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Migrating from OSX Server to Synology NAS.

January 21, 2015 |

I recently moved a client of mine from an ageing Mac OSX (10.5) server to a Synology NAS based storage solution. Here are my notes on the process…

Environment Overview:

~15 Client machines, mixed OSX & Windows.

OSX Client machines range from 10.5-10.10

Design Firm, lots of large video and photoshop files flying around.

Client wanted one device for the main fileshare, replicating data to the backup device in another office (connected over fibre backbone).

 

Equipment installed:

2x Synology DS1815+ running DSM 5.1

 

Process:

Configured both devices with 2 Disk Groups, for maximum flexibility. One big group for the main data, a second for caching/apps, and a global hot spare disk on each device.

RAID5 for the data volumes, which the Synology formats as EXT4.

Installed TimeBackup app on the primary device, as the in-built backup tools are rubbish. TimeBackup runs from the primary fileshare to the backup device over the LAN.

Installed a demo license of Archiware Presstor on the existing 10.5 fileserver, and then mounted the new fileshare via AFP, and used Presstor to sync data over to the new box. Presstor is the only sync software I know of that will properly copy data from an OSX machine to another non OSX platform and maintain ALL of the metadata, specifically Tags, which almost all other tools (including rsync) seem to lose.

Evaluation:

File Access Performance

-This has been pretty good, although not ground breaking, typically each client can access the device at around 80MB/s. This seems to be a pretty average real world performance figure for these devices from what I’ve read, despite rather grander claims from Synology themselves.

Backups

Built in backup tools are pretty rubbish to be honest, in so far as there’s no support for incremental backups, restores have to be whole folders as opposed to individual files and a few other annoying bits.

Fortunately, Synology offer an alternative in the form of their ‘TimeBackup” app (where did they come up with that name I wonder!), which seems to work OK, and offer incremental backups. It needs to be configured right to avoid some pretty awful performance – namely you must ensure that you do NOT set the backup tasks to be encrypted or compressed, as the data throughput will fall down to less than 1MB/sec, which makes regularly backing up 20TB of data pretty much impossible.

 

Spotlight Indexing

This is currently the most disappointing aspect of the project. Apple user’s have become well used to having a pretty awesome search function on their desktops for years now, by the name of Spotlight. It works on local volumes very well, and if connecting up to an OSX Server, then it also works, but that’s because OSX Server actually runs it’s own Spotlight agent on the shares and delivers results back to the clients, aware of permissions access of those clients.

Without that spotlight agent running on the Synology devices, clients are left with not much option other than force enabling client-side indexing of the volume(s) using the mdutil command…

mdutil /Volumes/volumename -i ON

However, this doesn’t work to well in a multi-user environment, AND it also seems pretty flakey at springing back in to life after each disconnect from the server.

The frustrating thing about this is that DSM5.1 actually sues the latest version of Netatalk to deliver AFP services, which DOES support spotlight indexing, however it needs to be compiled to do so, which it hasn’t been in DSM5.1 at this point of writing. If Synology could sort this out, it would, in my opinion, be a deal breaker, as no other NAS device I’m aware of supports this.

Summary.

The Synology devices are fantastic – the App store model that DSM utilises means the functionality really can be extended to provide almost all of the services that a ‘traditional’ server would, but for a lower cost, and with huge storage built in.

However, for OSX clients migrating from and OSX Server model, there are still some fine tuning points that need to be ironed out, hopefully in a soon to be released version of DSM.

 

—UPDATE—24 March 2016:

Synology have now realease DSM 6.0 – which features spotlight indexing for shared folders.

https://www.synology.com/en-us/dsm