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Why I replaced a Synology with WHS


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All the talk about Synology is bringing back memories I have of a less-than-great experience with a Synology product in a home-server scenario:

 

I put a Synology DS-207 in a customer's home about 18 months ago. His primary interest was backing up his 3 computers, and possible future interest in media sharing & streaming. I was less familiar with WHS at that time and had only just begin to play with it at home. After some research, we settled on the Synology. QNAP and a few other NAS products were close.

 

We initially set it up with one 750GB drive. I found the interface quite easy to use (although the new DS3 is MUCH nicer). I set it up on his home network with two XP and one Vista computers. One of the XP machines was wired (100MB) into his Linksys wireless router and the other two were wireless (G).

 

Initial backups went ok. I was using the backup software that came bundled with the Synology (Data Replicator 3). I told my customer to let me know how it went and also when he was ready to play with media-sharing & stuff.

 

Then the backups started failing. Not on every PC and not every time, but enough that on my first visit back, one PC had not been backed up for 3 weeks and another for a week and a half. Not good!

 

I played with it for about 4-5 months. I corresponded with Synology tech support (very responsive, but ultimately unable to figure out the issue). I combed through their forums (nicely organized and monitored). I tried about 3 different backup softwares. The only error that was consistent is that the Synology would log an error that it had lost contact with the PC. Sometimes the backup would start, then fail. Sometimes it just wouldn't start.

 

There didn't seem to be any issues with routing or finding the server - the Synology used DHCP but stuck with the same address for the entire time. I even put the IP into the hosts file, but that didn't help either.

 

Synology tech support surmised that the wireless was the issue. This didn't make sense to me as the wired PC was also having issues, but I tried changing the channel, turning off WPA, and even actually wiring up one of the wireless computers. It didn't help much. They pretty much closed it out saying they thought the router was at fault. I did bring in a different router running Tomato and the results were exactly the same.

 

Eventually, I talked him into swapping it out for a small WHS box with the same drive in it. This worked like a champ, making me think his network and router had been fine all along. Once he was on WHS I set up the Synology on my own network at home and ran test backups from one laptop -- it never failed. I sold it on eBay a few months later.

 

I still don't know what the issue was. My best guess is there was some network condition that existed in his network that the Synology was reacting to that WHS doesn't care about. -- the only sure fact is that WHS worked way better in this customer's environment than the Synology did. The customer is quite happy -- just added another disk to his WHS and now the only times the backups fail is if a computer is off for an extended time.

 

I now have a Synology DS-209+ on my network next to the two WHS boxes. I use it as a BDBB and media storage, among other things. I like it a lot, but would never think of running my primary backups to it and replacing WHS. I bought it at the tail end of this process, thinking it might help me solve the problem.

 

Things I like better about Synology:

  • Web interface is accessible from anything that has a browser -- no need to install connector software
  • Lots of built-in packages for media-streaming, surveillance cameras, FTP, etc...
  • Works with Macs & Time Machine
  • Tiny
  • Supports more than 10 users

Things I like better about WHS:

  • Bare-metal restores!
  • Runs Windows (just what I'm most comfortable with)
  • Add-ins allow capabilities that are not built in
  • Hardware can be whatever I want
  • Health alerts in the system tray, especially when backups don't work.

Synology makes a very cool product. Obviously if everyone had this issue they wouldn't still be around, so YMMV. I haven't really had time to delve into ALL the stuff the Synology can do -- it apparently can support add-ins as well, and there are people using it as a mail server, web server, print server, etc... I do like the system-tray notifications that WHS uses vs. having to go look at a log or an e-mail alert.

 

For me, all the bells and whistles of any home server product don't matter much if the backups aren't rock-solid. Since a kitchen accident killed my laptop drive a year ago and I was able to restore it to a point a few HOURS before the accident, I have been a WHS believer, and it's going to take a seriously great product to replace it as my server of choice.

Edited by BSR
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That's a great post. Very informative. It's a shame that the end result was shipping back the Synology but I'm glad you landed on WHS!

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That's a great post. Very informative. It's a shame that the end result was shipping back the Synology but I'm glad you landed on WHS!

 

Well since landing there I've certainly learned a lot from the podcast and forums -- thanks!

 

Also, if you need help testing any Synology stuff, I'm happy to help. I do one major backup a week (BDBB) to mine, but not too much else. I just got an IP camera that I'm going to hook up to it, and see how the surveillance piece works.

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Thanks for posting this, it is very informative. I have been on the fence the past few weeks with deciding between WHS 2011 and Synology. The primary reason why I was considering synology is the security camera feature and the fact that it plays nice with android an apple products. Additionally the 3.1 version of their software will allow for network sharing of not just the printer, but a scanner as well. I have a multifunction printer/scanner machine sitting next to my current WHS that is only used as a printer, being able to network all of the functions would be very cool! In the end I will most likely choose WHS over synology because of the cost... I can build a WHS box with existing parts where as the synology products are a little pricey. One final thing that is appealing to me is that it appears that synology is very attentive to their product, where as the Microsoft offering seems to be a little neglected at times.

 

jvk

Edited by jvk
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I'm doing a Time Machine backup to the Synology now. jvk is right, the apps for android are nice! Streaming music works very nicely. I've yet to test much else as I'm still working on the 2011 stuff.

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Thanks for posting this, it is very informative. I have been on the fence the past few weeks with deciding between WHS 2011 and Synology. The primary reason why I was considering synology is the security camera feature and the fact that it plays nice with android an apple products. Additionally the 3.1 version of their software will allow for network sharing of not just the printer, but a scanner as well. I have a multifunction printer/scanner machine sitting next to my current WHS that is only used as a printer, being able to network all of the functions would be very cool! In the end I will most likely choose WHS over synology because of the cost... I can build a WHS box with existing parts where as the synology products are a little pricey. One final thing that is appealing to me is that it appears that synology is very attentive to their product, where as the Microsoft offering seems to be a little neglected at times.

 

jvk

 

Agreed on Synology's attentiveness and product updates. It's almost too frequent, as the top-of-the-line 2-disk product I bought just over a year ago has already been updated twice -- now to the version Dave has. But it's hard to fault a company that keeps improving their products and putting more functionality into them.

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I am also interested in Synology as an alternative to WHS if

I left it in the future. I have read mostly positive reviews

and mainly that it is fast compared to Drobo.

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BSR,

Great post and I agree with what you said. I think the Synology is a great unit but is not a replacement for WHS but rather an addtion. I can do things, thanks to their excellent software that you can not do with WHS but in terms of performance, backup, and media serving for the home, WHS is tough to beat. I am looking for added functionality especially outside the house and this would fit the bill. I saw a d-link DNS-325 at CES that will also work for me in terms of getting acccess to more content outside the house. Overall all these devices in my opinion are to supplement the home network and WHS, but I have not found a replacement yet that provides everything.

 

Great write up and thanks for sharing.

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BSR,

Great post and I agree with what you said. I think the Synology is a great unit but is not a replacement for WHS but rather an addtion. I can do things, thanks to their excellent software that you can not do with WHS but in terms of performance, backup, and media serving for the home, WHS is tough to beat. I am looking for added functionality especially outside the house and this would fit the bill. I saw a d-link DNS-325 at CES that will also work for me in terms of getting acccess to more content outside the house. Overall all these devices in my opinion are to supplement the home network and WHS, but I have not found a replacement yet that provides everything.

 

Great write up and thanks for sharing.

 

That's how I think of Synology too -- as a supplement to, but not replacement for, WHS. I back up my primary server to the Synology and will soon be using it for camera surveillance. It also makes a nice dumping spot if I have a ton of stuff I need to quickly move or backup.

 

I'm pretty disappointed in the loss of DE, and although I can run WHS v1 for quite a while, I feel like the best years of WHS are behind us. I'm starting to look at other options -- HS2011 is installing on a test box right now, but after that I plan to check out Amahi, Unraid and possibly FreeNas.

 

If you pick up that DNS-325 I'd be interested in your thoughts -- interesting little box!

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I don't want to be a party pooper but I've had a Synology CS407e for several years. Originally, I was a fan of the box but I've become less enamoured with it over time. Generally, although the software is pretty good, I now find the Synology boxes to be underpowered with little to no expandibility. I've come to feel they're not good value for the money. If they were lower priced it would be different, but $350-$400 for a 1.2GHZ cpu and only 128MB of RAM (DS411j) seems kinda expensive. My CS407e also is not built as well as my Acer H340 WHS box. I also had to replace the cooling fan because the stock fan let the drives get too hot for my liking.

 

Synology aren't the worst boxes out there but I'm gonna keep looking for other options.

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