Before computing was mainstream, sharing a personal memory was only accomplishable through printed pictures. People kept photo albums that held, literally, thousands of pictures. A newborn's picture, their first day of school, camping, or just a funny moment were all captured on physical paper.

What if you didn’t have your disposable camera with you during your vacation? Or what happened if you ran out of film? Well, the capture of the memory ended, but the thoughts are always with you. The only disappointment is that sharing the memory in the years to come becomes more difficult as the memory fades.

Today, we don’t have the problems that many faced just a short time ago. Nowadays, nearly everybody has a high-end smartphone camera and just about twenty different ways of sharing their memory. Go to a car show? Snap a picture of all the cars, then share them on Facebook. Meet a famous celebrity? Make a video with them and upload it to YouTube.

While it’s easy to capture the memory, and share it with others, maintaining and storing the content is still just as difficult. Before, the picture books at least meant you could hold onto physical copies of pictures. Now, with everything being digital, it’s not easy printing out a video frame-by-frame of that famous celebrity.

If you’re like my brother, then you will sooner or later fill up your smartphone’s memory with pictures and need to offload them somewhere; otherwise, that new smartphone game can’t be downloaded.

Luckily, there are options like moving the pictures onto your computer, but this means you need to use the dedicated storage on your PC. Plus, what happens if your PC dies or breaks? There're cloud storage options, but these are limited to approximately 5GB free storage, and let’s face it, many of us will fill up 5GB quite quickly.

What we really need is a central electronic backup solution that is accessible anywhere, secure, convenient, and has data protection in case something inside fails.

Any business employee will know that to save, share, and protect files, you use an internal server. Servers are held in a special server room that contains specialized server computers which are capable of an assortment of different tasks. One of those tasks is almost always for data backup and recovery.

If you’ve ever deleted a server file at work, chances are the IT department can easily recover the deleted server file. Plus, if a main hard drive fails in the server room, the company doesn’t lose all of its documents because the data is backed up and can be restored easily.

Thinking about it, wouldn’t it be great to have this functionality for your own personal home use? Those electronic photos and videos could be easily backed up to a secure, protected, recovery server and the cherry on top is that it doesn’t chew up the hard drive space on your phone or computer.

Known as a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device, these devices offer file-transfer and file-storage for computing clients on a network. With a NAS installed on your network, you could easily transfer a file from your phone to the “cloud” and download it to your computer within seconds.

Previously, these home NAS configurations were expensive and required extensive computer knowledge for both setup and operation. Not so much in today’s world.

Synology, a computer networking-based company, has recently become a major name in the networking industry. At sixteen years of age, this networking company seems to be setting its sights on something other than enterprise; the everyday home user.

With a wide lineup of different consumer-friendly NAS devices available on the market, Synology caught my eye with their latest DiskStation Manager (DSM) 6 operating system and Amazon Choice award DS216j NAS. Being easy to use, having tons of storage, and almost worry-free, is this DS216j NAS ready to be your new electronic photo album?

Welcome to my review of the Synology DS216j NAS. Throughout this full, in-depth review, I will be covering the setup, design, functionality, performance, and my final thoughts of the NAS. A special thank you to Synology for providing me with this device.



Setup

I’ve mentioned in past reviews that one of the biggest irritations I have is when people do not make backups of their personal computers. Your computer dies, it gets stolen, water damage, physical damage, data corruption, there are hundreds of different ways that you could easily lose your data.

It happens here at Tech Support Forum more than you may think. Many people constantly asking for how to recover a deleted or corrupt file.

Having a home NAS is more than the photo album I mentioned in the introduction. It’s about having a secondary backup of your files in case they suddenly disappear, but how much data you want to backup is where you first begin.

Personally, I have two major computer systems running on my network. These two computers hold 90% of my personal files. In my case, backing up these computers of the important files barely reaches 500GB. So, with a 2TB backup configuration, it’s more than I’ll ever use.

That said, your results may vary and more storage may be needed. The DS216j supports up to a shocking 10TB configuration and if you need more than that, then you need to cut back on your electronic documents.

When you’ve decided on the sizing that you need, I’d advise checking the Synology hard drive compatibility checker to ensure that your hard drive size and model is compatible with the DS216j. Solid state drives are supported too.

Remember that two drives are required to be used with the DS216j. This NAS uses a RAID 1 (default) configuration which requires two identical drives to be used at the same time. For those unaware, a RAID 1 configuration uses two hard drives and mirrors one to the other. In my case, I have two 2TB hard drives in my DS216j, for a total of 4TB. Yet only 2TB is accessible, as the other 2TB is an identical mirror. The purpose is that if drive one fails, drive two still maintains all of the data; it’s redundancy. For more information about RAID, see my article here .

After the mailman delivers your new hard drives and the DS216j, setup is a breeze. The hard drives mount inside the DS216j on hard drive trays with rubber vibration mounts which help stabilize the drives.

Once everything is installed and screwed back together, power and an Ethernet cable are all that is left to get the DS216j turned on.

Initial turn on of the DS216j forces it to go into a setup phase which is accessible through a web browser. I ran into a bit of trouble accessing my DS216j through the web browser. Luckily, Synology offers a Windows application ( Synology Assistant ) that can detect the NAS for you and it found mine within seconds.



After connecting to the NAS, an easy-to-read and follow guide gets you through most of the steps with ease. It does a lot of the work for you and asks you for personal information like creating an account (optional), naming your NAS, setting a password, and a few other details.

Then, the DS216j takes a few minutes to setup your hard drives and install the DiskStation Manager operating system. Afterward, you are setup and ready to go. Total setup time is about 15 minutes.



Design

Amazon’s product images for the DS216j make the product look big and tall. In reality, it’s quite the contrary.

Comprising a plastic housing, rubber feet, and some metal support structures inside, the DS216j is small enough to fit practically anywhere you’d like it to be. I placed mine inside an open cubby hole in my office’s credenza, however, the DS216j could be placed on a PC desk as well.

While nearly all white in design, the DS216j does have some nifty design aspects to it. On the left and right sides, there is the Synology name, but they double as heat vents. On the front, there are the status indication LEDs for power, status, LAN, and disk status lights.

Rotate the DS216j to the back to find a 92mm exhaust fan, followed by two USB 3.0 ports and a 1Gb LAN port. For the fan, there is the option to put the fan into a cool, quiet, and low-power mode depending on how loud you want the system to be.

As far as heat is concerned, the unit can become warm, but it wasn’t anything that I was worried about. Just ensure that the fan exhaust isn’t pushed up against anything that could cause it to recirculate the warm air.

Inside, the unit is uneventful with the two drive bays, metal support structures, and a small PCB for the brains of the DS216j.
Although there are rubber vibration mounts to suppress hard drive noise, I did experience some hard drive rotation noises. These noises were minor, but I would advise placing the unit in a location moderately away from your desk.

I’m quite pleased with the design of the DS216j and its smaller size makes it perfect for home usage. Plus, with its white color, it fits well into most areas without sticking out like a sore thumb. Even small details like adjustable LED brightness is an option so that you have the NAS facing forward even at night.



Functionality

This NAS is one of the more feature-rich NAS units out there. Many others are basic and rudimentarily. Synology takes it a step beyond that and gives you full functionality and doesn’t put any stop signs in your way.

Whether or not you purchase their most expensive home NAS unit or this one, the NAS comes with Synology’s own custom Linux-Based operating system. Known as DiskStation Manager (DSM), Synology just revamped this operating system to version 6.0 which comes with some great new features and a very easy to use user interface.

When using DSM, the entire user interface takes place in your web browser. When connecting, you are prompted for a username and password. The security of the D216j is to a higher standard than most.

Something that I was happy about was that there aren’t any warning signs that say “Sorry, but this feature is for our customers who pay for our more expensive NAS units.” Everything is unlocked for you to customize and make your own. Again, it’s the “no stop signs” method.

Customization plays a big role in the DSM operating system. There are custom user profiles with their own custom permissions, folder creation and managing, movie and photo viewer apps, backup solutions, adjustable power times, LED brightness adjustment, fan profiles, automatic updates, and so on.

Those familiar with either Windows or MacOS will be able to navigate the operating system with complete ease. There is a top positioned taskbar that works similar to that in Windows. Additionally, there is a “start” button that shows you all of the installed apps. This is similar to Apple’s Launch Pad.

Then, on the right is a notifications tab, profile button, search function, and a Resource Monitor that displays CPU, RAM, and LAN status. With the resource monitor, you can tell whether or not the DS216j is being taxed on performance.

There are preinstalled applications, but they are useful ones. There’s an audio, photo, and video station that allows you to play, see, and watch your content directly from the NAS. Of course, these applications also offer server usage, like a music server.

If you want to expand beyond what Synology gives you by default, there is a Package Center that offers Synology and third party applications. There are a fair number of available applications (99% of them are free) and they all do their own special thing.

Antivirus, Plex, Java, Backup, Mail Server, iTunes, Documents, Surveillance, Web, Text editor, and the list goes on for applications. Since this NAS is meant for file storage and not hardcore server work or media server, I only downloaded a select few.

One of those selected apps that I did download was the Plex app. I’ve never used Plex before, but I heard great things about it. The installation of the app was great. I clicked Install and a few seconds later it was done and ready to be used. No human interaction needed. After connecting the Plex account, I was ready to go. Or so I thought.

When I uploaded a movie to Plex on the NAS, the video appears in the Plex application, but when I tried to watch it I was greeted by a message telling me that the NAS isn’t powerful enough for video encoding and playback. It was a disappointment indeed, but I can now see why Synology offers a “Play” version of this NAS which can do this function.

After Plex, I tried a few of the other applications and other than a good test run, nothing was standing out to me. Similar to Plex, they all install and configure themselves without interaction.

Most of your time in DSM will be spent inside the Control Panel. After you’ve created your users and their permissions, those users will be able to connect to the NAS and access just their files (outlined in their permissions).

Some of the options in the control panel that caught my attention were that a domain could be configured on the unit. Moreover, there is a security suite that protects your files and NAS from malware.

There is also a task scheduler for checking SMART on the hard drives or you can create your own tasks. Additionally, if you understand the programming language to create your own tasks, Telnet and SSH are also supported.

As I mentioned in the introduction, if you desire, the DS216j can be configured to be accessible from outside of your local network. This is great if you are travelling and need to access files at home. Or perhaps if you want to share files with other people.

To view your files through DSM, Synology provides an acceptable file navigation tool that categorizes files and folders, displays file icons, like a PDF icon, and has full copy, paste, and delete options. Popups are helpful so that you do not accidently delete content. Moreover, you can open files using Google Docs or email them directly from the DS216j.

Whenever I became lost or couldn’t find what I was looking for on the DS216j, there is a DSM Help center that with basic search keywords can typically display what you are looking for. Search for “music” to have it suggest Edit Music Information, Audio Station, and Bluetooth. The term “power” returns control panel options relating to power. When that’s not enough, there are some Synology YouTube videos that can help with the more complicated tasks.

I haven’t included every feature and every detail of DSM. If I had, then we’d have quite a long review. Plus, you don’t have to take my word for all of this. You can actually use DSM before you even buy the product. Synology offers a free and live demo of the operating system here .

Even though the DSM is the main setup and configuration tool, operating and using the NAS is done with an Android, MacOS, iOS, or Windows device.

For those who do not know, when you connect to your NAS (using a Windows PC), it works in the same way as your C: drive. It’s a mapped network location that acts just like any other folder on your desktop. Transfer and download files to it at will.

To connect to the device, guides on “How to connect a network drive on [Operating system]” can be found on Google. Or assistance can be found here at Tech Support Forum on our forums.

Something to note is that after a short amount of time, the DS216j goes into a low-power idle mode. It’s not off, but the hard drives stop spinning. This means that there is a slight delay when accessing the DS216j from Windows when it has gone to sleep. It’s only a few seconds and should be harmless, but something to note.



Performance

The entire intention of the DS216j is to be used as a file-storage device for personal backups and general file storage. So, if you are going to be backing up your files and accessing your files constantly, then performance needs to be of great value.

Inside of my DS216j are two Seagate 2TB NAS 6Gb/s hard drives in the stock Synology Hybrid RAID 1 configuration. The DS216j is hardwired into a Linksys switch, which is then hardwired into the router. The transfer took place with minimum network usage using a PC that is also hardwired into the network.

Three tests were performed for general usage testing. The first was moving a folder of 277 Microsoft Word Documents. These documents contain text and images. The total size of the folder was 60MB. With a transfer rate of 93MB/s, the folder was completely transferred in five seconds.

Next, I moved a 2GB movie. This time, the DS216j maxed out at a writing speed of 96MB/s and total transfer time was 25 seconds.

Lastly, I moved a 8GB 1080p TV series to the DS216j. At an outstanding 92MB/s transfer speed, the total transfer time was 1.15 minutes.

After my performance tests, I was absolutely blown away with how things performed and found it to be very suitable as a backup file hub as well as a place that I could easily navigate to and access my files. At an average of 92MB/s and having incredible completion times, it was a well acceptable speed in my book and didn’t hinder my network for others.

For backing up my files, I chose to use the Synology Cloud Station Backup software. Must I say again, that I was blown away with this software, just as I am with the rest of the functionality.

The software is modest and easy to configure. You connect it to your NAS, find a suitable location to store files and then choose what folders on your PC you want to backup. It runs an initial backup of the selected folders and then watches the folder for new changes.

When the Synology Cloud Station Backup software detects a new file or a change to a file, then it is immediately backed up and stored safely on the NAS. Never again would you worry about accidently deleting a file.

Third party backup tools are compatible with the DS216j after checking with their compatibility cheat sheet here .



My Final Thoughts

This review marks one of the longest and most informative reviews I have ever created and this is all good news. For a product that only costs $169.99, it is unbelievable what Synology offers you. There aren’t any warnings saying that you didn’t pay for the “premium” model or anything limiting your intended usage for this NAS.

In continuation of the full honesty and transparency review of this product, never was I frustrated or hindered while using the DS216j. While hiccups like Plex not working are annoying, it’s not the intended function of the DS216j.

Copying, protecting, and maintaining my files is what I was looking for in this unit and it gave me that and then some. It’s a pleasant sleep at night knowing that even if the computer refuses to start one day, then the files are backed up in a secondary location.

What we have here is a user-friendly, feature-rich, and excellent file management system for the everyday home user. I don’t believe the DS216j could be any better and it blew me away as I expect it to do to you as well if you happen to purchase one.

Buy it Now (DS216j):


Buy it Now (Hard Drives):


© 2016 Justin Vendette