Storage Expansion on NAS

It’s that time again to expand my storage capacity on my Synology NAS. This is not my first time. You can check out my post when I last expanded my storage.

Recently, I swapped out my 8x 4TB NAS set up with 8TB drives. With the 4TB drives, I set up a RAID6 where 6 drives were usable and two were parity. This left me with about 22TB of drives. I was also using 3x 8TB in a RAID5 as a back up to my NAS. But hard drive prices are improving and more and more 8TB and up drives are going on sale.

I recently picked up a Western Digital Easy Store from Best Buy for about $130. Yes, it is an external but many of these can be “shuck” and used as internal. Many of these are just re-labeled red drives as well.

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Western Digital EasyStore 8TB

Upon looking online, these were one of the models that can be opened up and used as internal drives. What’s even better is there are plenty of reports that people find WD Red drives – these are NAS rated hard drives. Others have also reported of white drives which are just re-labeled red drives. You can tell by the cache size (256MB). It’s fairly easy to open. I just used my kids’ Lego brick separator to open the enclosure. Many also use putty knife.

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My trusty Lego brick extractor tool

Open it up and I find a white label, red drive.

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256MB cache WD Red Drive

My Synology DS1815+ has eight bays. Three are populated by 8TB drives in a RAID5 configuration. It’s very easy to add another drive to the existing volume. You don’t even have to turn off the NAS. Just pop it in and add the drive.

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Add the drive and wait

The process of rebuilding the RAID with a new drive does take some time. When I added a 4TB drive to my old RAID that contained 4TB drives, it took about a day. With 8TB being added to an existing volume full of 8TB drives, it took almost two days.

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About 46.5 hours to complete

Access to the NAS and shares continue to work. Supposedly, the RAID is in degraded status while this is happening – performance may be slower but I ran back ups during this time and transfer speeds were not overly affected. I was still getting the usually ~100MB/s. This also gives you an idea of how long it takes for the RAID to get rebuild when a drive fails. In a RAID5, when one drive fails, the time it takes for you to physically replace it, plus the time it takes to rebuild it, should be considered. Because if another drive fails before all this finishes, the whole RAID fails and your data will be lost. This is why many people say “A RAID is not a back up“. So it’s a good idea to back up you stuff even when using a RAID. You can also increase your fault tolerance by increasing the number of parity drives, specially when using large number of hard drives.

Synology DS1815+

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.

Simpler maintenance

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.

Hardware

system info
system info
  • 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.

hard drives
hard 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.

bonded lan ports
bonded lan ports

Software

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.

services
I can easily toggle different services
permissions
Managing permissions is a breeze
new shares
Creating new shares is simple

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.

hyper backup
hyper backup

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.

front view ds1815+
front view ds1815+ with box
front view
front view
back view
back view, fans, and I/O ports