In addition to the standard network protocols, the NAS allows working with files via a web-browser. The new firmware version supports drag-and-drop. If the browser has Java, you will see local disks in the folder tree. Access rights options, zip archives and background operations are all supported. HTTPS is supported as well, making the process secure even if you access the NAS via public communications. The File Station supports web-browsers in mobile devices such as iPhone, Windows Mobile and Symbian but in a limited way (you can only download files with them).
Photographs, music and movies are the most typical content stored on a home NAS, so there are a lot of multimedia services here. The Audio Station allows listening to music, Internet radio stations and files from media servers on the LAN. There is a wide choice of reproduction devices: USB speakers connected directly to the NAS (a remote control can be added in this case), any computer with a compatible browser, or an iPhone/iPod with free DS Audio software. The single inconvenience is that all music must be stored in the shared folder called “music”.
The second interesting application is Photo Station. It is a functional all-in-one solution for publishing photographs and video clips as well as for creating a blog. This Station has its own user database, which is handy for providing remote access to the albums. There are also a lot of page design and blog functionality settings. Similar to the previous application, photographs can be accessed via mobile devices. There is even a specialized iPhone application for downloading them.
The media library stored on the NAS can be offered to computer iTunes clients and to compatible players via UPnP AV/DLNA. Sony PS3 and Microsoft Xbox 369 are on the compatibility list. There is a free iPhone application to access the media library, too. An interesting feature of the media server is that it can transcode FLAC and APE formats for listening to these lossless formats on many multimedia devices that can understand ordinary WAV. The only downside we can find about this service is that it works only with predefined folders on the NAS.
NASes are often used for computer-less downloading of files. They can help you maintain your P2P ratings, store downloaded files right into the folders you are going to keep them in, and stream them to media players. Synology uses one of the most functional clients of today. Although inferior to its PC counterparts, it is going to be quite enough for the majority of users. The download client can work with HTTP, FTP, BitTorrent, eMule and NBZ. It also supports premium accounts of the RapidShare and Megaupload networks. The BitTorrent client supports a couple of dozen simultaneous tasks and seeding of completed downloads with specified parameters. You can download specific files of a torrent and view torrent information. In the client’s settings you can change the port, enable DHT and encryption, and limit the speed and number of peers per each download.
An always-on high-capacity NAS can be turned into a video surveillance system with IP cameras. The discussed models support a maximum of five cameras (this is due to the overall performance of the hardware platform) but the basic license is for one camera only. The new version of this feature is compatible with more camera models including megapixel and H.264 devices from the leading brands. The feature of recording based on the motion detection sensor can use the camera’s own settings or process the captured content on the NAS (works with MJPEG cameras only). Here are some more features: operation schedule, PTZ support, recording of audio, rotation of the recordings archive, live viewing, e-Map, synchronized reproduction, archiving of recordings, and centralized management of multiple devices. Synology offers a special device, called VS60, for viewing recordings made by Surveillance Station 4 without connecting to a PC. The VS60 is connected to a monitor, speakers, mouse with keyboard, and LAN.
A constantly working NAS is also ideal for a Web server. Besides php and MySQL, the current firmware supports virtual hosts and user websites located in the users’ home directories.
Data backup is something that every decent NAS must be able to do. The backup module integrated into the Synology NASes can copy data from shared folders to other folders, to external storage devices or to network resources (Synology devices or rsync-compatible servers). Backup tasks can run by a schedule. Besides user data, the MySQL, Photo Station and Surveillance Station databases can be copied.