GoodBye Drobo, hello Synology

I had a Drobo 5N for a while and was not really satisfied. It did is job (host files, Time Machine target) OK, but had it’s flaws:

  • Slow. Very slow.
  • Not really flexible. Yes, Drobo Apps are there and through some nifty tricks you can run some stuff on it, but the limitations are there.
  • Not encrypted.
    That’s why I decided to move on and got a Synology DS1019+. My first impressions:
  • Fast! While the RAID was syncing, the Mac mini was uploading a huge pile of data, folder/file access was still very snappy. Not a scientific test, but the Drobo felt like crawling in such a situation.
  • Flexibility! A little overwhelmed by the possibilities right now and trying to figure out what to do.
  • Encryption!!!
    The speed was impressive, but there were still some improvements. So:
  • I put 2 256GB NVMe SSDs into the device to use as a read/write cache (RAID1).
  • I replaced my switch (Netgear whatever GbE) for a HP Enterprise 1820 switch. Main reason: the Synology has 2 GbE ports and the 1820 supports port trunking. I’m not ready to move to 10GbE yet, but 2x1GbE is nice to have. I did some random tests (several computers pulling data) and the throughput is great!

I am still figuring out what to do with it. Already done:

  • Plex server
  • iTunes media
  • Backups
  • A lot of data
  • Set up a Debian VM (hosting HomeBridge and other stuff)
  • Snapshot plan

I’m considering hosting media files for Plex on a Synology and using a Mac Mini to run Plex Media Server, curious if it’s powerful enough to just run on the Synology.

I would recommend adding functions if you really need them. It’s hard to undo them once they’re installed. A clean synology install is also deleting all data on disk… :slight_smile:

After initial tests, especially looking at CPU load on the DS1019+, I moved Plex Media Server from my Mac mini to it.

The Mini has four remaining tasks:

  • ScanSnap host
  • Backblaze upload
  • Hazel
  • ITunes Match sync

I moved everything else to the DS (HomeBridge, Backup tasks, Plex, Git, …).

Curious if

  1. You’re planning to back up your diskstation (maybe an attached USB drive?)
  2. I’ll assume you set up the DS with btrfs. Will you be versioning that “lot of data”?

Working on 1 (backup):

  • USB drive attached to the Mac mini uploads vital (not media files) data to Backblaze.
  • I will reuse the Drobo 5N as a backup device. Still wondering if I can get encryption working. Depending on that, it’s either just the media files or also personal data
    On 2 (BTRFS):
  • BTRFS is a great file system
  • when moving data to the DS, I created several shares depending on content. MP3s are on their own share, made a snapshot of the “clean” state and will move on from that. I I run a rename tool on them and wreak havoc, I can get back to the clean state. Same goes for photos, media, etc. RIght now pondering over an automated snapshot scheme.
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I use my Synology as a Plex server and also as a VPN server.

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Ah cool, I decided to cross post my question about running Plex to the Plex Discourse forums to see what they say. I like the use of your Mac Mini for those tasks.

I have a ds218+ and got an mkv 4 k movie and try to transcribe it using the Synology and I could not. However, I use the option Optimize and re create a version for TV and this created a mp4 with 1080p (since at this moment I still do not have a 4K tv) and then it worked fine. The optimize I did it from my mbp because it was going to take days with the nas.

So, after a while:

  • the DS1019+ is amazing!

Compared to the Drobo 5N:

  • I realized how underwhelming the Drobo is.
  • Speed: a whole new dimension. Just snappy. Open a folder with hundreds of files now doesn’t result in a coffee break.
  • Configuration: not yet through all the features. Amazing, just amazing! Setting up a virtual machine to host Linux was a breeze. My Mac mini might be jobless if not for: Hazel and ScanSnap.
  • Plex: a pain on the Drobo, snappy on the Synology.
  • Encryption: finally! I had two huge issues with the Drobo: slow and NOT ENCRYPTED.

To really push the Synology, I also reconfigured my network:

  • the dumb 1GbE switch went into the trashcan and was replaced by a new managed 1Gb switch. Now I use port trunking and can get 2Gb/s from the device.
  • the Airport Extreme also went into the trashcan and was replaced with a Synology RT2600ac.
  • now, via WiFi, I am getting 635Mbit/s (data throughput, measured with ipferf) to the Synology. Because of port trunking, also when the Mini is doing a backup over cable and/or Plex is running. With 1GbE I am close to the theoretical limit, the switch made a hige difference.

New life for the Drobo: now lives in the broom room, attached via Powerline (which I shoudln’t use as a radio amateur) and is a backup device for non-essential stuff.

Now just let’s wait until 10GbE becomes affordable…


That is all so great to hear. I’m planning on getting the Synology DS1019+ soon. Are you able to play media on Plex through the Synology without issue? I ask as others buy the Navida Shield to play media and have the Synology for storage.

For the most part… yes. I have a 1515+. I suspect that the 2019 models have more horsepower than my 2015 model. That being said…

  1. I have now moved ALL of my music to Plex. No more iTunes! I can play it on my phone, my Mac, my iPod, my appleTV, my Roku, and Google Chromecast. Just this level of ubitquity is worth it. I have separate libraries for Classical and Popular music which is nice. It’s not the absolute best music player in the world, but its quite good… and I have all of my media in one place.

  2. I have a library of movies. I try hard to create them at the resolution/format that I will most commonly need so that the synology doesn’t have to do a lot of transcoding. It seems to be able to transcode one stream fairly well as long as nothing else is happening on the device…otherwise it is a bit more hit and miss. But with the 2019 model this might not be a problem,

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Zero issues. Most of the time I use Direct Play, but I tested transcoding and never had any issue. I looked at CPU/memory usage in DSM and never was even near 100%. VM and TM were running in the background.

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I found this old post because I’m considering ditching my Drobo 5N for a Synology. I also find the speed (or lack thereof) of the Drobo to be maddening. It makes it almost worthless for me. I currently have the Drobo sitting on my desk attached to my iMac via ethernet because it was not doing me any good as a network drive anyway.

BUT… I have a ton of date on the Drobo and I know I can’t just pop those drives out. Did you transfer data off your Drobo and onto your Synology, and how did you do it? (And does anyone else have any suggestions?)

The only way I know to move your data from the Drobo is to copy it. But I would suggest using rsync (or an app like Chronosync) rather than dragging the files from the Drobo to another drive/Synology/etc. Either makes it easier to restart the copy should it be interrupted.

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Thank you for this. I wasn’t familiar with rsync, but I’d seen it mentioned in forum posts elsewhere. You’ve explained WHY I should use it, and that makes a lot of sense. Thank you! I now have hope that when I get the money together, I can make the leap.

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I just want to remind you that even if the Synology is great, it’s not a speed demon. So if you are used to your internal SSD and think you’ll get comparable speed, that’s not gonna happen. With gigabit ethernet, you’ll get probably 105MB/s at the maximum, probably closer to 85MB/s. Compared to an external USB 3 SSD, the Synology will be very slow. So even though the Synology is a great Network device, you still have to connect over Ethernet which will be your bottleneck. Just saying this so you can manage your expectation :slight_smile:

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Thank you. I’d be thrilled with 85. BlackMagic is telling me my Drobo is around 25 via Ethernet. I do need to swap out cables to see if that helps (although if it has to be hardwired at all, that largely defeats the purpose of this particular device for me).

Oddly enough, I have been thinking of doing the same. My Drobo has worked really well and we keep two back-ups of it, with one always off-site. Our 5N is about six years old. I’m not sure how long they typically last but it’s getting up there.

I’m curious why you are harping on encryption so hard. Looking at your use cases, I don’t see anything that requires the Drobo to be exposed to the public internet. Unless you are worried about your cat pulling out a drive and accessing it’s data, I don’t see how encryption provides any additional benefits.