Synology DS216J 2 Bay NAS Review – The Perfect Backup Solution
Wow! Where do I even start with this thing? The Synology DS216J 2 Bay NAS isn’t just your typical Network Attached Storage, with the software it comes with it, you can literally make it into your own personal media player that everyone in your household can access. The Synology DiskStation Manager 6.1 or DSM 6.1 for short is the software that gives you tremendous control over your NAS and gives you a ton of options on how you want to use your NAS. Forget buying media players and NASes separately. This thing can do both. Not to mention the amount of organization the software provides, even a 10 year old can scan through the NAS’ UI and find his favorite movie to watch with his friends. Have a guest in the house? Forget the clunky and dusty photo album you keep in your attic. Bring out your tablet which is connected wirelessly through your Synology NAS and scroll through your photo album with ease. This is your new best friend when it comes to entertaining guests.
Perhaps what really gets me excited with Synology DS216J 2 Bay is its software. A lot of NAS out there focuses mainly on the hardware letting the user fumble around in the UI. Hardware is good but a NAS is specifically built to organize and back up your data. Having a good and powerful UI to complement your hardware really goes a long way.
Having a backup for your data is nice and all but what about all that extra space you have? Or maybe you’re tired of copy pasting your movies or fumbling around your NAS’ folders looking for that specific embarrassing photo of your sibling to show to his friends? How can you possibly get back at him? The DSM 6.1 literally saves your time by organizing everything and serving everything you want at the palm of your hands.
Synology is really going above and beyond with this thing that the software I’m talking about is its own OS. They built their own OS from the ground up specifically to organize your files and manage them so you can just worry about which series you’re going to binge next.
I’ve been oogling over the software too much but what about the hardware? Hardware is just important. The build quality of the DS216J 2 is top notch with its very sleek and simple design. It can also hold 2 hard drives with a maximum capacity of 16TB. However, this two-bay NAS does not have any drives pre-installed so you’ll need to use your own before you can actually use it. This is also a budget friendly NAS which is mainly designed for home use so yes it is relatively underpowered compared to other NASes Synology has brought to us. So I’ll be focusing on the benefits of using it as a home-based NAS with such features like watching movies, photo sharing, listening to your music and most importantly having everyone in the household access it with ease.
Synology DS216J Review – What’s in the Box?
The NAS comes in a brown box with a black plastic handle. The box has standard information about the NAS on the cover. First we have the unit itself covered with thin foam. In one of the smaller boxes we find the power cord with the external PSU. The NAS also comes with a LAN cable if you happen to not have an extra lying around. The screws are inside a small plastic and lastly, we have the quick installation guide.
Synology DS216J – The Perfect Choice for Your Backup, Photo and Video Needs
Now as I’ve reiterated before, this dual-core CPU NAS is an entry-level NAS which is why the price is cheaper compared to other NAses out there. The DS216J 2 shines with file sharing and streaming but not powerful enough to do other things.
Let’s start off with the hard drives. No, it doesn’t come with any which is common with NAS sellers so you’ll have to consider this before getting it. You’ll have to provide your own so if you have extra hard drives, you can use those but if not, you’ll have to consider adding hard drives to your budget. So apart from buying hard drives you’ll have to install the OS as well which I’m telling you now is amazing. It’s relatively easy to install the hard drives and the OS which I’ll discuss later on.
The front panel is simple. There’s a bezel for the LED lights to note the status of the whole system, the LAN connection and the two disk drives. I would like to add that if your NAS is in the bedroom and the lights are too bright or are a nuisance, the LED brightness is adjustable and can even be turned off using a user-defined schedule. A simple feature that is much appreciated. A lot of computers and devices don’t have this type of feature and adding simple features like this is very much appreciated.
The back is also pretty simple, there’s an exhaust fan with 2 3.0 usb ports, an Ethernet jack, a cable-lock security notch, the reset button and of course the power-supply connector which is 12 volts. The fan is very quiet. Having this in your bedroom, along with the adjustable LED lights doesn’t make it a nuisance.
CPU Model: Marvell Armada 385 88F6820
CPU Architecture: 32-bit
CPU Frequency: Dual Core 1.0 GHz
Hardware Encryption Engine
System Memory: 512 MB DDR3
Storage: 2 Drive Bays
External USB 3.0 Ports: 2
Brightness adjustable front LED indicators
Power Supply Unit / Adapter: 60W
AC Input Power Voltage: 100V to 240V AC
Using the Product
To remind people again, especially to people looking to buy their first NAS, this does not come with pre-installed hard drives so first off is you need to gather your two hard drives to install on your NAS. You would also need a screwdriver for this.
You don’t need extra screws for this because Synology includes the screws that secure the chassis in a bag. The casing is easy to open. Just slide one half off and the two drive bays where you’ll insert your two drives will be shown.
Make sure your NAS is turned over to the side and that the drive bays are facing the ceiling. Inserting the hard drives in this position makes it easier. It’s also easier to screw it in place.
Next is to ready your two hard drives and your screws because you’ll slide them into the drive bays and secure them with the screws.
Make sure the drives are totally secure and aren’t wobbly. If you’re sure it won’t move inside the drive bay, it’s time to slide back the cover to protect the interior components.
Turn it back over and connect the power supply and network cable at the back. Make sure your LAN and the DS216J 2 are turned on and then head on to your browser and type http://diskstation:5000.
Then you’ll have to download latest version of the Synology DSM 6.1 operating system that will run on the NAS. After a few minutes of downloading the software, you’ll be prompted to install it on your NAS. The installation takes a couple of minutes.
Another interesting feature is if you’ve used your old hard drive on another Synology NAS, DSM will detect it and ask if you would like to migrate your files and settings. That’s pretty neat. I know most of you will obviously still backup the data somewhere else but importing your old settings can save you a lot of time. Another type of migration would be to transfer your files but return the settings to default.
We’re going to use a clean install with no settings or files to be migrated for this tutorial.
After the installation is complete it will restart your NAS. After the reboot, you will be asked to create an admin account. This includes the server name, username, password, confirm password. The set up then asks you for your update schedule for your DSM. You can opt to choose to install the latest DSM version automatically, install the important updates of DSM automatically or download the DSM updates and install them manually.
Click “next” and you’re all set.
Once the operating system is up, it will give you a quick tour. You’ll then see the DSM desktop on your screen.
Navigate through the control panel on your main menu tab so you can customize your NAS settings and turn on certain features that you need.
From this, you’ll just have to set up your personalized settings. You can also access the NAS from the internet which is very convenient if you forgot something. This process of setting up is very simple and almost automatic. You have as much control over your NAS very much like when you’re connected through the network. You can also download the dedicated mobile apps for a much more ease of use.
Now to set up your Cloud Station for backing up your files.
Head on to the Package Center and install the Cloud Station Server. Once this is installed, launch it. In the overview tab, download the Cloud Station Drive.
Launch the installer and follow the instructions on your screen.
After it installs, run Cloud Station and click “Start Now”.
Enter the address of your NAS that is currently running Cloud Station. Another convenient way of doing this is also using your QuickConnect ID. Enter the username and password then search for IPs within your LAN then click “Next”.
Pick the folders that you want your NAS to sync by clicking the edit icon. If you want to configure your sync settings, click “Advanced”.
Uncheck any folders that you don’t want to be synced.
You can set a maximum file size or even blacklist filenames or file types so it won’t be synced.
You can select if you want to sync bidirectionally, or to only download data from your NAS. Click “Done” to complete the setup.
You can find the Cloud Station icon in your system tray and click it to launch Cloud Station.
Synology has a great series of video tutorials available on YouTube to help assist any users with the setup of the DS216J as well as tutorials on how to use the NAS and DSM:
DSM 6.1 Software
Now, let’s move on to the exciting part of this review.
Synology really made their NAS easy to use with the Synology Diskstation Manager 6.1 or DSM 6.1 for short. Back in the day, using a NAS was extremely complicated and not a lot of people wanted to try it out despite it being really useful. You have to be very technical to set up your own NAS. Newcomers to using a NAS will find it very easy to learn, install and navigate through the NAS with this software. The navigation of the DSM 6.1 is pretty much the same as using a desktop PC. The installation is extremely easy as well which we’ll cover on the next chapter but for now, let’s focus what this software has to offer.
This OS has a ton and I mean A TON of features so we can’t cover them all. We’re mostly going to focus on photo and video storage and management. And this includes photo sharing solutions by DSM and movie streaming directly from your NAS. Of course when we talk about movie streaming, we’re going to need apps that will bring you your favorite movies and series to your own devices so we’ll also touch on the mobile apps Synology has provided its users for a more convenient approach to accessing your media on different and various devices. Besides photos and movies, users will most likely store various data like documents and spreadsheets on the NAS so we’re also going to talk about storage of your own files in general and how DSM approaches the management of your files.
Let’s start with the desktop itself. You can access it using your browser. A handy feature is you can access the NAS anywhere as long as you have internet connection. You can go to www.quickconnect.to and access your NAS from there.
The desktop only a few icons on here as you’ll have to populate it yourself. There are widgets, a search bar and your options menu that lets you logout of your NAS or even reset it. There’s also a notifications tab that tells you what happened recently with your NAS and of course, your main menu. You can drag the icons out to your desktop so you won’t have to navigate inside your main menu tab.
The control panel lets you customize your NAS as well as add different users and grant or prohibit them access on your shared folders which is also customizable.
Your storage manager lets you monitor your storage, create volumes, choose raid types and much more, all of which we have covered previously and shall also cover in more detail in future Synology reviews.
Giving You Control of Your Data and Backups
Data backup is well developed on DSM 6.1. Synology made sure that data is never lost when there’s a hardware failure or other fortuitous event. Cloud Station enables you to choose exactly what files and folders to be backed up with use of filters like file type, name or size. This makes it easier to organize everything especially if you’re backing up hundreds or even thousands of files. Once you’ve done a backup of your current files, Cloud Station can make incremental file updates. This means if you modify or added new files, Cloud Station will automatically add these new changes automatically in real time. Another overlooked feature is file history. I love this feature. This saved my files when I accidentally messed up.
Basically Cloud Station saves history saves up to 32 point-in-time copies of each file and you can go back to your old files and recover them even if they were overwritten or even deleted. If there’s an accident that happened to your file, you’ll be happy this feature exists. DSM supports third party backup services like Apple’s Time Machine, Windows File History, etc. so you don’t have to worry about your NAS not being able to complement your other backup services.
Cloud Station is what enables you to work seamlessly from other devices and your changes will show on each device that is synced with the Cloud Station. This will allow you to access your files, complete with changes on various computers. If you want to do the same with your mobile devices then you should use DS Cloud. DS cloud is the counterpart of Cloud Station for your devices which has the same capabilities of Cloud Station. Like Cloud Station, it also syncs all your files, complete with changes, on your mobile devices. This is a very handy tool if you have a lot of computers and mobile devices that you frequently use. If you have other cloud services like Amazon Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and more, Cloud Sync also lets you link your NAS to these services allowing you to have a unified system for your files.
USB Copy lets you back up your files to or from your NAS just by plugging your USB directly to the hardware. You can choose which folders to transfer your files when connecting a USB to your device. There are various ways to transfer. You can push the hardware copy button, run the application manually, or just initiate a copy just by directly plugging it. You can customize it any way you want. There are also key mappings that you can customize. A key can be configured to import everything while another key can export to a specific folder. Another neat feature is you can customize the file transfer behavior. Each imported or exported data can be tweaked to have different behaviors like configure different copy mode, file type filter, rename and conflict policies on different scenarios. This makes your imported data well organized automatically.
Cloud Sync is a great feature which allows you to easily sync the files stored on the Synology DS216J to various online cloud storage services. This is a great feature to have as it truly does allow you to easily access your files whilst away from the NAS. You can conntect to the following cloud storage services:
Azure Cloud Storage
Google Cloud Storage
SFR NAS Backup
In due time, you would have a tremendous amount of files on your NAS and navigating through the folders, even if it’s well organized takes time. The Universal search tool scans your whole NAS to search for exactly what you need in a flash. This could be documents, multimedia files, applications, help tips and even notes in your Note Station. It will literally search from your applications. This is the beauty of having an OS built from the ground up to adhere to the demands of a NAS. It synchronizes with all the other apps that the OS has. Besides searching in a jiffy, the Universal search tool also previews the files so you don’t need to open it directly. An advanced search also adds other search criteria to make your search even more specific. Such criteria would be created date, modified date, album, composer, audio bitrate and a lot more.
Synology also provides you with additional backup options with Backup Wizard, Active Backup and Glacier Backup.
Media Management That’s Simple
DSM boasts itself as a media station as well. Working like a cloud streaming device, except that cloud is in your own home.
There are various packages that you can install on your NAS. The package center is essentially Synology’s own “app store” where you can choose different apps to install on your NAS. We’re only going to touch on a few because there’s too much to cover.
The Video Station is a highly optimized app that stores, organizes and even plays all your favorite TV shows, home videos, movies, TV recordings in one place. On top of that, it can directly stream it to your computer or mobile device such as tablets or smartphones. Also, if you’re obsessive compulsive like me and insists that all movies and shows have movie posters and descriptions; Video station retrieves video metadata automatically such as movie posters and descriptions so you don’t have to input it manually.
You can make custom folders that sort out your different types of videos. Let’s say you have movies, home videos and TV series. You can all sort these out in different folders.
Watching from anywhere is also very convenient as Video Station lets you stream the videos to your mobile devices as well as various media players like the Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, DLNA-devices, Samsung Smart TV, Roku and even consoles such as the Xbox and Playstation.
If you know you won’t have access to the internet in the near future. Let’s say you’re going camping with your family in a few days but you’re already at the hotel far away from your home. Another situation would be having an internet access but it is too slow to stream videos to the point that it keeps pausing. Video Station allows you to download your videos so you don’t have to stream it.
Now there are some content that may be too graphic for children or certain people. Not only can you prohibit users from accessing certain folders, you can also add parental and privacy control for your files so you don’t have to worry your very young kids watching Game of Thrones which does have content that’s very inappropriate for very young audiences.
Video Station also transcodes certain file formats to another file format that your phone can read. Let’s say your phone doesn’t read .mkv files, Video Station can transcode it to an .mp4 so your phone will be able to play it.
An amazing feature I’d like to highlight for the Video station is its ability to share videos publicly with just a simple link. Yes. It’s literally that simple. Attach the link to your email or copy it to your favorite messenger and your partner will be able to watch it. It doesn’t stop there. Want the link to expire? You can do just that. You can set the link to exist at a certain time period and once that exceeds the time limit, it’s not accessible anymore. Of course, the video that you wanted to share is the only thing they will be able to watch. Your other videos and files are still private when you do this.
I’ve mentioned before that you can literally run your NAS as a media player. The NAS can work like a DVR as well, recording your favorite TV shows so you can watch them later.
And before I move on with Photo Station, I’d like you applaud Video Station’s interface. Don’t underestimate a very good user interface as a poorly designed one will have the user fumbling around the software looking for what they need. Video station’s UI directs you easily to the video you need so you can spend more time watching instead of searching.
Photo Station centralizes all your photos from different devices. It not only organizes them but can also showcase and share them.
Social media has been a big part of our lives nowadays and a lot of us do share our memories which include our photos on these platforms. You won’t need to download the photo and re-upload them on a specific social media. Like Video Station, you can share your photos with just a link. This is especially convenient if you have various social media platforms and you want to share your photos on each of them. Uploading all these photos separately on each platform can be a nuisance and time consuming. It is a lot more time consuming if you’re uploading certain albums of let’s say your trips. Sharing just a link not only makes it faster but also saves you a lot of time since you only have to organize it once which is in the Photo Station.
The smart albums allow you to group certain photos that match a certain criteria. You can tag photos and these photos will be sorted out according to your tags. So let’s say you have vacation photos and party photos. Adding the tag “vacation” and “party” on your photos will sort them out on your smart album. All you need to do is tick the tag and DSM will sort it for you, this is great if you want to show specific photos but don’t want to go through different albums.
Photo Station is also great for storing your works of art. If you’re a photographer or a graphic designer, you can add watermarks to your works so it won’t be stolen without your permit. This is very neat if you want to show your clients your works. You can use photo station as your own portfolio with this feature. Besides using it as a portfolio, you can also add labels and comments. Labels highlight certain parts of your photos. Let’s say you want your graphic designer to edit a certain part of your photo, highlight it with a label and when you share your photo, your graphic designer will immediately see the label and add comments to it so you can communicate seamlessly and directly on the photo itself.
And of course, you can use your TV as an “interactive photo frame” that changes pictures or view certain albums with your guests and family using Photo Station.
If you’re a blogger, you can integrate your photos in various CMS applications like wordpress, joomla or drupal. No need to re-upload your photos again taking up space in your hosting. Synology really sat down and really thought about every feature that they put to improve photo sharing even more.
Lastly the mobile apps Synology has provided make it possible and easy to access your files. You’re also able to manage it directly from your mobile device. DS video allows you to stream your shows on the go. The DS photo allows you to view your photos from your phone and can also automatically back up the photos you’ve taken to your NAS. The DS note allows you to make and edit notes even without internet connection. The Apple watch supports this so you can access your notes on it. DS cloud syncs all your files from different devices so you can work from different devices and still retain the same organization and changes it has on other devices.
Streaming music is also possible with the DS audio. You can directly control your music from this app. You can also control music on your iPhone through the Apple watch using the DS audio. All these apps that we’ve mentioned are on iOS, Android and Windows phones.
Of course, there’s a lot more applications that we haven’t covered. We only covered the essentials but even then we’re just amazed at how much it offers.
File Transfer Speed
The file transfer speed of the Synology DS216j was fantastic when both sending a file to the NAS and downloading it from the NAS. Sending a 10GB file to the NAS it achieved an average transfer rate of 101.24MB/s. Downloading the same file from the NAS it saw an average speed of 104.23MB/s.
We’ve covered a lot from this review. Both from the hardware to the software and with our thorough inspection, this product truly is one of the best out there. The hardware works very well and is easy to install. You open it; plug your two hard drives, close it and you’re off. The build is simple, elegant and is very quiet. Synology really put a lot of thinking into this. The fact that they even added dimmable lights is very much appreciated. It’s a small feature but you can tell Synology really cares for their users.
The software is just amazing. It’s easy and fast to install. It has a ton of features that you will really use. Companies today usually add a lot of useless features to their products just for marketing but Synology added practical features that really helps on certain occasions, especially me who blogs and does graphic design. The photo station really caters to its main user base with its core features plus adds more for the outliers. I guess the only downside to this is the OS being too bulky with a lot of features but if you’re a technical person or is used to computers and networking, it won’t be that hard to figure things out. New users can probably be overwhelmed by the amount of features DSM 6.1 has to offer but if Synology just adds a more engaging “help feature” this will be addressed. Another thing to note is the package center. Synology should have a “recommended packages” list. This is to address new users who would be lost but again, the OS isn’t that hard to learn and most of it is self-explanatory.
All in all, this is still an amazing NAS. I’m just purely amazed at how much features the applications have and how practical and useful they can be. Synology did their homework and added features that will be most handy in a home-based NAS. Not only are you buying a NAS, you’re also buying a highly customizable media player that is fairly easy to use and install.
Where to Buy
If you are looking to get hold of this fantastic 2 bay NAS then head on over to the Synology website to find the best place to pick up a DS216j for around $200.
The hardware is top of the line and paired with it, is an excellent software to bring you an excellent product.