Synology Phase 02 – The Drive

4TB WD RedSo I’ve been sitting on my Synology NAS for not quite a month now.  I had already stuck a spare 250gb drive in it just for the sake of using the thing some and getting to play around with some of the software.  I’ll touch on the software more in a future post, though the short is, I’m pretty impressed with everything except the Surveillance Station.

I was going to wait a bit longer to pick up the drives but “fake” using it really had me wanting to REALLY use it.

To really use a NAS, especially as a RAID, you can’t just put any drive into the enclosure, RAID drives are designed to withstand a much more frequent number of reads to help keep them alive for longer periods.  They are designed to be more robust in general since chances are the user will really be relying on them for potentially sensitive data (say, a business keeping business records).  My only apprehension about this is that I replace an awful lot of drives in the servers at work, especially the HUGE arrays that serve video.  On the other hand, these are machines that are pushing content to hundreds or thousands of people at once so the usage on these drives is probably pretty astronomical.  It’s not really apples to apples.

I’ve had a bit of an internal debate on which drives to get, and it generally comes down to price, reliability, and size.  Price is a factor f the other two points, more expensive tends to be better.  Size is a mater of needs, so that really just leaves reliability.  Everything I have seen, and I mean EVERYTHING from recommendations on Amazon to 4chan threads on /g/ to Reddit search results and posts and random message boards says, “Western Digital Reds”.  My only apprehension on the Reds is that Newegg’s reviews section is riddled with people complaining of failures.  Everything on New Egg goes counter to what I see elsewhere on WD Red drives.  I almost went with another brand but I decided to go with the WD Red drives.

I also almost cut down to 3TB drives.  They are $50-$60 cheaper and do I REALLY need 4TB.  I had to remind myself that yes, I really need the 4TB and the reality is, for the long haul, I SHOULD be buying 6TB drives, which is the largest this unit will support (I think).

So then there is the matter of the drive swap itself.  This didn’t quite work out as smoothly as expected, though if I had been putting two drives in instead of just trying to transition to one larger drive things would have gone better.  I had already been using one drive and had set up several things on this drive.  I inserted the new drive in the empty bay and then set both drives up as a mirrored array.  Wait a few minutes for the sync to happen, then remove the small older drive.

This is where there was some hang up.  Removing the small drive caused the NAS to believe a drive had failed.  i didn’t want to leave it like this and I don’t have a second 4TB drive to stick in there yet.  Unfortunately, there also is no way to break a 2 disk array back down into a single disk configuration.  This mean that as far as the NAS was concerned, there was a 250gb drive involved, which was the max size it would let me use.

I ended up having to dump all the files off to a separate storage and reinitialize the array with the single 4TB drive, then re copy and reconfigure everything.  Not a horrible pain but kind of annoying.

Synology Phase 01 – The Box



I finally got something I’ve wanted for a while, a sexy new NAS box.  Unfortunately, I don’t have drives for it yet.  I went ahead and ordered the box because in helps discourage me from accidentally spending the money I’ve been saving if it’s not there to spend.  I plan to stick a pair of 4tb WD Red drives in it with a mirrored RAID.

I’ve wanted a dedicated NAS for a while.  I have a lot of data.  Like, a “fuckton” of it.  I’ve been a digital packrat since I’ve been using computers and it shows.  I’m honestly not sure if 4tb will be enough.  A general run down of some of the data I’m dealing with.

225gb of Family Photos from the past ten+ years.

129gb of music files

22gb of “Personal Files” from writings to web projects to drawings etc

226gb of Program and game install files from Bundles and such

37gb of ISO files, a lot of Linux distros, some backups of my discs

256gb of Videography projects from the past 8 years

A Plus a whole mess of other files from saved image files to ebooks

      to news articles saved to PDF

I also have a massive CD wallet of old files I’d like to start sorting through

I want to rip all of my DVDs to some digital video format for safekeeping

      and private video streaming

Currently most of the data is crammed across a couple of machines, though most of it is in what I generally refer to as the “Family PC” in the basement.  I really want to get the data off of this machine, and off any machine that is actually used by anyone.  One, the machine itself is over 5 years old now.  The drive isn’t but this is starting to reach a point of potential failure.  I went through one drive failure and lost some data, I’m not doing it again.  Two, I want it off a machine people use due to malware issues.  It’s not been a problem recently but on more than one occasion I have found that the kids went and downloaded some hack client for Runescape or Minecraft and gummed up the machine a bit.  It’s never been anything irreversible but the potential is there.

Mostly it’s the data loss potential, which is why I want a RAID.  I have know about and been aware of RAID for a long time now but never really appreciated it until I was replacing drives at work.  Every server we have is at least a Mirrored RAID, the larger ones have a pair of mirrored striped raids with redundant servers.  Redundancy on redundancy, and redundancy is good.  Which is why Next year when my current storage tier runs out I’ll probably also sign up for Office 365, because it will give me a Terabyte of online storage to backup my photos and video files too, the real important and hard to replace stuff.

As for the Synology itself, I looked at quite a few models of NAS before settling for the ds213j.  A friend of mine has a Synology and loves it.  In fact everything I found online suggested the Synology was the best NAS you could get.  I looked into some Buffalo drives and while they were half the price they lacked almost any features besides being a network drive.  The Synology has a lot of nice features including the ability to run web and email servers as well as stream video and music.  If it works, I may dump the Linux box I’ve been using as a web dev server, for power savings.

I also looked into building a FreeNAS box, which would be more powerful and have even more features, except the minimal cost for the FreeNAs box would have been as much as the Synology and the 2x4tb drives, and that was not putting any drives in the FreeNAS.  Honestly the FreeNAS is still really appealing and maybe in a few years I’ll build one, but I really need a solid solution now, I’ve been putting off the NAS for too long.

So after settling on the Synology it was down to which model.  Partially for cost, partially because I don’t feel like I need more, I went with a two bay device.  Honestly after looking at this device construction and design wise there isn’t much reason the larger devices should cost more than like 20-50 dollars more than a 2 bay system but they do, and I don’t care to drop $700 on one of these, I can build a FreeNAS box for that.  So which 2 bay model?  I went with the 213j, the 13 designates this as the 2013 model, the 2 is the 2 bay model.  The 214se version has half the RAM and a smaller processor, I want to be able to stream video off this thing so less power is not better.

Anyway, it may be a month or more before I manage to put some drives in it but you can be sure I’ll come back to discussing this device at that time.