The problem: you need an affordable NAS server. The solution: the Synology Disk Station DS204se. It's a great solution for someone on a budget who doesn't want to compromise speed. It is a wonderful option for the home user, looking for additional storage, data-sharing, and streaming of all kinds of media. Those who need it for more than this might find it just isn't powerful enough.
For NAS storage options, it is the best in terms of what it offers users. It runs the latest DSM 5.0 operating system, and includes many features that higher-end servers do, like DS1513+, all at an affordable price.
The DS214se is reminiscent of the older DS410 in terms of chassis design. You have to open it prior to installing or replacing the internal drives. Don't think that this means it's complicated, because it isn't. It just isn't as convenient as other new DiskStations, offering front-facing drive bays. Of course, if you don't opt for the diskless version, you don't need to worry about it for a while. When the time comes, you'll be required to turn the server off prior to servicing the drive.
It supports SATA internal drives, either 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch, of any capacity. Note that you can only buy the server with 2TB hard drives installed, so if you want anything bigger, you should probably purchase the diskless version and install the hard drives of your choosing.
It's powered by a Marvell Armada 370 processor at 800MHz, with non-upgradeable 256MB of DDR3 memory. The “se” in its name provides a clue as to its best use – it stands for “single-role” which indicates it can't handle multiple tasks running at the same time.
There are two USB 2.0 ports on the back, which is interesting as there are many other options on the market that feature USB 3.0 support and have multiple peripheral ports beyond the two. It's the inside that matters – it's running the latest version of the DSM operating system, version 5.0. It offers users a handy interface similar to a native operating system, as well as a way to set the server up so that it works over the internet. Add to that a robust collection of apps, and you've got yourself a great deal.
The DS214se is a snap to set up. If you purchased the server with drives included, simply hook it up into your existing network with the included network cable and turn the power on. Log into the web interface, or choose to use the Synology Assistant software. The diskless version requires you to install the drives and OS yourself. It isn't tough though, incorporating both installs into one single step.
Use the web interface to perform any customizations you want, including RAID configuration and other general settings. The server comes standard in the Synology Hybrid RAID configuration, and is ideal. It's similar to a RAID 1 setup. It also allows you to use hard drives with different capacities, giving you the power to scale up the storage without setting up the RAID all over again.
At $159, it's highly affordable. Its performance is impressive in terms of its price tag, being one of the best options for the home user, as long as you don't try to do too much all at once.