Synology NAS DS415Play Box

Well, I decided to go back on my previous word of avoiding NAS at all costs. Recently my current portable drive, backup approach hit it’s ceiling and I simply needed to find another option. So, back to NAS I go…

Head over to my original post “Round One: NAS Drive (Seagate GoFlex Home)” to get the back story there.

In my last attempt to go full Network Storage and all that, the Seagate failed me miserably. I mean crashed and burned, right out of the gate. I barely had time to even gain positives to formulate a silver lining. See, I’m good at justifying and rationalizing something to get around needing to change it. Particularly if that change creates a financial need that outweighs my frugal nature. Not here though.

Never the less, last month, my current backup process topped out and last week, my laptop gave all it could until the dreaded, “system resources are too low, please delete files before proceeding”, message burned into my screen.

This of course, created a massive problem with my editing process. Or rather, one no longer existed and I was literally on my last SD card, struggling to hold onto the photos I could, and still shoot. At least a little bit.

After doing a ton of desperate research, here I stood, at the doors of the dreaded NAS route. I felt that nagging bite on the back of my mind, just pleading for me to click on and check out alternative modes of backup… but hey, it’s been three years since the Seagate debacle. Which is like 30 dog years for technology. In this amount of time, surely they must have resolved these issues, enhanced the stability and so on and on… Why not look into it again? I damn sure don’t have much choice, other than buying more portable drives (which I don’t want to do).

Immediately, I like many others seeking a cool new way to backup, began researching the old Drobo series. Oh Drobonio, Drobreezy, DroGonnaHoldYourShitHostage… Anyway, I was checking out the 5N specifically. I was not requiring anything crazy. I didn’t need to set up a office server system or house my website. I have Blubrry for my podcast hosting and, well, I just wanted to stay modest.

But as quickly as it popped into my noggin, the Drobo dream fizzled for me. Eliminated due to the endless feedback loop of “Never again with Drobo” statements I read and received from all sides of the digital spectrum, historically and presently. Furthermore, its more expensive, hindered feature set and above all, the idea of a proprietary array system frankly, makes me uneasy. I refuse to put my data in a sandbox, completely inaccessible by any other means. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope…

So, I continued browsing through CNET, Consumer Reports, endless photographer blogs, technology review boards, both US and abroad, Amazon lists, B&H, etc… There had to be a system that stood head and shoulders above Seagate. Because like a physical assault case, I am far to shy to return. They may be awesome today, but I’m not yet gonna know. That data loss stung.

Eventually, it came down to two brands/models. +1 additional Synology model later

[AMAZONPRODUCT=B00MEW1272]

[AMAZONPRODUCT=B00LO3KW7S]

By the way, I got this snazzy amazon affiliate thing going, so if you decide to go with one of these, dig my write up and want to give me a nod… Please support the site with a click through one of the links above. Both are great and viable options and it doesn’t add any fees… it only helps the toss a nickel in the bucket to keep the good old Cazman here shooting.

Anyway, the Synology and QNAP proved to be the big players in Network storage, at least from my research… and Drobo is a photographic household name. However, that proves to be more often infamous, than famous amongst said photographic circles. But it is a big player and one worth considering.

I ended up passing on the QNAP, not because it was a lesser quality choice. It was the operation UI that Synology seems to possess over most any other NAS system out there. This was merely from reading and not, at the time, from personal use. More on that in a bit, spoiler, its great.

But in my research, there did seem to be a heavier community allegiance to Synology. Now, I do not aim to jump on a bandwagon. Cynics and those wanting to vent can blast on brand recognition and fanboi-ism all they want (myself included), but truth be told, name recognition equals a large, active community. Which means…. drum roll… relative confidence in crowdsourced assistance if company assistance proves futile.

Beyond that, both looked great on paper (Synology and QNap) and in the end, after settingly for Synology, I approach an additional hurdle. By deciding on Synology opened up two equally impressive systems, the DS415play and the DS415+.

The 415play benefits from on board transcoding. A media machine, intended to stream video, music, photos, etc, to your television. This is great, but some users need to keep in mind, it does not seem to play well with Plex from most reports. I personally do not use Plex, so research more if you need Plex.

Both offer the same UI, similar expansion (additional USB on DS415Play and additional max external capacity on DS415+), similar speeds… The 415+ certainly offers an edge with RAM and the eSata port and a few additional frills, but overall, the price of the Play matched my needs. I’m not running a small business server, just an added layer to my process for greater redundancy and let’s face it, NAS’s biggest benefit is remote access… If thats all I need, I don’t need the +.

Then I found it for about $100 less than list price ($460 shipped from Jet.com with a special offer), so yeah, that turned into a no brainer and truth be told… I am very pleased with this decision. By the way, I went with Jet.com because, not only was it discounted at the time, but Amazon has some hemorrhoidal issue with Paypal and sadly, my funds for this purchased were resting in those dusty rafters.

Time was, in this case, very much of the essence. So with Jet also being cheaper, I “Jet it” instead. But Amazon is probably a better choice for those reading, if you have the time to spare.

I also picked up a couple 2TB WD Reds (which prove to be very, very nice HDrives), slapped them in and flipped the switch.

These I did get on the old Amazons. Check it out here for under $90 each and these things are proving to be great! (at least for now)

[AMAZONPRODUCT=B008JJLZ7G]

Set up was a breeze and pretty damn fast to boot. It reformatted the disks, laid down a nice 1.8TB+ or so in usable memory and installed the apps for me with a click of a button. Frankly, I tend to leap into the deep end more abruptly than I ought to, but I’m usually a pretty quick whip on these things.

In this case, I initially buggered up what I wanted it to do, as I had already set some basic settings and gleefully began dumping my archives to the “photo” folder, from my laptop. Due to the automation its got, that I neglected to realize, it had already set to queue to convert a mass of photos through the built in, magic photo manager wizardy thing. I’ve been pausing it every six hours since, at least to minimize CPU use and I’ll let it finish later while I sleep.

Synology NAS

I’m sure I could have opted to move them to a different folder to avoid this or just switched this feature off, but I was already committed, got lazy and figured, why not let it put some auto-organization to my library when its done.

It couldn’t be worse than the mayhem the befell the first 10,000 images I snapped.

Yeah, so I continued tossing files over the network and eventually my dim-light brightened up and realized… Hey, I should just plug this portable drive right into the front and let it do its thing that way. See, I began most of this process at the cusp of the PM to AM crossover, ya know, to have it work over night… so the hamster was running a tad slow.

Here I did run into a little problem, where one of my portable drives refused to mount. It’d get all LED blinky, but never popped up on my drive. Terrified of messing something up, I started more research to see how to remove this thing and try a different drive. I ran across some banter here and there, and found there were some NTSF read/write instabilities looming with the system or something… but, honestly, I really don’t think this is the issue. I think it’s likely my drive. Hell, its old… this bad boy is sporting some gopher teeth. Case in point, my panic to get more backups in place, due to this.

Thankfully, my drives often come in pairs, so I just plugged in drive #2 and bam, that glorious window popped up, announcing that I have a new “usbshare” device attached.

Smiles all around, clanking of glasses and all that jazz… now to getting this queue filled up for a few days of uploading.

To my glee, I realize this would be only hours, not days. I moved over a TB of data in less than 12hrs!

I will take that! With some fries and a shake on the side.

… you may have guess, this made me very happy.

Last step is setting up the drive to automirror across my backup cloud services. Of which, I’ve been test driving Backblaze and Google Drive for a few months and find myself at a cross roads of which direction to go.

*shrug* thats a post for another day…

All in all, this is a nifty ass little device and while this is not intended to be read as some technical review, with numbers and real life comparisons and yadda yadda yadda… I aint got the time, the desire or the funds/network for that kind of mess. I just want to type what comes to mind as I sit here watching these yellow lights blink in sweet unison.

But, I might as well state the obvious figures… After cracking the box to put it though the motions, it erupted from its wrapper around the size of a toaster, hosting four expansion drives for 3.5″ and I hear, 2.5″ as well. We’ll see, which might be neat… Five total USBs, one in the front for direct upload and four more in the back for backups or additional storage, also neat.

The door is a bit weird. Effective, but odd, as it uses these little rubber boot things to slide snuggly in place. Works for me and doesn’t prove to feel cheap. Yanks off in a quickie too.

Upload speeds zip in around 12-18MBs +/- on average, in both network transfer and through a direct portable USB attached. Not the fastest out there of course, but not too shabby for my needs. 1TB over night is more than adequate. [Edit: If this seems slow to you out there in-the-know, please do share. I’m likely doing something wrong and would love more speed.]

Remote access, though I never often hold my breath here, yet it seems to to be equally decent in use. I will say, while making a folder on my Android home screen to organize 9+ application icons within may seem impressive for the original architects of these handy dandy little items, but rolling this into one single application would be much more desired. Just throw some tabs or buttons in the thing and let me download and feed information to just the one, not a litter. They really are handy, I have to repeat.

It’s a minor quibble and one need to complain about more options of accessibility, but it is a bit overkill.

Above all, Synology has in fact created a wonderful browser UI experience. Its pretty snappy (could be better), its simple as hell to use and works wherever I need it. Working on stuff at home, done… Finding that image from three years ago, done… Forgot a file after leaving the house, done… Showing some images in a pitch through my phone, done. This is freaking nice… Plus downloading and my computer not needing to remain present, thats down right sorcery.

In the end, its a great little machine and I’d certainly recommend it at this point. If this happens to change, as NAS experiences tend to do, rest assured… I will return to this post and immediately express any new found emotions and troubles (IF they pop up, which I’m hoping not).

A little context, here is my own personal backup approach (at present):

  1. Camera to SD
  2. SD to Laptop (editing)
  3. Laptop to NAS
  4. NAS to Online Cloud (continuous)
  5. NAS to Portable Drive (monthly, stored off location)

There ya have it… take one. Now its time to check on Symon and make sure everything still smells like roses.

Yeah… I this Jedi is called, Symon…