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The majority of desktop NAS appliance vendors have given up the battle for the greatest feature set and are now setting their focus on performance. Synology's latest Disk Station DS-209+ gets the ball rolling as this compact dual-drive box claims to offer top read and write speeds of over 42MB/sec and 36MB/sec respectively, which would make it one of the fastest in its class.
To achieve this speed boost Synology has taken much from its higher end Disk Station DS-508 so the DS-209+ now sports an 800MHz processor partnered by a healthy 512MB of memory. The appliance offers a single Gigabit port and three USB ports with the front one teamed up with a Copy button alongside. Pressing it will cause the contents of the attached USB storage device to be copied to a predefined location on the appliance. You have a high-speed eSATA port as well and the USB ports can also be used for printer sharing.
The appliance was supplied diskless and we fitted a couple of Western Digital Raptor SATA hard disks. This process is a little fiddly as the case has to be separated into two halves, the drives screwed into carriers sitting on the main board and each one wired up to power and SATA interfaces. Care should be taken for the latter manoeuvre as the reset button on the board is too close to the backs of the drives making cable connections a little tricky.
Installation is handled smoothly by the bundled Assistant utility which locates the appliance on the network and offers to set up a system partition on the drives and download the Linux kernel from the CD-ROM. You can then move over to the appliance's web interface where you'll be greeted by the new Ajax-based Disk Station Manager 2.0 interface which looks very smart. Your first job is to create volumes and you can opt for a stripe, a mirror or two single drives.
For performance testing we kicked off with a dual drive stripe which took a matter of seconds to create. For real world tests we copied a 2.52GB video clip between the appliance and a dual quad-core Xeon Dell PowerEdge 1950 server. Our results showed Synology to be slightly pessimistic as we saw read and write speeds of 49.3MB/sec and 36.3MB/sec. FTP speeds were even better as the FileZilla client reported average read and write rates of 65MB/sec and 42.4MB/sec.