The main thing that has always set Synology apart from its competition is its software. Their DSM software, which runs on a Linux kernel, provides not only the basic functionality of a NAS device, but an API for extending that functionality more or less arbitrarily.
Once logged in to the web interface, this screen is the first thing that greets you. The resemblance to a desktop interface is intentional, it is obviously meant to be immediately familiar to anyone who is accustomed to working with Windows.
The Storage Manager is likely going to be your first stop. From this window, you can configure volumes and disk groups, create and map iSCSI targets, and designate disks as hot spares.
The Control Panel window, as you might expect, is where the bulk of the unit’s configuration lives. Configuration options are lumped into four main categories which can be thought of roughly as:
- Users and files
- Ports and filters
- Fiddly bits, and
- Application-specific settings
The Package Center is where you go to add in new functionality from third party applications. In addition to the expected backup and media streaming applications, several network and web service applications are available which allow the DS713+ to act as a server. While the DS713+’s Atom CPU would likely buckle under any significant load, it would be perfect for hosting a small internal project wiki or testing out a new content management system.
Speaking of testing limits, I found and ran an add-on package which is, to my knowledge, not available for any other brand of NAS device: a Minecraft server. While CPU and RAM requirements prevent this from being a practical substitute for a “real” server, the fact that this is even possible speaks to the flexibility of the DSM software.
The File Station serves as a quick way to manage files and folders on the NAS from the web interface, as well as a way of uploading and downloading files without mounting shared folders. Also, CIFS shared folders from other machines on the network can be mapped to local folders on the unit, allowing it to serve as a concentrator for network shares in the absence of a Windows domain controller.