For many years I’ve been toying with different platforms to solve my local storage needs. I’ve used Windows Home Server and Freenas. Both have great features and drawbacks. I wanted to focus on the following features that I feel neither Windows or Freenas do a good job on.
Support for users on different operating systems and devices
In my household, there are different types of devices from Windows and Macs to tablets and DLNA devices. I had a tough time configuring SMB shares that were accessible on the DLNA devices. Freenas was also giving me issues with shares not being recognized. On Windows, I had to go through many custom configurations but I could not create a share that Time Machine on Apple recognizes. I was able to get it work on Freenas but the creation of shares is a bit cumbersome.
Many of us are familiar with Windows updates. It’s not much different on Windows Home Server. The patches are not difficult to install but the update server themselves are sometimes slow or unresponsive. Aside from that, I have to make sure I am running an antivirus. During my use (around 2011), I cannot just use a multi-license antivirus software that my desktops use. It has to be compatible with server editions of Windows.
Freenas updates on the later versions ran similarly as the Synology system. It’s more responsive than the Windows update servers and faster to apply.
Serve multimedia files for multiple devices
This issue is similar to what I shared regarding shares not being recognize by devices. I create a SMB share on the Windows Server but when on a media device, I cannot connect to it. Freenas does a better job with this. I can actually install Plex and run it as a service.
That works well but still not a complete solution with other problems I face. So rather than using something that works half the time, I decided to just buy a finished product.
I decided to get a Synology DS1815+. I’m already familiar with the software and products they offer. I’ve been using the DS212J for several years and it works as expected. I guess what I’m looking for is less managing and more using. I get this with Synology products.
- Intel Atom C2538 2.4GHz Quad Core CPU
- 2GB DDR3 ram – you can add up to 4GB on the available slot for a total of 6GB.
- 8 Bays that supports both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives. You can expand the unit with up to two DX513 (5 bays) unit for a total of 18 drives. I’m unsure as to why you can expand using another DS1815+ or a unit that has more than 5 bays. The expansion is connected through the eSata port.
- It has four 1Gb LAN ports that support link aggregation and failover.
- Supports many RAID types from JBOD to RAID10. They also have their proprietary RAID which can benefit from their software.
You could probably replace the 2GB with a 4GB to get a total of 8GB. The CPU is very capable. It runs fine with my workload and during software updates, it handles well. I’m currently using 5 of 8 bays with Seagate 4TB drives.
One of my favorite features is the four gigabit LAN ports. I’m currently using three of them bonded. It handles the transferring of large files well.
Synology software is called DSM (DiskStation Manager). At the time of writing, they are on version 6. It’s very intuitive, I have no complaints. This was one of the big reasons why I ended up with Synology.
I use a software called Hyper Backup. I have my data backed up onto a Synology DS212J over the network via rsync. It’s a bit slow, I’m guessing because the hardware on the DS212J is limited but I have it scheduled to run in the middle of the night. It emails me once the back up is complete. I have it set for incremental backups. The initial backup took days, but now it’s quicker depending on what files changed.
Overall, I’m happy with the setup. The cost is a bit more expensive compared to building one from scratch with similar hardware. You could probably save at least 30% if you build one yourself – not including hard drive cost or Windows OS. I’ve tried many times but at the end of the day, I just want to plug it in and have minimal maintenance involvement. Here are a few more photos I took of the device itself.