Synology DS213j Home to Small Office 2-bay NAS Review

Storage/NAS by stefan @ 2013-10-15

Synology has NASes available for all price ranges. In this review we will look upon one of their offering aimed at budget conscious people, with two internal bays for 3.5’’ drives (for 2.5’’ we need to purchase an optional adapter), which also features a single-core 1.2Ghz processor along with 512MB of RAM and runs the latest version of DSM.

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At first I would like to thank Synology for offering a sample of their DS213j 2-bay NAS Server for testing and reviewing.


About Synology:

"Founded in 2000, Synology is a young and energetic company dedicated to developing high-performance, reliable, versatile, and environmentally-friendly Network Attached Storage (NAS) products. Our goal is to deliver user-friendly solutions and solid customer service to satisfy the needs of businesses, home offices, individual users and families."

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Comment from jmke @ 2013/10/15
ordered Synology DS-1513+

it's modularity with custom scripting, cronjobs and Hybrid Raid make it a worthy dedicated OS server replacement. What my server currently does, I can now mimic 99% of it under the DSM of Synology (tested with one at work):
- file server (duh!)
- print server
- backup to clould storage (amazon glacier default, crashplan+ through custom config)
- backup from clients to server (Acronis backup)
- iTunes media server
- streaming media (live conversion of formats to match client needs)

what I don't know it can do is scheduled automated FTP backups (have a cronjob running now that downloads a backup of the site through ftp, from what I can see, it's not easily done through the GUI... and even command line I didn't immediately see a copy-paste solution... to be investigated )

going to a NAS vs complete OS you do lose a lot of flexibility, in return you get more freedom of troubleshooting through tried&tested plug in modules you just add to your system.
Comment from jmke @ 2014/01/15
follow-up after being the Synology NAS "Synology DS-1513+"

Bought this one about 2 months ago to replace a home build server that was running Windows 2003. I've replicated 99% of the tasks I want from the full blown server to this compact Synology, the DSM software is powerful and the extra packages and available sources add a lot of value and functionality.

Features worthy of note:
- Recycle Bin option, very useful to enable on the photo/music/document shares, when you delete files from file station, or over NSF/SMB it will move them to a recycle bin folder in the root of each share. Extremely handy in case you deleted a file and want it back without going to restore from backup.
- speaking of backup: you left this out of the review, worthy to include, hook up an USB 2.0/3.0 drive and you can use it as a backup target, first run it will do a full backup, then incremental afterwards, you can also define to have up to X version of a file. Say you change a file every day, you can keep a backup of 3 last versions, nifty. works the same way as "previous versions" in windows and "time machine" on mac. Synology NAS is seen as capable Time Machine target too, even with the latest OS X Mavericks!
- I was using on my windows server for offsite backup, there's plugin available on the DSM for this, so I can continue using CrashPlan with the Synology!
- The "photo" "video" and "audio" station apps are "nice to have" but imho nowhere near as powerful as their desktop alternatives. when you mount data shares from PC/Mac you can better use Picasa/iPhoto to manager pictures, use iTunes for music and just use VLC/Media Player Classic for video. The only redeeming feature of "audio" station is the ability to stream music directly to Airplay speakers; DSM plugin available: Logitech Media Server, works very nicely too if you a Squeeze Media Player!
When playing media from mobile devices, it's imho not worth it to use DS Files or any of the other DS apps unless you require remote access to them from the internet. Otherwise a FileBrowser app + VLC will take care of 99% of media playback from you mobile device.
You can browse to the DSM Admin site from mobile browser, it will present a nice mobile interface to manage the NAS!
- Download Station: paste a link to youtube URL in the top left field and it will download it :-)

I haven't made the NAS reachable from the internet (port forwarding) but Synology goes the extra length to make it easy with their Router Wizard and general user friendliness, even if you have never owned a server or NAS before you will get a lot out of the Synology thanks to the DSM; If have you experience with a server setup , the Synology will really blossom, it's not the cheapest solution on the block, don't buy it if you only want a "box full of disks", it's way to overpriced for that; buy it to have a smart backup/media/storage solution, with tons of features, plugins and active community.

ps: the functionality I haven't reproduced yet is a scheduled FTP download job, but since you can Telnet into the Synology box you can run scripts and set them to execute automatically. Will come back on this when I have a bit of spare time.

overall I'm pretty pleased with the investment;
some random data:
- 5x2TB initialization time approx 24 hrs.
- easily maxes out 1 gigabit network;
- enough RAM to run a minecraft server
- dual CPU never sees higher than 60% and that's when I fully loaded it will all features running... except when you use video station to re-encode video, then the system maxes out and flunks most of the time... don't use it to re-encode! Plex media server is a possible install, tried it, but found the re-encode to be a limiting factor for HD content;
- if you want to be able to browse over SMB from a XBMC install, enable the guest account on Synology, otherwise you get an error (only to browse! and once you browsed, disable it again)
- it's a quiet box, and doesn't use much energy ~45W at idle 60-70W full load (building raid array)

with the disks nicely filled and running some music playback, copy operations I pulled a disk from the Synology; the system took about 60 seconds to "unfreeze" after which things continued as normal. Putting in another disk it has to be THE SAME SIZE OR LARGER! important to know because not all brands are exactly the same size.

Synology Hybrid RAID is nice as you're not stuck using the same size disks forever, you can upgrade disk per disk in the system and expand, it's not exactly the same as UNRAID ( which would be my choice if I were to build a custom NAS again, but a close second, you use this calculator to see how much space you get the Hybrid RAID:

I agree on the HDMI port missing, QNAP does have it and the ability to run XBMC directly from the NAS is a very nice plus, now I have a second device for XBMC which is kind of a waste.
Comment from jmke @ 2014/01/15
Placed a DS213+ on a remote location; used Synology DYNDNS service, set up port forwarding for network backup and it's good to go

* daily offsite backup in place and working nicely; run it during the night, even 100GB+ is no problem, after initial sync, the incremental backup takes less than an hour!
* added mail server and mail station app. Log in to /mail with an administrator account to enable pop3 incoming setting; Then set up an account to download emails from POP3 from your ISP or Gmail; now you have an email backup which is available anything, either from web interface or pop3/IMAP client. (tested with Outlook 2010, works good!)
Comment from jmke @ 2014/01/20
Got my first disk failure, scheduled weekly Quick SMART and yearly Long SMART tests. Quick SMART test of 16/01 failed, repeatidly, unrecoverable errors. Remove disk , insert new one, took less than 1 minute! rebuild will take longer... but system never went down.

I did not get a notification of SMART test failure though as the the progress meter was stuck at 90%. Maybe they should add "if smart test takes longer than xxx time, trigger warning"
Comment from Stefan Mileschin @ 2014/01/21
I am curious what is the life expectancy of modern HDDs if we use it for 30 minutes maximum a week compared to 24/7 hour usage inside the NAS. I use my NAS to store data which does not fit anymore on my PCs and after thransfer has been completed I shut it down (I like to call it as a backup despite the fact that a real backup means transporting a mirror of the same data to another NAS, preferably of the same size).
Comment from jmke @ 2014/01/22
WD quality inside and out ... WD GreeN™. Cool, quiet operation for ... MTBF. 3.5-inch. 3 TB. WD30EFRX. 64 MB. SATA 6 Gb/s. Yes. 1 million hours
MTBF states 114 years, unfortunately MTBF has been declared a pretty much useless number.

what kills hard drives, is changing of states, in my experience. on/off , on/off. etc. will create more wear and tear than just spinning none stop. so imho a drive in NAS will outlast one in a desktop
Comment from Stefan Mileschin @ 2014/01/22
Originally Posted by jmke View Post
MTBF states 114 years, unfortunately MTBF has been declared a pretty much useless number.

what kills hard drives, is changing of states, in my experience. on/off , on/off. etc. will create more wear and tear than just spinning none stop. so in my humble opinion a drive in NAS will outlast one in a desktop
I fully understand what you mean, but the drives go on-off more times in a NAS compared to a desktop, especially in a home environment mainly because they go to "sleep mode" during nights at least. If the NAS gets accessed quite often or the sleep mode is turned off completely, then there is another situation.
Comment from jmke @ 2014/01/23
but the drives go on-off more times in a NAS compared to a desktop
HDDs in desktop also go into hibernation
I've put mine at max of 5 hrs, but with mailstation, downloadstation and other sync services , they never get to 5hrs idle