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Synology Cube Station CS407 - Do-It-Yourself NAS
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Date: Aug 24, 2007
Section:Misc
Author: Dave Altavilla
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Introduction and Specifications

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End user demand for storage capacity is expanding exponentially year after year, as multimedia content, email, and document and file generation show explosive growth in this age of new media.  In addition, protecting that data is becoming increasingly more critical, with investments in digital music and video collections, as well as those all important family photos and business-critical documents in both the Consumer and SOHO markets.  As such we've been looking at an array of NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices here at HotHardware over the past few months, many of them designed for do-it-yourself end users.

In the following pages we're going to take a look at the Synology CubeStation CS407 NAS Server.  This system comes configured "bare-bones", ready for installation of up to four SATA hard disks with RAID 0,1 and 5 capabilities. With a max total capacity of up to three terabytes of storage, this unit ought to handle plenty of those cute baby-covered-in-mashed-green-peas shots that the family holds near and dear to their hearts.  And with this type of multi-drive product, you can "RAID it up" and rest easy, knowing your backside is covered with at least some level of data storage redundancy. 

Synology CubeStation CS407 NAS Server

Specifications

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Hardware

  • RAM Size: 128MB

  • Internal HDD: 3.5” SATA(II) X4

  • External HDD Interface: USB 2.0 port X2

  • Size: 230mm X 168mm X 184mm

  • Weight: 2.23kg

  • LAN: Gigabit X1

  • Fan: X1(80mmX80mm)

  • Power Recovery

  • AC Input Power Voltage: 100V to 240V

  • Power Frequency: 50Hz to 60Hz, Single Phase

  • Max Capacity (Internal HDD): 3TB

  • Operating Temperature: 50 to 95°F (10 to 35°C)

Power Consumption*

  • 68.5W(Spin); 50.6W(Access); 47.5W(Idle); 13.4W(Hibernation)

Networking Protocols

  • CIFS

  • AFP (3.1)

  • FTP

Windows ADS Domain Integration

  • ADS/ NT4 Support

  • Domain users login via Samba/AFP/FTP

  • Synology Data Replicator II for Domain Users

Security

  • "FTP over SSL (explicit)" or "FTP over TLS (explicit)"

  • Encrypted Network Backup

  • HTTPS Connection

  • FTP Auto-Block

File Sharing

  • Max User Accounts: 1,024

  • Max Groups: 128

  • Max Shared Folder: 100

  • Max Concurrent Connections: 64

Applications

  • Photo Station 2

  • Web Station

  • Download Station

  • PHP/MySQL

  • iTunes Server

UPnP Multimedia Support

  • Audio Format: aac, ac3, FLAC, LPCM, m4a, mp1, mp2, mp3, mpa, ogg, raw, wav, wma

  • Video Format: asf, DivX, avi, dat, mov, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, vob, wmv

  • Image Format: bmp, gif, icon, jpg(jpeg, jpe), png, psd, tif(tiff), ufo

  • Playlist Format: WPL, M3U

Backup Solutions

  • Network Backup

  • Local Backup

  • Desktop Backup (using Synology Data Replicator II)

3rd-Party Backup Support

  • Acronis True Image

  • Symantec Backup Exec

  • EMC Retrospect

  • LaCie SilverKeeper

Utilities

  • Synology Assistant

  • Synology Data Replicator II

  • Synology Download Redirector

  • Add printer wizard

 

RAID Management

  • Volume Type: Non-RAID, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5

  • Upgrade Non-RAID to RAID 1

  • Expand RAID 1 or RAID 5 with Larger Hard Drives

  • Volume Auto-rebuild after abnormal power failure

Supported Clients

  • Windows 98 and Newer

  • Mac OS 9 and Newer

Printer Support

  • Max Printer #: 1

  • Supported Protocols: LPR, CIFS, AppleTalk

Package Contents

  • CS407 Main Unit

  • Quick Installation Guide

  • Installation CD

  • Welcome Note

  • Assembling Kit

  • AC Power Adapter

  • AC Power Cord

  • 2M RJ-45 LAN Cable

  • SATA Hard Drive Power Cable X4

  • SATA Hard Drive Data Cable X4


* Measured with 4 Seagate 750GB ST3750640NS hard drives. The figures could vary on different environments.

 


In addition to its compact form-factor and clean lines, Synology's CS407 provides product differentiation through support for a multitude of cross-platform features like UPnP MultiMedia support, iTunes server functionality, a Web Server with PHP and MySQL support and even an integrated photo management system called PhotoStation2 that has a decidedly "flickr-like" look and feel to it. 

The kit itself comes with an external power supply, as you can see above.  This is a good approach we feel, to keeping thermals in check inside the unit, especially in a four drive installation.  Beyond that, you get assorted SATA and power cabling, an RJ45 Ethernet cable, installation hardware with zip-ties, and an installation CD.  The kit does not come with any third-party software for backup processing and scheduling but instead Synology provides back-up functionality with their Data Replicator II utility.  We'll cover that in the pages ahead here shortly.

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CubeStation CS407 Features and Setup

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We set out to configure the CubeStation CS407 with a pair of Western Digital  SE16 WD7500 750Gb hard drives in a RAID 1 array.  Our hardware installation was straight-forward and easy enough for even the novice to understand with just the included installation guide for reference.

Synology CubeStation CS407  Features and Setup
Two Drive RAID 1 Installation Example  
The CS407 features a compact design, no bigger than the form-factor of a two slice toaster.  The chassis hood slides off with the removal of four simple thumb screws.  Inside is a drive rack for housing four standard 3.5" hard drives.  We were a bit disappointed in the CS407's build quality, and fit and finish in this area.  The drive rack of the unit is made of thin grade sheet metal an though the edges are rounded, the feel of the drive cage is a bit flimsy.  We also would have liked to see Synology provide a hot-swappable hard disk cage design with the CS407, especially considering its price range ($649 or so street price currently) but unfortunately it's just a standard drive rack enclosure. 
 

The CS407's motherboard is a compact, low-power design that is devoid of heatsinks.  The design is based on Marvell's 5281/500 SoC (System On a Chip) reference design.  We're fairly certain this is a member of Marvell's Orion family of processors for "Media Vault" platforms.  Together with Marvell's Gigibit Ethernet MAC/Phy combination, 128MB of Hynix DDR2 DRAM and 64B of flash memory, the system is capable of serving as a complete storage management and server platform with its embedded, configurable OS.

Physical installation, though a bit cramped for obvious reasons, took a total of about 5 - 10 minutes to complete.  We slid in our WD drives, installed side-rail screws, plugged in the included SATA power and data cables, and then slid the chassis skins back together and re-installed the backside thumb screws.  It was then time to power up and configure the CS407 Storage Server software and other features.

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System Software Configuration and Setup

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Upon power-up, we dropped the Synology setup disk into a workstation that was connected to our Gig-E network. Synology's system discovery and configuration wizard found the CS407 NAS unit and proceeded with setting it up, flawlessly we might add.

System Software Configuration and Setup
Wizard-Driven and  Easy
We stepped quickly through the procedure for configuring a RAID 1 array with a pair of Western Digital Caviar SE16 750G SATA hard drives.  The entire process was fully automated and we let the setup wizard also run a full low-level scan for bad sectors on the disks.  The wizard would automatically re-map bad blocks on the disk so that data wouldn't be written to them, if in fact any defects were found.  Fortunately, this wasn't the case with our new hard drives.  The physical disk scan took a while to complete, since our drives were so large, but this was a cheap insurance policy and we were happy to wait it out.

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Setup, Volume Creation, Status, Priviledges and Power Management

From there we setup our admin rights for the volume.  There is a fair amount of granularity in this menu area and you can configure users and groups with various access levels (read-only or read/write etc.) to the volume or specific directories on the volume.  We then hit the Power Management menu which allows you to configure power recovery functions in the event of an outage, as well as hard disk idle spin-down time and power cycling of the entire unit itself.

Other configuration options of the CS407, include LAN setup configuration, either automatically (DHCP) or manually, and the ability to enable Jumbo Frame support and its associated MTU size.  We would caution, however, that Jumbo Frames needs to be something that is supported by the client-side NIC as well.  It's great that Synology provides this feature but if other devices on your network aren't capable or configured (this means clients as well as switches and routers) to support Jumbo Frames, using this setting may provide no benefit and could possibly even limit performance.  Netgrear has a good article on the topic here for your reference.  We specifically performed all our testing with Jumbo Frame support disabled.

Lastly, the unit also has the ability to send email notifications via an SMTP mail server to any address, for notification of error events and volume failure. This is a great feature to have, especially in support of other features like the unit's integrated web server application. 

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Synology Assistant, Data Replicator II, and Download Re-Director

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The CS407 is driven by the all-mighty "wizard" approach for a number of its feature and to put it simply, it just works.  Synology Assistant is a wizard utility for configuring and auto-mapping network drives from the unit's available volumes, as well as a host of other features.  The software runs via an installation on a network client and the interface provides network discovery of the system as well as managerial functions for things like print server functionality.

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Synology's Data Replicator II software is extremely easy to setup, again with auto-discovery of the system on the network, as well as its available network shares.

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Users can choose from three options of backup for any system the software is installed on that is on the network; Immediate Backup, Synchronization and scheduled backup.  We were very pleased to see the synchronization option for incremental backup functionality and of course scheduled backup as a bare minimum requirement is available as well.  All told, Data Replicator II offers all the backup functionality a SOHO or Home user could want in a backup package and it worked flawlessly for us.

Synology's Download Redirector provides easily configurable automatic download and file management functions to direct the CS407 to connect to an external server or site and fetch any file of your choice.  You can even drag and drop a download link to the target area of Download Redirector's window and it will automatically fetch the target file(s) from that link.  This functionality is limited to Windows users only but it sure was slick to see it in action.

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Download Redirector saves bandwidth for your client machines as well, since the CS407 is actually performing the download with this service, rather than having to download a file to a client and then dumping it to the NAS volume.

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Services And Enhanced Functionality

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Synology positions the CS407 as a multi-purpose NAS Server, rather than a simple storage end-point.  In fact, with the CS407's embedded OS and applications, it can perform a multitude of functions beyond just data storage and sharing.  It's obvious that Synology understood that it's what a NAS server can do with the data that adds value and differentiates a product.

 
CubeStation CS407 Services and Enhanced Functionality
Useful Features, Not Just Gimmicks

The Synology CubeStation CS407 can provide the following functionality:

    • File Server - CFIS, FTP, AFP
    • Print Server - LPR, CFIS, AppleTalk
    • FTP Server - Encrypted and Secure
    • Download Server - BT, HTTP, FTP
    • Backup Server - Network, Local and Desktop
    • Multimedia Server - UPnP for Music, Photos, Movies
    • Web Server - PHP and MySQL Support
    • iTunes Server

We'll take you through some of the unit's more interesting features, next...

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Web Services, Backup, FTP, iTunes Server, UPnP Media Server, and Photo Station2

Photo Station2 also worked just as intuitively as the other features we had used thus far.  When loaded up with standard image files, an automatically created network share is spidered by the Photo Station2 integrated software package and users can manage those files with an interface that is very much akin to flickr's photo sharing service. 

Backup services for the CS407 can be configured for use via an external USB hard drive connected to its USB port.  If you're running the unit in RAID 0 mode for capacity or performance reasons, it's advisable to use this functionality for this significantly less reliable RAID mode.  Network backup to another CubeStation or device on the network is also an option.

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The CS407's UPnP Media Server and iTunes server functionalities are very easy to use as well.  As you can see, Windows Media Center easily detected our CS407 and its content, offering them up for viewing via its interface.  We should also note that the system was extremely capable in terms of multimedia streaming performance.  We loaded up one of Microsoft's WMV HD showcase videos in 1080p format called "The Living Sea".  The CS407 streamed this video to our workstation wihout a hiccup, though we even tried to bog the system down by copying another video clip from it, down to our workstation, during playback.

We then enabled the CS407's iTunes server feature and dropped a folder of music to its allocated network share (most of these features work with a dedicated share).   When we loaded iTunes up on our workstation, iTunes discovered the new media folder immediately and we were able to have access to our music library. 

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Finally, the CS407's Web Services feature is probably one of the easiest implementations of the sort one could imagine.  Simply enable the web services feature on the corresponding page and a network share called "web" is automatically created.  Then just transfer your web site files to this share folder (map it as a network drive if you like first) and they are automatically available for viewing.  The CubeStation automatically enables port 80 for access to content in the web share folder, so you can then simply direct all port 80 traffic in a network router to point to the CubeStation's IP.  At this point your web site can be seen by hitting your dedicated IP or even a dynamic IP (though it could change obviously) assigned by your ISP.
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Test Systems, Performance, Power Consumption And Acoustics

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Evaluating the performance of a device like the Synology CS407 can be difficult. There are a number of variables to consider such as the hard drives used, the hard drive configuration, network speed, the router, switch, the size of network - we think you get the picture.  Nonetheless, we wanted to quantify performance in some way that would be relevant to you.  In this case, we kept network performance testing to a few basic tests, considering the multitude of variables in each environment that can pose a major influence on results.

HotHardware Test Systems
Intel-Based File Server, Workstation and The CS407
Notebook For Transfer Testing
 
ASUS Z96JS Whitebook
  • 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7600
  • Intel 945PM Chipset
  • 2 x 512MB - 1GB DDR2 667MHz memory
  • 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1600
  • 8x DVD+/-RW with dual-layer support
  • 80GB 7200RPM Hard Drive (SATA/150)
  • Realteak RTL8169 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • Wall plug power
  • Windows Vista Operating System
Servers  For Transfer Testing

System 1:
  • Core 2 Duo E6750
  • Asus P5W64-WS Motherboard
  • 2x1GB Corsair Talent DDR2-1066
  • GeForce 8800 GTX
  • Marvell Yukon 88E8052 Gig-E
  • On-board Audio
  • WD740 "Raptor" HD
  • Windows XP Pro SP2

System 2:

  • Pentium 4 560
  • i875 chipset-based motherboard
  • 1 Gig DDR 400 Memory
  • Integrated Graphics
  • Realtek 10/100 Ethernet
  • On-board Audio
  • Seagate 120G HD
  • Windows XP Pro SP2

System 3:

  • Synology CubeStation CS407


For our first test, we transfered a large 1.75GB file - the World in Conflict beta to be exact - to and from the Synology CS407 in addition to a high-end workstation and a generic PC equipped with a 100Mb LAN connection that's setup as a basic storage server on our internal network.

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Despite having much less memory and a comparatively slower processor, the Synology CS407 completed our large file test significantly faster than our simple storage server with its 100Mb connection.  The CS407 couldn't quite keep up with our high-end workstation, but we weren't really expecting it to, considering the workstation's significant advantages in memory and CPU resources.

 small_test.png

In our small file transfer tests, we took 285MB of data, broken up over 487 digital image files and again transfered them to and from the Synology CS407 and our two reference systems.  Like the large file test above, the CS407 fell right smack in the middle of the two other machines.  The CS407 and the high-end workstation had identical write performance in this test, but the more powerful workstation surged ahead in the read test. And once again, the basic file server couldn't keep up, largely because of its 10/100 Ethernet connection disadvantage, versus the CS407 and Workstation Gig-E connections.

A Note Power Consumption and Acoustics:
In a simple power consumption test, we hooked up the CS407's external power brick to an in-line power analyzer and data logger.  This test methodology specifically measured the entire system power consumption of the CubeStation CS407, which of course includes the two 750 Gig SATA hard drives we had installed in the unit.  During heavy read/write traffic, copying a large 1.75GB file to the machine while also streaming a high def video clip, the CS407 consumed about 33 Watts under load.  When we factor in that each of our 750G SATA drives consumes about 9 Watts each, we can estimate the average power consumption of the Synology CubeStation CS407 to be about 15 Watts.  We also tested the power consumption with the CS407 sitting in an idle state with the hard drives spun-down.  Sitting idle, the unit consumed only 10.6 Watts.  In other words, relatively speaking, this NAS box sips power.  Also, as you would expect, with this low power consumption profile, the unit is also extremely quiet.  The system's small 50mm fan was barely audible during our entire test effort.

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Performance Summary And Conclusion

Product Performance Summary:
During testing the CubeStation CS407 performed admirably, offering a strong combination of both network throughput and drive I/O performance.  Our build-out consisted of a RAID 1 volume for redundancy, which is a very common usage model.  In this configuration, the CS407 was even able to compete with our workstation reference system over a Gigabit Ethernet connection, even though that system had significantly more processor and memory resources, in addition to a faster hard drive configuration.  Comparitively, to our generic storage server test system, which was connected via a 100Mb connection, the CubeStation CS407 offered roughly 2X the performance with its Gig-E connectivity and dedicated storage processor.  Finally, the performance of the CS407 was punctuated by its near-silent acoustic profile and extremely modest maximum power consumption of 33 Watts during testing and a miserly 10.6 Watts at idle with its drives spun-down.

The Synology CubeStation CS407 is a model example of how far SOHO NAS products have come over the years.  This system was extremely easy to setup and configure, even for the novice user.  Synology's suite of installation and setup wizards fully automate everything from volume management, to access privileges and even network drive mapping on client machines.  In addition, enhanced features with utilities like the system's PhotoStation2, iTunes Server, Download Redirector and Data Replicator backup software add just about any functionality the Home or Small Office user could wish for.  The only item on our wish-list for future version of the Synology CubeStation family, would be hot-swap hard drive capability.  Though the CS407 was a millimeter away from capturing our coveted Editor's Choice award, the addition of a hot-swap drive cage would definitely have tipped the scale towards a firm EC rating.  Other products on the market in its class have this feature and we're hopeful Synology will follow suit in the future.

A quick scan of our HotHardware PriceGrabber search engine shows the CS407 retails currently at around $649, with its lower-end sibling, the CS407e, with 64MB of RAM and a slower Freescale processor, dropping in at $539.   Though the system is definitely on the pricey side, its performance, features and functionality are impressive to be sure.

  • Top-notch Gig-E NAS Performance
  • Up to 3TB of storage capacity
  • Great setup tools and wizards
  • Fantastic bundled software utlities
  • Low power consumption
  • Extremely quiet
  • No hot-swap drives
  • Expensive
  • Drive cage a little thin for our taste

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