In this blog, we’ll talk about QuickConnect. It’s not a new feature (launched 2 years ago with DSM 4.0), but we bring it up for two reasons: first to explain QuickConnect’s mechanism and satisfy the curiosity of many users who wonder how exactly does it magically remove the need to forward ports in your router. Secondly because it appears many users don’t realize QuickConnect has the potential to make their experience using our apps and packages even smoother!
Why use QuickConnect?
QuickConnect’s main purpose is to provide you with a “human friendly” ID, easy to remember and log into some of our most popular services: Cloud Station, DS cloud, DS audio, DS photo+ and DS file… My guess is that only real network purists prefer to log in with “165.152.25.009: 5000…” rather that use a customized ID like “mySyno”.
QuickConnect is also the best friend of all those who shy away from obscure router settings, or who simply can’t access their router in the first place. Take a tech-savvy IT student, perfectly capable of forwarding ports himself, but stuck in a dormitory without access to the router: using a QuickConnect ID, he’d still be able to connect and stream music, even from outside the dorm.
There’s one more advantage of using QuickConnect – but often overlooked. If you regularly use our mobile apps, you’ve probably imagined how convenient it would be if you could connect both an internal IP AND an external IP to your DiskStation, to avoid losing the connection and having to log in again with the external IP. QuickConnect makes staying connected easier: it automatically detects the type of network environment, and chooses the right IP to use.
So, how does it all work?
If you’re curious as to how QuickConnect automates all the login and data transmission, let’s take a look at things step-by-step:
When enabling the QuickConnect service, your DiskStation sends out a request to one of our relay sites (2 servers, one in the UK, one in America), and provides its internal and external IP addresses. The relay site stores this information for as long as the QuickConnect ID is valid.
Let’s say you’re on your way to a business trip, and want to go over your presentation slides on the way… and you use DS cloud to access them.
Upon connecting within the network, the app starts by checking the internal IP associated with the QuickConnect ID, and directly establishes the connection with your DiskStation. You can browse and open files, on your phone, directly from the Synology via the router.
However, things get interesting if you leave home, and your phone connection changes over to your 3G network:
When DS cloud now no longer detects your DiskStation within the local network, it sends out a request to the relay server requesting a connection, in turn sending a notification to the DiskStation that a connection needs to be re-established. The DiskStation then initiates a connection with the relay site: your slides are then accessible on your phone via the relay. And if the data is quite critical, the communication can be protected by SSL.
4) Port forwarding?
All this sounds rather neat and easy, but might leave you with two questions, namely which ports are used, and how does QuickConnect get away with port forwarding when you spent a long afternoon learning how to do this?
The ports remain the same as those used by the application by default: in the case of DS cloud, it’s 6690.
As for port forwarding, it simply doesn’t happen: QuickConnect leverages the fact that outbound signals aren’t blocked by most routers. And that’s also why all throughout the process above, the DiskStation initiates the connections with the relay site, pushing data straight through the router.
A few thoughts
QuickConnect is quite a convenient service which allows all users to easily host their private cloud, removing the need for sophisticated network know-how, and at the same time making our apps more convenient to use. Its convenience is something we’re aware of, and that we will be gradually generalizing in the future. Why gradually? Because streaming audio is one thing, but adding support for “video streaming” apps such as DS cam or DS video will require scaling up the relay servers. And maybe one day, we may even allow for DSM login without the need of port forwarding – who knows!
*Edit [31st March, 2014]:
-Port forwarding and QuickConnect can be complementary. If you have forwarded ports on your router, QuickConnect won’t need to leverage the relay server, meaning data won’t transfer through it. This can be quite useful with our mobile applications, to seamlessly reconnect when changing networks with the reconnection mechanism, while having the same performances as using a DDNS.
*Edit [15th April 2015]:
-To avoid sending your data via the relay servers and improve performances, Cloud Station and certain of the Synology mobile applications have implemented port punching if your router supports this technology (this replaces tunneling). With port punching, data flows directly from the client application to your DiskStation, and the relay sites are only used to keep track of the IP (private and public) of the DiskStation. As previously stated, if ports have been forwarded, QuickConnect still leverages that and uses the DiskStation’s IP to connect directly, making both tunneling and port punching methods unnecessary. DSM 5.2 users with UPnP-routers can activate the automatic creation of port forwarding rules under DSM > Control Panel > QuickConnect.
-Note that the number of relay servers and applications supported by QuickConnect may vary since the article was written back in 2013.
*Edit [9th June 2015]:
-The following white paper provides more in-depth knowledge about QuickConnect, download it here.