NAS enclosures are something that I’ve gained some experience with over the last couple of years, and are traditionally known as an “end-all, be-all” solution for massive data integration. Enterprise giant Synology has been busy reinventing their image with the DiskStation DS423+, designed to be an approachable home or small business server with some internal OS features thrown in for good measure.
Appearance-wise, the DiskStation DS423+ will be instantly familiar to anyone who regularly uses any of Synology’s standard enclosures, in fact, if the model’s name wasn’t stamped on the front bottom corner, I would’ve guessed they accidentally sent over the wrong unit. The externals of the DS423+ are 99% functionality over form, it’s just a black box than measures in a compact 6.5 by 7.8 by 8.7 inches (HWD) and weighing 4.8lbs empty. The front holds four tool-free and hot-swappable SATA drive bays that can be locked for added security. LED indicators for system status and drive activity; a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port; and a power button are positioned on the right side of the box.
The sensibility continues around the back with two 1GbE LAN ports; another Type-A USB 3.2 Gen 1 port; two 92mm cooling fans and a reset button. One omission that server connoisseurs will notice is that there’s no eSATA port for connecting and/or chaining external server devices for additional storage. As a tradeoff, the DS423+ gains slot provisions for two M.2 NVMe SSDs hidden on the bottom panel.
Utilization and DiskStation OS
Clearly, the DS423+ isn’t meant to be flashy and is perfectly fine humming along in the background. That’s not a bad thing considering it comes equipped with a decent Intel Celeron J4125 (2GHz/2.7GHz boost) quad-core processor, and 2GB of embedded DDR4 SODIMM memory that can be expanded to 6GB (2GB + 4GB). The main bays support both 2.5- and 3.5-inch drives with a maximum total internal storage capacity of 72TB or single volume size of 108TB. Of course, this NAS can support a myriad of file formats (BTRFS, EXT4) and drive configurations (SHR, Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10).
Utilizing a desktop NAS setup can be daunting, but Synology thought of that for beginners with their browser-based DiskStation Manager operating system. This works like a self-contained server which uses desktop icons to make the experience as foolproof as possible. You have everything you need, including Control Panel, File Station, Package Center, and DSM Help. Basic system info such as total uptime, CPU and RAM usage, and the NAS IP address are also shown and monitored in real-time.
Dive deeper and other preinstalled utilities including Storage Manager and Log Center can be viewed and adjusted accordingly. These settings let you create drive volumes and configure RAID settings when adding more HDDs to any empty bays or view detailed system notifications. Security Advisor is self-explanatory and allows scanning for malware, password strength, and keeps your software up to date.
A catalog of approved third-party apps can be downloaded from the Package Center and opens Synology NAS devices up to more functionality. Whether you want to utilize the DS423+ as a backup server, multimedia hub, or even an IP camera surveillance center it can probably be done with just a few steps. If you’re already familiar with NAS drives or insist on having direct file control without relying on DSM, you can set up the DS423+ for local access and manually bypass DSM after initialization through Windows or macOS.
The DS423+ will be a long-term solution for hoarding massive amounts of data—possibly to the point that this NAS may outlast your current HDDs/SSDs when they inevitably age and need replacement. For testing I decided on maximum capacity by installing four 20TB Seagate EXOS (X20) enterprise-grade HDDs and connecting the NAS directly to my router. Synology recommends using their own SHR system as the primary RAID option and Btrfs, which requires at least two identical drives for failure prevention and redundant contingency. Formatting the volume yielded a total storage capacity of 34.9TB between all paired drives and required 30 minutes for optimization.
File transfer speeds for single tasks are respectable and within expectations if you’re moving large files or folders. For this I separately moved a 6.4GB media folder and one large 41.1GB file between a host PC, specifically observing read and write speeds. Average results for the write test was 52MBps and read speed topping out at 54MBps.
For added measure, I also tested SSD NVMe speeds with a Nextorage G Series 4TB drive and that too was quick at a slightly faster 55MBps (write) and 63MBps (read). However, I only had one SSD to benchmark, so I couldn’t utilize the SHR RAID option and opted for JBOD (i.e., just a bunch of disks) as a new volume. Either way, the DS423+ does provide more-than-acceptable performance if you’re regularly moving huge chucks of data over a home network.
To make its range of products more consumer-friendly, the DiskStation DS423+ NAS is essentially a repurposed enclosure with some parts rearranged for semi-professional users. It remains a excellent four-bay unit that can grow along with your single hub needs, and should specifically appeal to photographers or video creators who plan on filling their space in the terabytes. Others will also appreciate the moderate file sharing and HTPC options through the DiskStation Manager ecosystem, although experienced users will probably skip over this OS entirely. At the very least, this option from Synology unintentionally became my extended-period server and is something that can easily streamline your storage workflow too.