Make your own home server on the cheap
A few years back, Microsoft had a clever idea: as people were storing more and more files, and using more than one computer in the home, they might want a central place to keep everything.
The Windows Home Server was a special kind of computer designed for that specific purpose, full of hard disk space but with no monitor or keyboard.
And yet today few people have heard of Windows Home Server products, let alone own one. Although the idea was sound, most were too expensive and just too fiddly to use. Instead, most people who wanted a safe place to share and store files used a network hard disk or network-attached storage (Nas) device – essentially, a big hard disk that connects to a home network.
Synology’s DS210j sits somewhere between the two products. Inside its white plastic shell is room for two desktop-sized hard disks, and on the back is a network socket. Add some disks – a process that takes five minutes at most – and you’ll have a Nas device. But then, rather like a home server, it can do much more than that.
The DS210j doesn’t run Windows. Instead you can connect to it using a web browser from a computer to see all the available options. There are quite literally too many to list here, but they’re neatly listed in categories.
The most important option is the Volume Manager – this sets up how the disks inside will be shared. With two hard disks installed it automatically suggested that we set up a redundant system – this is a good idea, as it means that your files will survive even if one disk fails. A few minutes later, our disk appeared on the network ready to use.
You can configure loads of other options, such as adding accounts with storage space for different members of the family or turning the disk into a media server. This process is wonderfully simple: tick the box to enable it and folders for music, video and photos will be created. We dropped in some files and they all played perfectly via an Xbox 360 console on the same network.
The Surveillance Station function can record video from up to four video cameras connected to your network, while Download Station can download files from file sharing networks with your PC switched off. The company also includes a program called Data Replicator for your PC, which can be used to back up files to the Diskstation.
Also worth noting is the power-management tool that allows you to set times when the Diskstation should turn on and off – this worked perfectly, and makes it easy to save on electricity costs.
The DS210j costs more than a simple Nas product, but if you want to use one device for backup, media sharing and file storage the extra expense could be well worth it. It’s hard to imagine anyone finding a use for a network disk that isn’t provided for here.
If your storage needs are more modest there’s an otherwise identical version with room for just one disk – the DS110j – at a lower price, while the DS410j caters to those who need loads of storage space.
A network storage device with every feature you could need, and then some Good points Handles backup, media sharing and more; powerful but not overcomplicated Bad points Not the best-looking device we’ve seen
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