Ex NAS user review of Synology DS120J

HibiscusTunes

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May 13, 2008
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When I got home on Friday the 23rd of April I had a box waiting for me on the dining room table. I was very excited to have a dedicated NAS again, but only did the setup the next day.

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In the box was everything needed except a screwdriver.
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The hardware setup was easy, I added a SATA SSD to be used as my internal drive. Most of my data are on portable or external drives, so the size of 240GB didn't bother. The only thing that I will actually store on the SSD is the operating system, apps and the recordings from surveillance station.
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After adding the drive and powering it on I used the DS finder app to setup the device.

The first surprise was just how quiet the device is! I must check if the fan is even working because I have not heard any noise except for the built in buzzer.

Checking the network interface I noticed I wasn't getting 1Gbps with the supplied cable, but I switched over to one of the cables I know provided 1Gbps to my Pi 4.

Final setup, plugged into one of my Tenda Nova mesh Wi-Fi units with media drive attached:
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The web interface gives it a nice desktop like feel that makes setup and usage intuitive:
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I connected my Gmail account to the notification center, so I am getting drive reports and improper shutdown notifications.

I quickly enabled https access using a lets encrypt certificate after setting up port forwarding to the device so that I could access it from outside of my home network. Not from my place of employment as that is very much frowned upon...

The next step was to create users for everyone on the network. This was easy as pie, Synology sent out emails to the new users.

I then proceeded to install apps that I would be using/testing. Installed Video/Audio station, VPN server, Download station, Surveillance station and Plex Media server.

So some comments about the apps:

  • Video/Audio station: VS is great for videos that you don't want on your plex server and want only your user to have access to. AS is great if you have a large collection of music and want to play them on all the devices on your network, it has USB speaker output and Alexa integration, but I couldn't test those features.
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  • VPN server: Easy to activate OpenVPN and downloading sample .ovpn config to be imported on your devices after configuring your hostname. I am posting this review from my home IP while being far away. I also have a secure connection to the Synology now, so I wont be needing the Lets Encrypt certificate and the http and https port forwarding. I would have loved TCP and UDP protocols to be enabled at the same time.
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  • Download station: Great for downloading those large files unattended. Tested with a few torrents and it works perfectly. The only issue I have is the torrent is downloaded into a temp folder on the SSD first and then moved to the directory you choose, in my case the portable USB drive. Also high CPU usage when multiple torrents are running.
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  • Surveillance station: I setup my ONVIF camera up in minutes after remembering the password and now my NAS is also my Network Video Recorder, and I can not only view the current stream, but also the history of recorded content while away from home.
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  • Plex: I didn't think plex would be very useful on a device with only 512MB of RAM and an 800Mhz CPU, but boy was I wrong! Although the indexing of my external drive took long, the device performed if I wasn't doing too much. Indexing, downloading and streaming was a bit much for the device. When only streaming everything was fine.​
    • Initial test with 720p: Flawless​
    • Next a 1080p stream: No problems​
    • 4K? Not a problem in the least except for a longer initial buffer.​
    • I will try multiple 4K streams when I am back home.​

Mobile apps: on IOS there are many Synology companion apps for the different packages installed above, like DS Audio and DS video. I use DS file to have access to my Synology drive within IOS's Files app, but its not more useful than using the app directly.

More on the NAS side of things, this Synology is replacing an Intellinet NAS that had an IDE drive. It is day and night WRT network access speeds + no drive spin up! In the last 6 months I used my Raspberry pi as a NAS by exposing my drives over SAMBA. The Synology is a much sleeker solution and definitely feels faster than the Raspberry pi DIY NAS.

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The Intellinet NAS was also huge, I love how small this Synology is, as well as the low power consumption!

Accessing the files on the Synology in windows is as easy as accessing the SMB network share at \\synology-ip.
You log in with your user and in your home folder you can put all your sensitive personal documents only accessible to your user. Any USB drives will also be in the root of the share, as well as the recordings from surveillance station.
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Pros:
  • Quiet
  • Small
  • Low power
  • Easy setup
  • The convenience of installing more apps to tailor your NAS to your needs
Cons:
  • Would have loved a tool less experience
  • Feels underpowered
  • Low ram, don't even try running anything in docker
  • Only USB2 ports, but this isn't an issue for me personally as I will be consuming data directly from the drives and not coping onto the Synology itself.
I think this is a great device for a small business or household, would recommend as entry level NAS with 4 users max.

Thanks MyBroadband / @Elouise for the opportunity to review this device, I am a converted Synologian!
 
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