Disclosure: Blog of Dad has worked with Synology on several occasions, to review or promote Synology products. This article contains information provided by Synology about products that have been temporarily made free for new and existing customers, as well as products that can be purchased. Any opinions expressed about the Synology products are my own, based on my personal experiences with Synology products.
We are living in one of the most extraordinary times in human history. COVID-19 has, in some way, impacted just about every person on the planet and it will continue to do so for some time yet. The new coronavirus’ impact has been devastating and the loss of human life tragic. Economically, people are struggling as livelihoods are lost and countless personal sacrifices are made for the health and safety of the vulnerable. The message had been clear – staying at home saves lives – and society has responded.
That response is the other side of the COVID-19 story. While a force beyond our control has provided the worst threat to global health and stability since WWII, individuals across the globe have shown the best of humanity. Every day brings countless stories of incredible community spirit. People looking out for each other, helping out, checking in, finding new ways to communicate while protecting those most vulnerable, and of course, staying at home.
It’s not just individuals. Government responses are often easy to criticize, but as an Australian I’m pretty dammed pleased to live in a country that took the threat seriously enough, early enough, to take decisive steps and make it easier for us to stay at home.
And then there has been the business response. From the smallest, family run operations to some of the largest corporations, there are countless examples of rapid, unexpected adjustments to the new normal. Businesses small and large have scrambled to both keep people employed (by moving quickly to work-from-home solutions) and to support the communal efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 in whatever way possible. Sure, some do the wrong thing and a few have even tried to profit from the tragedy, but so many have put people before profit and worked on ways to assist the greater community in these tough times.
Synology is one of those companies doing what they can to support people and small businesses as they make the rapid transition from the office to work-from-home. After seeing a five-fold increase in VPN Plus licence purchases over two months, Synology responded by offering VPN Plus licences for free until September 30, 2020. To put it another way, Synology realised that a product they were successfully selling could help loads of people, so they made it free to new and existing users of Synology router products.
What is Synology VPN Plus and how can it help?
Synology VPN Plus transforms your Synology router into a powerful Virtual Private Network (VPN) server. Like all things Synology, it is easy to set up, reliable and secure.
A VPN is one of the keys to successfully transitioning from the on-site environment to working from home. It allows employees to securely connect back to the vital office network infrastructure, so that they can continue to access files, intranets and resources remotely. These are the things that have been giving small business owners nightmares as they try to maintain business as normal in an environment that is anything but normal.
By implementing Synology’s VPN Plus, you can quickly and effectively transition to a remote workforce by setting up a virtual office that is flexible and adaptable to the company’s needs, without the need for complicated IT setups and large IT budgets.
Synology provides useful how-to videos that clearly explain how to set up and use the different options and features of VPN Plus, which makes it easier for novices and non-expert users to implement the secure private network. It made sense to me and I don’t come from a formally-trained IT background.
How do I get Free Synology VPN Plus?
The free Synology VPN Plus is installed onto Synology router hardware via the excellent Synology Router Manager (SRM) software. If you use a Synology router, you will already be aware of how great this interface is! It makes router management easier than ever, even for those with little technical experience.
VPN Plus Server is found in the Package Centre, which is where all of the excellent Synology router add-ons can be found. Installation is straightforward, just click the install button and follow the prompts. Synology VPN Plus supports a wide range of VPN services, including WebVPN, SSL VPN, Remote Desktop, SSTP, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP and Site-to-Site VPN. It also enables you to monitor and regulate VPN traffic at all times.
Once installed, VPN Plus is accessed via the main menu on the SRM. When you first open VPN Plus, a Quick Introduction pop-up provides some key information and, crucially for the novice, a Learn more… button links to the VPN Plus Server section of the in-built SRM Help. This extensive guide is a fantastic resource which drills down into the different VPN settings. If you are feeling a little overwhelmed by setting things up, this is the place to go!
Each Synology router comes with one free licence as standard and adding more free licences is easy. Just click on the Licence button at the bottom of the VPN Plus Server menu, then click Add Licence. Log in with your Synology account details. Select the quantity of Client VPN Access Licences you require. These licences enable concurrent user access – if you have three licences, then three people can access your Synology VPN server at the same time. You will see a message that states:
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Synology is offering free VPN Plus licenses to all Synology Router users in an effort to support businesses with employees working from home. This special offer ends on September 30, 2020 (PDT).
These licences last for the lifetime of your router, so there is no ongoing cost, even after September 30, 2020. Just make sure you acquire your free licences before the cut-off date. The Synology RT2600ac can support up to 20 licences.
Is the free Synology VPN Plus just for small business?
The Synology VPN Plus is a brilliant solution for small businesses that need an easy and secure work-from-home solution, but that doesn’t have be it’s only purpose. The Synology RT2600ac is as fantastic in the home as it is in the office and the VPN may well be something that home users should consider at this time.
Why? Because it is a way of staying connected with family who may be missing the key moments in your children’s lives.
One of the hardest things about staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic has been our kids and their grandparents missing out on the time they used to spend together. While we spend plenty of time video calling, it is not the same as being able to watch the children play naturally.
We take mountains of photos and videos, but sharing them privately and securely is not easy. We avoid social media sharing for many reasons, so email is the (rather clunky) option.
Why not take advantage of the Synology VPN server and create an easy, private and secure network for sharing precious moments with family? You can attach external storage directly to the RT2600ac router for storing the media, or, even better, use a Synology NAS to organise and deliver your homemade media internally and to family via the VPN. Keep an eye out for my coming review of a brand new Synology NAS, it is more than up to the task.
It is sad that our parents have missed things like first birthdays, first wobbly steps and first words, not to mention the day-to-day wonder of little-person life, but a setup like the Synology VPN and NAS combination would go a long way to bringing them into the action and making them feel more a part of it all.
Synology RT2600ac Router
For anyone who already owns a Synology router, acquiring the free licences is a no-brainer, as Synology VPN Plus is free to existing users.
Synology have also made VPN Plus free for any new customers, which makes the RT2600ac a router seriously worth considering for home or office use. Synology have sent me one for a detailed review, which will be coming shortly.
My initial impressions are that the RT2600ac is a feature-packed, powerful router worthy of a place in any home or small business setup. Installation was a breeze – I completed the process in a matter of minutes via the app on my Android smartphone. What I like most (other than the reliability, blinding speed and expandability via the RT2600ac) is the way Synology have managed to make the RT2600ac cater to novices and experts alike.
The simplicity of the mobile app is greatly appreciated by the home user, but the browser-based SRM software should satisfy the needs of avid tinkerers and business IT managers. I fall somewhere in between the novice home user and the tinkerer, and I feel well-and-truly catered for.
While I applaud the efforts in Australia and globally (some more successfully than others) to combat COVID-19 and flatten the curve, the fact is that we will be living with the consequences of the virus for some time to come. Social distancing will be a thing for the foreseeable future and a solid work-from-home solution will be a necessity for the majority of businesses. Even beyond the epidemic, working from home will be more normal, as many employers and employees have quickly come to appreciate the benefits of such setups, once hurdles like IT infrastructure have been successfully cleared.