Synology NAS heads into 2018 with an Impressive array of Hardware and Software
The big brand in Network Attached Storage once again hosted their annual conference, planning on appearing in 17 different countries, and with China and Taiwan hosted earlier in the month, it is now the turn of London, United Kingdom to host the Synology conference for 2017 and 2018. With promises of direct interaction with their experts to gain valuable experience and knowledge, as well as an opportunity an opportunity to learn their insights on storage, networking, and application serving industries, as well as to talk to them and give your feedback on products and features, it is has over the years evolved into quite a polished affair (wow, that was quite the running sentence). As much as that sounded like marketing blurb, it should be pointed out that it is at valuable events such as these that the public and private market can learn about how the NAS server industry is changing to compete and (in many cases) integrate more and more with existing public perception of easy cloud storage.
What will we see from Synology NAS in 2018?
Last year at Synology 2017 there was certainly a big, big focus on software and business applications and if did leave a few users a little disappointed that the home diskstation series of NAS were largely overlooked. Last year there was certainly a larger focus on software, business software and services. new rackstations, new apps that were made to compete with those of Google and Windows that gave you a much better control and fluidity to the data being created and distributed within your business. I am pleased to say that this year things seems a great deal more balanced, with both a great selection of desktop based NAS devices, Enterprise level rackmount devices and details and walkthroughs on some fantastic software applications.
The Desktop and SMB Hardware at Synology 2018 London
As already mentioned, there was definitely a much bigger focus on desktop devices than the previous year and it was great to see many a diskstation NAS on show.
With many devices on display set up and ready to us, as well as a technical expert on hand to show you the finer points and answer your questions, this was very much the Synology conference event that many had signed up for. Several of the devices up and running there were already commercially available and covered here on NASCompares and SPANTV, but it was still never the less great seeing them up and running. Newer units on show such as the DS918+ 4-Bay expandable diskstation, it’s 2-Bay little brother DS718+ NAS drew particularly avid attention (as you would expect), but that was not the be all end of it. The presence of the June released prosumer DS1517+ and DS1817+ was acknowledged, even though I still hear people asking and talking about that CPU still.
As we moved on, besides the newly released DS418j and DS218+ for those with a less flexible budget that need to choose between power and storage, we saw a bit more of a humble indication of the DS418 4-Bay Value series NAS (a device I still do not think gets enough credit for the massive jump in hardware over it’s predecessor – look it up people). Finally we made our way into the more task led and business aimed diskstation NAS, such as the DS3018xs and FS1018 (though the latter was only there in spirit). These have been covered in numerous articles and events outside of the UK, but it was our first opportunity to see them and discuss directly with the Synology team themselves. I still have my doubts about the FS1018, but am very much firmly behind the DS3018xs 6-Bay for its change of focus from storage to hardware, but giving users all the expandability, upgradability and access of most modern NAS.
Big advances in Synology and Surveillance NAS Applications
Moving into network surveillance, we can see that this area is getting more and more explored by Synology with their new NVR1218 Surveillance class NAS, the network video recording device that was the successor to the NVR216.
They set the NVR 1218 up (as they have done previously with the NVR216) for users to see how easy and fluid the synology surveillance station software still is. Features and functionality such as live-view, simultaneous record and playback as needed, built-in CMS, integrations with existing visual security systems and I/O in your home or business mean that combining the Surveillance software (available on almost EVERY Synology NAS) with the improved NVR1218 mean that you have a comprehensive, compact and quiet network recording solution at your fingertips, that also features a low footprint. This point for further improved with the Synology VS960HD next to it. This visual station device can either bolster your existing surveillance setup, or be used independently – featuring dual HDMI Ports, audio in/out, 4K and 1080p support, more IP cameras covered and a keyboard and mouse USB Interface. Though not a vast improvement in hardware terms over the VS360, It is still a great evolution of this kind of easy to deploy surveillance technology and only further served to display Synology’s investment in this area.
The New Synology DS218j, Synology Mesh Router and DS218play NAS
There was of course the inclusion of more mainstay and older NAS devices that still demand attention and get it – such as the MASSIVE DS3617xs and oddly small RS217. But my attention was drawn to a few newer units such as the only partially shown Synology DS218j Cost Effective NAS. This device was physically displayed twice, but one chassis was hollow (merely displaying the external casing) and the other was fully formed, but without indication of internal specs of improvements over the DS216J, so the jury is still out on that one! However it did feature a brief mention in the auditorium talks.
In addition to NAS products shown at Synology 2018, Synology also introduced us (though sadly not in the physical sense) to a new Synology Mesh Router. Featuring AC2200 tri-band wireless network specifications and a wireless network connection function that allows separate Synology Mesh Routers to connect and communicate with to each other – The result is that devices in the wireless network signal area have a better coverage and priorities can be made – a lot like the Sonos Wireless Speaker system. Along with this , the Synology Mesh Router also supports automatic repair of the connections in the even of disconnection, when one of the Mesh Routers becomes disconnected, the other units will automatically search the wireless area and automatically bridge and repair the gap to ensure that the network environment continues to operate (and in the background without user intervention). This Synology Mesh Router will also be equipped with the latest SRM operating system, originally featured on the RT2600AC, that provides users with a fluid user interface via the browser to control, configure, share and more. Lastly though the emphasis was very much on the device being made to work together with your Synology RT2600ac, RT1900ac or with other Synology Mesh routers, it can operate perfectly well on its own.
Another rarely seen NAS that appeared was the Synology DS218play Multimedia NAS. This was already featured on NASCompares and SPANTV, it was nice to see the device on show and with its specifications full available. It uses almost the entirely same specs as the DS418play with obvious exceptions that are limited by physical constants, but how this will sit in the product line up next to the likes of the Synology DS218+ and more is yet to be seen.
The Enterprise Level Hardware at Synology 2018 London
It was not all just about Synology Diskstation NAS units though. There was a good show of the rackmount units too. With the bulk of them being released and introduced at the start of 2017 and 2016, there wasn’t too many surprises in store. However I would be fibbing if I said I didn’t enjoy seeing them all lined up, working at once. Although I didn’t see much improvement on the hardware side of things, the Synology RS3617xs+ drew a lot of attention and still continues to be a powerful device that many have made the jump to throughout 2017.
Day to Day Software Application improvements at Synology 2018 London
Synology’s popular Photo station application saw a big change in the introduction of a new Moments photo application software. A big change in the user interface and throughout the management of the software, as well as the introduction of increased learning technology. Thanks to huge advances in machine learning the newer and more life-integrated photo application features enhanced logging, classification and recall in the following areas:
- Improved timeline creation – useful when searching by a type of photo content and seeing chronological results
- People recognition – meaning you can catalogue your entire photo collection by individual people, just identify each person once and let Synology Moments do the rest
- Identify subjects in your images and group them. Food, drink, family, night, rain, train, boat, car, whatever! It will use that smart learning to group as needed without relying on titles or tags
- Identify by places too but area recognition and landmarks, not just Geo tagging
- Create detailed maps that overlay your content that are not just built on if your content is geo logged – meaning much older media is now grouped too
Functionality such as image recognition, so when users upload their photos, the software will automatically identify corresponding details in the photo and automatically sort them accordingly. Saving both time in sorting and recall later.
Ranging from sorting photos into generic groups by automatically identifying visual factors. In the demo images of food were automatically sorted into folders under individual food headings (with zero input from the user above simply uploading them). Likewise pictures of people were then examined by the Synology Moments and sorted into a person by person list. If a person hadn’t been identified by the software, it asked the user to name them, then it would sort every photo with that person in under a tag with their name. All this was automatic and very, very slick – I have to be honest here, I was hugely impressed by this functionality.
Another slight tweek and improvement towards AI and learning technology is the addition of Audio Station supporting the ‘Amazon Alexa’ voice assistant function, meaning you can speak to your Alexa device and it will access the Synology NAS to play music.
In terms of breaking into the cloud market (with it’s easier and intuative access that many smaller scale users prefer) largely dominated by the likes of Google Drive, Dropbox and more, Synology have improved speedy file management with the introduction of the application ‘Drive’. A much more fluid and useable alternative to File Station which is very, very close to the design and style of Google Drive.
Likewise it supports users in similar ways with direct file accessibility, file/folder control, open files natively (spreadsheet, movies, pictures, music) without an additional application. It can also be integrated with Synology Cloud station to synchronise you with your NAS device, as well as other synology NAS too. Lastly, Synology Drive management page also provides a team folder functionality, allowing different users to integrate data in the same folder (with suitable and controllable read/write privileges as needed) in order to facilitate collaborative and facilitate group exercises.
Synology Chat has also received a few tweeks and improved features with the update to version 2.0. Alongside the existing user communication abilities within the synology NAS that were already available, were video communication, the ability to invite new users and clients into the chat (without providing full NAS credential access if needed) and improved event, group and voting systems, so targets can be discussed and addressed as needed by users inside the chat window. It is nice to see this level of investment in this application. I had my doubts last year when it was formally introduced, but I have used it several times now and can certainly see the appeal.
We can also talk about backup applications. Synology discussed their new and improved stronger feature-based application, Active Backup, that can be used to consolidate with other cloud platforms. Though this his is not new, Active Backup can back up the entire NAS into an image file, which is integrity checked on several occasions throughout to ensure no errors. As well as through the virtual machine application within the NAS, to directly open the image file, so you can check its security and integrity there too. Of course Active Backup also supports G Suite and Office 365 data backup, to enable and support continuous backups offsite and self-help restore and other functions.
Finally we can discuss the Synology C2 Cloud service. This has been touched upon in greater and greater detail over the last 12 or so months and it is now very much up and running (with trial passes being included with every new Synology NAS purchase).
The premise is pretty clear and it is another effort by the big name in NAS to break into the 3rd party cloud side of the industry. Though to their credit this is more pro-active and established service that integrates hugely with your NAS Server platform. We will be covering this particular service on both NASCompares and SPANTV very soon. All in all this was a very polished affair and managed to reinstall my faith in the brand that I was worried was becoming elitist and forgetting the home and SMB users that got it where it is today. Great job!