John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Synology DS212J NAS review running 4.1-2661

I have read a bunch about these home office NAS solutions and my server in the house was running out of drive bays so I thought I would give this puppy a try. NewEgg had a sale on for $129, regularly $199 and this device supports iSCSI so it seemed like a good option. As I`ve done in the last couple reviews, if your a skimmer, I will save you time. I do not recommend this device. Read on to find out why.

I found this review which I read prior to buying the unit. Performance sounded good.

Physicals are well done, the unit is small, drive bays easy to install, power cord is bigger (reminds me of a laptop brick). I won`t repeat the above review, I will simply give you my thoughts. That review is VERY well done.

First off you have to understand the unit arrives with no hard drives in it, no flash RAM etc, so the first thing you have to do is perform a setup that installs the operating system on the NAS. The doc in the box said to use a synology web site, but that failed. Onto the CD ROM they ship with it and you install Synology Assistant. The code needs to install the NAS first before you get started. You need to manually point at the CDROM and find the NAS install files, and manually select the right file for your unit. Wow, clumsy. The operating system for the NAS is put on both drives for redundancy so make sure you have installed both drives before you start the process. And I have no idea how it handles if you change a drive after the initial install. I didn`t play with that. The operating system Synology uses is a variant of Linux. So if you familiar with Linux you can play. Beware the drives will be wiped in the process so if your reusing drives you can`t keep content on the drive. It does warn you by the way. I was stupid and didn`t check how old the code on the CDROM (and the code itself did not check either) was but check this out:
The code on the web is actually “DSM 5.0-4493; Build Date : 2014-06-04“ so massively newer. Really … another WTF. Of course I only figured this out after I had the unit all set up … grr. Hmm do you think maybe these things are flying off the shelf? Hopefully Synology you aren`t stupid enough to wonder why …

The code gives you a warning about being connected over wireless which I ignored. (I was actually wireless from my laptop into my server, wired from my server to the NAS and the program was running on the server). The install failed with an innocuous error message and informed me to open port 23 and contact Synology. No guidance for non-tekkies on how to open port 23, and no hint or link on how to contact Synology. All in all a bad start. First off I thought it might be that the drives were not blank so I manually wiped them and tried again. No joy. So I then thought I would try from the console of the server, low and behold it installed. Given I was only RDP connected wireless this is bizarre and inexplicable to me. But whatever. Hurdle one overcome.

Now if your expecting a nice wizard based setup to get started with a nice graphical interface for Mom and Pop forget it. This is something that in my opinion was designed by tekkies for tekkies. The setup is really not good. And if you don`t click logon to the NAS from the setup your now trying to figure out how to get into the NAS. Oddly they chose to put the web server for the NAS setup on a non-standard port (5000). And if you didn`t change the default the NAS is on DHCP, I hope you remembered to not the IP address it was set to when you went through the setup otherwise you are going to have to go back to Synology Assistant again. Since I was going to use the device as iSCSI I chose a fixed IP. Be sure and bookmark the web page for the NAS or remember it`s on 5000.

FYI, the Synology assistant does not even like running on a wirelessly connect machine. I found it did not find the NAS.

Once up installed you can now decide how you want to set it up. But be careful. Decisions you make now are not easily changed. So first off you are greeted by this screen:
Ok I guess I click Ok:
and then:
So I figure ok wtf is this. So I click cancel and find myself now sitting next to this screen:
Ok now what? The non-obvious answer is that little box in the top left corner is the equivalent of a start menu and how you get to the various programs that are not on the desktop. Really? Man they sure did not design this for a non-technocrat. Now that said, I understand what is going no, I just think they did a horrible job of making this easy. The process consists of:
1) Create a disk group (using with however number of drives you want 1 or 2. Again they do a horrible job of guiding you. No warnings or explanations. They will let you create a drive that will basically concatenate two physical drives into one. Now while this is a nice option doing so will mean the loss of one drive will more than likely cost you all of the data. A bad idea. If you chose a single drive you can add a mirror easily enough in the future by clicking manage disk group. But beware, adding a second drive kicks off a sync setting up the new mirror that can not be interrupted and will take a while depending on the size of your drives (think 4 hours for a 2TB drive). Interestingly the code shows RAID options (albeit greyed out) that are impossible (they need more than 2 drives to do them). And another odd one is that once a mirror is created there is no supported way to break a mirror. Only delete the mirror. So careful planning is a MUST.
On first creation it tells you that if the drive has not been in the Synology before you ought to do a bad sector scan so it can manage the bad sectors. Sounded like a great idea. So I did it. On a 2TB drive it went through loop after loop of scanning the drive and a day later had not finished. I eventually gave up. If the drive didn`t have bad sectors it would soon. No idea what happened. All the while the NAS is useless, processor pinned and the hard drive getting the snot beat out of it.
2) create a new volume or create an iscsi LUN
3) optionally create a share

iSCSI LUNs can be increased, but never decreased. So again be sure and plan ahead.

You probably want to leave some free space around in case you want to play with added features on the NAS. If you allocated everything you won`t be able to do that. I created a volume just for that purpose.

I installed Cloud station wanting to play with syncing from my phone but found the Android app for the phone is terrible. I didn`t read one of the questions it asked when I was trying to remove the setup and without warning it deleted a directory on my phone that was important enough I was going to back it up. Unbelievable. How about a warning guys.

You can manually enable NTP (for time syncing, no idea why this isn`t the default), and manually enable SSH/Telnet.

From within Package manager you can add additional functionality including cloud services, iTunes and more.

The NAS supports Smart (hard drive error logging and prediction) but alerting in the event of it finding a dieing drive is turned off by default. There are a number of options including send an email, SMS, instant message (Skype, Windows Live) and an Android Ap.

The NAS has two USB 2 ports. A USB printer can be shared but I had nothing but issues trying to get at it from the network. In the end I had to install Synology Assistant on each and every machine I wanted to use the printer on. Adding a USB hard drive allowed it to be shared out from a network share. It never appears in the hard drive menu so it could not be used in any kind of RAID. USB will limit it to around 20MB/s anyway.

So all in all it works, but man it took a lot of time to get it that way. Power consumption is super low so it’s a good choice if your computer is running out of bays or you want some network storage. Just be aware it’s going to take you some time to get this thing setup 😦


August 5, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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