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Now for a Cloud alternative

The Synology DiskStation 218 Play is an affordable alternative to Cloud storage, writes SEAN BACHER.

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Businesses large and small around the globe are migrating their data to the Cloud – and for good reason. They don’t have to worry about backing up information locally, they can access their data from anywhere in the world, and they don’t have to pay administrators, nor pay for expensive storage hardware.

However good this sounds, it does come with one drawback in South Africa, and that is the cost of data used to upload files to the Cloud – especially for a one person show or very small business. This is compounded when you think of photographers or video makers that deal with extremely large files on a daily basis.

Enter the Synology DiskStation 218 Play.

The Synology DiskStation 218 Play is a reasonably priced network attached solution (NAS) especially designed for small businesses, which have little to no IT administrative experience. All the user needs to do is purchase the Synology unit and two standard SATA hard drives – the size of the hard drives being completely dependent on the user’s needs and budget.

The hard drives are plugged into the DiskStation and the DiskStation is connected to a router through a LAN cable. Once done, a local search for Synology through an Internet browser connects the computer to the NAS’s online configuration wizard. Disk partitions and user accounts and passwords are the first things to be set up, after which the installation wizard asks what the role of the Synology will be. One can assign it as an e-mail server, web server, streaming video server, or just a place to backup data on a daily basis. Depending on the role chosen, a specific set of tools and applications are loaded.

The Synology DiskStation then goes about formatting the hard drives and installing its own Linux-based operating system, called DiskStation Manager.

A novel approach

The DiskStation Manager is a novel approach to network-attached storage devices, as many others rely on a variant of Windows or a native Linux installation, where many of the functions will not be used and in some cases are very difficult to set up without some sort of training.

Once the setup wizard is complete, the drive can be mapped to a local network so users can access it based on the previously set profiles and permissions. For instance, some users may only be allowed to access content on the drives whereas others can edit and delete files.

The DiskStation Manager layout is very clean, with hard drive, system and resource monitors displaying on the right of the screen. On the left, users have access to the control panel and a Package Centre, where additional Synology-specific applications, ranging from an antivirus to a WordPress hosting platform, can be downloaded. Users will also find a File Station option, which performs the same function as the My Computer option on Windows.

The top of the screen displays a task bar with a Start option to access installed applications.

Although the basic setup of the Synology is simple, it allows technical users to access the nitty-gritty of how the device works. For instance, advanced users can decide on when the drives should sleep, or when the DiskStation goes into hibernation. They can also set e-mail notifications should the NAS shut down unexpectedly or when one of the hard drives is about to fail.

More than just a secondary storage device

In addition to the simple set up and ease of use, the Synology offers hard drive redundancy in the form of RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks). This means that, when the DiskStation has two drives plugged into it, the data is replicated across both drives. Should one of the drives become faulty, all the data stored on that drive would have already been replicated onto the good drive, giving you enough time to get a second hard drive to keep the duplication of data going.

On the downside though, this means you only get the storage space of one of the drives. For instance, plugging in two 3TB hard drives means you only get 3TBs of storage and not 6TB. To make matters worse, there is no way to change this, as it is hardcoded into the system.

Another negative is that the DiskStation 218 Play has to be connected to a router via a LAN cable. It does offer the option of Wi-Fi connection, but an additional Wi-Fi adapter needs to be plugged into the NAS in order to connect wirelessly.

In conclusion

Its relatively inexpensive cost, the ability to install the DiskStation 218 Play without any technical knowledge, and being able to set it to act as just about any type of server you need makes it a great companion for the SME. The additional specifically designed applications work in its favour. The RAID functionality, which is usually only found on more expensive devices, is a huge plus.

The main thing missing is built-in wireless connectivity, as I suspect many users will want to connect the Synology and hide it in the corner of their office, only visiting it when a hard drive fails.

The Synology DiskStation retails for around R3 300, excluding the hard drives.

Arts and Entertainment

Netflix to make SA series

The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.

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World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.

The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.

The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.

South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.

Pearl Thusi stars as Queen Sono in Netflix’s first original series in Africa.

“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.

“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.

The series is due to start production in 2019.

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Microsoft adds Chrome to Edge

Microsoft is working to build a new version of its Edge browser on the open-source version of Google Chrome, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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After 20 years of backing Internet Explorer and its underlying software technologies, Microsoft has chosen to integrate Chromium, the open source version of Google Chrome. This announcement comes just three years after launching Microsoft Edge, the refreshed version of Internet Explorer.

“We intend to adopt the Chromium open source project in the development of Microsoft Edge on the desktop to create better web compatibility for our customers and less fragmentation of the web for all web developers,” said Joe Belfiore, corporate VP at Windows, in a blog post on 6 December.

The change affects the back-end elements of the browser that run in the background to make the web pages work for the user. The shift includes scrapping Microsoft’s EdgeHTML rendering engine in favour of Chrome’s Blink.

Utilising the Blink engine will allow Microsoft to support versions of new Edge on Windows 7, 8 and 10, as well as a version for macOS. Belfiore said that the company had also started contributing to the Chromium open source project: “We’ve begun making contributions to the Chromium project to help move browsing forward on new ARM-based Windows devices.”

Microsoft’s move to Chrome has shifted the “browser wars” in favour of Google Chrome, as Opera and Edge will now both be using Chrome’s rendering engine.

“If you’re a Microsoft Edge customer, there is nothing you need to do, as the Microsoft Edge you use today isn’t changing. If you are a web developer, we invite you to join our community by installing preview builds when they’re available and staying current on our testing and contributions.” said Belfiore.

Edge’s project manager, Kyle Alden, confirmed in a Reddit thread that Chrome extensions will be compatible with the new version of Edge. It is expected to launch in a preview build in early 2019.

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