Synology RackStation RS812 review

Price when reviewed

At a mere £458 exc VAT for a diskless RackStation RS812, Synology looks to have done a fine job of making its rack NAS solution affordable to SMBs and workgroups. It also aims to address some of the shortcomings of its predecessor, the RS411.

The RS812 is well built, with a solid metal chassis. The hot-swap drive carriers accept 3.5in and 2.5in hard disks, but the latest SATA III speeds aren’t supported. It has four cooling fans at the rear, which make very little noise in general use.

The processor and memory are mounted on a removable board inserted at the rear. Memory has been doubled over the RS411 to 512MB, although this can’t be upgraded as the board doesn’t have a spare DIMM socket underneath. You still only get two USB 2 ports, but at least the eSATA port can now be used to attach an RX410 four-bay expansion unit.

On first installation, the Synology Assistant finds the appliance on the network, prepares a hard disk partition and uploads the firmware. The latest DSM 3.2 firmware provides a smart web interface, with a desktop environment that lets you load multiple windows and move them around to suit the task at hand.

RAID choice is good and the RS812 supports Synology’s Hybrid feature, which allows drives of different capacities and makes to be mixed together in the same array. For testing, we loaded up four 1TB WD drives and chose a standard RAID5 array.

The RS812 uses the same processor as the RS411, but its extra memory helps to boost performance. Using a dual-Xeon X5560 Broadberry rack server running Windows Server 2008 R2, we saw Iometer report raw read and write speeds for a network share over Gigabit of 108MB/sec and 55MB/sec.

Synology RackStation RS812

Drag-and-drop copies of a single 2.52GB video clip returned read and write speeds of 87MB/sec and 43MB/sec, with similar speeds reported using the FileZilla FTP client. The RS812 didn’t cope quite as well when tasked with copying smaller files: our 17.4GB test folder with 10,500 files returned much lower read and write speeds of 50MB/sec and 34MB/sec.

IP SAN features are good, with support for thinly provisioned volumes that only use a small amount of space on the appliance, but appear much larger to hosts. As space is used, the appliance dynamically allocates blocks to the volume. It’s fast too, with a 100GB target returning raw read and write speeds of 109MB/sec and 60MB/sec.

Synology delivers plenty of storage features, with Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac clients supported, along with AD authentication and user quotas. The appliance has a firewall to control traffic on selected ports using rules, and for multimedia it includes a media server, iTunes server, Photo Station and Audio Station.

Scheduled backups of local volumes can be run to connected USB or eSATA storage devices, you can use rsync to synchronise two appliances, and the Time Backup add-on module automatically keeps track of multiple file versions using snapshots. The basic Replicator 3 software takes care of scheduled workstation backup, and the appliance also supports the Amazon S3 hosted backup service.

For a four-bay rack appliance, the RS812 is good value and offers plenty of features. Support for the RX410 expansion unit increases its long-term appeal, although we’ve seen better write performance from the latest Atom and Core i3-powered NAS boxes.


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