Small business storage finds a new gear

Synology's supercharged DS1010+ Swiss Army NAS boasts impressive numbers in both performance and price

I continue to be very impressed with Synology's small business storage products, and the new DS1010+ is no exception. In fact, it elevates my opinion even more.

This feature-packed, speedy, and remarkably affordable five-bay storage array supports just about every file sharing protocol available, can scale up to 20TB of raw storage, can be expanded on the fly, and has a great GUI. It can be purchased for $US1750 with 5TB of raw storage, and it can push 100MBps streaming writes and 110MBps streaming reads. Sure, it's not an enterprise-class device, but look at the price. What's not to love?

I've used several of Synology's small storage arrays over the past few years, namely the CS409 and the DS509+, and they have shouldered their load in the lab for long periods of time without a whimper. The Web-based GUI is better than just about every enterprise-level storage management app, and offers a staggering array of services. Not only that, but since Synology's OS is built on an open platform, there's a whole community gathered around adding even more functionality to that already beefy list. If Synology doesn't already support something, chances are that it can with an application of some elbow grease.

However, throughput wasn't the strong suit of these devices. They use Linux software RAID, and previous incarnations of the small-business-focused arrays had a somewhat anemic CPU, rendering the boxes quite usable for general-purpose storage, but with roughly 35MBps writes, not really applicable to heavier tasks. All that changed with the DS1010+.

The DS509+, forerunner to the DS1010+, ran with a 1GHz ARM CPU and 1GB RAM. The DS1010+ runs a dual-core 1.66GHz Intel Atom CPU with up to 3GB of user-upgradable RAM, which changes the game completely. Whereas the DS509+ could push 35MBps streaming writes, the DS1010+ hits over 100MBps over NFS from the same host. That's impressive all by itself, but to get that kind of performance on a five-spindle array that costs less than $1000 (without disk) is amazing. In fact, a pre-packaged 5TB DS1010+ runs only $1,750. When configured in a normal RAID5, that's 3.6TB of fast, usable space for very little money, and the array maxes out at a whopping 20TB with the expansion unit.

There are also plenty of ways to use that space. The DS1010+ speaks NFS, CIFS, HTTP, FTP, AFP, and iSCSI. It binds to a Microsoft Active Directory domain. It has built-in hooks to many popular surveillance cameras to enable easy long-term security video storage. It acts as an Apple Time Machine destination, supports iTunes streaming and download redirection, offers an easy photo storage and display application, and can even stream music directly to a computer or an iPhone or iPod Touch. It'll also act as a firewall, supports PPoE and DDNS, and runs Apache, PHP, and MySQL natively. It sports two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces that can be bonded with 802.3ad, and it supports jumbo frames. It'll run scheduled backups to an optional USB hard drive, or over the network to another Synology device or any rsync host, and it has built-in email and SMS event notifications. In short, it's just chock full of features that are likely to satisfy users of any level of sophistication.

As far as reliability goes, a storage array is only as good as the disks that are in it, but I've yet to have a problem with any Synology array, including failed disks. The DS1010+ has five hot-swap SATA slots, and can even be expanded with the DX510 5-slot expansion unit that links to the primary via eSATA. The only downside to the DS1010+ is the lack of a redundant power supply and redundant connections to the expansion unit. Apart from that, the DS1010+ is pretty near perfect.

I wouldn't hesitate to place the DS1010+ in any infrastructure that can make use of its many skills. It's not a replacement for highly redundant, high spindle count filers or iSCSI arrays, but it's also a fraction of the cost of those devices. For a small or medium business, it will handle just about anything thrown its way, and it's cheap enough to buy two to synchronize for backups. For home it's a great way to centralize media file storage, using the photo and music cataloging applications and services, and the Time Machine backup support means that your Macs can back up over the network without worry.

Fast, cheap, reliable. Pick three? The Synology DS1010+ is a fantastic little storage array.

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