What I’ve been up to recently

Since my last relevant post regarding the HP ML150 G6, I’ve been thinking about how to tackle my education on iSCSI/NFS in my home lab environment and also replace my againg 10 year old NAS.

Lets take a step back and let me explain my storage history. About 10 years ago when I beginning to get into IT career wise, I decided to purchase an HP EX490 Mediasmart Server. This little nifty box was one of HP’s products to get their foot into the door of the home NAS market, but the EX490 was a bit more than just a regular NAS.

The EX490 had:

  • Socketed CPU, so upgrading the processor was possible (Intel Celeron 450 2.2Ghz)
  • Upgradable memory (2GB DDR2 but still…)
  • Windows Home Server v1 (based on Server 2003)
  • Toolless drive cages
  • 4 drive bays
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports and 1 eSATA port

This unit was great when it launched and I did enjoy it what it did for me. Although, the OS was already outdated on the launch of the server, shortly after WHS v2 was released. I didn’t bother changing the OS due to the hassle and my data so stuck with the ancient v1 release.

I’ve kept this little box full with Western Digital Green 2TB drives, which have performed flawlessly over 10 years without any failures. I still have them and will post SMART data in anther post.

The EX490 was and still is a great little unit for the tasks it was designed for but we can all agree that those specs are on the light side even a few years ago. It can still handle file serving needs in 2019 for somebody that doesn’t have high requirement so I will try to find a new owner for this little box.

About a year or two after owning this HP EX490, I did upgrade the EX490 from 2GB to 4GB of memory, using the following make and model RAM: Patriot Memory PSD24G8002 Signature DDR2 4GB CL6 800MHz DIMM, PC2 6400

I also had the EX490 upgraded from it’s slow Intel Celeron 450 to a Intel E8400 CPU around that time. Look at how both CPUs compare using CPU-World here. I’ve always wanted to purchase the Intel Q9550s but back then the CPU was fairly pricey and the E8400 I had laying around from past desktop builds.

With the memory and cpu upgraded, I did notice the increase in performance and continued using the NAS for a few more years.

About 4 years ago, bored and having the want to tinker with the EX490, I finally decided to purchase the Intel Q9550s from eBay. The processor arrived and it was immediately installed. The performance bump from the E8400 to the Intel Q9550s wasn’t very noticeable for me but I was able to check that off my list. See the comparison here.

Anyways, that is my real first exposure to a home NAS/server unit, purchased sometime around 2009-2010. I have since collected more data and I’ve been on the hunt to replace the aging EX490.

I’ve toyed with the idea of a custom NAS or enterprise SAN (LOLZ) since that is really the closest thing I can somewhat relate to from my work enviroment. I didn’t know much about Terramaster, QNAP or Synology so I started searching around to try and find out which manufacturer will provide me a scalable yet powerful and quality unit. My needs were quite basic really;

  • Store my personal data, photos and videos from over the years. No brainer
  • Storage for all my Linux ISOs…
  • Capable of iSCSI and NFS storage that I could integrate with my HP ML150 G6 to practice storage configurations.
  • 2-4 NICs so I could do NIC teaming and practice failover.

So on April 12th, I purchased the Synology DS1618+. The fancy matte black unit arrived and I was really excited. I compared many of the Synology units, from the DS918+ all the way to the ridiculously priced DS1819+.

I’ve played around with the DS1618+, setting a 4x2TB SHR1, Btrfs configuration for my personal data and 2x3TB RAID-1 EXT4 for what I wanted to use for datastores for VMware. I liked the OS, it was nice and basic. I was a bit surprised that enabling ‘advanced’ mode in the Synology control panel seemed to have displayed up a few more items, but everything still looked fairly basic. Regardless, it looks like a polished OS overall.

What sat wrong with me was the hardware. The processor was decent and the memory capability with ECC capable RAM is fantastic but I didn’t feel that what I paid (1100.00 CAD) was worth it. About two weeks after receiving the Synology, I noticed QNAP had a few nicer offerings. I looked at a few modes and noticed that the hardware features of QNAP are much better than Synology. Doing some searches on Google, most user’s that have used both platforms have the same opinion. Synology for the OS and updates, QNAP for the hardware. Multiple QNAP units incoporate PCIe slots (one or two) but also have intergrated 10Gb NICs. I wanted to like the Synology, so I looked at the bigger brother, the DS1819+. I don’t really want 8 bays but for scalability and being able to have a hot spare and SSD for caching (or SSD’s for VM’s) is a benefit.

The DS1618+ was starting to look like something I was going to return. Browsing on Amazon, I was surprised to see the massive total price difference between the DS1618+ and the DS1819+. My DS1618+ cost me about $1107.xx Canadian currency. The DS1819+ sells for about $1333.xx + tax, which brings it to a total of about $15xx.xx Canadian dollars.

$400.00 bucks for another 2 bays? No way Jose.

So I actively searched for a comparable but better(in my eyes) QNAP unit. I’ve looked at a few which met some of my requirements, such as the QNAP TS-932x, TVS-951X or the TS-963X. I love how they are 9-bay, have 10Gb integrated but for some reason something didn’t appeal to me.

I kept searching and I found one that looked like a small price increase over the DS1618+ but still cheaper than the DS1819+ and had more capabilities and features. The QNAP TS-873. This seems to tick off all my wants. 4 NICs, 8-bay, lower cost than the Synology unit but much better in hardware. The only real downfall I see is that the CPU uses a bit more power (15W more normal use vs the DS1618+) but the overall gains from it at the price point leave Synology in the dust (IMO of course).

Now people will say that the QNAP OS isn’t as refined as the Synology unit. Sure I get that, but that is something that QNAP can improve over the years. The hardware, well I’m stuck with for the period I plan to keep this unit for.

I am not purchasing a NAS to use at home for 2-3 years. I am looking to get something for the long haul. My HP EX490 operated pretty reliably for nearly 10 years and thankfully I had no failures.

Last night I placed an order for the TS-873 and I am excited to see what this unit holds. I did have two QNAP NAS (TS-EC879U-RP) at work so I have some familiarity of the OS already. I say did because one of them randomly failed out of the sudden. Thankfully I was able to use the other one to retrieve my data from the drives. Qnap support was pretty poor and slow. Oh well.

Anyways, that’s the gist of my storage history for the past 9-10 years. I know RAID and the number of bays are NOT backup, so fear not. Any critical data will be uploaded to Backblaze under a personal account. Their pricing seems fairly good and the general feedback about them looks to be positive.

What do you think? Do you think I made a wise choice? What do you look for when purchasing a NAS?