You need to install one or two HDDs into the NAS to make it ready to work. By default, the DS211 is only compatible with 3.5-inch HDDs. The next step is to install the internal OS using Synology Assistant. Besides initializing your NAS, this utility helps you specify its basic settings, monitor its load, manage photographs, start the NAS up remotely (depends on the specific model), and connect disks and printers.
The description of the NAS's capabilities below is somewhat abridged because it largely repeats what we’ve said in our earlier reviews of Synology products. The company doesn’t separate them on the basis of capabilities other than sheer speed and I/O interfaces. On one hand, this is good because you will get all the features even with the simplest of Synology NASes, but on the other hand, it's harder to choose a specific model because the processor specs and the amount of memory are rather vague factors. It is next to impossible to translate extra megahertz and megabytes into an opportunity to implement certain usage scenarios.
Anyway, Synology should be given credit for moving far beyond the capabilities of a standard NAS. The integrated software is being constantly updated not only for new models but also for most of the older ones.
It’s not the first time we see the new interface design of DSM 3.0, so we have got used to it already. The manufacturer must have thought it important to make the user interface as pretty as possible, although we don’t think that the multiple windows and the design elements borrowed from modern OSes can affect usability. After all, this interface is used but once in a while to change some settings. Moreover, most of the add-in modules have their own pages with settings.
Besides the administrator, every user can access the web interface to manage services he is permitted to use, to change his password and check out his disk quota.
The interface is available in multiple languages. A specific language is selected basing on your browser preferences or manually. The integrated help and search systems will make it easy to understand the NAS settings.
The DS211 offers two disk bays so you don’t have much choice in terms of RAID configurations. You can choose from JBOD, RAID0 and RAID1 or use the disks without building an array. Synology’s Hybrid RAID mode is also supported. It makes it easier for inexperienced users to configure disk volumes. With only two disks, you are limited in your ability to migrate or change the disk configuration without losing user data. If you had only one disk, a second one can only be added as a non-RAID volume or used for a mirror array. So, you may want to decide beforehand what exactly disk configuration you will need, particularly whether you will need it to be fault-tolerant or not.
You can increase the size of a mirror array without losing your data by replacing the disks with larger ones one by one. The DS211 supports iSCSI volumes in block and file access modes.
The status of the installed HDDs can be monitored using the S.M.A.R.T. technology. You can run the appropriate integrated tests. A page in the web interface shows each disk's model name, serial number and firmware version.
Network data access is provided via CIFS, AFP, FTP, NFS and HTTP. When on a Windows network, the DS211 can be an individual device in a workgroup or part of a domain. In the former case you can make it a Master Browser, which may help make your Windows network environment somewhat more reliable in some situations. A network recycle bin is available, too.
For Apple users, the DS211 supports Mac OS's networking protocol AFP, backup tool Time Machine, and Bonjour. The NFS protocol, popular on Linux machines, is supported, too. You can set up each folder's settings individually by specifying a list of clients and their access rights.
Once again we want to praise Synology’s FTP server implementation. We guess it is among the most flexible and easiest to use. It supports UTF-8, passive mode and encryption. You can change any port number and limit the number of connections or the data-transfer rate. As for HTTP, you can access the NAS via the File Station module or WevDAV. HTTPS is can be used as well.
User name and password pairs are used to control the access to network resources and services (e.g. to the FTP server or the download station). The NAS can keep a local user database or use a Windows domain one. If there are many users, you can split them up into groups.
The DS211 can encrypt network folders using the AES algorithm. Accessing such folders requires that the administrator enter the key. Encrypted folders cannot be accessed via NFS and by some built-in services.
The DS211 connects to the local network via its Gigabit Ethernet port which supports Jumbo Frames. It has an integrated PPPoE client if you want to use it without a router. You can also transform this NAS into a wireless one by plugging in a compatible Wi-Fi adapter into its USB port. IPv4 tunneling is available to support IPv6. We can also mention such features as an integrated DDNS client, SNMP and the option of configuring the router automatically for the NAS to be accessible via the Internet, and the EZ-Internet feature that helps in settings up the NAS's network parameters.