Personal Cloud space at home | a Synology 213+ review

Lately, I’ve been interested in personal cloud technology. NAS devices have come a long way from the dumb storage boxes of the past. These days, higher end consumer grade NAS devices provides applications that are fairly useful to “power” users. The product I ended up selecting was a Synology 213+ 2 bay NAS device. This unit offers several functions where I could consolidate a number of previously decentralized data at home. I’ll provide an overview of how my setup is laid out.

The central point is the Synology 213+ unit. There are more powerful versions of the product, but considering my budget, this was the one that fit the bill for my installation. The original goal was to provide backups for some 40,000+ pictures and hundreds of personal videos captured from my DSLR. The idea was to consolidate my pictures from my desktop 15k photos and 25k photo’s on my laptop into one place. I’ve been using aperture for the most part, but I wanted to switch to Adobe Lightroom, since I use Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 on my desktop.

After looking around the internet I came across the Synology line up and then realized how far NAS products have changed. They allow for personal streaming content as well as automated backups to the “cloud”, in this case Amazon Glacier, where 1GB of cold storage costs $0.01 / month, which is pretty cheap. So I began reading more and found that I could centralize my documents, photos, video, music, and even my code repository on the NAS and then send it to the could as an off-site backup. I haven’t really come across something that would do everything I wanted up until I found this product. Before, I would put my photos and videos on smugmug, documents on google drive, code repository on github. All of which was fairly time consuming to organize and synchronize.

My setup:

I bought the Synology 213+, 2x3TB Western Digital Red drives, and downloaded the Synology apps. Ultimately, I went with RAID 0 since its a 2 bay drive and I wanted the space and performance. My data redundancy comes from uploading the most important content to Amazon Glacier. My rational is that I am keeping the most important stuff there, not dvd rips or other things like that. I wouldn’t recommend this unit if your main purpose is to watch video/movies and make it a media center. This is more of a jack of all trades for me. There are some compromises I made in my decision but my usage is mainly for personal memories that I would not want to lose if my place were to burn down.

Cost:

  • Synology 213+: $299
  • WD 3TB Red drives: $134
  • Total: $568 for 5.5 TB usable space.
    I couldn’t justify spending an extra $200 for 2 more drive bays, that I wasn’t planning on using. If anything I will just get another unit later and reprovision or sell it.

Things that caught my attention:

  • Port Forwarding
  • Apps Used: Cloud Station, Audio Station, Backup Glacier, Plex, Video Station, File Station,
  • Synology MyDS DDNS service which is provided free by Synology. If you already have a domain, you could point a CNAME to the your.synology.me ddns address for free.
  • Setup Directory Structure and Users
  • Setup Amazon Glacier

The unit I got the 213+ isn’t an intel processor, so there are some performance limitations. The 413+ or 713+ is better equipped if you want to use it as a media center, but like I said that was not my original goal. The 213+ uses less power and I won’t really be using the streaming, but a big plus for being able to stream and then display on Apple TV via Airplay.

Performance:

The performance is pretty good in terms of throughput with approx 20mbps-70mbps, but the initial setup with the disk consistency check takes forever. The initial upload of data to Glacier takes forever too. After that though, the unit performs well.

The java based UI is pretty good and very clean. Overall, I like the idea of having a personal cloud and putting all my crap into one place where I’m in control and someone else doesn’t really own my content. The Media station was also a pleasant surprise, but not something I would intend to use regularly via cloud but the documents and photographs are a nice thing to have around when I want. I really like the device and would recommend it to others who are looking to consolidate data for all your devices; laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets to keep all the data in sync and most importantly, backed up, which was the original goal in the first place… It is a little costly, but for me its worth it.

Other alternative NAS devices are made by Drobo, ReadyNAS, WD, Buffalo, and Lacie, but I found Synology had the best reviews for the apps I wanted to use.