Synology CubeStation CS406 review

Price when reviewed

In an already packed market, you’d have thought there wasn’t room for any more SMB NAS appliances, but the Cube Station aims to stand out from the crowd. With the CS406, Synology wants to appeal to both home and business users by providing a range of media-sharing functions, along with support for RAID-protected SATA hard disks, web services and a bundle of backup tools.

Synology CubeStation CS406 review

With its sleek white-plastic front and aluminium side panels, the CS406 looks good on the desktop and has room for four SATA hard disks. These aren’t hot-swappable, but are easily accessed by removing four screws at the rear, flipping the panel down and lifting off the chassis cover. The appliance is supplied diskless, and all cables are provided in the kit. RAID is handled by the embedded Linux kernel, which offers a choice of mirrors, stripes or RAID5. Synology also offers a lower-cost consumer version, the CS406e, that costs £365 and is equipped with a 266MHz processor and 64MB of memory.

The Assistant utility searches for Cube Stations and you can map shared folders directly from here. The web-management interface is nicely designed, and you’ll find support for both Windows and Mac clients. With new drives installed, the appliance can automatically create an array and will go for a mirror if you have a pair or RAID5 with three or more drives installed. Security extends to both NT domain and Active Directory authentication, and storage quotas can be assigned to new local users.

The Data Replicator II software looks after client systems and backs up selected local files and folders to a location of your choice on the appliance. A scheduler automates these tasks, and the software can also synchronise secured files and folders with those on the client. The Download Stationfeature uses BitTorrent, FTP or HTTP to download specific files to the appliance at regular intervals. Jobs are created by running the Download Redirector utility from a PC, after which the appliance manages them locally. In keeping with the competition, the appliance can also back itself up to another CubeStation and to an external USB storage device.

Usefully, the appliance can also function as a webserver, and support for PHP and MySQL allows you to run services such as a web shop. By default, most features are disabled, but firing them up automatically creates specific shares for each one. Videos and music are stored in their own folders and can be shared directly with media devices that support UPnP. The Photo Station isn’t so useful for businesses, but it does allow you to store subfolders of your pictures that can be viewed from a web browser. With three 80GB SATA drives in a RAID5 array, performance was reasonable, with CIFS copies returning averages of 15.3MB/sec and 9.6MB/sec for read and write operations respectively. The Windows FTP command reported 19MB/sec and 8.5MB/sec when reading and writing the same 690MB video file.

Supplied as a bare box, the CS406 doesn’t look great value against the likes of Buffalo’s TeraStation Pro. Even so, it does offer an unusual mix of features.

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