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Cloud Sync

Another new feature of DSM 5.0 is Cloud Sync, which lets you synchronize your Google Drive, Dropbox or Baidu Cloud storage with your DiskStation. Unfortunately, the list of supported cloud storage providers is currently fairly limited. I hope future releases add cloud providers such as One Drive and SugarSync.

In order to use Cloud Sync, you must first install and configure the Cloud Station app from the Package Center. Setup is pretty simple. You just select one of the three cloud providers, provide login credentials, select a target location on a share on your DiskStation and you're good to go. Cloud Sync gives you two important options:

  • Locally deleted files will be re-fetched from your public cloud
  • Locally deleted files will be removed from your public cloud

I choose to set up Dropbox synchronization to my private share in the \homes share. About 650 files (my entire Dropbox folder) totaling 1.7 GB were synced to the DiskStation. This is really a nice feature. If you back up your mobile camera photos to Dropbox as I do, all of them will automatically be synced to your DiskStation.

The gallery below shows a few images of Cloud Sync. As you'll see in the gallery, I also decided to set up Cloud Sync for Google Drive as well. You can set up a different profile for each cloud service.

Cloud Sync gallery

Cloud Station Client

Cloud Station Client is another installable app in the Package Center. Similar to Cloud Sync for mobile devices, Cloud Station Client allows you to sync files among DiskStations, even if they are located on other networks. Since I only had a single review unit, I wasn't able to test this feature, but I'm assuming that it works very similarly to Cloud Sync.

The screenshot below, taken from the Synology website, shows an interface that's very similar to Cloud Sync. Keep in mind ISP uplink bandwidth limitations when using this feature. You may find it runs more slowly than you want.

Synology DSM 5.0 Cloud Station Client provides sync services between DiskStations

Synology DSM 5.0 Cloud Station Client provides sync services between DiskStations

Closing Thoughts

In recent months, both QNAP and ASUSTOR have upgraded their NAS operating systems and I have reviewed both. Both companies have added quite a few features that put them within striking distance of Synology. But the DSM 5.0 upgrade keeps Synology in the leadership position. Not only does Synology have full LAMP capabilities, it truly is an all-in-one server. While some of its competitors have added both VPN and RADIUS services, Synology's DSM has both as well as additional servers for DHCP, DNS, syslog, email and webmail.

For many, the QuickConnect service that provides a hassle-free remote configuration experience might be enough to convince customers to make Synology their first NAS purchase. But the hassle free remote connection to your NAS would be meaningless without a robust suite of mobile apps. Synology's mobile apps, available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, comprise a complete suite that provides full access to play your multimedia content, access your files and manage your NAS on any device from anywhere.

Synology also leverages your existing cloud services via Cloud Sync. I would like to see this feature expanded to include more cloud storage providers, Microsoft One Drive in particular.

Some competing NASes (QNAP, ASUSTOR, Thecus) include an HDMI port that allows you to play content from your NAS to a directly attached HDTV. However, in the HDMI-enabled NAS products that I've looked at, to me, there's not a compelling reason to connect your HDTV to your NAS. XBMC is the "go to" app, but it's certainly not a replacement for a HTPC.

Synology's design philosophy eschews using the NAS as a directly-attached HTPC substitute, instead concentrating on supporting media content to multiple devices simultaneously over the network. While some may view this as a competitive weakness, Synology prefers to think of it as a key differentiating strength.

DSM 5.0 supports playing media on your HDTV multiple ways. First, if you have a Samsung Smart TV or a Samsung DVD player with Smart TV technology, you can stream your video content through a DS Video app that runs on the Samsung devices. If you don't have Samsung devices, Synology also supports both Apple TV and Roku for streaming video. And finally, Synology has added Chromecast support for DS Video and Audio on both iOS and Android devices.

To me, this seems like a more viable solution than a direct HDMI connection to the NAS. My NASes live in my office connected to a Gigabit Ethernet connection and I use a wireless connection for my HDTV/Blue Ray player downstairs in the Living Room. In my environment, I don't see having a NAS in my living room.

I did have one disappointment. Initially, I installed disks and then immediately uploaded 10 GB of multimedia content. I probably should have waited until the RAID volume had completely synced before uploading the files. The NAS ran overnight at high CPU utilization while trying to sync the RAID as well as process 18K+ photos as well as videos.

The next morning, I paused the thumbnail generation and let the RAID volume finish syncing. I then restarted the image file processing, which finished early the next morning. To me, that's a long time to wait for photo thumbnail generation! But now that it's done, the CPU has been hovering around 2% utilization. However, I wouldn't be uploading that many photos on a regular basis. So in the long run, photo file processing isn't that big an issue.

Unrelated to the DSM 5.0 upgrade, I found the DS415play to be one of the quietest NASes products I have tested. Even during indexing when the CPU was hovering around 80-90% utilization, the device made only barely perceptible noise. It would be an excellent neighbor in my quiet office.

Bottom line, Synology still retains its lead as being the most feature-rich NAS on the market. While you may pay a premium for a Synology product (the DS415play will currently set you back around $515), the extra features, if you use them, could well be worth the difference. I could see that a Synology NAS could easily replace three of my single-drive NASes.

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