I won a NAS!

Last year, I bought a Synology ds214play NAS. I posted about my horrible data migration, wherein I lost a whole ton of data, entirely because I was a bonehead. Despite that pain, I absolutely loved the Synology NAS. It frequently impressed me with how much it could do, how well it did it, and how easy it was to do. Even after I moved all of my media to it, all my old backups, and started using it as a Time Machine backup destination, I had a good terabyte of space left.

Obviously, that meant I spent the whole last year thinking, “I should get a bigger NAS!” I seriously considered doing so, figuring out how much I could sell the old one for. At every turn, though, I’d remind myself that this was totally crazy. I had no need for a bigger NAS. It would cost money, take time to move to, and have no actual benefit. Maybe when I got low on space, it would make sense, but planning too far in advance for that would just mean that I’d pay too much for the drives.

On the other hand, when I saw an Engadget raffle to win a Synology ds415play, I broke my usual habit of ignoring all online contests as unwinnable scams. I figured it couldn’t hurt, especially since I gave a tagged email address. I followed Synology on Twitter and visited their Facebook page to earn two extra entries. Then, I forgot about it. A few days later, though, I got an email telling me that I won. I put on my best skeptical face, but a few days later I got some legal papers from FedEx, and not too much later, I got the NAS!

It was a four bay NAS with four 4T WD reds. That’s 12T of storage in a RAID5. What would I do with all that space? Who cares, it was free! Unfortunately, it arrived the day before I left for YAPC::Asia, so I didn’t have a lot of time to get things cut over. Remembering how badly things worked out when I rushed last time, though, I decided to wait until I got back. It ended up taking me much longer than I wanted to transition, but now that I’m done, everything is great.

Problems I encountered:

The default instructions for migration involve yanking the drives from the old NAS and inserting them to the new one. If anything went wrong there, I’d be hosed, so first I wanted to make backups. I didn’t have any drives large enough to store all the data, though. I couldn’t just yank the drives from the new NAS, because my USB enclosures couldn’t address 4T at once, and I’m sure I could’ve done something more complicated, but ugh. Instead, I thought, I’d just use the network. After all, the two NASes were on a gigabit ethernet link.

I did an rsync from one device to the other, using the Synology backup service. It took almost exactly twenty-four hours. This is Synology’s suggestion when you’re doing a network migration. Unfortunately, once I finished the rsync and tried to restore the data onto the working space of the new NAS, it told me “no backups detected.” Waah? I asked Synology support, and their response was, “please email us the admin password to your NAS.” I was pretty uninterested in this and asked for a second opinion. Eventually they suggested something else, sort of half-heartedly, but it took days to hear back, and by then I’d already taken action. In fact, I’d taken the action they suggested, and it worked.

With the rsync to the backup area done, all I had all the files on the new NAS. I just copied things into place, did a couple chowns, migrated only the system settings, and I was done. Maybe it would have been more convenient to have had the restore work, but it couldn’t have been much easier. Once I’d fixed the file owners, only one thing didn’t work: Time Machine. OS X just refused to believe that the “sparse bundle” disk image was valid. I couldn’t find any good explanation, so I decided that it was probably a problem with extended attributes “or something.” I blew away the new copy and rsync-ed again, this time using OS X’s patched rsync (and -S). It worked. Why? I’m not quite sure, but who cares, right?

While getting to this point, I had a bunch of false starts and actually fully copied my data from the old to new NAS more than once. Each time, this was my fault, and nobody else’s. The best reason for recopying everything was to change my RAID type. The device arrived formated in SHR-1, which is an enhanced RAID5. I reconfigured it as SHR-2, which is more like RAID6. Sure, it cost me 4T of space, but now I can lose two drives. This is a much more useful benefit for me. If I was going to spend a year longing for a four-bay NAS, it should’ve been because I could have two drive redundancy, not for a lot of space that I didn’t need.

I also had fun yanking and re-inserting a drive. I knew it would work, and then it took ages to recheck the data integrity, but it’s just fun, and I have no regrets.

I’m looking forward to getting even more out of my Synology. It can run quite a few useful network services, and I’m only using one or two of them. A Synology really does work at providing all the “cloud” services that a typical user might want, but privately in your own house. There are a few such services that I use that I’m looking to stop using. I will post on those successes as they occur.

Engadget did not ask me to say anything about the contest or the device, nor did anybody else. I really do like the Synology NAS line. Thanks for choosing such a great winner, Engadget!

Written on September 14, 2015
⚙️ hardware