My Love Affair with Synology

In my "Hodge Podge" article in the October 2016 issue, I mentioned how much I love the Synology NAS I have in my server closet (Figure 1). I got quite a few email messages from people—some wanting more information, some scolding me for not rolling my own NAS, and some asking me what on earth I need with that much storage. Oddly, the Linux-running Synology NAS has become one of my main server machines, and it does far more than just store data. Because so many people wanted more information, I figured I'd share some of the cool things I do with my Synology.

Figure 1. The Synology DS1815+ is what I use, but the entire line of Synology NAS devices shares a common interface.

Why So Much Storage?!

I guess I should address the reason I have 48TB (36 usable) of storage (Figure 2). I store a lot of data (har har har). Seriously though, I have a local copy of close to 100,000 photos, 1000s of hours of home videos and several complete Linux distribution repositories. That takes a lot of storage! The bulk of my needs, however, comes from entertainment media. Ever since my kids first used DVDs to skate across the kitchen floor, I've been backing up my movies digitally to my server. Through the years, that has migrated from DVD ripping to Blu-ray ripping, but years of movies really add up. Even those aren't the bulk of my data, however.

Figure 2. The dashboard shows you information on your NAS at a glance. I'm slowly building my collection after the horrible data loss I suffered a few years ago.

I collect television series. Sometimes those collections are ripped from my TiVo, manually edited and converted to MKV. If I'm being honest, however, most of my television shows are just downloaded from torrent sites. Yes, I know it's not kosher to download torrents of television shows. But I also know that I pay more than $200/month to the cable company for every channel available, and if I wanted to take the time, I could do the TiVo rip/edit/convert dance. I just don't have the time. Because I pay for cable access, it doesn't bother me to download television shows. (We actually do buy all our Blu-ray movies though. I'm not a proponent of pirating things you don't have rights to.) It's okay if you disagree with my choice to download television shows via torrents, I get it. Really, I do. Just ignore those parts of this article!

What Kind of Drives?

Don't skimp on hard drives. That's generally good advice regardless of the situation, but with NAS devices, please spend the extra money to get drives rated for NAS. I have eight 6TB Western Digital Red NAS drives. When I bought them, the WD Red Pro drives weren't available. Still, the standard Red drives are rated for up to eight drive bays, so I'm still within spec.

I haven't always been so picky about drives. In fact, I just used to get the biggest, cheapest drives I could. Since I use RAID6, a drive or two failing isn't a big deal—except that I actually had three drives fail at exactly the same time, and I lost all my data, including family home movies that I didn't have backed up anywhere. It still hurts. So really, don't skimp on drives, it's just not worth it. (Also remember to back up, even large files. RAID isn't a backup, trust me.)

Why Synology?

I've had Drobos, QNAPs and multiple Netgear devices. They all sucked. No, really. The performance on every single device I've had in the past has been horrible (even with good drives), and I've never been able to determine exactly why. Once more than one simultaneous read happens over the network, they all just crap out. With the Synology, I can have four 1080p video streams going at once without any slowdown at all.

The other thing I like about the Synology is its software. Most other NAS devices have apps that you can install on the Linux system, but the Synology apps seem to be more elegant and work reliably (Figure 3). In fact, there are some incredible things I do with the NAS device that I'm sure weren't exactly what it was designed to do (more about that in a bit).

Figure 3. The apps are plentiful, and there are community-supported unofficial apps as well.

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Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.