Feb 25, 2014 Nick Rego
Home network storage solutions are becoming more common in the market these days. Even though a number of consumers are pushing their digital content to cloud services, most of us still prefer to have local copies of our data stored on our machines on or external drives. The Synology DS213j is a budget-friendly home network storage solution that offers a wealth of features that turn it into a truly flexible device for your needs.
The DS213j is certainly a rather small device, sporting a white plastic enclosure with a number of status LEDs on the front. The device supports up to two drives in the enclosure, with a total storage capacity of 8TB. In terms of build quality the device does feel sturdy, even if the enclosure looks a little bit on the cheap side.
Our review unit shipped with a WD Blue HDD, but I chose to ignore this and install two WD Red drives instead, which are better suited to a NAS. Installation is fairly straightforward – you simply unscrew and slide off the top part of the DS213j, slide in your HDD, and secure it with the included screws. Installation isn’t as easy as say the WD EX4 we reviewed recently, but that’s okay as you’re probably not going to be swapping drives around too many times with the DS213j. For reference, you can install both 3.5” and 2.5” drives in the enclosure should you wish to do so.
At the back of the device you’ve got the power port, Ethernet, and two USB ports – the USB port can be used for data transfer as well as to install a wireless module or share a printer, which is quite useful.
Once you’ve got your drives installed in the DS213j and the unit is powered on, it’s a simple process of installing the included software to detect and configure your unit. Once detected, a web browser opens up which leads you through a very simple setup process of setting permissions, configuring the drives, and lastly building the partitions. By default the DS213j creates a Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) partition, which Synology says offers a good balance between storage space and reliability (it’s essentially a RAID 1 setup). With two 2TB drives installed, I had a total usable space of 1.78TB. After the initial setup is complete, the DS213j will go through a lengthy process of initializing and verifying the drives for the first time, which can take a good number of hours to complete.
Once your drives are ready and running, you can really start exploring the DS213j’s interface. Everything is clearly labeled and laid out, so even novice users can learn their way around very easily. From permissions and shared folders to disk management and devices, each is laid out in its own separate app, making it very easy to locate which feature you’d like to change.
The DS213j also gives you access to a database of apps that you can download and install to further enhance your experience. This includes everything from backup utilities to media streaming, and installation is really just a few clicks away. You can even turn the DS213j into your own personal Wiki or web server with the right apps, making it adaptable to a number of scenarios. Synology have remarked that they are constantly making new apps available to users, and a new beta firmware allows for support for Google Drive and Dropbox, as well as Chromecast. You can even choose to setup routine backups for Windows or Mac, making the DS213j an affordable backup solution as well. There are also a number of mobile apps that allow for remote connectivity to your DS213j, which means you can access your files from pretty much anywhere that you have an Internet connection.
With the WD Red drives installed, the DS213j did quite well in our routine tests. Transfer speeds were quite good within Windows, and the drive was able to handle a mixed number of file transfers. Of course, transfer speeds will vary based on the type of drives installed and drive configuration, so keep these in mind when setting up your DS213j.
The Synology DS213j is a quiet and affordable NAS for home users, and with the right apps installed it can even double as an entry-level storage solution for small businesses. Though it’s capped at an 8TB limit, this isn’t something to hold against the DS213j. Rather, its expanding library of apps make it easy to adapt to almost any storage scenario, making it a speedy and affordable storage solution that anyone can get up and running.
A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys playing videogames during work hours and tinkering with the latest gadgets.
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