Save the cat pictures! (Help me pick a home NAS)
January 13, 2020 5:00 AM   Subscribe

I want to set up a new network attached storage (NAS) device for backing up pictures, media, and whatnot for a household of four people with a mix of Linux, macOS, and Windows devices. Minimum four disk bays, preferably five. Help!

I currently have a 5-bay Drobo-FS that's working but extremely meh. The admin software is out of date, seems to have an ancient SMB implementation that requires fudgery to get a modern Linux SMB mount going, and I'm looking to replace that.

I would most appreciate suggestions from folks who have a setup they can recommend. I've been researching and researching online and I keep hitting reviews for each major brand (Western Digital, Synology, QNAP, etc.) that make me wary.

What I want is something that is reasonably fast over the network that I can mount via NFS or SMB, bonus points if I can shell in and use SFTP/SSH with it. Needs to support macOS, Linux, and Windows. Preferably it would have a web-based admin interface rather than a native client - the Drobo FS client stinks on ice and doesn't run on the latest version of macOS at all. (And they haven't updated it to do so, so I'm especially unlikely to choose a new Drobo device.)

Would also like to use this as media storage for Plex, but I'm not interested in running Plex on the device itself. I have a separate boxen for Plex serving that has a direct Internet connection and no personal data at all on it otherwise.

I'm open to just setting up a FreeNAS server on my own with the five drives in the Drobo, but I'd really prefer an appliance I don't have to fuss with much.

Folks who have similar setups at home, would love to hear hands-on experience and recommendations!
posted by jzb to Technology (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Synology is the rock solid best bet I can offer you. My 4-bay DS411 is still running after 8 years and there are still firmware security updates being made. All of the original drives have failed out and been replaced seamlessly over time with no data loss while the unit itself just keeps running (though needs yearly vacuuming out of dust/cat hair). These people are in it for the long haul. Highest recommendation. Oh, and the Time Machine (OSX) support is perfect. If/when I need to buy another NAS, it will be a Synology.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:13 AM on January 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

I can't be arsed dealing with web interfaces if avoiding them is at all possible, so I just run Armbian headless on an Odroid XU4 with a stack of USB3 drives attached and admin it via ssh. If I were going to buy new hardware I'd go with an Odroid N2; it's a newer design than the XU4, its power consumption is lower and it's fanless.

Both these Odroid boards have proper gigabit Ethernet ports, and with UASP-compatible drives or enclosures attached to the USB3 ports they make a very cheap and very performant NAS that doesn't lock you in to any single vendor's software offerings. If you want to web it up you can add OpenMediaVault.
posted by flabdablet at 5:26 AM on January 13, 2020

I have a Synology 413j, which is a four-bay unit from 2013. It's still awesome, though I want a new one.

I run Plex on a Raspberry Pi 3, with the media mounted on SMB shares, which Roku units call upon for our personal media. The Synology can lag a little when Plex hasn't been used in a while: lately we have seen the Roku reboot(!!) when movie files don't open fast enough. This is obviously the SMB mount being stale and getting refreshed, but I totally blame the Roku software. *shrug* My family all just accepts it, so we're living with it. :7)

But the Synology has a nice GUI and also offers SSH. There are good community packages for stuff like COPS and Plex if you want, and the stock apps seem to work, too.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:06 AM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

I recently got a Synology 8 bay NAS DiskStation DS1819+ and wondered why I waited so long. Oh yeah...that + (8 x 4TB) hard drives = dollar dollar. Up until then I had been using an old 2008 Mac Pro which I installed FreeNAS on and fiddled with, held my breath and backed up religiously while spending more dollars on electricity.

I would recommend looking into a Synology NAS. Maybe plan for the future and get one with more bays than you need or make sure the one you do get can accept larger capacity hard drives if you want to increase storage in the future.
posted by eatcake at 9:24 AM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the suggestions. Based on the overwhelming confidence in Synology I ordered a 5-bay to arrive tomorrow and will work with that. Thanks again, y'all rock!
posted by jzb at 10:30 AM on January 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

10TB drives sold inside Western Digital "One Book" external USB drives can be removed (a process called "shucking"), and they're really nice drives. Best Buy and Amazon often have them for about $129 or $159, which is dirt cheap for a lot of storage. Search the r/DataHoarders subreddit for links to a YT video.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:31 AM on January 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Seagate makes some nice big drives as well, similarly cheap when sold in USB3 enclosures. I quite enjoy not even needing to shuck them before hotplugging them onto my Odroid-based server.

The Odroid N2 also comfortably outperforms any Synology device I'm aware of on CPU performance, RAM size and power consumption as well. But until pre-built OpenMediaVault images become available for it, it will certainly remain fiddlier to set up than an appliance-style NAS.
posted by flabdablet at 5:31 PM on January 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

fwiw, last month Drobo finally released a version of Dashboard (3.5.0) that supports MacOS Catalina.

Which is not to dissuade you from getting a Synology -- that's probably my next NAS appliance purchase too. If Drobo needs seven months to patch their software for a scheduled OS release, they lose my trust in their product. But I thought it was worth pointing out that, for at least a little while, your Mac isn't locked out of your Drobo.
posted by ardgedee at 5:24 AM on January 16, 2020

« Older why is my 'morning sickness' increasing?   |   I don't want to miss a thing. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.