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back to article Bring Your Own Disks: The Synology DS214 network storage box

The Bring-Your-Own-Disks home server market might not be mainstream but it's pretty lively place, with giants like Cisco mixing with obscure Taiwanese box-shifters. And although these quiet, sub-£400 servers make a useful bit of small office kit, the abundance of media awash in family homes and shared digs give them another role …

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"Home NAS has flourished after Microsoft decided to kneecap its very useful Home Server product, an option which gave new life to an old PC or laptop." Crap.

The NAS market was mature before MS failed with one of their embrace, extent & extinguish moves. The biggest failure being they couldn't get their storages services to work properly, a key feature for a storage device.

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RE: Failure to work properly?

I don't understand this comment, the fact that most MS products fail to work properly has never been a real deterrent to their success. I'd argue that the Home Server actually had a better up-time than most of their client software operating systems - admittedly the file corruption issue was a little annoying at times though.

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Who said the torrent client is for pirated films?

It's for downloading the latest Linux distros, of course.

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What have I missed?

With the exception of the IP Camera function I can't see what this setup does that a D-Link DNS-320 does - except costing five times more. And £175 for 2 X 2TB drives? Seriously? Amazon sells the WD Green edition for about £60 a pop. Given that the main bottleneck will always be bandwidth a Green drive is surely a better bet than a "High Performance" model anyway?

I'm certainly not a network person so could easily have missed the point but, as best as I can tell, a DNS-320 plus 2 X 2TB drives sets you back about £160 and does the job perfectly well. I've got this exact setup at home backing up and feeding media to about 6 machines. And I've recently persuaded 2 others to go with the same thing (both, thankfully, perfectly happy).

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Re: What have I missed?

Synology offer an awful lot of addons, such as a VPN server, which at a quick glance, doesn't appear to be available for the D-Link.

Look at http://www.anandtech.com/show/6157/western-digital-red-review-are-nasoptimized-hdds-worth-the-premium/2 in the Power Management section WRT the suitability of WD Greens for this kind of application.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What have I missed?

The d-link is slow - but good if you don't care about speed. I have, using to mirror the disks to backup some data. don't care about speed hence I went for this. If you do care about speed, avoid the d-link as it is very slow.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What have I missed?

Having used Synology boxes before, things like TV capture, USB3 support, VPN, on the fly transcoding for dumb DLNA clients come in quite handy at times. I haven't yet linked in the Radius server to my home wifi, but it is tempting...

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Re: What have I missed?

Not all hard drives are the ideal for all jobs.

The WD Green drives are good in office PCs that do sporadic read / writes and are only active 8-10 hours a day, but a NAS will be running 24/7, especially if you have a torrent client running download err Linux distros for instance, for this you need a drive that's rated for 24/7 use, such as the WD Red drives, these also have a cache that is better tuned for large writing jobs like back-ups.

I used to deal with customers running large IP camera systems, with hundreds of cameras writing to multiple servers, and one customer baulked at the £200 we charged for server grade hard drives, so he bought some cheapo SATA drives from Ebuyer, and very quickly regretted it, the first of these drives he used to replace a failed drive in his 15 drive enclosure lasted less than a week

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Re: What have I missed?

I think you are all (reviewer included) making the usual IT mistake of assuming what you do is the norm. This is marketed as a home NAS. 99% of home NAS devices are used for a couple of hours in the evenings and then a bit more at the weekend. They most certainly don't require 24/7 rated discs. The opposite in fact. Low energy is far more important.

Most home users don't know what a VPN is, there are probably about 3 of you using IP Cameras. Torrent client, yes, maybe, but not huge numbers or volumes. They are used for backups and for streaming Video and music to some form of client (Apple TV, Samsung telly, XBox, ipad etc). They need iTunes server compatibility, maybe DLNA (though as it hardly ever works it's farm from essential) and a very simple, hand holding interface that takes an average user through setting up average use-cases.

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Happy

Re: What have I missed?

With respect, I think you're missing the point as to why WD Greens are unsuitable. It's precisely because they're low energy. I suggest you do the research yourself, and there's plenty of info on WD's website, but basically many NAS devices don't allow a disk much time to recover from an error before dropping it from a RAID and possibly rebuilding the RAID. Reds are built with this in mind. Greens are not and because of their power saving, they are frequently switching off, possibly with a little delay before starting up again. So if you're using the wrong disks, your NAS may be regularly rebuilding the RAID completely unneccessarily.

You might be fine with that. Yes it's only for home use, not business critical, but having started with a cheap Lacie 1TB single disk NAS that died on me with no backups (it was mainly storing MP3s ripped from CDs I own) it's still incredibly infuriating when something goes wrong. Personally I prefer to pay the extra few bucks and get the right tool for the job, so I've just recently got myself a D-Link DNS-320L with 2 x 4TB Seagate NAS rated drives (comparable to WD Reds), after doing my research.

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Re: What have I missed?

"...IP Camera function..."

As far as I'm aware, the CCTV camera free software is good for one camera - more and you need to pay. You'll need to read up on it, as there is some discussion that as a camera suite option, there are better choices out there. Sure this one lives on existing hardware - but that's something you need to evaluate if it's critical to your needs.

"...WD Green edition..."

Not suitable at all for an always-on home/office environment. It auto-parks the heads periodically, which makes sense on a desktop, but in a NAS environment it'll kill the drive fairly quickly. The WD Red is a better option - it's basically a Green with modified firmware to not park the heads so it doesn't self destruct as quickly. Yes, you're paying a premium for an option that USED TO BE FREE, but they have to make their money somehow. The WD Enterprise series are even better suited, have a better MTBF, and faster, but the cost is probably not justifed for this lower end NAS.

"...DNS-320..."

This suggestion is cheaper, (I have one as well), and most certainly justified with cheap drives as it only gets used intermittantly so I can travel with bulk data. However, it only works with up to 3Tb drives, the DNS-320L can deal with 4Tb drives, and you're heavily limited on "applications" if that's important to you. The newer Synology DS214 in this article can also deal with 4Tb drives. Do your homework and see if your small NAS can deal with 4Tb drives, as it would not be worthwhile going for a "cheap" sellout early revision if you need to upgrade later.

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Chz

Re: What have I missed?

I've downvoted you for parroting what WD, Seagate, et.al keep telling us.

I've no doubt there are places where the Reds are more suitable than the Greens. But a home NAS isn't really one of them. Remember that the Green disks were out for several years before the Reds came along and millions of them are spinning along happily in home NAS boxes without issue. My NAS (QNap Ts-219) has never had an issue coping with sleeping disks. For one, mirrored disks will sleep at the exact same time so there's no threat of a RAID rebuild. For two, any decent NAS supports some form of journaling (even if it degrades performance slightly) that would cause a rebuild to take all of 2 minutes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What have I missed?

Totally agree with you. When you have company's like Buffalo using WD Green drives in their "NAS" boxes with dire performance and reliability, you know that it does not make sense to use them!

I have been using later generation Seagate Barracuda's in the boxes I have been putting together recently, and very happy with the reliability of them compared to the older ones. Performance is much better as well compared to the older drives.

Might have to grab one of these Synology boxes and have a play.

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Re: What have I missed?

All good, perfectly describing me.

And your recommendation is????

:)

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Linux

Re: What have I missed?

yes green have a *nasty* habit of turning off, and being slow to turn back on!

Get RAID drives for RAID setup..!!

I got this HP Micro server box with 4x2TB WD RE4-GP using RAID6/1 in it. A lovely piece of kit and relatively cheap when you are buying 4 drives, especially since it takes normal ECC memory.

P.

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KTF

Too much compared to buying an HP microserver, a couple of HDD and putting whatever OS you want on it.

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Anonymous Coward

The Microserver option

I did that myself only last month, but whilst it easily wins in terms of flexibility and potential, it most definitely loses out in the "all up and running in a couple of hours" dept.

Horses for courses.

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Re: The Microserver option

Thanks AC, I've been wondering why those HP Microservers have been sold with a £100 cashback offer for what seems like years.

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"Too much compared to buying an HP microserver, a couple of HDD and putting whatever OS you want on it."

Cost isn't the only or best consideration.

Pre-build NAS boxes are neat, small, relatively frugal on power consumption, *REALLY* easy to deal with trying to work out which drive failed out of your eight (did you number those drives? Oops), and best of all, even if you're so hung over you start looking for sharp things to poke in your eyes, you can still set it up and have it functional very quickly after unboxing.

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Low power PC

Isn't a low power PC a better option

I have a mac mini with 2 x 1TB USB drives attached and it's a lot more powerful than a dedicated NAS

Power consumption is fairly low as well but not as low as this NAS

I concede it costs more , £500 for the mac and £100 for the drives but you get a lot more performance for your cash

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Re: Low power PC

I concur though not with the mac mini part.

A mini itx integrated motherboard and cpu like an amd e-350 based solution plus case and disks would cost less and perform better with a similar power profile to the NAS device.

Install Windows, a proper Linux distro or a prebuilt Linux based NAS OS and you'll have a lovely home server.

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Re: Low power PC

It depends a bit on what you need. With the "everything in a box" approach you buy the box, two disks and a short while later you have a NAS with options (looked at the DLink - cheaper but not having the features I need). Even people who are not that versed in IT will get this to work, and I'm all for anything that promotes people making backups.

OTOH, if your needs are more complex, there is indeed tech enough to make that happen but that's for a different, tech-savvy audience. A friend of mine built a setup which is NAS + VM server - that is simply a different proposition (but so cool that I'll probably go that way too, provided I can keep the noise down).

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Re: Low power PC

You won't get RAID protection (except software based), your power consumption will be noticeably higher, but it'll be more powerful. However, just how powerful you actually need depends on what you're going to do with it.

I have a DS213 and it quite happily runs a DLNA server, ebook library, backup target for Apple time machine and file sharing. Sure, a Mac mini might do the same, but it's a bit overkill for my taste.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Low power PC

Sometimes there is more than just being "tech savvy" when you make certain decisions on tech.

Frankly, my life has become personally too valuable to spend time on tech. I have things I must do and things I'd rather do, versus spending the time on shopping / building / installing / configuring a home server. My priority in life is to live, not to spend time on debugging a silly home device - as a society, we have donated WAY too much time to these creations of ours.

Sure, I could have built a [new] home server. But I said to myself "Time to prioritize my time", and more importantly for me right now, my space, so I bought a NAS. Haven't looked back.

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Devil

Re: Low power PC

> Frankly, my life has become personally too valuable to spend time on tech.

You are trying far too hard to perpetuate a false dichotomy that's bogus anyways.

If you even know what a NAS is to begin with, the "time" issue really is irrelevant. In general, my devices don't require a lot of babysitting. What little upfront setup is done and forgotten about very quickly.

If that's all you got then Synology products are a total waste of money.

More open solutions are cheaper, more flexible, and don't require more special proprietary hardware if something goes wrong. Being cheaper also helps enable better redundancy in case something goes wrong. That redundancy moots many of the more relevant bells and whistles of this kind of "turnkey" device.

Plus the performance of this thing is just crap. Nevermind all the other stuff.

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Looks like Qnap interface

Those screen shots look very, very similar to my Qnap TS-469 Pro v4 firmware

The interface the same down to the icons!

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Re: Looks like Qnap interface

Yes, very similar, except that Synology didn't copy QNAP.

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Anonymous Coward

Nice review

Thank you.

But no cloud integration??

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Interesting but...

IMHO it is of limited attraction but at least it is a TWO drive unit. How many 'NAS' solutions are there with just a single drive or worse still a dual drive units where the default is a Raid-0 when you have two drives.

I have a Synology CS407. Works well but the CPU is rather underpowered for my liking. The saver is that as it is a 4 drive unit I can setup a RAID-5 solution. Just as well as in the past year three different 1Tb drives (from two different makers) have bitten the dust. 2 from Samsung and 1 from WD.

any chance of doing a test/review of 4 drive units? Some of us have a lot of 'stuff' to squirrel away.

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Re: Interesting but...

any chance of doing a test/review of 4 drive units? Some of us have a lot of 'stuff' to squirrel away.

+1

Much as it's tempting just to jump for a Drobo, my wallet is cringing at the prospect.

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Anonymous Coward

DF118

a Drobo would be a mistake google will explain.

Check out the QNAP TS470 awesome bit of kit.

Or the TS 469 for slightly lower spec and lower price...

the 41* and 42* series are more basic but still do the job.

If you want a reg round up see here (Out of date and only the basic Qnap boxes).

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Re: DF118

My vote goes to the (Netgear) ReadyNAS range. I've got an old NV+ still going strong as my main file store, and a little (again, old) Duo running as a Time Machine target and little else. They've both caused me no problems.

They're not the fastest at rebuilding the RAID when a drive dies (or you want to increase the size) and they're not the fastest read/write, but for me, a home NAS raison d'etre is "no problems" for your storage needs.

And the newer ReadyNAS units will be much faster - at the time I got these ones, they were some of the fastest.

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Re: DF118

ReadyNAS Pro 4 user here. A great device.

Good for running VM's (VMWare over NFS or iSCSI (it's a certified device) or Hyper-v over iSCSI). Supports CIFS out the box too. Has a reasonable range of plugins... but... Netgear have abandoned the old ReadyNAS range and users and managed to kill of the community. Yes it works and works well now, will my next NAS be a ReadyNAS... dunno!

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Nice, but I just can't get excited with 2 bay enclosures when an AMD based micro server with 4 drive bays and a PCI-e slot is less then £100 with its cashback....

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And you'll need the cash back to compensate for the higher power consumption.

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I always like the idea of these

until I work out what I'm paying for - empty box, mobo, processor, power supply and a network card. Plus a cut-down OS.

I'm sure I could do it just as cheaply with an old Windows PC with some extra hard drives without worrying about the esoteric format the HDDs use.

Even more sure there's some open source build of something out there that does it dead cheap too.

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Re: I always like the idea of these

I thought long and hard about using my old Shuttle as a NAS instead of buying one, but in the end I went down the Synology route, and to be honest I'm glad I did. Its reliable, super-quiet, and idiot-proof, and unlike a lot of others, the Apps are actually worth having; much as I like XBMC, the VideoStation App is quicker and easier to use on the TV (controlled by my phone, it makes my Samsung's otherwise near useless dlna setup usable so I don't need a separate STB like an RPi or Apple TV). I think a couple of years ago I'd have been less likely to recommend a Synology, but with the release of 4.3 its now a mature, polished product.

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Home server/NAS

If this had been available while I was building my home server, I may have considered it. It costs about the same as my server did (sans disks), but uses less juice and is quieter. Stuff like this is getting cheaper and more usable quicker than I care to think about.

I don't recall MS ever making their home server OS available to individuals, just to systems builders, so not sure about the whole "old PC retask", unless you are taking about the Beta version. I use win 7 on my server so can use it with all the online content options, it also has esata, USB 3, gigabit ethernet AND Wireless N connectivity (should I suddenly cut through my cables) , and a blu-ray writer in there to allow both BD playback and archive of the more vital files. For the money it is good and I like my solution, but it was build out of a lack of other affordable solutions at the time. I would have considered a NAS like this one though.

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Re: Home server/NAS

WHS has always been (still is) available as an OEM license, which an individual (system re-purposer) can use .... as the OEM you have to support yourself though. I suspect most people inclined to build their own server are more likely to run Linux.

The one advantage WHS does (did) have is the built-in backup and bare metal restore for Windows clients. It seems crazy, but I haven't seen anything really equivalent on a NAS device or Linux platform - unless anyone else has?

The other advantage it has for me - the machine makes a great PVR and HTPC (Media Portal) client. NAS and Linux do offer options in this area though.

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WTF?

Drive sizes?

The review suggests that the maximum drive size these units can take is 2TB, but falls short of actually saying so. I imagine the truth is that the 2TB limit is real because the firmware can only handle drives formatted with an old-style partition table, rather than the newer GPT format.

Now that it's relatively easy to buy drives as large as 4TB (and the cost per byte is lower than with 2TB drives from the same maker) there is a need for NAS hardware that can use them. It's a shame that Synology haven't provided that in this new device.

... and before you say "Why would you need 4TB in a home NAS?" it's because home users are likely to fill their NASes with music and video files, and so probably fill them up faster than most businesses.

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Re: Drive sizes?

http://www.synology.com/en-global/support/hd/model/DS214

lists up to 4TB.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Drive sizes?

When you read page 2 you'll find this sentence.

To test this I set up a RAID 1 array with two WD Red 3TB disks, ...

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FAIL

Re: Drive sizes?

"To test this I set up a RAID 1 array with two WD Red 3TB disks"

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Re: Drive sizes?

"To test this I set up a RAID 1 array with two WD Red 3TB disks"

Why the fail? It's probably the drives the reviewer had on had to test. Besides, you don't NEED 4Tb drives to test what's in the specification list anyway, nor to test for performace.

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Great bits of kit.

I have a DS109j with a 1TB disk in it and it has happily being serving up movies, music, photos - centralised file storage and music to all of my network clients, PS3 and TV for the last couple of years without issue.

The underlying Linux O/S is completely accessible also so it's highly tuneable. I also like that new version of DSM are always fully backwards compatible with an ever growing menu of add ons and tools.

The remote access apps work great also.

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Re: Great bits of kit +1

Powerful, zero faff, solution with a tiny footprint and extremely low running costs.

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Re: Great bits of kit +1

Yeah my DS-106j is stuck on DSM 2.1 :( but it was made 5-6 years ago. My IT kit is getting very long in the tooth!

Was going to write the only thing holding me back to upgrading to a DS214+ was the lack of linux client for the cloud station but just been back to their site and they now have one -

(2013/08/27)

Change Log

Linux Cloud Station client is now available and has been verified on Ubuntu and Fedora.

Yeah! Now where's my christmas letter to santa I need to add something.

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Happy

Great little box

Well I bought one after a major snafu with mavericks & western digital raid and have to say more than pleased with it all. I would say setup & install is very easy, though you would need a bit of technical knowledge so its not really for PC Globe customers. Backups for Time Machine are reliable & general file transfer is very quick. As for cloud service, it acts as your own cloud so I can access files anywhere which is very handy, 10 / 10

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don't skimp

I've had a synology ds413j for a while and while fundamentally it's a great piece of kit, I would strongly advise anybody buying one of their NAS boxes to avoid the 128MB models, and those with slower CPUs. The web interface is too slow to be usable. For those of you using squeezeboxes, the server software is great, but won't fit properly into such a small amount of RAM either.

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Linux

I use...

An Atom MiniITX board (£80 3 years ago) With a generic server chassis (£40) plus two 1TB disks in Raid1 and 2Gb RAM, the board has a single PCI slot with an Asterisk card. It runs Debian Linux x86 and does whatever any of those cheap NAS units do plus much, much more.

Advantages:

If one piece breaks I can go to the nearest shop and buy a replacement, or I can take parts from the PC at home.

The OS gets updated when I need to, not when the vendor thinks it should be/can update it.

I can run windows/linux virtual machines/containers (not that I do, but I can if I need to)

Lots of room for expansion, if I need more slots or hard drives, I just buy a Mini-ATX board, plug the disks and chances are it just boots and continues doing its thing.

Disadvantages:

Not as energy efficient.

Requires proper IT person to set up.

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