Getting Started – Tips for new Synology Users

Proud owner of a new Synology DiskStation or Router? Wondering what to do next - where to start? Can't sort your EXT4 from your BTRFS or your RAID1 from your SHR? We'll help you out by answering common questions asked by novice users on the
Synology Admins & Users Facebook Group

This guide is based on Synology DSM 6.2 and SRM 1.2

It is designed for new users in the SOHO market, but particularly the home user.  Advanced users may suggest other, more advanced techniques that provide “better” solutions than those described below.  But they also require advanced knowledge.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard an advanced user say, “It’s easy, all you have to do is … ” only to find myself embroiled in frustrating hours of effort, poring through ever more complex guides!

This is a guide for non techies, by a non techie (with input from techies.)  It is, I hope, your Babel Fish.

Synology DiskStation / DSM

HDD versus SSD

 

SSD prices are falling all the time but the $/GB cost ratio of HDDs is still much lower than SSD.  Also, SSD life can be shortened by the frequent write operations associated with some NAS operations.  On the other hand, SSD's are beneficial in some niche use cases such as hosting a web site, where write operations are limited and page load speed for users is important.  SSD technology is improving all the time but for now HDD is the way to go for general use. 

 

Understand your use case and plan your drives around that.  If you have a 4+ bay device (or an extension unit) you can even have separate volumes for different purposes.

 

Desktop versus NAS drives

Desktop HDDs are about 25% cheaper than those rated for NAS use so if you're filling a four-bay device you can save a chunk of money.  But it's a false economy.

 

NAS rated drives (the clue's in the name) are designed and tested to run 24/7 and come with an extended warranty.  For example, Seagate Ironwolf have a 3-year warranty, and the Pro model goes to 5 years.   WD Red and Pro have the same distinction.  You should expect to have a drive failure at some point - best to minimise the risk and increase your chances of a warranty replacement, by using a NAS rated drive.

 

Which Manufacturer?

The leading contenders are WD and Seagate.  HGST was acquired by WD, and their drives have been assimilated into the WD family as WD Golds.  Brand loyalty is strong among users so the frequent "Which brand?" question rarely reaches a definitive conclusion.  If you're interested, cloud provider Backblaze publish periodic stats on drive performance.  Bear in mind that these stats are based on data centre usage where drives are concentrated in racks - hardly the same as a desktop DS.

 

You really can't go wrong with either brand but there are some steps you can take to minimise the impact of drive failures:

 

  1. Use a mix of manufacturers
  2. Use a mix of vendors so that multiple discs from one manufacturer don't come from the same manufacturing batch

 

By using these two simple steps you minimise the risk of all discs degrading at the same time due to an identical manufacturing process.  And if you think the chances of that happening are low, I can tell you that my first NAS was populated with desktop HDD's from the same manufacturer, bought in one batch from the same vendor, and over the period of one week, three years ago, they all degraded. That is a week I will never forget!

 

Note:  If you have a brand new drive delivered by post, unwrap it and just stuff it straight into the DS, then it will go from freezing to hot in a few minutes. Give any new drive a couple of hours to acclimatise before bringing it into service - bring it up to room temperature and then leave it on top of the DS for an hour.

 

  Mix 'n match HDDs from different manufacturers and vendors

RAID is the acronym for a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, the purpose of which is to give you varying degrees of resilience by copying / spreading the data from a disk to one or more other disks.  If a drive fails the system is able to keep operating, using the remaining drive(s) while you organise a disk swap.

 

Synology's Knowledge Base has an article which explains the different RAID types but you may still be confused.  If you don't have the technical expertise to differentiate the RAID type to suit your use case, Synology have you covered, with Synology Hybrid Raid (SHR):

Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) is an automated RAID management system, designed to simplify storage management and meet the needs of new users who are unfamiliar with RAID types.

SHR can combine different sized drives to create a storage volume with optimized capacity and performance, wasting less drive space and providing a more flexible storage solution. When sufficient drives are included, SHR allows for 1- or 2-disk redundancy - meaning the SHR Volume can suffer up to one or two failed drives without experiencing data loss.

For the inexperienced user, SHR is the answer.  In fact it can be the answer for everyone.  My current system has four volumes spread across nine drives in a DS916+ and a DX513 combination.  They run SHR and SHR2.

 

RAID is NOT a backup method!

RAID provides dynamic resilience so that your system can continue to run if a drive fails, by falling back to the other disks in the RAID.  If data is accidentally deleted or modified, those changes are mirrored too.  RAID is therefore not a backup service.   Don't confuse resilience with a backup archive - they are very different.

 

Avoid RAID 0 or Single Disk SHR

Data on a single disk that is not mirrored is vulnerable.  Don't put data on a single disk unless you can afford to lose it.  For example, my Surveillance footage is on a single drive, because I only capture a few days at a time and the files are copied to Amazon Drive on a rotational basis.  I can afford to lose the disk.

 

One user asked about how to configure their four-bay DS.  They wanted to provide separate disc space to four people and planned to set up each person with a dedicated drive / volume so that no one person could monopolise the space.  Technically this would work - but none of the users would have any data resilience - the loss of any one disk would require that volume to be rebuilt from a backup.  The recommended solution was to set the four disks in SHR2,  The space available to the users was doubled and there was two disk failure protection.  User disk quotas would stop any monopoly, and additional users could be added without needing to add more disks.

 

Multiple HDDs in SHR 1 or 2

 

You need a backup strategy too

Which file system to use?  There are two options, depending on DS model - EXT4 or BTRFS.  Once again, Synology provide a Knowledge Base article to help you choose.  For most general purposes BTRFS is best; where performance is paramount, EXT4.  For example, the two SSD's that I use for my web sites are formatted in EXT4.

 

To check whether your model supports BTRFS, see this Synology guide

 

For general use, BTFRS

Hibernation allows the disks to idle after a period of inactivity, ranging from 10 minutes to 5 hours (with an option for none.)  Note: Do not confuse hibernation with Power Scheduling - see separate item.

 

Hibernation is not recommended.  NAS drives are designed and tested to run 24 x 7, not be regularly stopped and started, which can reduce the drive's lifespan due to:

 

  1. The stresses placed on the spindles as they are woken and spun up to speed
  2. The expansion and contraction caused by temperature changes

 

It's like a car engine.  Accelerating from stopped to a cruising speed puts strain on the engine and drive train.  This exchange on the Facebook group says it all:

 

 

The sole argument in favour of hibernation is reduced power consumption.  But they use relatively little power, and any saving needs to be offset against the cost and risk of premature drive failure.  Your car uses more fuel per mile on start/stop journeys than it does when cruising on the open road.

 

Next, consider performance.  Every disk that is spinning up to operating speed represents a user who is waiting longer than they have to for their content to be delivered.  This is especially important if you are running a web server - the delay could result in user abandonment.

 

Finally, hibernation is prevented under certain conditions or when using certain applications.  The extensive list  can be viewed here

 

Hibernation is off by default.  To check whether it's enabled, go to Control Panel > Hardware & Power > HDD Hibernation

 

Do NOT use hibernation

A Power Schedule enables a DiskStation to enter a deep sleep mode during a specified period.  Note: Do not confuse Power Scheduling with Hibernation - see separate item.

 

If you are using your DS as a simple file server and you can be certain of your dead times, there may be an argument for using a Power Schedule.  All the arguments that apply to sleeping HDDs apply here, although those effects may be reduced if the schedule is for a single on/off period per day.

 

If you are running services that require 'always on' such as a web server or MailPlus server then power scheduling is not suitable.

 

These tasks will prevent a power schedule from activating:

  • Storage Manager is performing tasks.
  • The system is encrypting share folders.
  • The system is performing Secure Erase on hard drives.
  • DSM is being upgraded.
  • The system is repairing RAID volumes.
  • Package Center is performing tasks.
  • The system is upgrading databases.
  • The system is performing data backup tasks.

 

Finally, that "dead" overnight period is an ideal time to carry out system maintenance tasks such as running a backup, performing auto upgrades of DSM, and using Download Station.  Wake up in the morning to find your backup done, DSM upgraded, and a movie downloaded, all while you were sleeping.

 

Power Scheduling is off by default.  To check whether it's enabled, go to Control Panel > Hardware & Power > Power Schedule

 

Power Schedules are of limited value

RAID is not backup - backup is not RAID.  RAID provides resilience but if your unit is trashed by flood, fire or theft your data will be lost.  You need an effective backup strategy.  There is a term for this: 3-2-1 Backup and you can learn more about it here.

 

Create a local copy

 

This could be to an external HDD, an HDD in your desktop PC or to another low spec DiskStation that is dedicated to backup.  If your main box fails, you can restore from the backup.  If you lose a file you can restore that.  A local copy allows you to perform a quick restore.  There are many ways to backup your data but Synology's Hyper Backup package is a great place to start for a novice user.

 

A local backup is not a complete answer - you are still vulnerable to flood, fire and theft because the chances are that whatever disaster affects your main box, the backup device will be affected too.

 

Create on off-site backup

 

To complete your backup strategy you need an off-site copy.  You can do this:

 

  1. With a set of external disks that you backup up locally and rotate to an off-site location.  This is only as good as your ability to keep the rotation going.
  2. Connecting to a remote DiskStation - maybe you can do a deal with a friend for a reciprocal back up arrangement.  You can use Hyper Backup to do this.
  3. Using a cloud service.  Hyper Backup can connect to Google Drive, Amazon Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft Azure, S3-compatible storage, and Synology C2, a cloud backup service dedicated to Synology users.  I favour the Synology C2 service because I prefer to have Synology technology across the entire backup process.

 

 

Test your backup can be restored

 

You don't want to find out that your backup can't be restored at the point where you need it for real. At the very least, use these settings:

 

 

But there's nothing more reassuring than carrying out a (limited) restore of some files.  Seeing is believing.

Hot Spare

On models that support the feature a hot spare is an HDD that occupies a spare drive slot.  It is initialised and registered in Storage Manager as a Hot Spare.  If another drive goes into a degraded state, the system will bring the hot spare on line to replace the faulty drive.  Note: Do not confuse Hot Spare with Hot Swap.

 

Cold Spare

A cold spare is nothing more that a spare drive that you have on the shelf in anticipation of a drive failure.  It allows you to minimise the time a volume is degraded.

 

Spare Drive Capacity

A spare dive must be at least the same capacity as the disc it's replacing There are some exceptions, but they're for advanced usage).  It can be bigger.  It can be a different make.

 

Hot Swap

Some models (generally not the budget models) allow you to pull and replace a disk while the system is powered on, which is useful if you want to swap a disk without any downtime.  Your DS model's tech specs will tell you whether it supports hot swapping.  Your selected RAID system needs to be tolerant to the hot swap by having 1 or 2 disc redundancy.

 

If you don't want to wait for a spare to be delivered, a cold spare is recommended

An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) protects you not only from blackouts but also fluctuations in the supply - power surges and dips - brownouts.  Blackouts are not good for your data (you may have a database update underway when the power goes off.)  Blackouts,  brownouts or power surges are not kind to electronics.  The risk of these events can be substantially greater if your power company supply is delivered using overhead cables.  These are much more susceptible to interruptions and fluctuations.

 

A suitable UPS costs less than the price of a disk.  Think of it as insurance.  In fact it may actually be insurance, because UPS vendors such as APC provide insurance cover for equipment damage that is not prevented by the UPS.

 

It isn't just about the NAS.  Data writing operations need more than just the DiskStation. You need UPS protection for your router, switches and your desktop computer if you're using one.  If you can't connect them to the same UPS as the DS, you'll need separate ones.  Due to its power requirements, it's probably best to have a dedicated UPS for a desktop PC.  You can buy a mini UPS for about $30 that will keep a low-power device like a router or switch running for a long time.  It won't have the ability to shut down the attached equipment but it will keep them running plenty long enough for the main UPS to shutdown the DiskStation.

 

I have my DS, router and intermediate switch attached to the same UPS, so that they will all stay up as long as possible.  This allows the DiskStation to send an email alert about the power outage, so that you can do a safe shutdown of other equipment.  The larger the battery capacity, the longer the runtime you will get, although if you set the DiskStation to shutdown after say 15 minutes, you don't need to go mad with the UPS spec.  My APC 700 gives 30 minutes of protection.

 

Setting up a UPS with Synology Disk Station

Your UPS should come with a special USB cable to connect it to the DiskStation.  Once that us done the DiskStation should auto detect the UPS.  To configure teh shutdown process, so the following:

 

 

Items 1 - 5 are  self explanatory.

 

(6) If you have other equipment attached to the UPS do not enable this option

 

(7) If you have multiple DS's you can link them using this option.  When the DS attached to the UPS goes into safe mode, it will send a command to the other DS's to also go into safe mode.

 

Add UPS protection to your key network components

Short answer, yes, you should.

 

There will be times when you need to access your DiskStation using the LAN IP address.  For example, If you are mapping network drives from your computers, you may find that you can only connect with the LAN IP.  Or, when you are experiencing connection problems to your NAS for whatever reason, using a LAN IP is often a last ditch method when all else has failed.  So, the DS's IP address needs to be unchanging, and memorable.

 

Assigning a static IP address

This guide is for novices so we'll assume that your home network is centred around your wireless router.  All LAN IP addresses are handed out by the router and they are dynamic meaning that if a device goes offline, there's no guarantee that when it comes back online the router will assign the same IP address as before.  It may have assigned that address to another device in the meantime so that it is unavailable to the original device. 

 

These IP addresses that are handed out are done by a service called DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). This is a pool of IP addresses that your router/firewall gives out to DHCP client.  Static IP clients need to be outside of this pool).  This does get into IP addressing and subnet masks which is an advanced topic. Most routers will have a 192.168.0.x or a 10.0.0.x where the x can be from 1-254. That pool will be between the 1-254. To select a static IP the last number in the IP preferably needs to be outside of that pool and not interfere with another device on the network with the same number.

 

To assign the static IP, follow these steps in DSM:

 

There are many aspects to security, some not so obvious as others:

 

Power Security

See the section - "We rarely have power cuts, why do I need a UPS?"
 

Physical Security

Sometimes we overlook the obvious.  A DiskStation in plain sight is a tempting target for a thief.  If they take your TV, why would they leave the media server sitting on the floor behind it?
 
I am fortunate that directly above my office is a crawl-space lockable cupboard.  It was easy to put the DS there and drop a Cat6 cable down to the router. If you can find a suitable cool, well ventilated space with good connectivity, make that your "equipment room."  But neither should you use a space that suffers extreme fluctuations of temperature.  The environment needs to "controlled" in the context of your locale.
 
Putting your DS away out of sight may also give you a bonus - it's less likely to collect dust. (see next section)
 
If you have nowhere to hide your DS, remember they all come with an attachment point for a Kensington lock.  It won't deter a well equipped burglar, but it will slow him down or deter the casual thief.
 
Hide your DS or attach a locking device
 

Account Security

For a hacker, gaining access to a valid account is gold dust.  Gaining access to an admin account is the keys to the castle.  If your DS is accessible remotely you might benefit from using a Virtual Private network (VPN) but that is not  a novice area.  But you want to be able to access your content remotely don't you?
 
 
  Enforce strong passwords and 2FA on all user accounts. 
Users may whinge.  Let them. If 2FA is a problem on all user accounts, remove it from those that do not have admin status.  2FA should be mandatory for users with admin status.
 
 
DSM has an array of password settings.  Use them:
 

 

  Use QuickConnect

To quote Synology, "QuickConnect allows client applications to connect to your Synology NAS via the Internet without the hassle of setting up port forwarding rules. QuickConnect can also work with Synology-developed packages, such as Audio Station, Video Station, Download Station, Surveillance Station, Photo Station, File Station, Note Station, CMS, Cloud Station, and mobile applications."

 

QuickConnect is a relay service so there will be a little delay while the traffic passes through the Synology servers, but it's negligible.  It's a quick and easy way to connect with minimal risk.  Read more ...

 

  Secure your router

Your router is your first line of defence and many of the security points in this section apply equally there too.  Make sure the firmware is up to date.  Synology's update service to their routers is one of the best.  If you are running a Synology router, make sure you are running these two packages:
 
It's commonly held that a) you should not open any ports on your router and b) that if you need to, you should change the port numbers to a non standard number.  I take issue with both those.  It's not opening a port that's risky, it's opening a port and then having no security in place to protect you.  I can crack open a window at night to get some fresh air, but the aperture is too small for anyone to climb through or reach anything.
 
If you need ports to be opened to support a web or mail server, you need to have the standard ports open.  Even if the service you are using can cope with a non-standard port, any port sniffing bot will soon find it.
 
Don't open ports unless you understand the risks, and have addressed them
 

Data Security

Access through the router to the NAS brings you to the second line of defence - the DSM Security.  If you have enabled external access through, for example, Synology DDNS so that you can use applications like Synology Drive's web UI, you need to enable these functions in Control Panel > Security:
 
Firewall
You'll need to configure firewall rules to, for example, block countries like China.  In fact it's a good idea to allow the countries you want to have access and then deny all others.  But that's an advanced topic, for another time.  Just make sure you enable the default profile for now.
 
Protection
The screenshot says it all.
 
Account

There's a shedload of settings here.  Just remember to make sure you make suitable entries in the "Allow" lists so that LAN access doesn't get denied.  For example if you have assigned static IPs to devices on your router, you can get very specific about which LAN devices are exempt from auto-block.  Do you have a computer you regularly use to do all your sys admin work?  Assign a static IP and make sure it's listed in the "Allow" lists

 
 
Certificate
Get yourself an SSL certificate and force your access through https.  it will encrypt browser-to-browser traffic and prevent so called "man-in-the-middle attacks."  But this is more of an advanced topic.  Add this item to your long-term To-Do list, and watch out for a future article dedicated to it.

Heat and Ventilation

This topic is mostly covered in the section "What's a good operating temperature for my disks?"  but there are some basic things to consider.

 

A cool location with as constant a temperature as possible is best,

 

The rear, front and sides of the unit should kept clear to encourage airflow.  The laser-cut Synology logo on the side of the unit is, in fact, an air vent for the CPU - don't block it

 

 

Dust

There are two elements that conspire to ensure that dust will make its way into a DiskStation, and stay there:

 

  1. Air circulation from the fan(s)
  2. Static electricity that will turn your DS into a dust magnet

 

Data centres have controlled environments with air filters to minimise dust; the average home doesn't.  The biggest factor in dust creation is people.

 
According to Wikipedia,
 
Dust in homes, offices, and other human environments contains small amounts of plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile fibres, paper fibres, minerals from outdoor soil [and] human skin cells ...
 
Ew!  If you can shield your DS from the worst of that, so much the better.  In practical terms, this means separating it from people.
 
 
I had a DS 411j in  a crawl space cupboard for seven years.  When I opened it to clean it before selling it, there was hardly a speck of dust inside.  The units I had in my office for a few months were full of it.  My current DS and DX are back up in the cupboard

 

 

Fan Speed

Regardless of where your DS is located, keep the fan speed as low as you can consistent with the discs and CPU staying within their accepted thermal ranges.  (see "What's a good operating temperature for my disks?).  This will reduce the airflow through the system and reduce the amount of ingested dust.

 

 

Filtering

If you can't separate the DS from people, then you may need to think about filters.

 

Some users have reversed the fans on their and fitted a piece of panty-hose to act as an air filter.  See this thread.

 

Marius Bogdan Bogdan proposes an even more radical, but very cheap solution - encasing the entire DS in panty-hose.  CPU and HDD temps have apparently not been adversely affected, and the filtration looks good.  I haven't tried this myself because it hasn't proved necessary but you need to be careful about the denier you use.  Too dense and the DS will overheat.  If you go this route, make sure to monitor temps; with a filter in place you might need to increase fan speed to compensate for the reduced airgolw.

The default "admin" user is present on every DS and is an essential part of DSM.  It has the deepest access of all accounts, even more than regular user accounts to which you assign administrator privileges.  Because of this, the admin account will be targeted by people trying to break into your DS.  Even if you don't allow internet access to your DS you still need to think about internal users - for example kids who want to access content you don't want them to see.

 

So here are some recommendations:

 

Disable the admin account.

 

Hackers will not be able to gain access to a disabled account.  Even you will seldom need to access the admin account.  On my system, the only time I enable that account is if Synology Support need to access the DS to work on a support case.

 

Use a very strong password

 

On the rare occasions you have to enable the account for Support to access it, you can't use two factor authentication (2FA) because there's no way for Synology to create the necessary authenticator profile.  So use a very strong password.
 
 

Set an auto disable date

 

If you have to enable the account for any reason, use the option to disable it by a specified date, in case you forget to disable it manually.
 
 
 
 

Create a separate account with admin rights

 

For your own admin work, create a separate account for that specific purpose.  Use it only when you are administering the system.  Make sure it has a strong password and 2FA, so that it can't be accessed externally or internally by unauthorised users. And, don't use the option to "always trust this device" on this account.
 
 

Use a non admin account for your day-to-day access

 

If your account does not have admin level access your kids won't be able to hack the system while your back is turned.
 
 
Tip: Once you have set up 2FA, remember to replicate / transfer / recreate its profiles when you change your phone!
 

Disconnected drive issues are a common theme on the Facebook group, regardless of which operating system is being used. There are fixes for these issues, but there is another approach which uses a completely different protocol and achieves a superior result, in my view.  This solution will work for you, unless your computer has limited local storage space (in which case the only way to access network folders is a mapped drive). The alternative solution is a Synology Package called "Drive" in Package Centre or "Synology Drive" in the marketing materials.

 

Synology Drive

If you have used Microsoft One Drive or Google Drive then Synology Drive will be familiar territory for you.  All of these products provide a mirrored set of folders between your computer and the cloud, except that Synology Drive syncs to the private cloud on your DS. Synology Drive is superior to a mapped drive because:

 

  1. You access files on a local drive instead of a slower network drive.  Read/write times are faster.  Drive then syncs the local file to the network as a background task, while you get on with other work.
  2. The connection to the server is more stable than to a mapped drive with none of the gremlins between MacOS / Windows and the network protocols that cause connections to suddenly fail. 
    1. In my own case some PCs will map using the server name while others require the LAN IP address.  Others will accept one for a while, then stop working and require the other.  Fixing this is just too much hassle.
  3. Unless you set up a VPN then remote access to a mapped drive is not possible.  Synology Drive works over QuickConnect so all you need is an internet connection
  4. If you don't have an internet connection you can work on a local copy and Drive will sync when a connection is available
  5. Drive enables you to keep versions of a file - useful if you need to roll back to an earlier version
  6. You can sync to your private folders or to Team folders that are shared with others, and remote users around the world

Note:  When you set up the Drive syncs make sure you reduce the number of versions held by the server.  If you sync 1TB of data with the number versions set to the default, you will consume many times more disc space.

 
If you have the local storage space, use Drive instead of a mapped drive
 
 

If you don't have sufficient space to mirror the content

If you lack local storage space or if you need a mapped drive for a specific purpose (the Sonos app on my PC, uses a mapped drive for the DS based music library location) the mapping a drive is the only solution.

Windows

I had recurring problems with broken connections when i mapped the drive using the server name.  These problems disappeared when I mapped the drive using the LAN IP address instead.  The label is not as meaningful, but it works.

 

Mac OS

My home is an Apple-free zone so this section uses solutions suggested by others on the Synology Admins & Users Facebook group.

 

Mark Ealey suggested this video on setting up the connection and making it persistent while Richard Lamb and Kyle D Owen offered two more methods of ensuring the connection is restored on reboot.

 

 

Disk Drive manufacturers provide a surprisingly wide range of acceptable operating temperatures, and they can vary from product to product so you should check teh specs for the drives you are using.  The ranges are:

 

Manufacturer Normal Operating Range
WD

0° - 65°C / 32° - 149°F

Seagate

5° - 50°C (60° on newer models) / 41° - 122° F (140° F)

 

As mentioned in the section on Hibernation,  it's not heat that damages drives, as long as it stays within the operating range, it's the expansion and contraction that results from fluctuating temps - the more sudden, the more damaging. Therefore you should aim to locate your DiskStation where the temperature can be kept within the optimum range.  If you're running on the cool side, use a lower fan speed setting in Control Panel:

 

Aim to keep your HDDs within 37° and 46° C, if you can, but accept that the tolerances are high

DSM has a number of tools to help you monitor system health.

 

Desktop Widgets

On the DSM Desktop, admins can enable a selectable set of widgets that display various system states. These appear as a single scrollable column.  Enable and select them like this:

 

 

These are the currently available widgets:

 

 

Widgets are great if you have the admin desktop open frequently, but if you don't then alerts can go unnoticed.

 

LEDs

The front face of a DiskStation has a number of LEDs.  The meaning of the various colour and blink states may differ from model to model and the information for your model can be found in the Quick Start Guide that you will find on the Download Center on the Synology web site.  Here are the indicators for the DS916+

 

 

LEDs are a good quick indicator of potential problems if the DiskStation is in a public place

 

Beeps

 

A DiskStation can also be setup to beep under certain conditions:

 

 

If your DiskStation sits on your desk, beeps are good because they will draw your attention to the LEDs, and prompt you to look at the widgets on your desktop.  But beeps are subject to the same limitations as LED status lights - they're not very helpful if the system is not located where you can hear them.

 

Notifications

Notifications are the most comprehensive solution.  There are options for email, pushed and SMS notifications.  The last two of these are more useful in a mission critical, enterprise system where sys admins need to jump on an issue before it escalates and causes downtime for the business.  For home use, email is probably more appropriate.

 

Setup is easy - see below.  You can use various email services including a custom SMTP. 

 

There's a long list of notifications which you should review and there's a section dedicated to System issues.  For now, select them all.  In time you will be able to dial down the number of notifications once you have satisfied yourself that you know what they all mean, and which are safe to ignore; until then, you don't want to miss something important.

 

 

Don't forget to explore the items in the other sections.  Tip:  Some of the sections only apply if you're using certain features.  But if you aren't using a feature now, you may decide to do so soon.  It's better to select them all - if a service isn't live you won't get notifications for it - if it is subsequently made live, you don't want the notifications to be turned off and find yourslef missing an important message.

 

The most reliable way of getting system alerts is to enable email notifications

The simple answer is:

 

  1. If it's one of your users, go help them
  2. If it's an external person from Russia, China or anywhere else for that matter, relax.  Your DiskStation's firewall is doing its job and is keeping out people (more likely bots) that are probing for unsecured servers and trying to break into them. The notification is just an FYI (you could disable it, but I wouldn't).  Your relaxation level is, however, directly related to your system security level. 

 

If you have strong passwords and 2FA, and have disabled the default admin user, you can put on the shades and sip a pina colada.  If you haven't, then remove the shades, put the cocktail to one side and take a look at the section "What can I do to make my DiskStation more secure?"  And do it now, please.

For an inexperienced user there are two main methods of connecting to a DiskStation when you are away from home:

 

  1. Mobile apps via QuickConnect
  2. Web browser via DDNS

 

For more advanced users we could add:

 

  1. VPN
  2. Web browser via your own domain name

 

... but this guide is for newbies, so we will focus on the first two

 

QuickConnect

To quote the Synology DSM Help:

QuickConnect allows client applications to connect to your Synology NAS via the Internet without the hassle of setting up port forwarding rules. QuickConnect can also work with Synology-developed packages, such as Audio Station, Video Station, Download Station, Surveillance Station, Photo Station, File Station, Note Station, CMS, Cloud Station, and mobile applications.

 

So all you need to connect mobile apps to your NAS is a QC ID (short, unique and memorable), user name, password and, if you have enabled it, your 2FA code (you have enabled 2FA haven't you?  Of course you have.)

 

To set up QC you need to link your device to your Synology Account.   Then follow these steps:

 

 

Critics of QC say that it is slow.  This may be technically correct but in practice I have yet to notice this impacting on my user experience.  I regularly use it to connect to MailPlus and DS Photo over a 4G connection.  I can browse my 20,000 photo library, and search, scroll and select with the only appreciable delay being more to do with mobile network latency than QC.

 

DDNS

You can use QuickConnect to connect a browser to your NAS (the URLs are given on the QC tab above.)  But an alternative method is to use a DDNS Service.

 

A DDNS (Dynamic Domain Name System) address on your DS will monitor the IP address assigned to your internet connection by your ISP.  If that IP address changes, the DDNS service will record the change.  This means that even if you don't or can't have a static IP address from your ISP, the DDNS name will always route traffic correctly to your DiskStation.

 

There are several DDNS services available (many are free) including one from Synology, which is what I use.  Like QuickConnect, the Synology DDNS service does not require any ports to be opened.  To set up DDNS:

 

 

 

 

 

There are some limited things you can do with the desktop. The desktop icons are not locked. You can right click and remove them and you can drag them into a different order. There is no option to right click the desktop and sort them alphabetically, which would be a nice touch - maybe DSM 7 will provide that?



When you have an app open, you can pin it to the taskbar (1) (which, unlike Windows' taskbar, is at the top of the screen, and unmovable), and you can unpin it (2)

 

 

If you click on the DSM equivalent of the Windows Start button, a drop down or full screen main menu appears, containing all apps available to the user.  That is also unordered, but can be manually sorted.  If you want to add an application icon to the desktop, use the main menu to show the full list and then right click on the item that's to be added.

 

 

The choice between drop down and full screen main menu is a setting in desktop customisation - see below

 

If you have lots of applications open, switching between them can be problematic.  There is no keyboard equivalent of Windows Alt-Tab, but there is an equivalent for Windows Win-Tab.  It's called "Pilot View"

 

 

Finally, you can customise the desktop background by using a different colour, them, or even adding a custom picture of your own:

 

 

Synology Router / SRM

These are the packages that are available on the RT2600ac as of 23 Jan 2019 and the two that are highlighted are, for the novice user, the only packages that should be installed.

 

 

Any router has one prime purpose - to route traffic on the LAN (wired or WiFi) and  to the WAN.  That is a substantial task but in order to keep costs down the  CPU and RAM in the RT2600ac is limited:

 

 

The last thing you want in your home network is latency caused by an overloaded router. Its limited resources should be dedicated to routing traffic.  Every additional package will consume system resources and, anyway, there are usually better ways of providing the services contained in them.  For example, all of the additional packages are available on a Synology DiskStation, and it's a reasonable bet that anyone who has a Synology Router also has a DS with a beefier CPU and more RAM. 

 

Safe Access and Threat Protection should be considered as essential packages that need to operate at router level, to prevent dodgy packets infiltrating the LAN.  More advanced users may have a separate box between the modem and router that will handle those tasks, in which case the router can dedicate all of its resources to routing.

 

Do not install any other packages than Safe Access and Threat Prevention

As a long established supplier of NAS drives you can see how obvious it was for Synology to port some rudimentary storage capability to the routers.

 

There are two reasons why it's not a good idea

 

CPU Performance

As discussed in the section on installing packages on your router, the CPU and RAM are limited and the best use for limited resources is in routing data, not servicing file read / writes.

 

USB Drive Performance

The USB port on the RT2600ac is USB3 - that's good, right?  But if you enable the 2.4GHz WiFi, the system will immediately downgrade the USB port to USB2 speed because of potential interference with the 2.4GHz channel.  That's a massive performance hit to the USB drive.  The alternative is to disable the 2.4GHz WiFi, one of the router's core capabilities - there are many devices that still use 2.4GHz.

 

If you want to share files on your network, use a NAS - you probably already are if you own a Synology router

Contributors

Nathan Poulos, Mark Ealey, Richard Lamb, Kyle D Owen, Richard Perritt, John Greenwood, Marius Bogdan Bogdan and Jim Preis from the Synology Admins & Users Facebook Group

Synology Admins & Users
  1. Narongkij T. says:

    AWSOME!

    Diskstation section:
    – Cleaning your Diskstation. Dust bunnies, heat, & ventilation.. Oh my!

    Router section:
    – Which type of router to get? Synology makes 3.
    – Should I attach my Diskstation to my router via LAN or WiFi?

    • Some of the dust issues are covered aspart of the security section, but I agree that they need dealing with separately.

      Correct me if I’m wrong but haven’t Synology dropped support for WiFi dongles?

      Router selection – will be covered

  2. Well done guys. That’s a brilliant introduction to a lot of the usual beginners questions. I just need to learn how to tag a specific answer so I can post it in response to the FB questions 🙂

  3. Great guide for the new starters and more advanced users also, Keep up the good work chaps – it’s also a great repository for sending people to when they need some information, rather than trying to explain each time.

  4. Regarding;
    “My mapped drives keep disconnecting, how do I fix this?”
    Using the script method may risc the drives getting mapped with different drive letters from time to time, then it’s better manually to map the drives, by typing the ip/shart etc, and choose reconnect next time.
    AND add this in the the LMHOST file: ip servername #PRE

    That makes the pc catch the shares every time.

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