• User Review & Setup Guide: D-Link ShareCenter DNS-320L NAS Encolsure

    Update 20/07/2015: For quite some time now, the app has become unusable under Android Lollipop (it still works fine under iOS 8). When launched in Android, the app force-quits immediately. The fix to the problem is to uninstall and re-install the app – though this is pretty annoying. Given that Lollipop was released almost a year ago, it’s pretty disgraceful that DLink haven’t resolved the issue.


    D-Link DNS-320L

    I recently looked into taking my old NAS (network-attached storage) drive out of retirement by looking into whether it would be possible to upgrade its hard drive to a newer high-capacity version. I had read that the firmware for the device was stored on the NAS itself, as opposed to the drive, and that it should be possible. Having just about managed to get into it though (which proved to be a difficult task in itself), I discovered the drive used an IDE interface. Whilst it is possible to get little converters, I was not convinced that it would all fit back in, nor was I particularly satisfied that it would just work. Having had an (originally) expensive device become obsolete in this manner, I decided that the next NAS that I would purchase would be an enclosure rather than contain a drive (it helps that I have a 2TB 3.5″ SATA drive sitting around).

    The results of my initial hunt led me to the D-Link ShareCenter Pulse – a 2-bay NAS enclosure, and one of the cheapest presently on the market (around £50 at the time of writing). On the Amazon page for that device, though, I noticed a link to a newer model, which when I looked at it presented a single additional feature which convinced me to buy it instead: the ability to access files externally using an Android (or iOS) app. This feature is referred to on the Amazon website (and on D-Links own site) as the mydlink Cloud Services. The service is advertised as follows:
    mydlink_cloud_servicesView photos and stream music and videos from your iPhone, iPad and Android. Download files from your storage device from wherever you are to view later. Upload music, movies and photos to your ShareCenter and back them up, so you never lose any previous files or run out of space on your Smartphone or tablet!

    This feature really appealed to me as there have been multiple occasions when I have wanted a file which would have been on a home system but unavailable wherever I was. It does of course mean leaving the device turned on a lot of the time. D-Link ensure that the drives are turned off as necessary in order to conserve power and prolong the life of the hard drives within. The drive I have installed is a WD Caviar Green 2TB SATA – a drive specifically intended to reduce power consumption.

    Installing a Hard Drive

    The installation of the HDD was very simple. The only tool required is a screwdriver so that the pull-handles can be attached. These are rubber handles which will be used should you ever need to remove the drive from the ShareCenter. Other than that, installing the drive involves slotting it into place (ensuring the top of the drive points towards the centre of the NAS). It is necessary to push quite hard to get the drive installed – harder than I was comfortable pushing – but the drive eventually clicks into place, and remains there very securely.

    Setup

    DNS-320L-backThe setup process is designed to be very simple, with a step-by-step application provided on a CD to get you on your way. In the first instance, you are guided through the steps to ensure your drive is connected to the network and turned on. Once you have gone through this process, you are able to pick the drive from a (potential) list of available NAS boxes. On picking your NAS, you are asked if the light on it is blinking, thus confirming that you have selected the correct one. Once you have the correct one selected, you can proceed through the setup process. There are various steps, including (but not limited to):

    • Setting a system-admin password
    • Setting up a dynamic DNS account and linking that with the NAS
    • Setting up an email account to send emails to (and from)
    • Formatting the disk inside
    • Setting up the mydlink cloud services account

    Supposedly (according to D-Link), it should be possible to skip the formatting step but this was not my experience. Every time I ran the setup tool, I had to format the disk (which took quite a lot of time). I initially tried to run the setup tool under Windows XP running under VirtualBox (with Ubuntu 12.04 as the host OS). On every occasion, I never got to the part where I was able to set up the mydlink account. I have no idea why – there weren’t any errors – the setup process completed seemingly successfully. This was a cause of great frustration.

    Dynamic DNS

    Setting up the dynamic DNS service was relatively painless. During the setup process, the application stated that port 80 should be open on the router. I was not sure whether this meant port forwarding. I don’t think the instructions were particularly clear. So far things seem to be working.

    Accessing the ‘mydlink cloud services’

    Access to the device from Android is provided through an app. Searching for ‘mydlink’ on the Google Play store returns a plethora of available apps, including one whose icon is identical to the cloud services icon shown above. Whilst it may seem that this is the correct application to use, it is in fact incorrect. As is the ‘mydlink lite’ app. The correct application to use is in fact mydlink Access-NAS. If you see an application asking you to enter a server address (e.g. http://account.mydlinkcloud.com/) then you have downloaded the wrong app.

    With the correct application, access to the NAS file system is easily achievable.

    Downloading content to smart phones & tablets

    The Google Play store listing for the access NAS app lists the following as a feature of the app:

    • Save files to your Android device for offline playback

     

    D-Link Access NAS Context Menu

    D-Link Access NAS Context Menu

    I have not yet found a way to download content to my phone or tablet. Update 07/08/2013: it seems as though the application has had support for downloads added now. Access to the the menu which provides download access is achieved using the context menu on an Android phone or tablet. From within that menu, you can select an action, causing the menu to disappear. If, for example, you selected to download something, you would then be able to select a number of files in the main app, and then press the context menu again and press ‘Download’ again to start the download process.

    The whole process of using this drive from start to completion has been a real hassle from a user perspective. There are many aspects (perhaps the more advanced options) which make it confusing and counter-intuitive.

    Uploading content from Android

    D-Link Access NAS Context Menu

    D-Link Access NAS Context Menu

    The Android app offers the same unintutive method of uploading files to the NAS drive – the context menu has to be loaded, the “Upload” button pressed, the files to upload selected, and the context menu selected again to choose to upload the file(s). Once you have completed this process, you will be asked where you want to put the files on the NAS. You’ll even be able to create new folders. Upon selecting a folder, he progress of each file’s upload will be shown in the “Task List” tab.

    Power Management

    If you are thinking of leaving the drive running, then it may be worth considering scheduling the device to turn off and back on at certain times.

    Alternative Cloud NAS Drives

    This is of course, not the only NAS drive available with this cloud feature. There are also products such as the Western Digital My Book Live, the Iomega Cloud NAS. Both of these, however, are not enclosures. They both contain drives already. Having been bitten by that situation previously, I was much happier with the idea of buying an empty NAS, which will hold two drives and which can be upgraded as I have need.

12 Responsesso far.

  1. Ron says:

    Nice article. Though I just want to clarify something. Can I upload to the ShareCenter even if I’m not connected to the same WiFi network. Say I’m out-of-town with an internet connection. Or even out-of-the-country? Can I access it and upload/back-up my files? Assuming of course that the NAS is turned on and connected to the internet. Thanks!

    • Duncan says:

      Yes you can. There are a number of ways you can do this. The easiest option will be if you use the apps available on Android or iOS (assuming that you have completed the setup of these). You will then have access to upload and download files through your phone / tablet. There is also a website which provides an interface to the files, though I remember it being relatively unintuitive.

      The alternative to the above solution, which will need a little extra work, is to enable the FTP server on your device. Aside from setting that up on the NAS box, you’ll also have to update router settings to pass the relevant port through to the router.

      • Ron says:

        Great! Thanks! Last questions, what is the maximum hard drive I can use? Based on the sales person, they said that when firmware is upgraded, it will be able to accomodate 3TB per bay. Total of 6TB.

        Lastly, when accessing my video files in DNS-320l, will I be able to stream it instead of downloading the entire file before watching it? Thanks!

        • Duncan says:

          As far as I understand, the max for each bay is 3TB. I only have 2TB disk installed though, so can’t tell you that from my own first-hand experience. Assuming that my (and your) understanding is correct, then that would mean a total possible storage space of 6TB.

          With regards to streaming content, provided you are using the apps provided by D-Link, you will be able to stream MP3s and videos encoded using MP4 format. All other videos CANNOT be streamed – they will have to be downloaded before you can watch them. It’s possibly the biggest shame of the streaming functionality – that only one encoding type is supported. You know which video files can be streamed as they have a different icon:
          D-Link Video Streaming Icons

          • Ron says:

            Thanks! This is really helpful. On the other hand, it’s kinda disappointing because I have a lot of videos in AVI, MKV format. This is dependent on the app right? Do you know other NAS that supports streaming for other video formats?

            On another feature, is it possible to browse the contents of DNS-320L via a wired connection? I’m guessing this is faster than wireless and would be helpful for faster copying/pasting. Thanks!

          • Duncan says:

            It depends what you mean by “dependent on the app”. If you are talking about using the ‘cloud service’ as a method of streaming, the restriction to stream only that format is dependent on both the NAS box and the app – the NAS box has to serve it up for the cloud app to play and it’s more than just streaming. As I understand it, the quality of the video is altered according to your connection speed. It is possible to stream from the NAS using other devices. I have used a laptop, a PS3 and a Raspberry Pi to playback movies in other formats with no problem at all.

            The DNS-320L is not a WiFi NAS – so it will have to have a wired connection into your home network. A wired connection to your computer will improve speed and reliability, particularly for large data transfers. A wireless connection is generally OK, but if I know I have a few GB to transfer, I will often hook my laptop up to WiFi.

  2. Brian choong says:

    I just got this 320L and I am happy with it. But one thing that I feel frustrated is, I want to upload photo from my phone to the NAS, I am using android note2, after install that apps that you recommend , it seem like it do not have option to upload…but, the same apps I install to my iPad, there is button for me to upload my photo from my iPad . Any advice on how to upload photo from my android phone to NAS?

    • Duncan says:

      It is possible to upload files using the app. I have done so by navigating to the “Local” tab, and finding the folder containing the file (based on the type of file). Once in the folder the context menu will allow you to upload files in the same way that it allows you to download them. You select to upload files, then you have to select the files using checkboxes on the thumbnails after which you need to re-open the context menu to upload the files. Following that you will be able to choose a location (including creating new folders).
      Upload a file using myDlink Access NAS

  3. alex says:

    does anybody knows of a NAS that does not uses a FAT client for initial configuration?

    I don’t want to install anything, I want to do everything from the browser from the very start.

    most fat clients are windows clients, and i dont want to install a Windows just to do the initial setup of the NaS

    • Duncan says:

      You might find that enclosures with a built-in HDD do not require software configuration. That was certainly my experience (if I recall correctly) with the original NAS that I bought (which is now all-but useless as the drive is so small and can’t be upgraded).

  4. vissu says:

    hello frnds actually i m using dlink router to perform a remote access i installed mydlink cloud services app in my smartphone. but i m unable to access i dont knoww what details of server account and password are required. can any one help me in this

    • Duncan says:

      If you are using an app called “MyDlink Cloud Services”, then you have installed the wrong app.

      The article I have written provides a link to the app you need to install.

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