Synology DS211+ SMB NAS Reviewby Ganesh T S on February 28, 2011 3:50 AM EST
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- IT Computing
Synology is one of the rapidly rising players in the SMB (Small to Medium Businesses) / SOHO (Small Office & Home Office) NAS market. This market is a highly competitive one with many players like QNAP, Thecus, Netgear, Drobo, LaCie, Seagate and Western Digital. Consumers with a necessity to store and backup their home media collection are also amongst the customers in this market.
Synology has a sensible model number nomenclature in which the last two digits refer to the year through which the model is intended for sale. The first set of digits refer to the maximum number of bays supported. Some models have a + at the end, signifying higher performance. Today, we have the DS211+ for review. The DS refers to the product category, Disk Station. 2 indicates a 2 bay model, and the 11 indicates a 2011 model. It is supposed to have a higher performance compared to the DS211 which was released in November 2010.
The purpose of any NAS is to serve as a centralized repository for data while also having some sort of redundancy built in. The redundancy helps in data recovery, in case of media failure of any other unforeseen circumstances. Along with the standard RAID levels, some companies also offer custom redundancy solutions. The OS on the NAS also varies across vendors.
In addition to manual support for the standard RAID configurations, Synology also provides the SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid) option. The OS on the DS211+ is the Disk Station Manager 3.0 (DSM), a Linux variant. Most of its features for day-to-day operations can be accessed over a web browser.
The last SMB NAS that we reviewed was the LaCie 5big Storage Server, a 5 bay model running Windows Storage Server 2008. We introduced our new NAS benchmarking methodology in that review. In addition to repeating the methodology on the DS211+, we also checked up a little bit on the Linux performance. Before we get to that, however, let us devote a couple of sections to the hardware and software that make up the DS211+.
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ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkLet me talk to Synology PR and get back to you.
ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkHere is the official response from Synology:
Pandamonium - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkThanks Ganesh- I'm glad that you were able to get an actual response from them.
Customers have posted far more eloquent explanations for why they want scheduled/automated SMART testing than what I posted here and on Synology's forums, and neither they nor I have gotten satisfactory responses.
I'll be the first to say that I am quite happy with my Synology DS209; but I'll also be the first to tell you that this lack of customer service is driving me towards QNAP when it comes time to replace my NAS.
I fail to see the problem with scheduling a quick SMART test every week and a long test every 3 months or so. Synology's canned response to your inquiry seems pretty lackluster. Off-site backups are primarily used to protect against catastrophic failures from theft/disasters/etc. They are not used to protect against bit rot. AFAIK, only checksummed filesystems like ZFS and SMART testing helps protect against bit rot. I'm sure Amazon S3 has something like this in place. While licensing issues may understandably prevent Synology from implementing ZFS, I see no reason stopping them from giving users the option to schedule regular SMART tests.
Maybe I've got a fundamental misunderstanding about data integrity and backup. But I'm a customer with a concern shared by other customers, and this concern could be remedied with a relatively easy fix. Synology's responses really rub me the wrong way, so I plan to put my money where my mouth is and go with a different manufacturer in the future.
Penti - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkAs always with NAS-boxes they simply use Linux kernels soft RAID-1 or some other (their own) software RAID scheme. Which of course don't protect for other things then pure drive failures.
If you want to use ZFS you could simply build your own box with OpenSolaris.
Makers like Synology could also build their boxes with FreeBSD if they like ZFS support.
Penti - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkOf course they could also use ZFS on FUSE. So nothing is really stopping them.
LTG - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkI think one thing to consider when deciding between buying a NAS unit vs. a traditional PC is that you won't get transcoding with NAS.
For example, want to have all your DVDs/Blu-Rays/Home Movies stored and watch them on any mobile device, tablet or remote location automagically? Not gonna happen without creating/managing special copies for every possible device.
Secondly, I think Drobo and QNap should be mentioned here even if they haven't been reviewed yet. The reason is most people usually end up wanting to compare Synology/Drobo/QNap. So without a review it's still helpful to know the most discussed players.
Finally anyone considering a multi-disk setup should look very carefully at the RAID technology used.
Forget what you know about RAID 0/1/5/6. For home users, the newer quasi-raid technologies are much more practical. Some let you remove a single disk and view it's files on a separate system which is totally impossible with traditional enterprise raid (other than straight mirroring). Some let you upgrade 1 disk at a time, I believe the Synology requires you upgrade 2 at a time to see a storage bump.
So I'm not making a recommendation here, but trying to point out some of the bigger differences that may drive you one way or another.
ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkSome members in the ReadyNAS lineup have transcoding using Orb. We will hopefully be evaluating it shortly.
I did mention Drobo and QNAP as competitors :) Of course, with no unit to compare with, there is nothing much I can write about them.
Your comments add lot of information that I should probably have put in my review itself :) Thanks for the same, and hope the readers take note!
ganeshts - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkOne note about Synology requiring upgrades of 2 drives at a time:
With SHR, this is not the case. You can upgrade one by one. In fact, if 2 are pulled, the volume could fail.
donb123 - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkReview is OK...a little light for anandtech.com IMO.
I have been using a NAS in my home network for at least 10 years. For many, many years I built my own and either used a Centos Linux OS or later on the Freenas OS. Performance varied a lot depending on my hardware selections and power consumption was always a concern with our seemingly endless rise in energy costs. Also, managing failed drives etc didn't also go as planned. I never lost data but I did have a few very stressful moments with my DIY NAS's.
Enter Synology. I decided to go the Synlogy way for two main reasons:
1/ Very low power footprint
2/ At the moment in time when I purchased, there were no other comparable 4-Bay NAS's for the price point. All were significantly more. (I initially wanted a Qnap device)
I own the DS-410j configured with 4 WD green 1 TB drives. I am completely happy with this device.
What I do with it:
- SAMBA for 3 Windows 7 boxes using shared data and also backing up to the NAS device daily (using the Synology backup client) and also services my Android tablet.
- Mac support for an iMac and a Mac Mini also accessing the shared data
- NFS support supporting my Linux VMs as well as my Beagleboard also accessing the shared data
- Use download station regularly
- ssh service enabled
Now for the above features it works absolutely great! No complaints. Performance is pretty much exactly as advertised for this product averaging 28 MB/s R/W regardless of protocol.
Also of note, the DS-410j was on and running since the day i purchased it until we had an extended power failure 2 weeks ago. I was probably a month short of a year from the moment I powered it on for the first time. I don't know of many consumer devices that can make that claim as far as uptime and reliability is concerned.
It's worth noting that I've played around with many of the other features on the Synology device but they don't really fit into my workflow so I can't really offer and opinion beyond, "yeah it seems to work".
Aikouka - Monday, February 28, 2011 - linkHi Ganesh,
My thought when looking at a NAS like this is, "how much of a performance hit do I take versus a full-blown PC?" I think this really comes into question when the diskless cost is ~$400, which you could build a decent file serving machine for only a little bit more (depending on need to buy an OS or whatever else you can scrounge up). I mean, I could look at the numbers and say, "well, I usually see 90-100MB/s transfers to my C2D-based server", but that's a poor analogy, because I don't use the same HDD as the review unit.
So, what might be helpful to see is how fast the drives are by default, and how fast they would be when shared (SMB) in a computer with a fast processor.