Synology DS412+ Users Review

These are my setup notes combined with a user review the Synology DS412+.  We have bought this device so we: can host some websites from home with low bandwidth high storage requirements; have remote access to files etc; and have a shared drive on our LAN rather than leaving our iMacs on;

The SynBox will initially be loaded with 4x Western Digital 1TB drives that we have left over from our down graded Ubuntu server.  I have completed a SmartCtl Extended Test Reports on these drives and hope despite the extended hours they will work ok for the time being.

Set Up

Loading the Synbox with the drives was effortless so no issues there.  Instinct was to pull the tabs in order to release the drive bays but actually you must push.

I needed to download the latest version of the DSM software from Synology and at the same time grabbed copies of their user guide.  Unlike their instructions I decided to move the DS Assistant application into my applications folder for later use.

We are a Mac/Unix house so the Synbox will be operated from OSx.  Initially I had issues with connection failed when trying to configure the network.   I soon realised that I just needed to turn off my firewall.  Apparently, the synbox uses ports  9997, 9998, 9999 for setup – I will need to exclude these from the firewall if I am to use these regularly – update to follow.

Once over that hurdle the setup was quick and after about five minutes I was ready to login to the the Synbox for the first time.  When I logged the DSM notification system told me that the SHR Volume build was underway and that it would be ready shortly.   I went out for a bit!  Overall I think it took about three hours plus to build and check the volume so a lot of patience is required here.  The DSM web interface is very impressive and has so far worked without fault.

Creating Basic Users and Shared Folders.

The first task was to ensure that we could access it across the local network.  I created new users for the wife and I enabled home directories via the control panel > users > user home button.  I also created some standard folder shares so we can share some joint files such as holiday and money spreadsheets.

This seemed to work seamlessly until I switched on the SynBox firewall.  Despite opening up all the ports that seemed necessary it appears I also need to allow Bonjour through.   This is something I intend to go back and look at when the box is a little more organised.

Web Server Setup

Getting the web working was actually easier than I expected.  I started the service and immediately created a virtual host.  For the base website this was not required and you should place the files for the core website in the web root folder.

Virtual Host configuration for subdomains on dynamic IP Address.

I wanted to be able to take full advantage of the web serving capabilities of the Synbox and set up a moodle subdomain fed by my wildcard dyndns setup.   This meant getting to the  virtual host configuration so a ServerAlias could be added. To do this:

  1. I had to enable SSH Terminal and log in as root.
  2. cd to /usr/syno/etc/
  3. use vi to open httpd-vhost.conf-user where I could add the server alias
  4. restart apache using /usr/syno/etc/rc.d/ restart.

Moodle Data

Getting the permissions sorted for the Moodle Data folder was not straight forward.  Eventually, thanks to another forum I was able to determine that I could tweak the permissions and execute the following commands

chown -R nobody:users /volume1/moodledata
chmod -R 0755 /volume1/moodle

Finally, I had to go to the WebUI > Control Panel > Web Service > PHP setting > enable PHP open_basedir and add /volume1/moodle to the path.

 File and Folder Permissions.

Having looked around the root of the web folder I noticed that the permissions set on the folders and files were pretty loose.  So I used the following lines to reset the file and folder permissions (again via the terminal)

find . -type f -exec chmod 644 {} \;
find . -type d -exec chmod 755 {} \;

note there should be a slash and semi colon at the end of each line.

Remote BackUps

The SynBox comes with wget and crontab available so using sh scripts I have been able to set up remote backups for the VPS that we have.  The scripts collect database dump files nightly and complete backups monthly.

Remote Access

I have installed all available apps from the Apple app store onto my iPad3 and have tried DS Finder and DS File which both seem to work OK.  The other 5 apps (DS Cloud, DS Cam, DS Photo+, DS Video and DS Audio) all appear to require additional packages to be installed onto the SynBox itself so until I have the basics working and done some more reading I’m going to leave those alone.

DS Finder

DS Finder only provides the most basic access.  It allows you to review the status of your SynBox such as general performance, network and storage.  Additionally, you can restart and shutdown the SynBox or switch to DSM Mobile which offers a greater number of management tools but nothing like the full DSM experience.

DS File

DS File uses WebDav to access files on your SynBox with options to email, print or view locally on your iPad.  Once the file is on your iPad you can export the file to another application such as Pages.  Given Pages has the ability to connect directly with WebDav (to be tested) it seems pointless to go via DS File.    It is also not possible to browse from within DS File to the photos stored on the iPad – this appears to be a bit shortsighted.    I know that DS Photo is intended for this but to my best understanding at the moment this links your photos to a photo blog for sharing – I don’t want to share but am looking to back up from a remote location.

Well don’t worry because FTPOnTheGo does browse the iPad photo library and if you enable FTP or if you are wise sFTP [only] then you can upload photos via a secure FTP connection.

First Impressions

Well, its very good.  File transfers seem pretty quick and I have yet to find something I am unable to implement. Probably the only area that raises an eyebrow is web serving. I’m not sure that Moodle is a particularly fast at the best of times and while it builds a cache of pages it is noticeably slow.   It’s also slow when asked to multitask such as transfer 300GB of data from one server to another while serving pages.  That said, for my longer term purposes once most of the data is in place and the automated tasks are configured I do not think this will be a huge problem.

Jan 2014 Update

  • So we have now abandoned Moodle because of the the deathly slowness of the unit to respond to requests.
  • Install Cloud Server to sync laptops and desktops – it works but is slow and big transfers can sometimes fail only to catch up days/weeks later.
  • Installed Time Machine which works OK.
  • Tried to run a weather station on the box with some limited success.   Issues with the packaged version of gcc means that not all modules are available and some USB to Serial drivers won’t install.

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