Synology's wide range of consumer and business NAS enclosures has a new addition aimed at small businesses — the DiskStation DS712+. This bears some resemblance to the existing DS710+ 2-bay model, but features a beefier 1.8GHz processor coupled with 1GB of RAM. It's identically sized to the DS710+, but has a completely different front panel with front-loading hot-swap disk bays, instead of the rear mounted bays on the DSM710+. The bays each incorporate a disk status light can be individually locked with a small plastic key.
At the right of the front bays is the status panel with status lights for the dual Gigabit Ethernet LAN interfaces (it supports link aggregation if you have an 802.3ad-capable switch, otherwise you're limited to basic network failover operation). There's also a USB port and a Copy button for copying data from an attached USB device. Two more USB ports and an e-SATA port are at the rear, near the outlet for the quiet 92mm system fan. The e-SATA port can be used to connect a Synology DX510 expansion unit and seamlessly add an extra five hard disks to the system, giving a potential capacity of up to 21TB.
Installing drives (it takes 3.5in and 2.5in SATA models up to 3TB) is a simple matter of securing them in the plastic drive trays with six screws. The excellent Synology Assistant software takes care of initial firmware installation and setup, and it's easy enough for non-technical users to get up and running. Once the firmware is installed, the Synology Assistant can be used to connect to the Disk Station Manager (DSM) web interface.
The DS712+ supports Synology's new 3.2 release of DSM, although our early unit shipped with the Ajax-powered version 3.1. We upgraded it, and found that the new interface is almost identical to the existing version (there's a live demo available at Synology's web site). However, it now uses HTML5 and CSS3, so it supports features such as drag-and-drop file copying from the Windows desktop to a file browser window.
Anyone familiar with DSM will realise that it's one of the best NAS interfaces around, with a responsive desktop-like graphical environment containing shortcuts to all the numerous features. It really does make managing the DS712+ a simple procedure — and if you get stuck, there's plenty of context-sensitive help available. A wide range of additional application packages from Synology and third parties can be downloaded from the website.
The DSM712+ is available immediately at £399.99 (inc. VAT).