Home > Computer Hardware > Thoughts on the Synology RS812 NAS

Thoughts on the Synology RS812 NAS

This past Friday, my colleague and I installed the Synology RS812 NAS into a cabinet in our second computer room, roughly 7 months after the device and cabinet was purchased. Powering it up and getting it running on the network was something of a minor victory for us, after what seemed like endless setbacks. Let me explain.

About a year ago, the head of IT at my school started talking about wanting to have the backups out of the server room, as far away from the server room as possible, so that if there was any sort of calamity there would be a much better chance of the backups surviving. For a few months the idea got talked about, but nothing was really done about it. The backups used to be performed to a FreeNAS virtual machine that was hosted on our big server in our server room. In nutshell, if the server room is destroyed, so are the backups.


Rackstation 812. Photo courtesy of Synology’s website

Near the end of the year, the topic came up again. After looking into the matter, I made it known that it what we needed was a device that could act as an iSCSI target. like the FreeNAS box that was doing the job. This unit was cheaper at the time than a dedicated 1U server, so we ended up purchasing this along with the rail mount kit, 2x2TB hard drives and in the end, a 6U swing frame cabinet so that the device could be mounted in our second computer room. The rail kit has gone unused, as it cannot fit into any cabinet except our big server cabinets in the server room. Since we weren’t installing in the server room, they are redundant.

The cabinet only got mounted earlier this year, as other priorities came up in the course of last year. After the install of the cabinet, I went to go check up on the work to make sure the ground staff had properly installed the cabinet. Turns out they hadn’t, and a simple tug by me ended up bringing the whole cabinet off the wall. After a second remount, the cabinet was firmly in place. I asked for a power lead to be run from the nearest electrical box to the cabinet, and I was promised it would be done “now now” I’ll let you guess as to how that turned out…

Eventually last week, my colleague and I decided to mount the thing and be done with it. It took a bit of effort, and it almost didn’t work due to the finger handles sticking so far out of the chassis. The unit just about made it into the rack, but if the “ears” were left on, we wouldn’t be able to close the cabinet door. Luckily, the “ears” are held on the rest of the mounting bracket by 2 screws. Once these are removed, the unit sits flush and the door could be closed and locked. The extension lead running down to the nearest plug isn’t exactly very pretty, but that can be solved by having one strip of trunking installed.

The device itself is a nice enough NAS. Dual gigabit Ethernet ports are very nice, and the drives are all hot swap capable. The unit runs quite quiet compared to some 1U screaming vacuum cleaners I’ve heard in my time. Once the NAS is turned on, you use one of the tools on the provided CD to find it, and then install the operating system. I think this may be embedded into the server somewhere. After that, configuring the NAS is pretty straight forward. Synology’s DSM operating system seems to want to be a jack of all trades, from a serious storage device to a wannabe server. Despite this, it’s pretty well laid out, and the GUI is really nice for configuring things. I find that it’s a bit more user friendly than the last version of FreeNAS I used, though that product has come a long way in its own way.

So far so good, the iSCSI part has worked like a charm. Performance is decent, even though it appears to be running an ARM processor and only has 512MB of RAM. Then again, for what I’m using the device for, it’s more than enough to get by. If there is any sort of memory problems in the future, I can use a DDR3 laptop sized module to upgrade the memory.

All in all, this is a decent rack mounted NAS/storage server, and for schools or medium sized business environments, it’s well worth a look. You may be able to create your own 1U or home brewed NAS somewhat cheaper than what this device costs, but the DSM operating system helps this unit to offer a completed polished package.

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