What is the Synology DS1512+?
Whoa, before we get there, let’s set the scene. Most of us store our important data such as photos, documents, tax files, spreadsheets on our computer’s hard drive. We all eventually find out one day that we wished we listened to our friends about backing up your data onto something called an external hard drive or even USB memory stick. The benefit of these extra storage units is that you have even more place to put all of your large movie files etc.
Well, the Synology DS1512+ has a generic name called a Network Attached Storage (NAS). A NAS is essentially a large external hard drive but with an extra neat feature. Most NAS units such as the Synology, Drobo and Promise Pegasus come pre-configured in a format called Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID). For example, this set up allows the user to have multiple hard disks instead of just one inside of a drive box, from just two up to 30 or more, and make them all look like one storage volume. There are various specific RAID configurations, but the two most popular ones for consumers are RAID-5 and RAID-6. The benefit of RAID-5 is that it allows one drive to fail while keeping all of the data stored. All you have to do is pop it out of the drive bay and push in a brand new one and it rebuilds the volume back to normal. RAID-6 takes protection a step further and allows for the failure of up to 2 drives. Because of the extra writing to two fail-safe drives in RAID-6, one would notice a decrease of read and write performance.
Despite this sounding like a totally awesome way to protect your valuable data, using a NAS is NOT, I repeat NOT a back up solution. Why? because your files are still just stored on one place. Therefore, you either need to buy two of these NAS units and keep them in different locations or also use cloud storage.
The DS1512+ by Synology is targeted at standard medium sized businesses. It features gigabit ethernet, USB 3.0, up to 3GB RAM and fast read and write speeds of about 200MB/s both ways. This unit allows for five hard drives to be placed inside. For my personal set up, I used five 3TB Seagate 7200rpm Barracuda drives, thus around 15TB of raw storage. The DS1512+ can also be expanded with the Synology DX513 for up to 15 drives! Now, the five 3TB drives in RAID-5 turns out to be around 11TB of actual storage space, because one of the drives is for redundancy.
While researching which NAS I should get for my home studio, I constantly read about Synology’s legendary user interface and how easier it was to play around with. And the reviews were right. The DSM 4.1 (latest version), is an absolute enjoy to work with. Using this UI, one can view the available storage space, the resource monitor and file station just to name a few.
But wait, DSM 4.1 also allows the user to turn the NAS from just a typical external storage unit into a full cloud based media solution. The software that comes with the unit allows users to set up their own iTunes server so that music stored on the NAS can be played on any network connected device in the vicinity.
Workflow and Setup
Being a photographer who has tetabytes of data and doesn’t really want to delete any frames, I definitely required something bigger than my 1TB Western Digital external drive. So, what I had to do was transfer my entire archive of photo folders from the WD to the new DS1512+. This process took a couple of hours so please be patient. Once the transfer completed, I had to then point my LightRoom catalogue to the new folder destination on the NAS. Pretty easy!
One thing you should remember is that there are multiple spinning disks in this thing. If the power in your office goes out, those disks but not shut down or start back up in a synchronized fashion, resulting in possible disaster. Therefore, to not take any chances, I purchased an APC Back-UPS 550VA for less than $70 USD. This is small back up energy supply that I now hook up my DiskStation, modem and router too. In the case that there is a power outage, these devices will not immediately shut off. There is a dataport to USB that connects directly with the DiskStation and allows a link to be made. You can make the settings so that when there is an outage, the DiskStation will safely shut down on its own after say 10 minutes and start back up when it detects a return of power. Works like a charm.
I have been using the Synology DS1512+ for a few weeks now. So, I’ve had no major issues with it what so ever. As someone who just wants to take photos and isn’t an IT guru, I did have to go through a minimal but not frustrating learning curve. The future holds many possibilities as new units from Pegasus and Drobo boast new Thunderbolt transfer capabilities. Overall, I really like using this NAS set up as opposed to the traditional single external drive. It is a breeze and gives my mind some peace knowing that my precious data is more protected than before.
Update: March 20, 2013
After lunch, I received an email from my DS1512 informing that one of the hard drives was having an issue and that only 4 of the 5 were active. Sure enough when I walked into my office I heard a beeping sound of the unit itself. I logged onto the DS manager on my Macbook Pro and saw which drive failed. I did not really panic because I had a spare drive on hand for this very reason. I simply removed the faulty drive and popped in the new one and hit the “repair” button in the manager. And a few hours later, I received an email that all the data was “rebuilt” and was back to full RAID-5 1-disk failure tolerance. So, this problem is not with Synology at all, the unit is awesome. One of the Seagate 3TB barracuda drives died on me and will be looking to exchange it. I guess this why we call it RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks)…we just have another “cheap” on hand at all times right?