I decided to write a review of the DS112J for two reasons: the first was to reinforce the overall view that this is a good product, but in my opinion is overshadowed by its better big brother: Synology DS212J 2 Bay NAS Enclosure
. The second half gives a few hints/tips on setting up, and problems I've overcome. Overall, the product retains 4 stars (and not 3 that I feel it earns in relation to the 2-bay version) only because all of the apps available are available to both and Synology have designed an excellent system, no matter how many bays are available.
A) THE UNIT ITSELF
I did a lot of review reading before I purchased the DS212J. After weighing up a lot of options (including one or two of its bigger brothers), I came to the conclusion that it is in the sweet spot for price vs. performance. Since it is slightly bigger than the DS112J, you can put two drives in - or else simply have an empty slot should you need to expand and upgrade one day. Having only one disk drive available in this NAS server also means that if you are someone who wants to use RAID in mirror mode (a second drive is a duplicate of the first as a backup), you can't. To this end, while there is nothing inherently wrong with the DS112J, I feel there is more going for the 2-bay version.
That said, if you really do want this one, it's basically got most of the features of the DS212J. The box is sent out ready to slide open and install the drive, and once you're done you just use a couple of the screws supplied to seal the box. It's remarkably quiet. The amount of noise you can expect to hear from it will depend only on how noisy your hard drives are. I agree with other reviewers that it does feel a bit plastically when it's empty, but once the disk is installed and it gives the box a bit of weight, it feels sturdy enough. (Also, once you're done installing everything, it's only going to sit somewhere in your house unattended, so it's not exactly a big issue.)
An Ethernet cable is supplied, although I'm not sure if it's CAT5 or CAT6. When connected directly to my computer, I achieved read/write speeds of ~480mbps (gigabit Ethernet, obviously) and I'm not sure if that figure is limited by the NAS or the disks. At any rate, it's plenty enough. When copying smaller files en masse (such as pictures or mp3 files), the transfer rate drops to about 120mbps, but again that is to be expected.
The NAS is feature-rich, especially compared to other entry-level NAS boxes. The iTunes server (I'll touch upon this later) works just fine, the DS apps work well; it is relatively straight forward to enable ftp/http access to the box from the internet too. I haven't set up the Cloud feature yet, although having read the spiel about it in the manual on the way to work I do prefer the sound of my own personal Cloud storage than using Google/Apple to store my personal stuff in some server thousands of miles away.
The USB ports on the box serve many more options than simply plugging in extra drives. The NAS can host a USB printer and make it networkable - so it can turn any printer into a network printer. To be honest you can plug virtually anything into them... except a USB hub.
Overall it is rock solid performance, reliable and quiet. I'd avoid the entry-level D-link and spend a bit more money buying this or the Synology DS212J 2 Bay NAS Enclosure
. It's worth it.
B) HINTS AND TIPS
Okay, I'll try and list all the issues/obstacles/tricks that I used in setting up my NAS box. Hopefully some of them will help you too.
a) The box wipes your disks when you install them, so make sure you back up whatever you have beforehand. If you have a lot of data (e.g. on a 2TB drive), then you're probably wise to do backups overnight.
b) I had previously been using a media streamer as a pseudo-NAS, with an external HDD plugged in. Given this more permanent solution, I opened up my external drive and used that disk directly in my NAS. So if you have an external drive and don't need the disk for anything other than in-house storage, don't go and buy another disk, just use the one you have already! :)
c) If you don't have a gigabit network at home, but *do* have a gigabit Ethernet adapter in your computer, I'd strongly recommend initially connecting the NAS directly to your computer. You don't need a crossover cable or anything, Ethernet sockets these days make that leap for you, so you can just use the cable provided. This will make your initial copy of all of your data to the NAS a lot quicker.
d) When you first begin the NAS setup, it'll ask you whether you want a static IP address or use your DHCP server at home (i.e. your router). I'd strongly recommend a static IP address. You don't have to do anything special to your router settings for this. Just select an IP address for the NAS that you know the router won't dish out to any other device on the network. (For example, I used 192.168.0.4, and my router only assigns in the range 192.168.0.100 - 192.168.0.254, so there definitely won't ever be an IP conflict.) By assigning a fixed IP address, it'll make accessing your NAS from the internet much simpler - as port forwarding rules map to IP addresses not to computer names. Also, some media streamers (I own two PlayonHD streamers) sometimes have a little difficulty accessing workgroups, so if you have a static IP address for the NAS, you can just create shortcuts based on that and they'll always work.
e) The iTunes server built in to the NAS is good, and generally it does work, but it has its limitations. Basically, I wanted my entire music collection stored centrally so that on any given computer in the house I just use iTunes' sharing facility to access this central repository. This is fine (and it works well), but if you own an iPad/iPhone/iPod and want to sync music to it from this collection, it's not immediately obvious how you can do this. The reason is that to sync to one of these products, you have to plug it into a computer that actually stores these files locally, and you can't plug an iPhone into the NAS and expect this result. The way I solved this problem is as follows:
1) Create a shared folder on the NAS called `music'. (It's important you call it exactly that: the NAS only indexes music in the folder with that exact name.)
2) Now map that drive on the NAS onto your main computer. Call it "X:" (or whatever your favourite letter is). Locate your current iTunes library on your local machine and copy it over to that folder.
3) Go into iTunes on your local machine, and delete every song in the library BUT SELECT THE OPTION THAT SAYS, "Keep the files". You do this so you have a second copy of it all in case you go wrong somewhere. Close iTunes and re-open it to ensure this takes effect.
4) Open iTunes `preferences', and change the location you want to store your music to "X:". At this point, your music should already be in that folder (you copied it over at stage 2), and since it was organised by iTunes before, it already has the directory structure it likes.
5) Finally, click on iTunes' `add folder' option, and select the "X:" drive. Now, the library file is created on your local machine, but the files are stored on the NAS. So to that one iTunes client, it appears as if the files are stored locally. You can now use this iTunes to sync your Apple devices.
I realise it's a bit fiddly, but it's the only workaround I have achieved without duplicating the entire library. The NAS automatically reindexes music, so give it a few minutes and its own Audio Station will catch up too.
f) In order to be able to access your NAS from the big wide world (either through the web interface, or through DS Audio/Video/File apps), you will need to open up some ports in your router, and for extra convenience you should register your modem's external IP address to a DDNS service (Synology provide such a service). For example, I can access my NAS using an address of the form "xyz.diskstation.me". With regards to the router, you can either use the EZ-Internet access feature, which (provided your router is on the list of approved routers it has) will just uPnP its way through all the necessary port forwarding settings, or else you can set up the correct port forwarding settings yourself. I have a Virgin Superhub, and EZ didn't play well with it, so I was in the latter situation. It's actually very straightforward. Provided you have a static IP (a necessity for this to work), the must-have ports are 5000 to 5006 (web interface and apps). The optional extras are 80 and 443. The reason is that if you just type in xyz.diskstation.me (from anywhere, either inside or outside your home network), this request will go to port 80 (http) or 443 (https). Unless these are opened up, you won't be redirected onto the NAS. Now, the downside to opening 80 and 443 up is that you are _bound_ to attract phishing from the big wide world: this is because these are standard ports. What I did was to set up IP blocking: 3 attempts in 3 minutes from an IP address and it's blocked permanently. If you don't want to risk it, then xyz.diskstation.me:5000 will work. It's just a bit more fiddly. If you plan on using the mail server, ftp or other features, then you will need to look up the relevant ports for these too. But I anticipate the web interface and apps as being universal features that most would use. Read more ›