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Synology's DS408 Reviewed: Fast NAS For Pros

Introduction

The need for storage space used to house digital media files is constantly increasing. Some people assume that even an average household wants to store up to one terabyte of data. This mass of information mainly consists of large MP3 collections, broadcast content preserved via digital video recorders (DVRs), and pictures/movies recorded with digital video cameras. Although you might not yet need 1 TB yourself, it always makes sense to future-proof anything you buy.

More Storage Space for Beginners and Enthusiasts

The question is what to do with all that data. Putting one or even several large hard drives into your own computer is simple a simple task for professionals, but less advanced users may be scared of this. And if you’re productivity-minded, then you already know that centralizing information is much smarter than spreading critical files all over your home network. If you want to access your data from different devices in a network—think of a Home Theater PC (HTPC) or a game console—there is only one alternative for many users, whether they be pros or beginners: using a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.

NAS devices are, at a most basic level, simple computers without graphics cards equipped with one or more storage interfaces that to connect hard drives. The operating system, usually a version of Linux, is stored on a built-in flash module. Accessing the data stored on a NAS device, as well as configuring the hard drives and setting up the NAS device, can be done over the network.

Most NAS appliances sport different RAID modes, which guarantee a certain level of data security if one hard drive fails. Another feature of NAS hardware is generally lower power consumption compared to average desktop PCs, creating a case for buying purpose-built hardware instead of using an old machine as a storage server. Depending on the model you’re looking at, expect to see consumption numbers between 20 and 70 watts.

Many Functions, Easy To Use

Although the main performance-defining criteria of NAS storage is usually it data transfer rate on the network, many manufacturers also focus on simple and transparent ease of use. This is because an increasingly long list of value-added capabilities, like integrated FTP serving, database storage, and media streaming, are being integrated into NAS devices.

All of these services need to be configured and customized. Even if the data transfer rate of a NAS device is very good, a complicated and confusing configuration can scare off potential buyers. We’re finding that Synology’s Disk Station DS408 is a good example of a device that combines high data transfer rate and functionality with an outstanding configuration interface.

  • slomo4sho
    Wouldn't a HTPC style server with raid configured terabyte drives provide similar or better performance for a fraction of the cost? I mean the most expensive component in such a setup would be the dual LAN motherboard...
    Reply
  • VTOLfreak
    You don't even need a dual lan mobo. Just stick an extra NIC into a PCIe slot. (Or PCI)

    And you are right, a homebuilt server running some flavor of Linux would be faster and cheaper. You'd also be able to ditch your router and use the server as router aswell.

    The downside is ofcourse is that its a DIY job. You need to assemble the hardware yourself, then install and configure the whole thing. For some people thay may be a major problem.
    Reply
  • Actually VTOLfreak has a good point. A homebuilt server would cost about the same and completely kill this thing performance wise. Granted you'd would need to Do-It-Yourself but I would hope most Tom's readers are already DIY type. :D I should also point out that the QNAP NAS's are only slightly slower and the Linux community has already hacked / ported a version of Debian Linux in testing to it. It's what I plan on doing with my QNAP NAS to release it's full functionality. Here's the website: http://www.cyrius.com/debian/orion/qnap/
    Reply
  • malveaux
    Heya,

    NAS will never match a computer with the disks in the box over a network's performance. NAS is simple. This NAS box they're talking about is an expensive "computer" with no hardware. You could get a cheap motherboard/CPU/RAM/Case for like $200 bare bones (you don't need a dualcore for this; hence most folk at home with NAS just converted an old computer into one) and just toss in some drives and you're set so long as you have a gigabit lan card installed. All cheap. Install FREENAS and put the thing in a closet or wherever and forget it.

    These expensive empty NAS chasis are essentially for small businesses that want it to be absolutely simplistic and don't mind overpaying for something their IT guy could build for cheaper and likely more reliable.

    Cheers,
    Reply
  • malveaux
    My god, $750?

    Mobo with onboard video and onboard RAID5 and gigabit LAN at newegg: $150
    AMD5000+ retail $60 at newegg
    RAM, 2gigs DDR2 800 $50 at newegg
    Case with 300~400watt PSU, $50 at newegg
    WD 640g 7200rpm drive $75 at newegg
    FreeNAS - Free at freenas.org

    $310 for the system and the OS.

    Get 5 WD 640g 7200rpm drives @ $75 each, for $375

    Configure in a RAID5 setup: 2.5 tb of storage with parity against a drive fail.

    $685.

    Still cheaper than that "pro" nas thing. Faster. And it has potential to be added to beyond it's limited walls unlike that "pro" nas box there.

    Cheers,
    Reply
  • zak_mckraken
    I've been looking around for a NAS solution myself and I still can't decide what would be the best for me. So far I've been looking at that setup:
    Chenbro ES34069 + riser card : 240,00 $
    Intel D945GCLF2 + Atom Dual Core 1.6ghz : 103,08 $
    Kingston 2go KVR667D2N5K2/2G : 36,15 $
    Promise Fasttrak TX4310 Raid 5 : 149,04 $
    Seagate 500go ST3500320AS X3 : 228,54$ (76,18 $ each)
    Total : 756,81 $

    BTW, these prices are in candadian dollars. What really raises the bill are the raid card and the case. I've been looking for a Mini-ITX mainly for the fun of building such a small PC but I'm not sure if it's worth the price yet. It will also take less space and consume less power than a normal PC but then again is it worth paying over 200$ more?

    I'm also worried about Raid 5 performance. With such a setup, I would have 1tb of data in Raid 5 on a gigabit LAN. My initial plan is to replace (not just backup) my multimedia files on my computer and mapmy personal folder directly to the NAS. This way, I would have more space on my computer and the files would also be available to stream from my 360. Do you think such a setup would be seamless for my computer or will I experience some lag with the mapped folders?
    Reply
  • daft
    malveauxMy god, $750?Mobo with onboard video and onboard RAID5 and gigabit LAN at newegg: $150AMD5000+ retail $60 at neweggRAM, 2gigs DDR2 800 $50 at neweggCase with 300~400watt PSU, $50 at neweggWD 640g 7200rpm drive $75 at neweggFreeNAS - Free at freenas.org$310 for the system and the OS.Get 5 WD 640g 7200rpm drives @ $75 each, for $375Configure in a RAID5 setup: 2.5 tb of storage with parity against a drive fail.$685.Still cheaper than that "pro" nas thing. Faster. And it has potential to be added to beyond it's limited walls unlike that "pro" nas box there.Cheers,
    its a NAS, it doesn't need that high end of a mobo
    (all parts newegg)
    cpu: AMD x2 5000+ $59
    mobo: Foxconn A74MX-K $50
    Case: Linkworld PRESCOTT 437-01-C2222 Black SECC/SGCC MicroATX Mid Tower Computer 430 watt PSU $33
    Ram: OCZ OCZ2VU8002GK 2x1GB ddr2 800 $24
    NIC: Zonet 10/100 (not everyone has 100+ Mb internet access)$10
    HDD: 4X SAMSUNG HD103UI 1TB 5400 RPM $99 each $396 total
    3x molex to sata cable $3 each $6.87 total (savings)

    total $578.79 with shipping $609.32



    Reply
  • snarfies1
    So far every NAS I've ever seen falls into one of two categories - crap that doesn't work well/right, and/or insanely expensive. The first company who comes up with a solution that doesn't fall into either category will have my money. Until then, do not want.
    Reply
  • doittoit
    I struggled with this for months. Here's what I did and why:

    I already had an old northwood 3.0 and raid capable motherboard for which I found a new bios for that supported raid 5. The board has a GB ethernet NIC integral to it. I started out buying a case ($59, 7 x 3 1/2" internal, 5 x 5 1/4" external) and a tagan 700W single 12v rail PS ($80). I bought 3 x samsung spinpoint F1 750 GB sata II ($99 ea). Put xp on it, built the array with a stripe size of 32k. 15 MB/s write, 50 MB/s read. Pathetic!! Pulled out a drive, formatted it on another PC, and stuck it back in for a rebuild of the ~1.4 TB array. After running for 4 days and not completing, I pulled the plug.

    Phase 2 additions:
    Intel DG33TL motherboard ($99). Integrated video, HD audio (digital in, digital out), Intel GBe, ICH9R onboard. Intel e7200 CPU ($99) - 65W TDP, 4 x corsair XMS2 2 GB PC6400 DDR2 ($55 per pair - total $110).
    Bought a ocpy of vista64 to address the 8GB ram AND create GPT > 2TB. Bought another samsung spnpoint F1 ( so now 4 x 750 in raid 5) in 1 ~2.1TB volume.

    I used passmark to benchmark seq read, seq write, and random access locally. Over 200 MB/s read and write locally. Random access ~10MB/s. I used the same Intel NAS benchmark suite and got over double performance in every single benchmark over the network that the reviewed NAS got. Rebuild of the array takes ~4 hours.

    Approximately $850 + OS. Found a hack to put the terminal services DDL from server 2008 on vista64 sp1 so I can have multiple simultaneous users remoted-in. I have MySQL, SQL Server 2005, and SQL Server 2008 installed, antivirus, centralized backup of all PC's on the network to one location.

    In my opinion, unless it is REALLY CHEAP, NAS is a waste of money. If you can administer this NAS (raid level, permissions), then you can administer the "server" I describe with the added bonus of being able to use a windows interface.
    Reply
  • falcompsx
    doittoit If you can administer this NAS (raid level, permissions), then you can administer the "server" I describe with the added bonus of being able to use a windows interface.
    not to mention if you buy windows you can let it double as a media center as well. Might need a few upgrades to be HD capable, but it would serve 480P media just fine as is, probably even 720P.
    Reply