web browser which will pick up any drives on your home network.

DSFind

Clicking “Connect” will take you to wizard which will take you through the necessary steps to get your DS413 setup.  Most home users will be perfectly content with keeping all of the network settings the same and just changing the password, but those in a professional environment might want to take the opportunity to set network settings.

Screen Shot 2012-09-26 at 19.58.12

The last step of this process is to install the operating system, DSM, on the DS413.  You can either download the latest version from Synology’s website yourself (and then select the file when prompted), or you can tell the DS413 to find the latest version on Synology’s website itself.

Either way, the process will take about 15-20 minutes to install and apply the password and network settings that have been specified before.

Once it’s installed, the Synology drive is ready to go.  The whole process, from un-boxing the device to being up and running, takes around 25-30 minutes.  It should be within the realms of anyone who has a basic understanding of PC hardware and networking, even those who have never used a device like this before should be fine.

DiskStation Manager 4.1

DSM is on of the major selling points of Synology devices.  There simply isn’t anything that comes close to it when it comes to NAS drive OS’s.

You can check out the TME review of the latest version here.

Where DSM differs from other NAS operating systems is that it acts more or less like a full OS that you’d find on a PC or laptop.  You still have to access it via a web browser, but once there you get a user experience which is simple unparalleled  with this type of device.

Screen Shot 2012-10-10 at 18.03.06

Along the top of the screen you’ll find a taskbar which shows all of the apps that are currently running on the device (more on those later).  To the far right you’ll find a little window which provides information on system resources, health and logs.

The main part of the screen is yours to do as you wish with.  You can drag and drop shortcuts to any app so that they’re readily available.  You can also group bunches of apps together as shown in the screenshot above.  Of course, if you don’t want to use the desktop area, you can access all of the apps (and settings) from the menu in the top left of the screen.

When you open an app it’ll appear as a window within the web browser window, and can be expanded, minimized and moved just as you would on your Windows PC.  It’s an absolutely fantastic implementation of a NAS OS, and one that other companies still haven’t got their heads around.

And I haven’t even started talking about the apps yet….

Applications

There are absolutely tons of apps available for Synology NAS drives.  A lot of them are made by Synology themselves, but others are developed and maintained by third parties.

I’ll get on to talking about some of my favorite apps in a minute, but first I wanted to share a somewhat random (and annoying) fact that hangs over the DS413.  Most Synology drives feature either an ARM or Intel based processor at their core.  The DS413 is different as it features a PPC based processor which, although it offers an excellent user experience, doesn’t work with Intel or ARM based apps.  Synology have been kind enough to ensure that all of their apps are available for the DS413, but some 3rd parties haven’t.

One of my favorite Synology apps, Plex, simply isn’t available for the DS413, which is a real shame.  Most other apps seem to be available, but it’s worth considering that some future apps might not be compatible with the DS413.

That being said, there are plenty of apps that do work just fine on this drive, here are some of my favorites.

Download Station.

This is designed to allow you to download large files without needing to keep your main PC turned on.  This is a pretty common feature on this class of device, and Synology’s implementation isn’t anything revolutionary.

You can download files normally or via a Torrent, and can manage bandwidth and time slots to make sure that bandwidth isn’t used up when you need it the most.  This is one feature that the majority of users will use, and it’s implemented just as well here as on any other device I’ve seen.

DownloadStation

It also has a built in search facility for torrents, so if you know the name of the file you’re looking for, you can make short work of locating a decent torrent of it.

DLNA/uPnP Media Server.

If you’re not familiar with DLNA then you can read up on it here.

Basically it allows you to stream media from the host machine (in this case, the DS413) to any compatible device on your home network.  The list of devices is growing all the time, both the Sony PS3 and Xbox360 are capable of receiving media from DLNA servers, as are a lot of new TV’s and set-top boxes being produced at the moment.

It’s an excellent way to play back your media library without the need for a PC, and because the library is held centrally there’s no need to keep synchronizing all of your devices.

Synology have opted to use their own software for this, whereas a lot of similar devices will bolt on software from other suppliers such as “Twonky”.  That’s not to say that this device does the job any worse than others, in fact it seems to handle the role well.

Turning on the server will create three shares on your drive, one each for music, photos and videos.  It’s simply a case of dropping the required media files into these folders.  You can use any sort of folder structure that you wish, it will be replicated on your DLNA compatible devices.

Video Station

This is another media playback tool, but unlike the industry standard DLNA protocol, Video Manager plays back videos within the DSM interface.  It’s a rather clunky implementation as it requires you to open a web browser and log on to your Diskstation before you can view anything.

The upside is that Video Manager downloads metadata from online sources such as IMDB and The TVDB to create a media library full of DVD covers and information regarding your video library.

Where it does work really well is with the free Video Station app for iOS and Android devices.  This allows you to access your video library from anywhere on your home network, or anywhere with an Internet connection if you’re comfortable with opening some ports on your home router.

It works really well, even on a 3G signal you should be able to play back standard definition videos on your phone with only a few seconds of buffering at the beginning.  Just bare in mind that this will eat into your data allowance really quickly, so tread carefully.

I can see why Synology has taken this step, most home users will likely store their digital video library on their NAS drive, but it’s not a great implementation when compared to other existing media management suites.  In fact, it’s not even the best media management tool available for DSM:

Surveillance Station.

Synology are not alone in including support for IP cameras with their devices, several other big names are getting in on this picture as well.  The idea is that for any surveillance system you need cameras and you need storage space for video.  The NAS provides the storage space and the management, you just need to supply the cameras.

Synology claim support for over 760 models of IP camera, which covers most of them I would think, including support for more advanced models which feature PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) technology.

Surveillance Station can display live feeds from up to 36 cameras via a web browser or mobile device, which is a great feature should you be using this NAS in an office environment (or be REALLY paranoid about home security).  Unfortunately I don’t have the equipment to test it, but it looks like the suite is capable of some pretty advanced stuff, including only recording footage when motion is detected or when a door/window is opened.  In the majority of office situations, this NAS is probably good enough to do away with a bespoke CCTV system

Web based apps

If you’re looking to use the DS413 in a corporate environment, then there are tons of web based tools that would be perfect for setting up collaborative working.  From educational packages like Moodle, to blogging tools like WordPress, to ecommerce platforms like Magento.  You’ve also got a bunch of website creation tools such as Joomla available.  All backed up with a MySQL app and PHPMyAdmin.

Not only that, but you can also setup the DS413 as a web server and put your own 3rd party website on it.

Mobile apps

Synology have worked hard to develop a suite of apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.  Basically any of the core Synology apps for the DS413 have a mobile app available allowing users to access different types of functionality.

There are separate apps for surveillance, music, photos, videos, file management and downloading files directly onto the NAS.

DS Audio

As the name implies, this app interfaces with the Music management and playback app “Audio Station”.  You can use it to playback any media that’s stored on your Diskstation, as well as Internet radio stations that you’ve setup though Audio Station.

The interface differs slightly depending on whether you’re using a mobile phone or tablet device, but both are as intuitive as the built-in music playback apps on your device.

DS Finder

Much like the versions for Windows and Mac, DS Finder acts as a gateway to configuring your Synology device.  Fire it up and it’ll scan the local network for any compatible devices.  What’s more, you can program in devices in remote locations, so you can still access and configure your NAS drive, even if you’re not on the same network.

DS Finder will also give you quick readouts on system versions, up time, thermal status, available disk space, hard disk health and network information.  It can also do a few snazzy things like allow you to email a table of system information, restart or shut down the system, or play a tone on the current device, so you can easily identify a specific drive if you have more than one in the office.

DS File

As the name implies, this is a simple file browsing tool for Synology drives.  Connect to a drive on your LAN and you can view and download any file stored on it to your mobile device.  You can also use it to sync files from your mobile device to your Diskstation using the proprietary Cloud Station backup system.

DS Photo+

Another obviously named one.  This app allows you to browse photo albums currently stored on your NAS.  It’s basically a viewer for Synology’s “Photo Station” web based app.  You can also use it to upload photos from your mobile device onto the system.

DS Download

No one could accuse Synology of giving things complicated names.  DS Download is the mobile app that interfaces with “Download Station” on DSM’s web interface.  Using the mobile version you can monitor existing download jobs, and add new ones by copying and pasting a URL from a webpage.

It’s worth noting that your downloads aren’t sent to your mobile device, but to your Synology NAS.  This is an incredibly useful app if you want to set a large download running but you won’t be home for several hours.  Just log into the app, paste the URL of the file into DS Download and set it running.  With a bit of luck your download will be done by the time you get home.

DS Cam

My personal favorite, DS Cam allows you to stream a live video feed from any camera that’s connected to your home network and managed by Surveillance Station.

It might seem a bit creepy, but there’s plenty of legitimate reasons why you might want to check in on your home while out and about.  A friend of mine was particularly keen to find out which of his cats was trashing the soft furnishings during the day.  A quick look at this app could have saved him much torment, not to mention a few pairs of curtains.

Performance will depend heavily on the upload speed of your home Internet connection and how good a 3G/WiFi signal your mobile device has, but I’ve found it to be perfectly usable when in areas with good signal strength.

DS Video

Remember the Video Station app from the last page?  well DS Video makes it as worth while as Plex.

Although the web interface for Video Station is a bit clunky, DS Video is comparatively smooth and easy to use.  Library information is streamed to the mobile device so you can see artwork and read bio information for all your video files.

Then you just need to tap on a file to play it directly on your mobile device over the Internet.

The only downside is that it’ll only playback file formats that are native to your device, which is a bit of a pain if all of your video files are encoded in a non-compatible format.

Performance

While the DS413 might not feature the same ARM or Intel processors as many other NAS drives, the PCC processor at its core is a real workhorse.  It also has a whole Gigabyte of RAM at its disposal, which home users can only dream of maxing out.  Even most small to medium-sized offices should find that the DS413 is powerful enough for them.

Full specs from the Synology website:

  • CPU Frequency : Dual Core 1.067 GHz
  • Floating Point
  • Hardware Encryption Engine
  • Memory : DDR3 1 GB
  • Internal HDD/SSD : 3.5″ or 2.5″ SATA(II) X 4 (Hard drive not included)
  • Max Internal Capacity : 16 TB (4 X 4 TB HDD) (Capacity may vary by RAID types) (See All Supported HDD)
  • Hot Swappable HDD
  • External HDD Interface : USB 3.0 Port X 2, USB 2.0 Port X 1, eSATA Port X 1
  • Size (HxWxD) : 165 x 203 x 233.2 mm
  • Weight : 2.03 kg
  • LAN : Gigabit X1
  • Wake on LAN/WAN
  • System Fan : 92 x 92 mm X 2
  • Wireless Support (dongle)
  • Noise Level : 19.3 dB(A)
  • Power Recovery
  • AC Input Power Voltage : 100V to 240V AC
  • Power Frequency : 50/60 Hz, Single Phase
  • Power Consumption : 35.62W (Access); 13.09W (HDD Hibernation); 3.37W (System Hibernation);
  • Operating Temperature : 5°C to 35°C (40°F to 95°F)
  • Storage Temperature : -10°C to 70°C (15°F to 155°F)
  • Relative Humidity : 5% to 95% RH
  • Maximum Operating Altitude : 6,500 feet
  • Certification : FCC Class B, CE Class B, BSMI Class B
  • Warranty : 2 Years

Unlike other Synology drives, the DS413 also features a “Hardware Encryption Unit” which means that it is much faster than other Synology drives at downloading AES encrypted files.

perf_chart_4-5_encrypted

This won’t be a concern for most home users (unless they’re really fussy about their data), but it’s a really useful tool in the corporate environment where data encryption is more important.

Conclusions

I find it hard to say bad things about Synology drives.  It’s not that I’m biased, I just genuinely think that they’re some of the best NAS drives available today.

But the DS413 is a bit of a mixed bag.  On the one hand it’s a real powerhouse when it comes to processing power, RAM and build quality.  But on the other the PPC processor does mean that some home orientated apps, such as PLEX, aren’t available.

It’s a real shame, but then the DS413 isn’t intended for general home use, it’s clearly listed under the “Home to Business Workgroup” section of Synology’s website.  For small businesses it does represent an excellent opportunity to bring things like collaborative working and centralized data storage to your network, without going to too much expense.

With the inclusion of web based tools for hosting your own corporate website, or for things like eCommerce and ticketing, you’re left with a solution which has plenty of room to grow, even if you think it might be overkill in the short term.

For home users, my advice would be to take a look at the DS412+ which doesn’t offer hardware file encryption, but does feature a more popular Intel processor which should ensure that 3rd party apps such as Plex will run without any problems.

Either device would be an absolute power-house for the modern home, bordering on overkill, but the DS413 should get special consideration from anyone in an office environment who’s looking to expand their network’s capabilities.

Author

Matt

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