Need home NAS advice. Synology DS420+ or ?

John King

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Obviously with all of this stuff it's a tradeoff between performance and cost. I'm just trying to understand if one component improves performance in a particular area vs. another. For example, say that more/ faster processors in the NAS box is most important for supporting more concurrent users, while faster drives (RPM speed, lets say) improves read speed and a larger cache improves write performance. (Disclaimer: I have no clue if any of the things in the previous statement are at all true — if they are, it's pure chance. I just made up that example to try to understand if there's a correlation between beefing up a particular component and improving performance in a particular area).

In my application the number of users isn't going to be an issue. If there are ever more than 2-3 concurrent users, I would be surprised. I also would be more concerned about improving performance of read speeds than write speeds.

Looking at the Synology it seems there are five basic vectors where they can be beefed up:
  1. Processor (420+ vs 920+)
  2. RAM
  3. M.2 cache
  4. Drive speed (RPM)
  5. Drive cache
Basically, I'm just trying to figure out which upgrades make the most sense in my application. I'd like to avoid spending money on something that is unlikely to move the needle.

- K
Keith, running mirrored disks is the best way of improving read speed, but can (slightly) impact write speed, sometimes. It is also the safest.

Like everything, buy the best you can afford. This offers the best future proofing.

A good 2 bay NAS is far better than a crappy 4 bay one. Use portable USB drives for periodic backup of the NAS - grandfather, father, son rotation is adequate.

Format the disks initially in the NAS using NTFS. This allows read and write in any Windows computer (after W7), and read only in Macs.

The speed of the disks is nowhere near as important as the disks cache size. A 5400 rpm disk with 64MB cache is faster than a 7200 rpm disk with a 4 MB cache ...

Do not stint on RAM or CPU !
 

oldracer

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... The speed of the disks is nowhere near as important as the disks cache size. A 5400 rpm disk with 64MB cache is faster than a 7200 rpm disk with a 4 MB cache ...
I don't totally disagree but I'll point out that if the data you are trying to read is not in the cache, then the cache size is irrelevant and the disk speed limits. Read-ahead can mitigate this if your access pattern is amenable to reading ahead, but that's just another way of saying that your access pattern could trump any general statements about what technical characteristics are most important for your application. Worse, you probably don't have the tools or the time to really understand your access patterns. Once you get your box(es) you can amuse yourself by watching the Synology dashboard:
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OldRex

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I have various NAS running here, but the Synology is the latest addition and I am super happy with it. The others are ok, but EOL some time ago whereas Synology will be in this game for the forseeable.
  • 4 Bay Seagate NAS - my daughter's NAS now
  • 5 Bay Lacie 5Big Pro
  • 6 Bay Seagate NAS Pro
  • 6 Bay Synology DS1618+
One thing I have not seen discussed so far is how hot the 7200rpm drives get compared to the 5400rpm drives. It may not matter to you if the environment the NAS is sitting in is relatively well temperature controlled. I had a few overheat shutdowns on one of my NAS boxes (Seagate one) on a really (really!) hot summer day last year.
The two 5TB Drives below are 7200rpm and you can see there is a big temp difference. These temps can go way higher (above 50c).


1616285536281.png
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And here is what 5400rpms on the Synology are running at
1616285907157.png
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John King

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I don't totally disagree but I'll point out that if the data you are trying to read is not in the cache, then the cache size is irrelevant and the disk speed limits. Read-ahead can mitigate this if your access pattern is amenable to reading ahead, but that's just another way of saying that your access pattern could trump any general statements about what technical characteristics are most important for your application. Worse, you probably don't have the tools or the time to really understand your access patterns. Once you get your box(es) you can amuse yourself by watching the Synology dashboard:
View attachment 879030
I understand what you are saying, and don't disagree. One of many factors that ultimately determine speed.

The only way around these problems is using SCSI drives, which use elevator seeking, etc. Unfortunately, you need to mortgage your house to buy a SCSI disk array these days.

The alternative is to use a heuristic approach, and avoid any form of under-specification - hence my advice in this thread.

A client's NAS used for office work was fine for their use. Rubbish for mine because: CPU was too slow; RAM was too small; disks were both slow and had small caches.

When I replaced this "home" type NAS (~70,000 hours later), it was with a "serious" NAS, as the client now understood why they should spend the money on a better one, with enterprise level drives. That was about 7 years ago. It is still functioning.

[Edit] see post by Mark above mine @OldRex .[end edit]
 

DeeJayK

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Thanks, all, for the wonderful advice.

I think my plan now is to go with the 920+. It's only $50 more than the 420+ which seems like a decent price to pay for twice as many processor cores and twice as much RAM, not to mention the possibility of adding drives if I were to ever need it.

I'll go with four 4TB Seagate Ironwolf Pro drives (7200 RPM & 128MB cache).

I'll hold of on adding any M.2 (NVMe) SSD cache or additional RAM for now. I'll wait until I've got it set up to see if such upgrades will be warranted.

As far as the RAID version, you guys (and some additional reading) have dissuaded me from using RAID5. Now I'm considering RAID 10. I'm more interested in maximizing performance and reliability than capacity. RAID 10 should give better performance than RAID 1, but also would be able to withstand the simultaneous failure of two drives. And the 8TB of space this would allow me seems like it would be more than sufficient.

Does that seem like a reasonable course of action?

- K
 

John King

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Expensive, but should provide excellent redundancy and recoverability.

Just remember, this does not provide either site protection (theft or destruction) or severe power spike.

Offline storage (backup of the NAS) provides this last essential step.
 

Armoured

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As far as the RAID version, you guys (and some additional reading) have dissuaded me from using RAID5. Now I'm considering RAID 10. I'm more interested in maximizing performance and reliability than capacity. RAID 10 should give better performance than RAID 1, but also would be able to withstand the simultaneous failure of two drives. And the 8TB of space this would allow me seems like it would be more than sufficient.

I know there are strong opinions on this, and I'm not an expert on raid10 vs [everything else]. I will say that synology's own btrfs and branded hybrid raid has been rock solid for me - including a period where we had multiple, multiple power failures and before I had a UPS on it. It's also been very good at rebuilding the volumes when I've had drives start to fail or wanted to increase size.

I actually started using my synology by putting in random old hard drives I had laying around - basically starting with the smallest oldest ones. I wanted to test it in action and see how it handled hot swapping etc before I trusted it with critical data. Short form, like a champ - not surprisingly some of these older drives did show up with sector errors etc, either immediately or after a while. Every warning and hotswap/rebuild went smoothly and reasonably quickly. So I have a high level of trust in Synology's software including the filesystem.

The one thing everyone will say and take it seriously: raid is not a backup. Everything important should be backed up as usual (including offline), however you wish to do. I find it usual to distinguish the data on the synology that is critical and backed up from other stuff that is essentially duplicated elsewhere.

On speed: I reiterate my previous point - once ram and processor and cache are "sufficient", it's the network speed that's the constraint. Gig-E is just not that fast. It will not be a replacement performance-wise for direct connected ssds (or in my experience even hard drives). The other benefits and system services etc - including some approaches like sync - are what it's there for.

But I doubt anyone would really be happy with direct editing photos off a gig-e based NAS. Perhaps for catalogs or archives that are only accessed occasionally to browse - which is then more a matter of how you've organised your catalogs/libraries etc, with 'active libraries' handled differently.
 

AmritR

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....

But I doubt anyone would really be happy with direct editing photos off a gig-e based NAS. Perhaps for catalogs or archives that are only accessed occasionally to browse - which is then more a matter of how you've organised your catalogs/libraries etc, with 'active libraries' handled differently.
Works perfectly for me, and really happy with it :p

Might depend on the router you use. I’m using a stock one from my provider. Worth a try imo.


Catalog files and previews are on my PC though. Those I back-up occasionally. I prefer to have all data, pictures, documents, etc, centralized on one device/NAS. (And periodically back up the NAS). Makes everything more manageable.

Only disadvantage in my view, if you have a laptop, and want to edit pictures when you’re not at home. You can solve that using a cloud service.
All picture exports made for photobooks, prints, keepers and documents in general are also stored in OneDrive. You can set-up a folder on the NAS to sync with one-drive (or other cloud services). So you can access them everywhere on what ever device you’re using.
 

AmritR

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Thanks, all, for the wonderful advice.

I think my plan now is to go with the 920+. It's only $50 more than the 420+ which seems like a decent price to pay for twice as many processor cores and twice as much RAM, not to mention the possibility of adding drives if I were to ever need it.

I'll go with four 4TB Seagate Ironwolf Pro drives (7200 RPM & 128MB cache).

I'll hold of on adding any M.2 (NVMe) SSD cache or additional RAM for now. I'll wait until I've got it set up to see if such upgrades will be warranted.

As far as the RAID version, you guys (and some additional reading) have dissuaded me from using RAID5. Now I'm considering RAID 10. I'm more interested in maximizing performance and reliability than capacity. RAID 10 should give better performance than RAID 1, but also would be able to withstand the simultaneous failure of two drives. And the 8TB of space this would allow me seems like it would be more than sufficient.

Does that seem like a reasonable course of action?

- K
Another option would be to get two 4GB, or even two 8GB (or higher) hard discs. Then you have a spare room to add drives later on.

In my opinion the costs of a NAS and hard discs is kinda hard to swallow. I’d rather spend it one something else. Also when you put two harddrives in for example Raid1 (which I did) it doubles the cost per GB. And you need another harddrive for backup.
But it does have it advantages, so I bit through it.

On BTRFS:
https://www.synology.com/en-us/dsm/Btrfs
 

Armoured

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Works perfectly for me, and really happy with it :p

Might depend on the router you use. I’m using a stock one from my provider. Worth a try imo.
...
Catalog files and previews are on my PC though. Those I back-up occasionally. I prefer to have all data, pictures, documents, etc, centralized on one device/NAS. (And periodically back up the NAS). Makes everything more manageable.

I don't think it's a router issue, but appreciate other experiences. There are a lot of variables - I think gig-e slow enough - objectively - that it's likely not that. That said, we have a number of other network challenges that are probably not helping.

I'll admit outright though that I only recently moved to Lightroom and ... still learning.
 

oldracer

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... Does that seem like a reasonable course of action? ...
In a word: No. The joint probability of two disks failing inside your mean time to repair is essentially zero, while your design deliberately includes a single point failure vulnerability by using only one Synology box and, worse, only one wall wart. I don't have auditable data but I'm sure in the time since my first hard drive (IBM XT, 20 meg.) and now, the number of power supply failures I've had exceeds the number of disk failures. I think the money you're proposing to spend on adding two more disks to mitigate a near-zero risk is a complete waste. I'll stick to my original recommendation of two 2-disk NAS boxes. If you like, put identical disks in all four slots and buy one additional disk as a cold spare. A cold spare will reduce your mean time to repair significantly and the two boxes will double your storage capacity vs your proposed RAID 10 configuration. A cold spare wall wart might be a good idea, too, depending on your paranoia level.

And as @JohnKing wisely reminds: A NAS configuration, regardless of overkill level, does nothing to protect against risks like fire, theft, and ransomware. You might want to go shopping for truly fireproof safes (there are levels), not "fire resistant" consumer products.
 
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robcee

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hey DeeJay. I've been using Synology machines for years. Currently on a 416+ that's a little underpowered. I think you'll do well with the 920. Their DSM operating software quite excellent. I strongly recommend them.
 

AmritR

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I don't think it's a router issue, but appreciate other experiences. There are a lot of variables - I think gig-e slow enough - objectively - that it's likely not that. That said, we have a number of other network challenges that are probably not helping.

I'll admit outright though that I only recently moved to Lightroom and ... still learning.
I don’t exactly know the inner workings of Lightoom or similar software. But I have the impression that if you edit a picture, you’re working essentially on a temporary file stored in your Adobe Lightroom database folders (Preview) + xmp-like-data which is also stored in your Lightroom database (aka Catalog). If you keep the Lightroom systemfolders on your c-disc (default is ‘My Pictures’ folder) you’ll have your speed.

It’s when you start exporting (or importing) the files when you need some patience. Same goes for DXO Photolab, it’s when I export the file the real crunching starts, and will take some time.

Imo the Lightroom catalog system is its USP. It works well.
https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom-classic/help/create-catalogs.html
Can’t remember when I started usng Lightroom but the oldest folders are from October 2007. All this time I have been able to keep using the same Catalog, from one PC to another.
 

Armoured

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hey DeeJay. I've been using Synology machines for years. Currently on a 416+ that's a little underpowered. I think you'll do well with the 920. Their DSM operating software quite excellent. I strongly recommend them.

Are you sure it's a 416+ and not a 415+?

I am fairly sure you can upgrade the memory on the 415+ - although you have to do it yourself and not supported. It means partially disassembling - not hard but obviously proceed at your own risk.
I did it on the 416play and was absolutely worth it. Once the memory was upgraded, it no longer feels underpowered (for my uses, but I'm not streaming 8k video or anything) - the issue was insufficient ram.
 

robcee

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Are you sure it's a 416+ and not a 415+?

double checked, it's the 416 but not a + version.

I am fairly sure you can upgrade the memory on the 415+ - although you have to do it yourself and not supported. It means partially disassembling - not hard but obviously proceed at your own risk.
I did it on the 416play and was absolutely worth it. Once the memory was upgraded, it no longer feels underpowered (for my uses, but I'm not streaming 8k video or anything) - the issue was insufficient ram.

I've heard of people upgrading their Synology RAM. Mine's a dual core, 1.4GHz processor with only 1GB of RAM onboard. It's not good for doing live video transcodes, but as a file server it runs fine.

I had a drive die on it last year and took the opportunity to add a USB backup drive to it. Replacing the failed drive was simple and the RAID volume repaired itself magically.

Great machines.
 

DeeJayK

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In a word: No. The joint probability of two disks failing inside your mean time to repair is essentially zero, while your design deliberately includes a single point failure vulnerability by using only one Synology box and, worse, only one wall wart. I don't have auditable data but I'm sure in the time since my first hard drive (IBM XT, 20 meg.) and now, the number of power supply failures I've had exceeds the number of disk failures. I think the money you're proposing to spend on adding two more disks to mitigate a near-zero risk is a complete waste. I'll stick to my original recommendation of two 2-disk NAS boxes. If you like, put identical disks in all four slots and buy one additional disk as a cold spare. A cold spare will reduce your mean time to repair significantly and the two boxes will double your storage capacity vs your proposed RAID 10 configuration. A cold spare wall wart might be a good idea, too, depending on your paranoia level.

And as @JohnKing wisely reminds: A NAS configuration, regardless of overkill level, does nothing to protect against risks like fire, theft, and ransomware. You might want to go shopping for truly fireproof safes (there are levels), not "fire resistant" consumer products.
First, I do understand that a NAS is not a comprehensive backup solution protecting against all foreseeable risks. I already back up my most critical files to "the cloud" (multiple sites for the most precious) and also understand the value of multiple off-line, off-site and disaster protected copies. I expect this NAS will be my primary storage appliance, but not by itself a comprehensive storage and disaster recovery solution.

I also agree that the likelihood of multiple, concurrent hard drive failures is remote (perhaps even vanishingly so) and that running a RAID 10 is a "belt and suspenders" type of solution. I'm okay with belt and suspenders in some cases.

Running two NAS boxes at RAID 1 (which I believe is what you're suggesting), each with a pair of 4TB disks would give me two 4TB NAS volumes. Running a single NAS box at RAID 10 with four 4TB drives would result in a single 8TB volume. The overall efficiency (with respect to drive cost per effective MB) is identical in either case. Even if I set up both of the dual-drive NASes with RAID 0 and configured them to sync with each other, I'd then have a pair of (fast) 8TB volumes acting as a active and online backup. Meanwhile the cost of a pair of DS220+ or DS720+ boxes exceeds the cost of a single DS420+ or DS920+ box. So the overall cost per TB is higher with your proposed solution than it is with the single box.

Your point about the reliability of other components (e.g. the AC/DC transformer) is well taken. However in my mind a power failure is unlikely to result in a data loss, but would just mean the volume would be off-line until the faulty transformer (or whatever part) could be procured and replaced. In the case of a single 4-drive NAS that would obviously mean that the entire volume is offline. In the case of a pair of 2-drive units, that means only one is offline, but it also means either half of my storage is offline (RAID 1 configuration) or that I've got no online backup (RAID 0 configuration). I'm not sure I see that either of those scenarios is immensely preferable to just the complete volume being down.

So perhaps it makes sense to look into a cold spare transformer as well as a cold spare drive. That said, delivery timelines being what they are in today's connected world it might not be worth bothering, either. This is just a home NAS and the cost of downtime is relatively insignificant. Even if it were down for a week or more, I have no doubt I would survive.

- K
 

DeeJayK

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Imo a NAS is meant to be the one place to store and manage your data/pics. Which lives mostly independent of whatever laptop/pc/mac your using. I don’t store data anymore on a pc/laptop, unless it cannot be avoided.

Keep it simple, use raid1, btrfs and data scrobbing on.
And I’d prefer harddrives from HGST, if still available. They stand out quality wise, a bit noisy though.

And a lightroom/capture1 database on your pc/laptop ssd, and back it up every now and then. And maybe keep the latest pictures on your laptop. A bit unfortunate if you want to be hip, and (after covid) drink a coffee in town, with your macbook, and your pics are home on the NAS.

disadvantage: again more hardware which will cost you, and will have to be replaced some time in the future, more costs.
That's precisely what I'm looking for: a single hub to consolidate and store ALL of my various bits of data and digital detritus. The thought of editing photos in a coffee shop is completely unappealing, but I'm fine with keeping local copies of some of my most recent images on my laptop. I just don't want ALL of my photos on the laptop or even on an external USB drive.

I appreciate the Hitachi drive rec. I know they were for a time considered the best, but since they've been absorbed into Western Digital, it seems like the HGST brand has all but disappeared. It seems that Seagate Ironwolf/ Ironwolf Pro are the most widely recommended NAS drives these days.

Finally, regarding your recommendation on the file system, I understand the BTRFS is the more "modern" option and provides some features that EXT4 doesn't. But are there any downsides to using BTRFS aside from a theoretical (at least) performance hit.

- K
 
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