Sunday 22 September 2013

my multimedia server based on Synology

In this blog I explain you how I created the (for me) ideal environment for keeping my important documents save and backed up and at the same time benefit from some extra features the Synology server offers.

first a bit of history: 
My geeky side always wants to try out professional stuff and use it at home. So for years (2002-2009) all my files, consisting of a few gigabyte of business & personal documents and hundreds of gigabytes of music, videos and photographs where hosted on a Windows Small Business Server (SBS) in our basement. But when I realized what the power-consumption of my 24x7 standby Quad-XEON server was I decided to downsize and move everything to a WD MyBook WorldEdition, a small 1 disk NAS. With a 2TB hard-disc in it, the important documents also safely in the cloud with DropBox and/or GoogleDrive, this offered enough space. My unstable Exchange-Outlook environment was migrated to Google Apps with GMail and this turned out much better then I ever hoped. My XBMC-devices around the house could access the media files on the MyBook via LAN or WiFi. 

Until one day the disc in the MyBook started making strange noises, rebooting, taking hours to re-index all media-files and in the end I even lost some pictures I'd rather not had lost. It was finally time for Synology. I already heard a lot of it from friends (via social media) and I quickly opted for the DS213+ model, a pretty fast 2-disc NAS, so possible to mirror the data. I started building it with one 3TB WD RED (specially developed for NAS-purpose) and when everything worked I added a second 3TB WD RED disc so my data would be constantly mirrored (Raid1). Maybe a 4-disc NAS with a Raid5/10 scheme would've been better and more efficient but that also comes with a different price-tag. 

So now I have my Synology DS213+ up and running. It keeps copies of my personal and business documents which I now primarily store in the GoogleDrive and Dropbox clouds so I can access them from wherever I am and from whatever device I am using (PC at home, laptop at work, tablet or smartphone on the road). The Synology Operating System or DiskStation Manager (DSM) as they call it is a very powerful Linux based OS which allows even non-Linux users to benefit from a real server. It is amazing if you see what you can get out of this little box. All my printers are shared and we can directly print from the computers, iPads, iPhones, Android tablets and smartphones. Video and music are streaming to DLNA devices like our smart TV, tablets and phones. We're browsing through all our digital pictures/albums on the TV or tablet. And I even connected an outside IP Security Camera which I can see from wherever I am on my smartphone. You can manage users and groups in case you do not want everyone to have access at everything.

Backup options
Even though my data is stored on 2 different harddrives it is still not safe, what if our cellar floods or the house burns down? My video and music collection is not so important, my documents are stored in various clouds, but the tens of GBs of pictures we shot over the last years is not something I would like to loose. The Synology offers some interesting back-up solutions in different price ranges. For my pictures I choose Amazon Glacier backup. It is a very economic solution, I pay less then 1US$ per month to store around 20GB of pictures on Amazon's servers in Ireland. It is not as easy accessible as other cloud solutions but I will only need it in case of emergency. From my PC I also make a copy to where I got a lot of storage for free by inviting friends (follow this link and start with 15+5GB for free)

Bonus for the MultiMedia freaks
For those who like to download movies and TV shows there's a whole bunch of Apps in a community available for the Synology. After some attempts with various tools/apps I came up with this set-up:

  • SABnzbd for downloading content from Usenet* (a paid usenet provider will be necessary);
  • SickBeard an app that automatically monitors if there are new episodes of my favourite TV Shows (like Dexter, Breaking Bad, the Big Bang Theory) available and if he pushes them to SABnzbd;
  • CouchPotato is to movies what SickBeard is to TV Shows.

read this blog to find out more about how to install and configure them on your Synology. I used this manual too and it fitted me right, especially since also I prefer to watch via XBMC.

*) to be able to use Usenet you will need a paid subscription to one of the Usenet providers. I use NewsDemon which offers a good and fast service (I can download at the maximum bandwidth my provider offers). Warning: downloading copyright protected content from Usenet is not legal everywhere so I strongly recommend you inform yourself before doing anything illegal. Oh, and do not blame me of course ;-)

And finally there is COPS, a Calibre-based App for easily accessing all your eBooks and ePubs from your tablet/e-reader on the server.

...and what does this all cost?
The hardware can be yours around 600€ for a Synology DS213+ w/ 2 mirrored harddrives of 3TB, but I also build a solution around the cheaper 1-disc DS112j (250€ incl. one 2TB disc) which works just fine as long as you do not download and stream at the same time.
In case you need help setting it up, just leave me a comment or contact me via the known social media (see right column)