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The Synology Rack Station RS408 only comes as a bare enclosure. Although you'll need to factor in the price of the disks, this does mean that you can shop around for the best value and get exactly the speed and capacity you want. Almost any SATA disk can be employed, up to 1TB in capacity, with screws supplied to mount the disks in special carriers ready to pop into the hot-plug bays. Our review unit was supplied by Novatech.
Four bays are available, giving a total capacity of 4TB, falling to 3TB if you opt to stripe data across a RAID 5 configuration. We used a set of 500GB 7,200rpm Hitachi Deskstar drives, which we found advertised at £95 (ex. VAT) on the web, bumping up the overall price by £380. Disks with a capacity of 1TB are available at around £100-150.
The unit itself is housed in a 1U rack mount casing with access to the drive bays at the front and all the interfaces round the back. Ours had a single power supply, but if you opt for the RS408-RP (£1,052.95) you get two for extra availability. You also get a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports for network attachment and two USB 2.0 interfaces that can be used both to take backups to external USB storage devices and share a USB printer on the LAN. You can also expand capacity with external USB disks, at the cost of a performance hit.
The RS408 is driven by an 800MHz processor supported by 512MB of SDRAM. Installation is kicked off by a utility that locates the appliance on the network, formats the first disk and then downloads the Linux-based operating system. Further setup is then done via a browser using what we found to be a very intuitive AJAX-based graphical interface.
From here we were able to create the volumes we wanted to share with a choice of JBOD, RAID 0, 1 and 5 setups. There's no hot-sparing facility and the RAID options aren't as comprehensive as on some of the competition, but the basics are there and you can expand RAID 1/5 arrays by adding larger or extra disks on the fly. Moreover, the Synology appliance is far from slow, proving more than a match for other NAS boxes we've tested.
In terms of file sharing protocols there's support for SMB/CIFS, AFP, FTP and NFS, making the storage available to Windows, Mac and Linux users. Built-in user accounts and groups can be employed to control access, with Active Directory integration for use on larger networks. Disk quotas can also be applied and there's also a web-based interface that enables anyone with a browser to view and download files from the RS408.
Backups of data can be taken on demand or scheduled either to USB-attached devices or over the network to another NAS appliance. You also get software to back up desktop PCs to the NAS appliance.
Other nice features include integrated Apache, PHP and MySQL database servers, plus a Surveillance Station option to record output from network IP cameras. Multimedia streaming capabilities are also built in, although these are aimed more at home rather than business users.