My Love Affair with Synology

Ultimately, the biggest draw for me is how well Synology keeps itself updated and maintains its drives. It automatically does scans and integrity checks, plus it does system updates without disrupting the servers I have connected to it via NFS. Every other NAS I've used stays at whatever software version it comes with, because upgrading the firmware almost always means drive failures and server lockups. I'm sure there are procedures for QNAP and such that make upgrading possible, but the Synology does it automatically—and I like that a lot.

TV and Torrents

I like the SickRage program not only because it automatically searches and downloads new episodes of my television shows, but also because it organizes my existing collection. I have every episode of Star Trek that ever has been produced (including the animated series from the 1970s), and SickRage does an incredible job of naming and organizing those files. As long as I spent ripping the Star Trek the Next Generation DVDs, I don't ever want to have to figure out which episode is which again!

In order to install SickRage, you actually need to install "Sick Beard Custom" and then paste in the SickRage Git URL. The short version of the story is that Sick Beard was the original program, but the developer stopped developing it, so folks forked it, and SickRage is the best fork out there, by far. Even if you're not using Synology, you should be running SickRage. Head here for the repo or here for the home page.

SickRage supports lots of torrent clients, and it supports NZB too. I've found NZB to be less reliable than it used to be, so I've moved back to 100% torrents. I like the Transmission web interface, so that's what I use on Synology. It's another maintained app, so just search for "transmission" in the package installer application. Integrating Transmission and SickRage is beyond the scope of this article, but rest assured, it's not difficult. SickRage is designed to work with Transmission, so setting it up is easy. Warning: if you use SickRage and Transmission to download television shows, you will get DMCA take-down notices from your ISP. Apparently the production companies disagree with my rationale for downloading TV episodes. Thankfully, I have a solution for that.

Networking and Traffic Routing

My Synology device has four Gigabit Ethernet ports. I think that's overkill, but since the software allows me to bond the four ports together (even with a switch that doesn't support 802.3ad), I'm happy to have more bandwidth than I need. I never have an issue with throughput, even when streaming those multiple video files mentioned above.

Since Synology supports VPN connections, the first thing I did was set up my privateinternetaccess.com account so my torrents would be directed through the VPN. I haven't gotten port forwarding to work through the VPN, but even without a redirected port, my torrents download fine. The problem is my VPN connection occasionally goes down. When it does, the torrents go through my gateway, and even when the VPN comes back up, the tracker connects me via the non-VPN connection. And, I get DMCA notices. This is very frustrating. So I decided to remove the gateway device from the Synology altogether! Bear with me.

I have a network address assigned on my local network so LAN computers can connect. That works fine. Without a gateway specified, however, the NAS can't connect to the internet for torrents, SickRage or even system updates. But when the VPN is connected, it sets the gateway address automatically to an address on the other side of the VPN (Figure 4). As long as my VPN is connected, the system has a gateway assigned, and it can access everything through the VPN. If the VPN goes down briefly, rather than defaulting to the local network gateway, it just can't connect to the internet. Once the VPN is re-established, it reassigns a VPN gateway, and boom, the NAS is back online! The only problem is how can I connect to the VPN if I can't get on the internet? The answer: static routes.

Figure 4. Notice the gateway is in the 10.x.x.x range, which is not what I use on my local network. That is assigned by the VPN.

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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.