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SPONSORED INDEPENDENT PRODUCT REVIEW: A fine NAS machine

SPONSORED INDEPENDENT PRODUCT REVIEW: A fine NAS machine

Synology Rackstation RS3412RPxs

Synology Rackstation RS3412RPxs

Please note: This is a sponsored independent product review supplied to ARN by Enex Testalab

SYNOLOGY RACKSTATION RS3412RPxs

Quite simply, if you are in the market for a fully featured NAS device, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Synology’s Rackstation RS3412RPxs.

It’s a neat 2RU rack-mountable Network Attached Storage (NAS) device with some good hardware features such as additional dual power supplies and redundant CPU fans.

For this review we tested Synology’s NAS with ten (the maximum supported) Western Digital RE4 WD5003ABYX 500GB SATA-II drives, featuring 7200RPM, 3Gb/s, dual-port Intel X520-DA2 10Gb Ethernet server network adapter.

These ten 500GB drives were arranged in a Synology Hybrid RAID formation, which allows for one physical drive to fail without data loss. Synology devices can actually make use of two-disk-redundancy if desired, which is good for those administrators who seek maximum redundancy and availability—of course it should not really constitute a replacement for other forms of backup—natural disasters and data corruption can still strike.

Unlike traditional RAID 5 systems, the Synology Hybrid RAID is capable of using physical drives of differing sizes. This scalability is a great feature, it means that capacity can be increased gradually as the need arises, in an almost ad-hoc manner. Other systems tend to recognise all drives as being the same size as the smallest physical drive.

While the term Network Attached Storage gives modest impressions of a hard-drive linked via a network cable, it needs to be remembered that a NAS can offer much more than this. The Synology device is a server in its own right. It has in-built smarts enabling it to serve as a file server, FTP server, mail server, media server for music and images, a web server, or even for surveillance video streaming from webcams.

Self-contained, it features integrated back-up software, firewall, antivirus, power saving features, and resource monitoring.

Data security and flexibility have been considered, supported protocols include HTTPs, FTP over SSL and NFS over SSL, LDAP and SNMP. There is support for VPN usage, AES-256bit folder encryption. Antivirus, firewall and IP Auto block. Access privileges can be applied to individual users, groups and domains.

Power savings is possible in a number of ways. Pre-set power-up and power-down times can be configured. The device supports Wake on LAN (WoL) to the single Gigabit ports. And hard-drives can be set to power down if idle for a specified time.

Aside from an optional 10Gb network card, the unit has four conventional Gigabit Ethernet ports. Our PC and the NAS were initially connected via standard Ethernet ports. In this condition the ‘Synology Assistant’ software on the administrators PC could be used to locate the NAS and begin configuration. The device had DiskStation Manager (DSM) software pre-installed, and this can also be transferred to the device from another computer via Synology Assistant. We found setup to be very straightforward.

DiskStation Manager allows convenient, browser-based management of the NAS. Processes such as creating logical volumes or repairing volumes when a physical drive fails are simple and require very little expertise.

We tested transfer speeds to, and from, the NAS by measuring the performance of a single, large, compressed file (1.42GB) and a complex directory tree (3.55GB containing 14,540 items). Transfers were performed using Explorer under Windows 7 Professional (64bit).

The unit was connected to a Acer Veriton M6610 PC endowed with a Core i7-2600 processor running at 3.4GHz; 8GB RAM; and a Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKX 500GB, 7200PRPM, SATA-III hard drive. The NAS and PC were connected via Intel X520-DA2 10Gb Ethernet Server Adapters. For the purposes of this review both the PC and the NICs were supplied by Synology.

Installing the 10Gb network card probably will require an administrator to consult the manual if not familiar with them. Advanced configuration settings on the PC must be accessed (IP addresses were in the pattern of 10.0.0.x).

Synology claims speeds of up to 8Gb/s for this unit. In practice, you should not expect to actually observe such high speeds; our testing gives an indication of more realistic performance. The Acer PC used had a single SATA-III hard-drive which limits the theoretical maximum transfer to 6Gb/s, with system overheads degrading this even further.

In practice, the fastest speed observed during testing was 3.43Gb/s when transferring the large, compressed file from PC to NAS. Speeds of up to 1.74Gb/s were recorded when copying the file in the opposite direction. Not surprisingly, speeds are much slower when copying a complex directory tree, the system overheads involved in locating files are much larger. Transfers of the directory tree to the NAS were managed at 0.34Gb/s, while transferring back to the PC achieved 0.28Gb/s.

If connected to a high performance server as intended (such as a host for virtual machines) it would be reasonable to assume that Rackstation RS3412RPxs would run close to Synology’s claims. The RAID configuration allows even relatively modest SATA-II drives to pool resources, achieving very high read speeds (in particular).

By supporting 10Gb/s networking to a VM server, the Rackstation, which is also compatible with VMWare, Citrix and Hyper-V systems, can support a bank of virtual machines using a single, broad network pipe.

There’s been some genuine effort put into the design of this machine. Passive cooling of the CPU heat sink (no fan) diverts from a common failure point. Redundant smart system fans manage the ventilation.

Reliability has been tackled with dual flash ROM, enterprise grate ECC RAM, and link aggregation with failover and load balancing.

CONCLUSION With great scalability, reliability, thorough redundancy and solid performance, this really is a fine machine. As a file server it is impressive, but its versatility means it can be used equally effectively as a web-server, media server or mail-server. It is easy to manage, well made, and has a well-considered approach to many common server management and hardware issues. With a bundle of useful features and configuration options, this product is fast, flexible and secure.

Enex TestLab

Founded in 1989 as part of RMIT University in Melbourne, Enex TestLab commercialised in 2005 to become an independent provider of ICT testing services with a primary clientele of governments and multinationals worldwide.

With eight specialist delivery groups within the organisations, it provides testing for hardware, software, systems, security, usability and accessibility, gaming, physical, and publishing media and communications.

The company employs a user focused approach, offering flexibility to customise tailored testing solutions that are of value for investment and low risk.

Enex TestLab currently holds international laboratories and offices across Asia and Europe, servicing 90 industry sectors over 22 years.


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