The Synology DiskStation DS416j is a great basis for a camera security system

Synology is well known for their NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices. Over the past week I’ve had the chance to review a NAS that Synology is going to be selling packaged with two IP cameras. The Synology DS416j will be packaged with two Amcrest Pro/HD cameras and four Seagate Ironwolf hard drives. They are packaging and promoting this as an entry level home security camera system.  

 

The hardware

The main box itself is a cube shaped computer about eight inches on all sides. My first impression when opening the box was how well built and attractive the device is. I’ve reviewed Synology products in the past. They were white and plastic and worked wonderfuly, but the deep black of this unit was striking. Not only did I find the black quite attractive, but the unit is metal. This lends to the strength of the DiskStation as well as the ability to dissipate heat which is vital in a 24/7 operation.

On the back of the unit are two fans to pull heat from the front across the hard drives. The fans are very quiet and keep the drives very cool. The two test drives I had under load were operating at about 100 degrees F, but I was able to override the fan speed from my iPhone and cool them to 75 degrees. 

At the bottom of the back is the power connector port, a LAN connector, one USB and one USB3 port. The device does not come with Wi-Fi built in, but you can use a Wi-Fi adapter in one of the USB ports. The USB ports also allow you to connect external drives, making the storage of the device virtually limitless.

There is a door on the back above the ports that opens to reveal four hard drive bays. The review unit I received had two 2TB Seagate “IronWolf” hard drives that are specifically made for the 100% duty cycle of an NAS. The package does include four of the Seagate IronWolf drives.

The DiskStation can hold four hard drives for a total of 40TB of storage, although the software’s maximum volume size is 16TB.  The NAS can only recognize a maximum of 16TB volumes, so you would need to create multiple volumes and allocate accordingly if you have big storage needs.

On the inside bottom of the NAS is the motherboard. It runs a Marvell Amarda dual core CPU clocked at 1.33GHz with 512MB of RAM. This might sound underpowered by today’s desktop standards, but I found the DiskStation to be quite powerful and was able to handle any task I threw at it, which is referenced below in the software discussion.

The software

The Synology NAS comes with its own custom software. You can download “packages” — apps from Synology that are installed on the DiskStation to do specific functions. The focus of my review will be on a downloaded package called Surveillance Station. The application lets you connect the two included cameras via your local network to the DiskStation. The application is straightforward to set up and walks you through the camera settings such as recording schedules, alerts, etc.

I set up the two cameras to record only when there is motion. There is the option to let the DiskStation do all the “heavy lifting,” such as detecting motion, notifying you, etc. It works perfectly and the cameras provide a very sharp image. They can record up to 1920x1080 resolution.

You can easily log onto the DiskStation from your computer or simply search for “Synology” in Apple’s app store and you will find many small apps to use with the NAS. I downloaded two. One is DS Finder (DS referring to “DiskStation”), and the other is DS Cam.

DS Finder lets you access the NAS from anywhere to see if it’s healthy, reboot it, shut it down, control the fans, see how much storage you have remaining, dim or turn off the LEDs, and much more. DS Cam lets me see live views of the cameras and control them, as well as going and view any video that is has recorded.

Though my review is focused on the Surveillance Station, the Synology DS416j is extremely powerful and a full server in its own right. You can set up FTP servers, mail servers, websites and so much more. It can be a media server using many different protocols including Plex and iTunes. You can use it as a TimeMachine backup for all your Macs. 

Cameras

The package comes bundled with two Amcrest Pro/HD cameras. The cameras can record in 1080p with a resolution of 1920x1080. The images are sharp and crisp and can also record audio. The cameras can tilt and pan and can turn almost a complete 360 degree circle. Even when not turning, the field of view is 90 degrees. The cameras include infrared LEDs for recording in complete darkness. The DiskStation can support up to 16 cameras but extra software licenses must be purchased.

One big plus to these cameras is they include an SD slot that can also be used to record to if you do have issues with your NAS or the network goes down. I’ve tested a 200GB microSD card, and it works well in the cameras.

These cameras complement the DiskStation DS416j quite well, and all come together to make a very affordable, yet quite robust, camera surveillance system. It’s one you can easily access from your computer, tablet, or phone and from anywhere in the world.

The benefit of such a system is not always what you see, but what you do not see. You can quickly look from anywhere and see that all is fine at home. The price is well worth the peace of mine, and from the equipment included, you won’t have to worry about whether or not it’s working.

Final thoughts

As a test to see how robust the DiskStation is, I had the two camera streams recording, then I started a full Time Machine backup of my Mac. While this was occurring, I viewed recorded video via my iPhone stored on the DiskStation. Everything worked perfectly and smoothly, and there was no noticeable degradation in performance whatsoever. 

With the four hard drives provided, it looks like I’ll be able to have many weeks or months of surveillance footage with 4TB of storage. With 40TB possible, one might easily have a year or more of archived storage.

Already in a week with the DiskStation, there have been upgrades to the operating system as well as some of the installed packages. Synology is keeping the software updated quite frequently. The updates can be set to automatically install leaving the NAS need little to no intervention.

I’ll be putting the DiskStation through some “tough” tests over the next few months. I have it stored probably 150 feet from my home office in a garage attached to the house. The garage is somewhat heated and cooled, but I want to see how it takes the rigors of heat and cold. Since it is a server, it truly can be out of sight and out of mind. I like that I can hide it and never have to even touch it. It’s a product that truly “just works” and well worth the cost.

I highly recommend the Synology DiskStation DS416j and the two Amcrest cameras as an entry level camera security system. You get so much more in that you also get a full server that can do most anything a home or even small business would need.

Synology is offering the DiskStation DS416j with two Amcrest cameras and four Seagate IronWolf hard drives for US$749 available from Newegg.

In a few weeks I will write another article about how it’s holding up and meeting my expectations.