Synology RS814RP+ review

Synology is best known for its desktop network-attached storage (NAS) boxes, versatile storage products for small businesses and home power users. Less familiar may be the company's range of rack-mount storage servers, aimed at larger businesses that may already have racks populating their server rooms. 

The largest and most powerful rack-mount NAS drive in Synology's range is the 10-bay RS10613XS+, powered by an Intel Xeon processor. Down at the entry-level for its rack storage is the 2-bay RS214, while the RS814 is its 4-bay counterpart.

There are three versions of the Synology RS814 to choose from today. They share the same chassis and construction, and differ in the processor, memory and PSU specification.

Synology RS814RP+

The simply named RS814 takes an ARM processor from Marvell, a 1.33 GHz dual-core Armada XP chip, and includes 1 GB of memory. The ‘plus' models meanwhile have 2.13 GHz Intel Atom processors, the long-running D2700 variant that has been in the company's top multi-bay desktop NAS drives for the last two years. We were loaned the RP variant, which has a second, redundant power supply, designed to instantly step up if the first should fail in use.

Prices start at around £460 for the standard RS814, £650 for the RS814+ and £1000 for the RS814RP+ reviewed here, all supplied empty of any drives. Many retailers also sell Synology NAS drives pre-configured with various disk drives inside.

Synology RS814RP+: Build and Design

The RS814RP+ is a 1U-high rack-mount file server, measuring a 430 x 574 mm, a huge size by domestic standards but a typical layout for enterprise-level networking kit. It's a solidly constructed all-metal unit, in contrast to its desktop DiskStation range which are more plastic in construction.

Its disks are mounted flat, four across the width of the chassis, in removable bays which can be hot-swapped with the unit running. These are removed by levers and can be secured against accidental removal by a splined hex key.

Rack-mount finger pulls are included for optional attachment, while a rail kit is available at extra cost (RKS1314, around £60) to allow the entire unit to be easily slide out from inside cabinet.

Build quality is very high, with important maintenance features you'd expect of a professional high-availability design. The self-contained and individually fan-cooled power supplies can be slide out and replaced after simply pushing a lever, while the main motherboard with supporting electronics also slides out the back after loosening two thumbscrews. This can then be replaced in seconds if required for minimum downtime in event of failure, assuming you have a spare on standby.

Synology RS814RP+: Software

Common across the entire Synology range NAS drives, largest to smallest, is the Linux-based Synology DSM operating system. Currently at version 5.0-4493, the DSM software this year received an overhaul of its graphical interface that now aligns it closer to the look of Windows 8 and iOS 7.

Particularly for a professional product, this lurid-meets-pastel tribute to Microsoft and Apple's user interface design trend looks misplaced on a pro device. But it's arguably the most consistent and beautifully rendered NAS admin interface on the market today, and doesn't have some of the usability issues of the Windows and iPhone, such as concealed interface elements.

Beyond its technicolor square-cornered skin, it's eminently usable, providing easy access to the key features and parameters that a company sysadmin may need, without falling back to a CLI console. There is still an option of course for logging in via SSH.

The listed feature set for business users is comprehensive. For Windows-reliant workplaces there's Windows ADS integration, and Windows ACL is said to be applied across all access entries.

For running virtual servers, the unit is certified compliant with VMware vSphere, Citrix and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualisation services. Enabling faster data access is the DSM's support of iSCSI with SMB.

Next section: Synology RS814RP+: Hardware features