Synology File Storage Notes

DS1511+ Front

DS1511+ FrontI spent some time this weekend playing around with my Synology 1511+ NAS and various file functions. I decided to start collecting some of the less obvious (at least to me) things I learned. My setup is a Synology DS1511+ with two DX510 expansion units.

  • RAID array rebuilds are a low priority background task and have no noticeable impact on performance.
    Example: I was doing a RAID rebuild while at the same time running robocopy to copy about 5.5 TB from the drive array to a different array. The RAID array rebuild progressed less than 10% during the first day and a half while the copy (and other activity) were running. Once the copy was done and the drive wasn’t being used the remaining rebuild took less than 6 hours.
  • DSM seems to queue even unrelated drive/volume changes and does them serially.
    Example: During an array rebuild on one disk group I expanded a iSCSI LUN on a volume configured on a second disk group. Despite not being on the same drives and seemingly unrelated I had to wait for the array rebuild to finish before the LUN expansion happened. It could be initiated, but stayed in a “waiting” state until the raid rebuild was done.
  • The root and swap file systems (basically the OS) are on the DS1511+ drives but not part of the file system volume that’s on the drives. They appear to be spread across all drives.
    Example: Removing the volume that’s on the drives still lets the system boot. Removing one of the drives, even with no volumes on it, results in messages that the root and swap volumes have entered a degraded state. Popping in a new drive results in eventual message that the consistency check on both volumes is done. At this point an additional drive can be removed and replaced without a negative impact (but another degrade/consistency check).
  • DSM did not like it when I removed Volume 1 from the DSM 1511+. I was a bit concerned it wouldn’t let me remove the only volume in the unit, but it did so without any warning messages before I told it to go ahead and do it (I had moved everything off it – it does warn if a share, service or package would be impacted). But during the removal I got a message that the volume had crashed. There’s not much to do with a crashed volume so I rebooted. The volume was gone after the reboot and everything seems fine.
  • Disk Group and Volume names are system generated and cannot be changed (at least through the GUI). Just something to keep in kind if you try to organize disk groups. When I deleted Disk Group 1 I still had disk groups 2 & 3. When I went to recreate the disk group it was named Disk Group 4 and I had no disk group 1. (This might be related to the crash when I removed the original Volume 1 but it does seem completely gone.) [Updated Apr. 29th: When I created a disk group and volume about a week later they both slotted in as Volume 1 and Disk Group 1 respectively. I also did a firmware upgrade before doing the volume and group creation.

That was it for this weekend’s explorations. I did come up with a couple of questions I want to explore in the future:

    1. Can the disk groups be moved between the expansion bays (for example, if a expansion bay fails can it be moved to a new one)? A similar question is can the drives be moved to a new NAS and preserve the data, but I don’t have the hardware to check that out.
    2. If DSM 4 is re-installed, will the disk groups and anything installed on them remain after the installation? According to Synology this can be done, although with the loss of configuration data for some Synology DSM services that are kept in it’s internal database.
    3. After swapping out the fourth drive (out of 5) I never got the consistency check finished messages for the root and swap. Maybe it did a consistency check on one of the reboots and never logged it. Maybe I’ll crash the system when I pull that fifth disk. [Apr.29th: Pulling the drive went fine, see below.]

I suspect that the DS1511+ will crash when I pull that 5th drive for replacement. Synology’s solution involves having their tech support remote in the check/repair the file system. Instead I’ll make sure I have an extra backup then go for it. Might as well test how this thing holds up. Once I know I’ll update this article.

[Updated Apr. 29th]

I was wrong in point #3. Everything was fine when I pulled that 5th drive. I got the degraded error message for root and swap but everything worked, even with a reboot. Eventually I received the message that the rebuild was complete. So it looks like those earlier consistency check complete messages were just lost in the ether.


Swapping HP MicroServer Hardware

Frustrated Man tile

Frustrated Man tileAlternate titles for this post include “It’s not always Microsoft’s fault” and “It’s not always the last change that broke it.”. I started off last weekend applying this months Microsoft security updates to my Windows Home Server and ended it with the HP MicroServer swapped out.

Everything was fine when I applied the updates and rebooted the server. It never came back online. I run the server headless so all I knew was the server had power and there was no hard drive ativity. I figured the MS security updates had corrupted the OS so I moved the boot drive to another box to check it out. (Much easier than moving the server to a monitor.) The drive was fine. So it was time to move the MicroServer to my workbench so I could hook up a monitor an keyboard.

Long story short, I spent some time swapping drives around and checking things out until a light bulb went off and I went into the BIOS. The drive priorities were back to the defaults (I boot from a drive I added to the media bay so it’s not the default first drive).  So setting the drive priority allowed the server to boot. It booted fine so I put it back in its place.

But I wasn’t done. The server seemed to be fine from my desktop but I couldn’t access it from my laptop. I thought this was a wireless problem, but other wireless devices also had intermittent problems. While I first thought it was a wireless problem, further tests showed it was a problem with the WHS 2011 box and probably the onboard NIC. It was the only box with a problem, and even the wired connections had problems once I started doing more than pings. Since I use the onboard NIC and opening up the MicroServer is a hassle I decided a server swap was the path of least resistance since I had a second server with the same hardware. Then I could work on the problem box at my leisure.

The replacement server was the exact same hardware and had the same BIOS version so I wasn’t expecting any problems. I moved the drives over and fired the replacement up.

Configuring WHS 2011 on New Hardware

Once the drives were in (and set properly in the BIOS) I fired the box up. The server booted fine. There were some settings I had to change or update:

  • I had to re-enter the IP address & configuration. The OS remembered the original adapter and saw the new hardware as a new NIC so it created a new connection. I use a hardcoded IP configuration so I had to re-enter it.
  • WHS 2011 had to be re-activated within 3 days. Makes sense since as far as the OS is concerned it’s all new hardware.
  • I had to reconnect the iSCSI drive. Although the drive and data was fine I did have to reconnect it.

Once I made those changes I was good to go and moved the home server back to it’s place on the shelf. Getting the server running on the new hardware took less than half an hour once I made the decision. Unfortunately all the troubleshooting before that took all the time. Despite the problem happening with the super Tuesday updates the problems were unrelated and probably would have occurred whenever I did the next reboot. It took me some time to convince myself the problem  wasn’t related to the patches.

This is one situation where keeping things simple (no RAID arrays or fancy hardware) and cheap made for a quick recovery since I had a complete new computer that I could pop the drives in and go.


The OS Quest Trail Log #69: Irish Cheer Edition

Leprechaun with a beerWinter was so mild it was hard to notice the recent arrival of spring. But the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration served as a spring early warning. February was a slow month on the quest so there wasn’t a Trail Log last month, but things picked up a bit in March. The biggest change (well, arguably) was the new iPad. But I figure you’re as tired of hearing about it as I am so I’ll save that update until the end.

A Little Less iTunes

I recently looked at Instacast and Downcast as podcast apps for my iPhone and iPad. Both were good enough to get me off iTunes for podcasts. A long overdue event. Both are still on my iPhone and iPad although I’m going with Downcast as my first choice.

I also switched over to iCloud for my iDevice backups instead of my Mac. I’d stuck to Mac for backups for two reasons: security and time machine. I’d been saved once by being able to go back to an older iPad backup saved by Time Machine. But when I got my new iPad I rebuilt it from scratch, no restore. That rebuild took longer than the restore, but not by much and not for the important stuff. As for security, I recently realized I could exclude some app data which alleviated my security concerns. And not backing up that data isn’t a problem since that particular data exists elsewhere and syncs to the iPhone.

All that’s left for iTunes is my music management. These days that means I won’t use it very much. Synology has an iTunes services for music and video management. I haven’t used it yet and third party apps that emulate iTunes don’t appeal to me since I figure it’s only a matter of time before an Apple change breaks something, Plus, music management is the only thing I still do with iTunes.

Software Upgrades

Synology Disk Station Manager 4 left beta and saw a production release. I was already running the beta so the upgrade was a non-event. I didn’t notice a difference in the relatively small subset of features I use.

CrashPlan saw a minor upgrade. It’s been set it and forget it on my Windows Home Server 2011 so again,  no noticeable change for ne,

Picasa (on Windows) had another upgrade or two the last couple months, They usually go quickly without a hitch. But the latest one caused me problems. Picasa wouldn’t start after the upgrade so I had to uninstall and reinstall. It saved the setting (database) so everything was fine after the installation.

There was the typical stream of software upgrades but other than Picasa they were all uneventful.

Home Cloud

I had an email asking me if I had found a way to route my internal network based on target URL rather than just the port. (Layer 7 routing or deep packet inspection). I haven’t found anything suitable for a home (meaning free or low cost). This has made me go down a different path. I’ve been finishing up testing IPSec VPN into my home. This gives me the connectivity I need for myself as if I was local. And it’s secure.

That doesn’t work for public or family access that I want to keep simple. But that access is pretty simple and really only one web device (port 80/443) so there’s really no concern. Synology has some ability to target different Synology NAS’s from outside my home network so I’ve started looking at that.


OK, now for the iPad mention. The more I’ve used my iPad the more I’ve liked the screen. Since the text is sharper it’s been easier to read. I still prefer an e-ink Kindle for longer reader sessions when it’s just text. But the iPad is clearly the best LCD screen I’ve used for reading.

I guess this year’s internet kerfuffle for the iPad was the heat issue. As I mentioned in my initial review:

The iPad 2 never got warm for me. The new iPad has gotten warm enough to notice. It’s not hot, but there was a temperature increase while watching video and after extended use. Never happened on the iPad 2.

Compared the the iPad  2 which never seemed to get above room temperature the new iPad got warm, but never too warm to touch or anywhere near hat I would call hot. Maybe some sort of event trifecta would cause more problems or maybe there’s some bad iPads out there. But from my experience it’s a non-issue. I can’t remember the last time I had a laptop that wasn’t hotter.