Attachments of a Network Style


A couple of weeks ago, driven by the need to get my music library and my 50-odd GB of photos out of a completely stuffed Mac mini, and as a consequence of several years trying to make do with external hard disks (first Firewire, and USB in the latter years), I decided to get myself a proper NAS.

Although I’ve of late kept a couple of disks plugged in to an aging G4 mini and an Airport Extreme, that solution wasn’t flexible enough regarding replacing or upgrading disks, and I’ve lost more than one external disk to the inclemencies of Portuguese summertime - no matter what you do, anything with a fan risks overheating during 3-5 months.

So I was looking for something that had basic RAID off the bat, spoke AFP and SMB and had a modicum of expandability - everything else would be surplus.

I initially had my heart set on a Drobo FS, but I dislike paying through the nose for my gear, and soon decided that live hard disk replacement wasn’t a requirement - but transparent volume growth was, so after looking into Synology gear (and with a couple of positive opinions from colleagues), I decided to go for a DS411j - which I could have together with a pair of 2TB disks and an external Blu-Ray burner for under the cost of an empty Drobo FS.

The Blu-Ray burner, incidentally, is the LGBP06LU10, a close cousin to the GP08 I got a while back and a model I’ve been keeping an eye on for nearly two years.

So I’ve now got a comprehensive storage and off-site (sneakernet, but 50GB a pop) backup solution for all the kids’ photos, a music archive and a network Time Machine setup that is more flexible than a Time Capsule.

But how good is the DS411j, anyway? Well, I won’t bore you with a full-on review - there are entire sites whose sole purpose it is to review this kind of gear down to the bare metal.

I’m actually quite likely to instead do a small series of (short) posts on it, but can say right away that it is a good (and, for my purposes, plenty fast) NAS that has a number of “value-added” features I don’t need.

I’ve done a fair amount of digging around inside it already, and think it’s soundly designed, albeit with a few quirks - just don’t expect much from it in terms of DLNA or iTunes support, since it seems to have a buggy DLNA server that doesn’t serve photos right (neither to my WDTV nor to my test scripts) and doesn’t support iTunes Home Sharing or AirPlay1 - the former being essential if you want to use an Apple device as a remote).

But more on that later, I have some sleeping to catch up on.


  1. By AirPlay support I mean direct support, streamed straight from the NAS instead of using an iOS device as a proxy - the latest Synology apps do allow you to stream music to an Airport Express, but the stream is proxied through your device. ↩︎