Synology DS411j NAS Honest Review

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by blevins321, Mar 15, 2011.

  1. blevins321, Mar 15, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2011

    blevins321 macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #1
    Hi everyone,

    I recently purchased a Synology 411j NAS. Since then I've fallen in love with the product. I thought that I would copy along a review that I wrote on Amazon last month about it. If you're considering a USB drive/APE option, this one is much faster, and has good data redundancy and server features built in. The unit's product page is HERE.


    I just submitted an edit to the review I'm posting below that talks about the redundancy features. Basically, one of the old 1TB WD Green drives failed. It sent me an email notification at work about the failure. I remoted into the UI and got the serial number off the unit. Submitted an RMA to WD and had the replacement unit 2 days later via UPS 2-Day Air. Put the drive into the unit, allowed it to repair the volume, and boom. 5 hours later the unit was good as new. :). Anyway, onto the review -
    ______________________________

    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING Product., February 17, 2011
    C. Blevins (Dayton, OH USA)
    Amazon Verified Purchase

    This review is from: Synology DiskStation 4-Bay (Diskless) Network Attached Storage DS411J (White) (Electronics)

    OK, my review might be biased. Coming from the Drobo, which was absolutely terrible, to this Synology unit was the best technological move I've made since I switched to OSX 10.1 all those years ago. Speeds are fantastic, built-in server features are excellent, and aesthetically the unit is very pleasing.

    Unboxing/Installation/Initial Setup:
    The unit arrived from Amazon in a large cardboard box along with the two SATA drives that I ordered for it (Western Digital 2 TB Caviar Green SATA Intellipower 64 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Desktop Hard Drive WD20EARS). The box for the 411j was very sleek and easy to unpack. No weird seals or wire ties to deal with. The unit itself fits well with the IKEA-assisted look of my office. To install the drives, you remove some handscrews off the back and the top/sides of the unit will come off (in the stock photo, the aluminum piece with the logo on it). The drive trays are plastic and slide out of the back of the unit. You just sit the drives into the unit and use the included screws to mount the drive in place. Then, just push the tray back in and the drive will be connected. No cables to connect was a big plus here. After the drives are all installed, push screw the back on and plug in the power and network cables.

    One thing that was unexpected was that the unit has no software installed on it initially. Not a bad concept though..it forces you to load the most current version this way. The software from the CD happened to be the current version (major revision in December I think) but that might not always be the case, you it might be better to just download the latest Synology Assistant and DSM software from the company website before you begin. The Synology assistant recognizes the unit on the network and allows you to install the DSM (operating system) onto the unit. This process is pretty quick, and the unit will automatically restart when it's done.

    Disk Allocation and Backups:
    The recommended data allocation that the Synology makes is to use all the drives that are available, and in the hybrid RAID format. This will allow for one drive to fail (assuming you have more than one in it) and all the data will still be fine. It also lets the drives to be different models/sizes, which isn't compatible with regular RAID. You don't get the full drive size available to you. You actually lose the space of one of the biggest drives in the unit for redundancy. Plus a small formatting loss. The wizard makes the partitioning very simple; you can have multiple volumes if you want. I just went with one and have multiple folders. You can also have USB drives plugged in (and printers too I think, but my AIO HP is already networked) that are treated as an additional volume. One nice feature here is that the device will backup to the external drive on a defined schedule. So actually, the Synology can fail and the data would still be safe on the backup drive.

    Shared Folders:
    The device is capable of creating multiple shared folders. You can create a very complex multi-user system with individual shared folders if you want to. Or you can go the simple route like I did and just have a couple including the app-generated music and video folders. I also have a Time Machine folder that has the sparsebundle images that I use to backup my two Macs. Only one user with full access rights, and read-only access to everything for guests. In my home setup, this is plenty because the computers are the only devices that write data, and my jailbroken AppleTv2 is the only device that reads from it (for XBMC). As far as allowing guests read-only access to everything, my WiFi is WPA2-encrypted, so only those select few people have access. And those that do I couldn't care less about what data of mine they see.

    Time Machine:
    I wasn't expecting the unit to support Time Machine on its own. I was expecting to have to create custom sparsebundles and have my Macs connect to those. Instead what happens is that it will create a special server (viewable separately in Finder) that will allow Time Machine to automatically create a bundle and run its process. It is also possible to create a dedicated Time Machine user with its own quota so that the Time Machine only has a set amount of space available. It's pretty seamless to do this, and you just enter the login information in Time Machine the first time that you turn it on and select the backup destination.

    Applications:
    I haven't explored the apps very much aside from the media server. It will create a DLNA environment that allows the PS3 and also some TVs (I think) to play movies directly from the drive. For those of you that use PS3MediaServer for this purpose, it's not foolproof. PS3MediaServer trans codes on the fly those file formats that the PS3 can't naively play. The Synology, however, plays the files directly. This is a hardware restriction. Putting a CPU and enough memory into the unit to handle video transcoding would raise the price to about $1K. You can still use PS3MediaServer and map the videos folder as a file location, but be aware that if you do this wireless there will be bumps. If the computer is plugged directly into the router that the NAS is plugged into, it should be fine.

    Misc:
    The unit is surprisingly quiet. My old Drobo was too loud to keep on my desk (and ended up on a table in the corner). It's also very fast compared to the Drobo. On this unit, I average ~30Mbps write and up to ~70Mbps read. I use Aperture and have my entire library stored on the unit. It handles this fine and suffers no lag issues. One computer is directly connected to the router where the NAS is. The unit has gigabit ethernet on it, so that's great. Speed from laptops will obviously be slower. Even wireless N speed can only sustain about 15MB from what I've noticed, but that has nothing to do with the unit. On the Drobo, the fan at the back was behind a plate that couldn't be removed. I like to be able to open the unit and clean it if I have to. My home is near an airport, so it can sometimes be quite dusty during the warm months of the year.

    Overall, I couldn't be more happy with this purchase. The performance improvements over my Drobo were enormous. It's UI is great and has many features that I hope to someday experiment and explore.

    ________________________________________________

    Hope this helps someone! :)
     
  2. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
  3. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2010
    #3
    Welcome to the wonderful world of NAS's most of them do everything you listed and in some cases more. I believe yours will also allow you to upgrade drives dynamically, in other word when you decide to replace the 2TB drives with 3TB drives say, either because you've run out of space or just want to, you can replace each 2TB drive, one at a time, with a 3TB drive and the system will automatically adjust, letting you know when its ok to replace the next drive. I have three NAS's at the moment, a Netgear ReadyNAS, a 6 bay QNap and a four bay Thecus. I have been thinking about getting this Synology, we'll see. Good review.
     
  4. balamw Moderator

    balamw

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Location:
    New England
    #4
    Thanks for that detailed review.

    I've been using an HP Mediasmart EX490 for about a year, and it has been a solid performer until, ... it wasn't...

    My throughput dropped from ~30Mbps to <2Mbps once the drives got full enough and it started to use the boot drive for storage. It has also started to randomly freeze up and not allow me to access the console. At that rate it's worse than hanging drives off of my Airport Extreme or Time Capsule.

    I'm in the process of archiving its contents so I can replace the boot drive and reinstall the software from scratch, but given that HP has abandoned the product and Microsoft has neutered Windows Home Server with the upcoming version 2 "Vail" I may just end up installing Ubuntu on it or switching over to something like this Synology unit.

    B
     
  5. stephpar macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2008
    #5
    aperture libary move

    Hey there...

    Read your review here and originally at Amazon regarding your NAS. I have the 211j NAS and am just now looking at moving my aperture library over to the NAS.

    Can you run me through the steps you took to moving your library over to the NAS? The more concrete the better or if you followed a guide (that I clearly can't find) point me that way please.

    Thank you very much.
    Steph
     
  6. blevins321 thread starter macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #6
    Hi there! Sure, happy to help. I don't have a Vault or external files linked from my library, so it's all-inclusive. If you're also in this boat, it's very easy to do. Otherwise, I have no idea how to manage the other factors in moving the library.

    In my case, all that I had to do was drag the Aperture Library folder/file in your Pictures folder to whatever NAS share that you want to store it in. Then, next time that you start Aperture, it will say it can't find your library. It'll allow you to pick one, and locate the moved folder. And that's it, you're done. Aperture might take a few moments to relink all of its content, but otherwise you're golden.

    Incidentally, the same instructions apply if you want to move your iTunes library to a NAS. Except you'll move the iTunes folder inside your Music folder.
     
  7. stephpar macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2008
    #7
    Thanks for the reply. That approach is exactly what I did with iTunes. I've been concerned with aperture though because of 2 things:
    -I've read that 'referenced masters' should be placed on NAS meaning masters on NAS and library 'file' I guess on computer.
    -that the NAS hd should be formatted in Mac os extended journalled. Mine is formatted in the synology hybrid raid format.

    Done anything like this in your setup?

    Thanks
    Steph
     
  8. blevins321 thread starter macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #8
    Ooh hmm. I hadn't heard that before. I haven't had any issues though storing the entire library file on the NAS though, except maybe an additional two seconds of lag when the program is first opened.

    As far as the format, I believe that the actual file system that the NAS uses is EXT4, which is the newest version of the Linux file system. EXT4 supports journaling like HFS+ too in case of a dismount error. The hybrid raid format is just the redundancy system that it uses. Since it is a network drive, though, you don't have to worry about the file system because it's invisible to the operating system.
     
  9. duervo macrumors 68000

    duervo

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2011
    #9
    Nice review! It answers some questions I had about the Synology stuff.

    However, I noticed that you didn't mention anything about the storage protocols that you're using, and as a result, nothing about the ease of setup or and/or performance of them. I'm particularly interested in hearing about the following protocols:
    • iSCSI
    • NFS
    Along with the ease of setup/maintenance and relative performance for each. I don't expect you to spend lots of time, or put your data at risk by trying them out, if you haven't already. But, if you've had the chance to check either of them out, any info that you may have on them would be appreciated.

    (I'm currently investigating various SOHO-sized NAS possibilities for my home. Something that I can use for both general file storage and media streaming, as well as hosting storage for my virtualization lab and home infrastructure virtual machines ... hence the curiosity about the NFS and iSCSI stuff.)
     
  10. blevins321 thread starter macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #10
    In all honesty, I haven't used either of those protocols. I've stuck with AFS for my Apple machines, and the rare occasion when Windows is necessary, SMB. SMB is also handy for the ATV2/XBMC. I've attached a couple screenshots though where the settings for those particular protocols are, and it seems to make it pretty simple. Sorry I can't provide much information in this area.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. blevins321 thread starter macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #11
    Looked at the review list on Amazon and found one dealing with those networking protocols for you:

    After getting the NAS setup, it works great! I get 30 MB/S consistently when writing to it. Mine is filled with 3 2TB 5900 rpm drives and 1 2TB 7200 rpm drive. The web-based OS is robust, very functional, and pleasant to look at.

    I did have trouble with setup. I plugged the included network cable into the Ethernet port on the Synology and plugged the other end into the Ethernet port on my Mac Mini. The port on the mini is MDI/MDIX - It doesn't care if the network cable is a patch or crossover cable. Using a DHCP Server on the Mini, I gave the Synology an IP. I could ping it, but the Synology assistant couldn't find it. After hours of playing with it, I went and bought a router, plugged the mini and Synology into it. The assistant found it right away. After setting it up and installing the OS on the NAS, I gave it a static ip and returned to plugging it directly into the Mini. All worked as expected then.

    I'm currently using iSCSI to connect to the NAS. One thing I didn't know before hand: The LUN/Logical Volume used for iSCSI cannot be browsed on the NAS via the OS or shared via the NAS to other users. This definitely makes sense though - iSCSI is a block level protocol and letting multiple computer write to it at once is akin to having a physical hard drive plugged directly into two different computer. You would have locking / drive consistence problems. This was just something I didn't think through initially.

    Brian
     
  12. duervo macrumors 68000

    duervo

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2011
    #12
    Awesome. Thanks. It seems simple enough to setup. Looks like my shortlist is now down to Iomega, QNAP, and Synology. I've already looked at home-brewed alternatives such as Openfiler, Unraid, FreeNAS, etc. None of them does the job of adequately satisfying my requirements (the main ones being that I want something simple that will work, and that is backed by a commercial support and warranty agreement.)

    About the other reviewer and how they couldn't access the iSCSI target from multiple systems at the same time ... that could be due to a number factors, and, without knowing the exact specifics of the implementation in the Synology device, is most likely not due to the fact that iSCSI is a block level storage protocol.

    It's probably due to either iSCSI Target security settings or the user's filesystem being used at the iSCSI Initiator end (probably the latter).

    iSCSI targets usually provide a mechanism to set access security for specific LUNs (i.e.: in environments without VLANs, or as a poor-mans version of LUN masking). If it has been set, it can prevent other systems that haven't been given explicit permission, to access the LUN. I suspect that's probably not the case in that reviewer's case, as that would mean that the LUN access settings would be set to some sort of secure-by-default setting, which would mean that nothing would be allowed to access the LUN from an initial setup (since there'd be no way for it to know the IP addresses of the iSCSI Initiators beforehand.) The user would have to purposefully add the IP address of an iSCSI initiator in order to access it. Seems a wee bit too convoluted for a default setup. So, I can't see them having that as the default setting.

    The most likely cause of why they couldn't access the LUN from multiple iSCSI initiators at the same time (and this is just speculation on my part since I have no way of knowing exactly what their environment is setup like) is because the iSCSI Initiator(s) didn't have an appropriate filesystem that supported accessing the same iSCSI Target LUN(s) from multiple systems at the same time. However, in my case, this isn't much of a concern, as I would be using VMware for my virtualization platform, and VMware's VMFS filesystem supports this.

    Anyway, thanks again.
     
  13. nightfly13 macrumors 6502a

    nightfly13

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Location:
    Ranchi, India
    #13
    Didn't realize you could mix/match drives and still have it be 'RAID'

    Hmm I've been going back and forth among the different number of bays and speed/memory tradeoffs.

    $199 gets you 2 bays (and the slower CPU/128MB of the 211j) or 1 bay (with the faster CPU and 256 for the 211). $360 for the slower combo with 4 bays (411j).

    I have 3 hdd's on hand right now for the system, (1TB, 640GB, 500GB) and I was leaning toward the 211j, with one drive attached via USB - seems like the best value. But realizing I can just mix and match drives at a later date (add a 2TB, then add another later and pull the 500GB) makes the drive bays a lot more valuable.

    Great review, btw. Best I've read so far, and I've read over 20.

    One issue I'm a bit concerned about is how to add drives without losing my data that's presently on them. I know that each drive should be empty when it goes in - and the 1TB is empty, so my hope was I can put that in, format and scan it etc. then transfer the 640's data to that, erase the 640 and add it to the 'RAID' and then do the same thing with the 500 - and it'll spread the data around the 3 drives on its own and give me 1-drive failure protection for the whole array? If so, it's almost too good to be true, and I'll probably get the 411j.
     
  14. blevins321 thread starter macrumors 68030

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    Winnipeg, MB
    #14
    Glad to hear you're considering joining the party :). For your migration step, as far as I'm aware, the unit cannot read any drives that are not in its format (internally). So the way I think you'd have to do what you're thinking is to insert the 1TB and format it accordingly. Then using a USB enclosure for the 640, copy all the data to the Syno volume. Then put the 640 in the unit and expand the volume; selecting the Raid setup that you prefer. I recommend the hybrid raid, as it is the most robust in supporting mix-match drives. Advantage here is that you can keep the USB enclosure when you get another large drive down the road, and use it for backup.

    For the redundancy question, I'm 99% sure it will do that you're wanting. Because the 1TB is the largest drive that you'll be inserting (initially), it will require 1TB of additional space to be able to do redundancy. I think that the way it would work here is that you would have 1TB (minus formatting loss) available space on the volume when all is said and done.

    You might want to call or email the company (never had longer than 8-hour delay in getting a question answered) to be sure that it will work the way I think. I haven't ever had a non-even number of drives in the unit. One question in particular that you might want to ask is to make sure that the unit can expand without an issue from one drive to two. My worry there is that it might require a reformat to be able to go from no redundancy to having redundancy. If this is the case, you could "rent" an external hard drive from Best Buy or something. This is what I did when I got the unit...because 2 of the 4 drives were in my old Drobo at the time.

    Edit: HERE is the link to their contact information.
     
  15. ActionableMango macrumors 604

    ActionableMango

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2010
    #15
    There is a DS411+II, which is 4 bays, speedy CPU, and more memory. No need to compromise, except with your wallet!

    http://www.synology.com/enu/products/compare_spec.php
     
  16. worthingtc macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2011
    #16
    Thank you, as well, for your review. I was struggling between a few different drives based on reviews. Read 10 reviews and get 10 different recommendations. I was going to go with the Drobo based on Typical Mac User Podcast but heard about the Synology on TWIT so I thought I would check it out.

    I think I am going to go with the 411J to get the 4 bays and greater capacity. It seems that it will do everything that the Drobo FS would do so I shouldn't have an issue.

    My only concern now will be if I can run the Crashplan service and backup to the NAS device. I have heard issues with this with mounting. I know there are workarounds and I am hoping I don't have to go with that.

    Another HUGE selling point is the iPhone apps since we have 2 x iPhones and and iPad2. Not to mention 4 other Macs.

    I hope to get this done when I return from my current deployment in the Middle East. It will be my gift to myself. :)

    Thanks again.

    Jeff
     
  17. Philgr macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2005
    Location:
    Lakes - UK
    #17
    Just hit the button on one of these with 4 x 2tb drives

    fed up of trying to maintain my movies, photos, work info etc.. on a 1tb usb drive and backing up to another.

    now to learn how to set it up

    many thinks for the review, it helped enormously ;)

    PG
     
  18. blevins321 thread starter macrumors 68030

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    Dec 24, 2010
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    Winnipeg, MB
    #18
    Quite welcome. Be sure to install the latest beta version of the UI (DSM 3.2) in order to be able to connect and use Time Machine with Lion. Apple updated the AFP networking protocol and it broke many NAS's. The beta is very stable, except you'll notice funny bugs with the scroll bars if you're looking at the UI in Safari. Final version should come soon..beta's been out for about 4 weeks or so.

    If you need help setting up let me know - the initial steps can seem a tad confusing.
     
  19. worthingtc macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2011
    #19
    Based on this forum, and quite a few others, I also made the jump to the Synology 411J. I purchased it and from another source ordered 4 x 1TB drive. I think I can start with that and upgrade if I need to.

    Thank you all for the recommendations. I hope I can now get it up and running with all of the functionality that it has.

    Jeff
     
  20. theSeb macrumors 604

    theSeb

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    Poole, England
    #20
    I have a Synology DS1511+. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
     
  21. Philgr macrumors regular

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    Jul 27, 2005
    Location:
    Lakes - UK
    #21
    Just got notification that my kit has been dispatched to my place of work for a friday am delivery, to be followed by a stealth install in the attic, so Mrs Gr does not know what i have purchased :D

    Im starting to think about how i want this set-up im thinking about a Raid 5 set-up to maxamise space and have some redundancy, am i correct to think i will get between 6-8tb with 4 x 2tb drives installed ?

    Shares and how to use them across my Imac & MBP

    I currently have my imac running itunes and sharing them out to the Apple TV and Ipad, whats the itunes serverl like ??

    Also Timemachine, have not been a big fan of this after a couple of bad experiences

    Phil G
     
  22. theSeb macrumors 604

    theSeb

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Poole, England
    #22
    You'll have around 5.7 TB of usable space with RAID 5


    I assume you bought a Synology NAS? iTunes server in any NAS right now is not very good, because it does not share anything other than music. You cannot share movies, tv series and so forth at this point in time because Apple have not released this functionality to third parties, if my understanding is correct.

    It works perfectly well for music. You can still share your movie files to an ATV using other methods, but not via iTunes server.

    I have not had any bad experiences with TM and it's saved my bacon once. There is a very good tutorial in the Synology manual about how to create a separate user for TM backups. It works very well. I would also recommend getting a separate drive though and doing a full clone of your computer every couple of days or weeks, depending on how important your data is for you.

    Don't forget though... a NAS running RAID is not a full backup solution. Whilst you have redundancy with RAID 5, it's no guarantee that the NAS itself will not die at some time in the future. I would recommend that everything on the NAS is backed up occasionally to an external device. I am currently backing up to external drives but will get a Synology DX510 for backing up my NAS as well.
     
  23. blevins321 thread starter macrumors 68030

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    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #23
    I personally don't use this feature because I use Plex instead, but I believe you can share movies and other video media that you have in iTunes, but not ones that are purchased from the iTunes Store. It can handle your ripped/downloaded media, just not DRM media.

    +1. Synology has a very good built in backup manager. I have a 2nd hand USB external drive plugged into it and have it do twice-a-week backups. While a single drive is nearly impossible to come by to match the ~3.5TB of data I have, I chose not to backup my iTunes media. This is because I can just download this again if I need to from the iTunes Store. So my documents, photos (Aperture), and Time Machine backups are all cloned to the USB external twice a week overnight.
     
  24. CylonGlitch macrumors 68030

    CylonGlitch

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    Location:
    SoCal
    #24
    BASTARD!! Now I am going to go buy this and listen to my wife complain that I spent more money. :D

    Thanks for the review and bringing it up. I currently have a 4TB FreeNAS machine running but it's a pig and takes up a lot of space under the desk. I would like to reduce it down and eliminate my ATV Movie Server (AKA old Laptop that seems to be on it's last legs).

    How do you stream to an ATV? I have 1 ATV1 and 2 ATV2's in the house, they all need to be able to see the library; any thoughts on this?
     
  25. blevins321 thread starter macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2010
    Location:
    Winnipeg, MB
    #25
    Ok I looked and the ATV2 cannot use the iTunes server as Apple only allows it to access Home Sharing, not the old sharing protocol that computers can still support. The Syno supports Airplay, but audio only. Looks like you'd have to jailbreak and do XBMC to be able to do it without a computer.
     

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