Gadget Review: DS218j NAS
Internal and external hard disk drives have their own goodies and goofies, but the former can pride itself in being the more 'reliable' one from a certain point of view: They're faster, potentially have the largest storage capacity and - most important for yours truly - tucked safely inside your PC tower. Shout-out to all you butter-fingers who keep dropping external HDDs.
Back in the day, I always had two HDDs inside my PC, because I wanted to make sure I had somewhere to dump all my stuff and leave ample space in Drive C for it to run as fast as it could. I just wish I had NAS - network-attached storage - then, to spare me the trouble of upgrading my HDDs or, worst-case, replacing them.
So, the Synology DS218j is, technically, my first close encounter with an NAS. Hey, laptops have lots of storage than ever before and - fine, I'll admit - I use some external HDDs too (good thing I'm not that clumsy). A little reminder: This isn't Synology's latest NAS - nowhere near it - but at least they've gotten their start with us.
Anyway, the DS218j looks like one of those AVRs (automatic voltage regulators), except that it's lighter and has a fan behind it, which you'll be needing; because once you easily open it up, you'll find out you have spots for not one, but two internal HDDs. Compatible drive types include 2.5- and 3.5-inch SATA HDDs and 2.5-inch SATA SSDs.
Once you've slotted them into place, plug it into your computer, power it up and head over to find.synology.com so it can detect your new NAS. Setting it up is fast thanks to Synology DSM - DiskStation Manager - which will also give you the option to install apps, including those for your various media (photos and videos), backup, the cloud and a server that will allow access to your NAS; there are almost 100 apps at your disposal.
Not everything went smoothly though; in particular, it doesn't have video transcoding capabilities, so you have to make sure that the video you want to enjoy is supported on the platform you'll be using.
Also, it doesn't support hot-swapping. We've all done it before, abruptly pulling the plug on our HDDs or USBs without hitting the eject button, risking data corruption. Objectively, it's a good idea to properly remove your disks, but a hot-swap feature provides additional convenience.
Download Station, meanwhile, is pretty useful, since you'll be able to queue up downloads, allowing you to leave it alone and see them later.
Security is also a focus of Synology, so within DSM there are options to encrypt your data and choose which users will be permitted to access your NAS.
And the DS218j is quite the speedster. During our run, I tried copying a 1GB video to and from my laptop, and read/write speeds were above 100MB a second - less than 20 seconds to finish a copy - which is a very acceptable figure on any given day. Matter-of-factly, this device isn't the quickest of Synology's offerings - the 'j' suffix is a sign that it's a more affordable version, which, in theory, should turn out performing lesser - but it still pretty much holds up.
Well, it's always nice to discover new things, and the Synology DS218j just gave me a reason to take a good look at my external HDDs - not to replace them, but to complement them. It's always reassuring to know that you have some reliable - not to mention protected - hardware for all your data nowadays, even with the cloud up there. NAS devices are also perfect solutions for users with lots of shared data so, like me, why not give it a shot?