In the last three years, Synology's NAS drives have steadily improved, both in terms of hardware and software. The DiskStation 212 is a mid-range, two-bay barebones NAS and is ideally suited to home or small business users who want somewhere to store and share files. Read more storage reviews
Gone are the days when there was just one PC at home. Now, you'll have at least two or three computers, plus smartphones and tablets, all of which have their own separate storage. Not only is it a pain to back these up, but files aren't always easily accessible from other devices.
The DiskStation aims to make that easier, as well as providing a host of other features as well.
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The DS212 comes without disks, but it's easy to pop the front panel off and slide out the disk trays and screw your disks in place. Then, it's simply a case of sliding them in and replacing the front cover. It's significantly easier than older DiskStations which lacked removable trays.
A 1.6GHz processor is paired with 256MB of RAM to help ensure the 212 can handle multiple connections and file transfers - we'll get on to performance later. See also: DiskStation 212+ review.
At the back are two USB 3.0 ports (handy for connecting a matching external USB 3.0 disk for local backups) and a Gigabit Ethernet port.
The front panel hosts a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot.
Once you've installed disks in the DS212 and connected it to your network, you need to use the Synology Assistant software to locate it. You can then assign an admin password and set a static IP address.
Setup is easy, then, but it's the firmware - more like a fully fledged operating system - which truly makes the DiskStation a pleasure to use.
Browsing to the 212's web-based management interface (which Synology calls DiskStation Manager, or DSM) is more like booting up a Linux PC as you get a desktop with icon shortcuts, plus widgets and a status bar.
The quick-start guide prompts you to create a volume (RAID 1 is the sensible default, but note that it's Synology's 'hybrid RAID' rather than plain mirroring) and shows how to make essential settings, but it's simple enough to find what you need in the Control Panel to create a few shared folders and users, giving each person read and write permissions specific to them. You can also allocate quotas so they can't fill up the disks with videos, for example.
What's confusing is that some tools are only in the drop-down menu at the top-left corner of the screen, even though they should really be in the Control Panel as well. Try searching the Control Panel for 'backup' for example, and you'll find Network Backup, but not Backup and Restore since it's in the 'start' menu only. Apart from foibles such as this, everything is logically arranged.
There are all the features you'd expect to find, such as an FTP server, HTTP file server, print server, iTunes server and DNLA/UPnP support. There's also lots of extras you might not expect such as a mail server, web server, VPN server and support for multiple IP camera feeds in Surveillance Station.
The latter two, plus the iTunes server, aren't installed by default, but are effectively apps which join a growing number by both Synology and third-parties. You can see the full list on Synology's website. Of most interest to home users will be Download Station for saving files from websites directly to the DS212, plus the new Cloud Station.
Next page: Apps and performance