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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.

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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MWC: Next generation of inflight connectivity to be unveiled

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Next week at Mobile World Congress, the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal progress on its mission towards enabling the next generation of inflight connectivity. This follows a significant start for the Alliance, which has seen membership increase five-fold since the first meeting in June of last year. The Alliance has a new research laboratory setup and continues progress through its three working groups, writing specifications for the technology, requirements, and operations.

These developments represent a huge leap towards the goal of making connectivity as easy and enjoyable in the skies as it is on the ground. Appearing as part of the Airbus stand (Hall 6, stand 6G34), the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal specification topics that have been completed and published to its membership.

“The passenger experience with inflight connectivity remains one of the great technology challenges. From Day One we have been determined to deliver on our mission to bring industries and technologies together to make the inflight internet experience simple to access and a delight to use,” said the Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Mandala.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiastic and committed response we have seen and the widening areas of expertise we can call upon as more and more companies and organisations continue to join us,” he added.

Announced during MWC 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance has since grown to twenty-three membercompanies with more than one-hundred key personnel from across the membership participating in its three working groups, with numbers continuing to increase.

The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb and Sprint, and quickly joined by Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and global technology leaders including Astronics, Collins Aerospace, Comtech, Cyient, iDirect, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Latecoere, Nokia, and Panasonic. 

Today, the Alliance is pleased to announce five additional new members: Adaptive Channel, Etihad Airways, GlobalReach Technology, Safran, and SITAONAIR.

“We are extremely pleased to have these companies join and be a part of the companies driving the next generation of connectivity.” said Mr Mandala.

The Seamless Air Alliance will enable travelers boarding any flight, on any airline, anywhere in the world, to use their own devices to automatically connect to the Internet with no complicated login process nor paywall to scramble over.

The Alliance is also announcing the release of a new research study on the economic benefit of standardization on the inflight connectivity market at Mobile World Congress. This report is available for download at https://www.seamlessalliance.com/publications/

The Alliance is moving rapidly towards an expected demonstration of the technology later in 2019 and anticipates massive interest in Barcelona from the whole communications eco-system.

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