Network Attached Storage

I’ve got a Synology DS1511+ that’s been treating me pretty well for the past 6 years; 5 bays, Linux-based, has a web-based UI.
I recently upgraded from a set of 2GB disks to a set of WD 6TB Reds, which was fairly painless aside from the rebuild time.

I’ve had it hosting my RSS feed reader ever since Google Reader was untimely murdered.
It might be worth looking at the recent revisions (DS1517+, I believe) if you’re looking for a COTS solution.

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I’m looking at those synology ones.

I could cobble one together with either of our previous PCs, but I want something with hot swap bays and a small form factor.

Device prices remain static for the most part: only the drives have gotten cheaper. But, the devices are much better than they used to be.

There seem to be three real contenders. Funnily enough, I’m leaning toward the Drobo. While it used to be the “overpriced for dummies” version of a NAS, it’s actually comparable/cheaper.

Here are the two baseline NASs I’m using for comparison. I’m only interested in 5+ bays, and only network-attached (no DAS). Has to support at least 10TB drives, but 12TB is preferable.

Drobo 5N2 $500

Synology DS1517+ $700

I see a number of QNAP devices, but I’m not super enthusiastic about them so far.

I’ve been considering the DAS for my next device, whenever that may be. I mean, let’s be honest. 99% of the time I use the NAS it is from just this one machine. Is it worth the extra money to keep letting the HTPC connect to the NAS? Just to avoid the hassle of setting up file sharing on my desktop?

Also, there are lots of stupid apps out there, like Lightroom automatic backup, that won’t work across a network share. They do local disk only.

However, the main advantage of the NAS over the DAS for me, especially the Synology, is auto backup to the cloud. With a DAS, my desktop has to do that work itself. With a NAS, it can back itself up without my desktop giving a shit.

Instead of DAS, I just put beefy 5TB drives in my actual PC on SATA and did motherboard RAID. It’s blazing fast and works great.

So my NAS is now going to be exclusively for backups and archives: never for anything I’m actually doing anything with.

Synology DS1517+ $700
WD NAS 8TB Drives 5x $250 ($1250)

$1950 one-time
~$60/mo for Amazon Glacier cloud backup of entire NAS

This is not my final answer, but this seems to be the best price/value for what I want. (I want to not have to worry about this again for at least 5+ years).

The only question then would be single-disk redundancy vs 2-disk.

I’d probably go with single disk (RAID-5 or equivalent), but also buy a 6th drive to keep as a cold spare. I’d rely in this case on a weekly or monthly Glacier backup to cover the unlikely scenario of two disks failing inside of the time it takes to rebuild the array from a single drive failure.

The wrinkle here is that if your motherboard goes out you likely need a replacement, compatible mobo to recover your data. Software raid works everywhere and, more importantly, can be recovered anywhere.

I’m not sure of the state of soft raid on Windows, but I won’t trust hardware raid on Linux.

Disk is so much slower than ram and cpu that compute is negligible.

I’ve generally not had too much trouble recovering RAID setups, even without the controller, provided I have some idea of the config. Not that you want to have to deal with that if you can avoid it.

I’m looking at building a 5 X 8TB thing for work sometime soon but it doesn’t really need much feature wise.

It’s RAID 1. The disks are identical and should be able to read in any controller.

(Yes, I know some bullshit RAID controllers do some proprietary nonsense with even basic RAID 1, but this is Intel RST. It both does RAID 1 correctly and is readily available on any motherboard I’d ever buy).

I’m confident I could literally just plug either drive from the array into any SATA port and read the data, Intel RST be damned.

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True, it’s hard to screw up RAID 1.

But to your point, I wouldn’t do a more complex RAID than 0 or 1 (maybe 10) on a consumer motherboard.

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I have a 2-Bay QNAP, it does its job, but the one I ordered out of the box didn’t work properly and had to have it replaced.

I have a cupboard shelf full of big external hard drives going back to 2008, which also hold copies of my internal hard drives from my PC’s going back to 1998. Seems to work fine.

I was doing something similar, but manual processes are increasingly prone to error, and I’m more and more uncomfortable with a fractured dataset over time.

This is one of the topics of tonight’s show. I’m reworking my entire data management pipeline.

I just wrote a script that combed through all my hard drives, found all my iPhone photos, and put them in a single folder on my latest external hard drive. It’s taken a lot off my mind, as a lot of those are just for me. Other photos and videos are published on my blog or facebook or youtube and other places. But 90% of my photos are just for me and the sake of my memories.

I ordered it.

6x 8TB WD Red NAS drives (WD80EFZX)
1x Synology DS1517+

I’m going with RAID-5 (32TB usable space, one-drive redundancy). The sixth drive is a cold spare so I can immediately begin a rebuild of the array if a drive fails.

I’m going to back the whole thing up to Glacier with a semi-monthly sync.

Now that you’ve covered hardware backup solutions, maybe do a show on the software side of backups?

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Maybe once I get this glacier sync actually working.

Backup pipelines.


I’m considering btrfs (Wikipedia) the next time I replace/upgrade my linux raid—in particular, the raid I use for backups. I’m already using it for off-site backups.

Btrfs seems half awesome, half minefield.


  • Efficient snapshotting, including read-only snapshots—perfect for backups, my primary use case.
  • Incremental snapshot transfer—for backup to an external disk, my secondary use case.
  • Data duplication support in the style of raid1 without needing ~exactly matching disks that you’d otherwise want with raid1.
  • More generally, device flexibility.
  • Data and metadata checksumming for integrity checking, with an online scrubbing utility for integrity checking.


  • Basically still experimental, even though it was merged into the kernel in 2009.
  • Less robust recovery tools if something goes wrong.
  • Apparently easy to fuck up?

One of the amazing things about living in New York is that this was all same day shipping.

I’m actually setting it all up today! So far, the Synology configuration experience is night and day compared to my old Netgear duo.

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