A strong software package makes up for outdated housing
Synology has been in the NAS business for a while, and it has an impressive number of products to show for it. The DS411+II uses the same housing as the company's DS409+ NAS box that we reviewed in our Holiday 2009 issue, and that's a problem. While the competitors are offering products with hot-swappable drives that are accessible from the front, the DS411+II requires you to remove thumbscrews and the cover to gain access to the drive bays. Synology supports a "RAID 5+Spare" drive configuration in the DS411+II, meaning you can have one drive configured as a spare in case of drive failure. In the box, along with the DS411+II itself, you will find the power cord and external power supply, an Ethernet cable, a DVD with software and documentation, and screws for drive installation.
Installing drives in the DS411+II's four bays requires front-cover removal and use of thumbscrews.
The DS411+II is powered by a robust dual-core 1.8GHz Atom and 1GB of DDR2 memory, which belie the slightly outdated form factor. Sadly, the DS411+II lags in the connectivity department, offering just two USB 2.0 ports and a single gigabit Ethernet connection. A lone eSATA port is small consolation. The DS411+II supports USB hard drives, USB printers, and even USB speakers for playing music directly from the device.
Though it's not exactly a work of art, chances are you'd be purchasing a NAS for the functionality it provides, not its aesthetic value. For all of the DS411+II's hardware deficiencies, Synology nailed the software side of the equation. The web-based configuration utility is innovative and fresh, using modern web technologies to allow you to view multiple configuration screens or performance dashboards simultaneously. The DS411+II even provides a wizard-based utility that assists you in configuring your router and firewall to allow access to the NAS through the web. Synology offers both DLNA and iTunes media server options and even goes a step farther by functioning as a Squeezebox Server for Logitech's Squeezebox line of media streamers.