Synology 412+ NAS Review

07/10/2014 | By | Reply More
Synology 412+ NAS

Synology 412+ NAS

Have you ever made a purchase that you were so happy with that years later you were still looking back and thinking how good you did? That’s how I feel about my Synology NAS. I used to think that a NAS was nothing but a hard drive that you could access over your network. My Synology  is that, and so much more. Network storage is just scratching the surface of this thing.

I loaded my Synology 412+ up with four 4TB Western Digital Red HDD’s in RAID 5. These drives were designed for use in NAS systems. RAID 5 gives me the most space with some protection if one of the hard drives fails. Actually if I remember correctly I used Synology’s equivalent of RAID 5 although I can’t remember what they called it.

Video Streaming
One of the main things I use it for is video streaming. I have several of these cool little Chromeboxes which I modified and installed Kodi on. They connect to my TV through HDMI and are able to pull movies from my NAS as they’re being watched. I can have 3 HD movies streaming to 3 different TV’s at the same time without any hiccups. I have since ripped all of my blu-rays and DVD’s and stored them on my NAS and put all of the disc’s in a box up in the attic. I never watch previews or have to deal with menus because I stripped all of that junk out when the movies were ripped. I won’t get into the process too much but if you are interested, the software I use for this is MakeMKV to rip the movie, HandBrake to transcode it and shrink the file.

I would not hesitate to recommend the Synology NAS to someone who wanted to use it solely for this purpose.  My Family has got much enjoyment from watching movies with it.  My wife and I both appreciate not finding Blu Ray and DVD boxes all over the house and we never have to worry about the discs finding their way back into the correct boxes or getting damaged.  I also like the fact that I can give my daughters user account permission to watch only the movies that are appropriate for her.

Audio Station:  This is basically a media player that you can access with a web browser and play your music library.  It’s kinda cool used that way but with the VPS and the Android app I’m able to play my entire music library from my cell phone.  I have a Verizon 4G plan and there is no buffering.  I click a song and it plays instantly.

Download Station:   This is also pretty cool when used with the Android app.  I can search for bit torrents from my cell phone and download them.  They don’t download to my cell phone and waste my data plan.  I’m actually telling my NAS to download them.  So when I get home whatever I started downloading while I was away is usually waiting for me on my NAS, and it’s done using the higher speed of my home internet connection.  You can also type in a URL to download a file from the web and you can check the status of your eMule downloads.  You can only add eMule downloads if you know the ed2k:// address (no search yet).

Server Features
When I was looking at NAS systems I was torn between buying a NAS or a cheap rack mount server.  I’m not IT pro but it’s something I’m interested in and would like to learn more of.  My Synology NAS is a server, actually it can take the place of several servers.  Here are some of the server features I use although there are many more.

DDNS: Dynamic DNS is very handy if you ever want to access data on your NAS while you are out and about.  If you want to connect to your NAS from another network via the internet then you will need to know your IP address.  Most home internet providers will change your IP address from time to time.  DDNS services will keep track of your IP address as it changes and allow you to connect to your home network using a domain name (.com name) instead of an IP address.  Even though your IP address changes your domain  name will always point to your current IP.  There are many DDNS service providers and the Synology NAS will automatically keep them updated with your current IP so that you will not have to install special software on your computer and keep your computer on all of the time. I believe Synology has a free DDNS service for their customers but I already had service somewhere else that I use.

VPN: Virtual Private Network is a way of connecting to your home network securely via the internet.  Once setup you can be connected to the hotspot at Starbucks and have complete access to everything on your home network as if you were connected at home. I use this all the time to access my files while I’m at work.  My Android phone also supports VPN connections and I find it easier to just connect to my VPN to use all of the other Android apps Synology has instead of worrying about opening up specific ports on the firewall for different apps.  Just connect to the VPN and all of the apps just work as if I was at home.  I have since upgraded my router to a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite which also supports VPNs and have been using it as my VPN server. When I made that switch I began using the Synology Radius Server to manage my VPN user authentication.  So even though I’m using the router now as my VPN server my Synology user database is still used for logging into the VPN.

Radius Server:   The Radius server basically allows other devices or computers to share the user database you’ve created on your Synology.  I was surprised how many things I already had that support this.  As I said earlier I’m using it with my router for my VPN user database.  I have a separate WiFi system that I have also configured to use it.  So at my house when you try to connect to my WiFi it actually asks you for a user name and password.  This makes it easier for me to change who has access to my WiFi connection without having to re-enter a password on all of my devices.  I can also allow some people to have access to my local network and others to only have access to the internet.  Most of that is all done through my UniFi AP Controller but it’s nice to have a single login for everything on my network.

Ubiquiti UniFi AP Controller:  This is the WiFi Controller software for the WiFi system I use.  It’s a Java based server program and is required to be running all of the time to take full advantage of some of the cooler features of the UniFi access point.  Normally I would have to keep this running on my PC and keep it on all of the time.  Some  very nice Synology user out there has turned it into a 3rd party app that runs on my Synology.  Now it’s on all of the time and I can keep my PC off when it’s not being used. For more info visit this persons site here.

System Log Server:  I can access my EdgeRouter, UniFi AP and Synology NAS logs all in one place.  I can see who has logged into WiFi, VPS, etc and easily see what errors or issue have been happening.

Web Server:  This thing is also capable of being a web server with PHP, Java, Peal, Python and MySQL.  You can install WordPress at the click of a button which is what this blog is using (although not hosted on my Synology).  There are too many other web applications that are 1-click installs to list.  I haven’t really used them other than to see if they would work but I can see this being a selling point for some people.  It would probably be great for a company intra-net, wiki or directory.  I wouldn’t use it myself for a web site only because my ISP doesn’t offer static IP’s to residential customers and my connection isn’t all that reliable.

DNS Server:  I haven’t got around to trying this out yet but it is on my To Do list.  I hope to setup a local domain with this but I have some reading up to do first.

Cloud Station: “Allows you to easily sync files between your Synology products, computers and mobile devices.”  I haven’t messed with this yet because I feel I can already accomplish this with the VPN but decided to list it here because of all the hype these days about “the cloud”.

Anyway… If you have been on the fence about forking out the cash for a Synology NAS then I would have to say that you need to just do it.  You won’t regret it.  I have a feeling that all of the different models are about the same functionality wise.  The only recommendation I would give about choosing one is to make sure you get one of the + versions  (Synology 412+).  The Plus versions have much faster speeds than the non-plus versions which you will really come to appreciate in the long run.

Click here to check current prices on Amazon.com

This blog is just the beginning, there is a lot more that I would like to say but I’ll update it later.

 

 

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Category: Gadgets, Internet, Miscellaneous, Reviews

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