Redragon K530 Draconic

Here we are with a 60% keyboard. This time, this even smaller K530 model. As for that true-typing experience I was chasing, I’m certainly experiencing more of that. Read on for my thoughts for the K530 Dragonic.

The first 3 days I took this to work, and I had a mixed experience. For purely typing, this is great. The sounds are fantastic, the tactility from the outemu browns feel really good, and doing some n-key rollover tests show this registers all the possible keys I can press (about 40 at a time). The bluetooth feature came in handy for switching between laptop / phone / desktop. I loved the fact that my desk space immediately increased, and it looks very minimal. Professionally minimal as I like to think. For things like web-browsing, replying to emails, and gaming this is truly a great experience. I’ve yet to use the macros, but I’ll soon figure out how they work.

The K530 delivers on a small, effective package that punches above it’s price point. The board feels incredibly stiff, and during disassembly I was happy to find a metal backplate. The USB-C connector works fine, and is now alongside the collection of other USB-C cables on my desk. Removal of keys and switches is straightforward, and the backplate is held in by 7 machine screws. The underside board houses the 3000maH battery with one connector. I love using bluetooth on this keyboard, and simply moving it out of the way when I need more desk space. With the ability to connect 3 different devices with the flip of a switch was certainly the highlight of my day. Punching out paragraphs with the brown switches feels effortless and satisfying. I may have found that true-typing experience!

  • Portable size!
  • Triple Bluetooth connectivity
  • Removeable USB-C
  • Hot-Swappable switches
  • Multiple backlight options
  • Metal backplate

I have to put the disclaimer here that I’m an avid typer, but I still use a full range of Microsoft Office products in my day-to-day. Please keep that in mind while reading this.

The lack of arrow keys along the right-hand side feels weird. I still find myself hitting the bottom right ctrl key when looking for the arrow key. Redragon’s solution is to use the FN+A, FN+S, FN+D, FN+W for those arrows, and it feels alien to my brain. Apparently I’ve been using a 104 keyboard for much too long, since I’ve also grown accustomed to ctrl+shift+arrow to highlight a word. With the K530, I have to use FN+ctrl+shift+arrow, that’s 4 separate keys. This is however the trade-off of a super small 60% keyboard. The entire top row pulls triple duty with the use of not one, but two function keys. Spreadsheets are also frustrating to use; the pgup/pgdn/home/end are all fn+ key, I find myself switching to my regular 104 membrane keyboard for such occasions.

Also using Win+Arrow to snap windows is also a bit of a chore. The combination is :

win + fn + (arrow). The combo cannot be:

fn + win + (arrow).

Even sometimes that combination (in that order) doesn’t work. This could be that the get-focus function on whatever I’m working on is well, focused. But there are times when I feel that these keys have a mind of their own.

The K530 also eschews any multimedia keys. Whereas the K582 and K599 both offered volume control, global media keys for music playback. Again, I’m sure this was done purposely for the small size and to avoid giving quadruple duty to any keys.

Compared to it’s big K582 and K599 brothers, the amount of lighting effects is also much less. There’s no way to change the color of each key unless using the software

In my last review of the K599 60% board, I also mentioned the height of the board being high, the K530 is no different. However, I’m getting used to them, and actually prefer them now.

  • Some adjustments coming from a 104 style keyboard
  • fn + WASD left handed arrow keys
  • fn + key for LOTS of other things, sometimes triple keys

These gripes are however, all based on the last 20 years of using a very particular style of keyboard. If I had started with the 60%, and moved my way up, I’m sure my opinion would be very different. I am VERY keen to practice more on this keyboard, and over time I’m sure I’ll love using this form factor.

I noticed this because I have 2 other Redragon brand keyboards; the font on the keys (legends) are different. See below, the top QWERTY row is from my original K582 Surara, and the bottom row is the K530 series.

My theory is that the K582 and K599 are using a ‘gamer/hacker’ style font, since they’re marketed for the gamer community. Whereas the K530 seems to be marketed for the typist (or just general user who prefers a 60% keyboard). The gamer/hacker font is a boxier style that fills more of the keycap, while the latter font is more of a sans-serif style. The sans-serif style for the K530 is likely smaller to accommodate for the double/triple duty some keys are doing with side legends.

See below, the top 1 thru 0 row has at least 3 different functions to suit the rest of the board.

Escape key = Esc, Bluetooth pairing, tilde ~, and backtic `.

1 key = 1, F1, and macro1

And so forth.

I picked up the K530 as a kijiji sale by itself. I didn’t get a box, just this keyboard and third party USB-C connection. I already had a switch puller, keycap puller and a bunch of spare outemu switches. I would imagine purchasing this new from amazon includes all that, manual and likely some spare switches.

I like that this board, much like the K599 doesn’t have a top ‘snap-on’ vanity cover. Disassembly was taking off the keycaps, taking the individual switches off, and 7 machine screws to remove. The entire top, metal (!) pops off, and you can access the battery and ports along the left-hand side in case you need to clean or do some maintenance.

Redragon K599 Deimos

I’ve never tried a 75% keyboard before. And my original thoughts were that I wanted a True-typing experience. I certainly got that, and little more. Read on for my thoughts on the Redragon K599 Deimos mechanical keyboard.

70 keys, n-rollover (Basically means you can mash your palm into the keys and it detects each press individually), all sorts of brightness settings, and a cut-down version of the home/insert/pgup/pgdn/home/end keys.

So what’s all this mean?

As a typing tool, this thing is awesome. It’s small enough not to clutter the desktop, has a satisfying click (Outemu Reds), and has a great backlight with all sorts of color options.

As mentioned, when used strictly as a typing tool this is fantastic. The form factor and layout doesn’t differ much from a standard 104 keyboard. Compared to the Surara K582 (a full sized 104 keyboard), I didn’t have to readjust anything. My fingers found home row about 80% of the time. There’s also the wireless 2.4Ghz dongle option which, I have only used sparingly just to ensure it works since I brought it home. And I like the USB-C connector cable. My desktop is apparently collecting all the USB-C devices for my phone, tablet, and rechargeable mouse, so having another is welcome. The connector is also removeable, which makes the entire package entirely portable with little fuss. This also weights a hefty amount, which makes it feel like a very premium keyboard for the price. Also, when doing tear down (to swap out the switches, and my own curiosity) it was very simple to disassemble.

  • Great size!
  • Wireless 2.4Ghz with dongle
  • Removeable USB-C
  • Good weight for price
  • Arrow keys placement
  • Easy disassembly
  • Hot-swappable switches
  • Multiple backlight options
  • Multimedia key controls via FN+ press

There’s some adjustment to this new device. Namely, my brain has been hardwired to reach for the INS/DEL/Home/End/pgup/pgdn keys in their 104-layout. I still have to physically look for those keys when typing (usually looking for the end or beginning of a line, or editing a document). I’m also very used to hitting the F-keys out of habit to do things like F2-Rename, Alt-F4 close, or F8-execute code (in Visual Studio). I find my fingers sometimes reach for that non-existent row, whereas now I need to use FN-# key assignment. There have also been a few times I miss the backspace or enter key, this is usually because my fingers  are searching for the gap between the enter keys to the arrow keys. I personally wish this device came with a bluetooth option, or the ability to pair to another 2.4Ghz adapter. For anyone new using a mechanical keyboard, it’s worth noting the height difference; the K599 is about 3CM from the base to the top of the key, while many membrane keyboards are 2CM or lower. I suggest an wrist rest for extended sessions.

  • Coming from standard 104-keyboard, there’s some adjustment: ins/del/home/end keys
  • Adjustment for the F-row
  • Adjustment for the Enter/Backspace keys
  • Using the FN-key for LOTS of things
  • Probably need a wrist rest

First, remove all the keycaps with the included ‘red key puller’ included with the package. Interestingly enough, this did not come with any additional switches or a switch puller. If you’re looking to mod, you may want to invest in a separate one. In my case, I had a spare one from my K582 set. After that, remove all the switches gently with the switch remover, I suggest clamping from top-bottom (rather than left right). Once that’s done you should have something similar to this:

There’s about 7 or 8 machine screws with philips heads. These are all the same length, so they can reinstalled in any order. Once all switches are removed you should have just the metal backplate:

After the phlilips head machine screws are removed, pinch the plastic ‘grabbers’ together and lift the metal plate out.

Above is the system PCB board in all it’s glory. Taking it step further, gently lift from the bottom (not the top) and you can see the bottom board and rechargeable battery.

Be careful of the USB-C along the left hand side, since it’s soldered onto the board, just make sure it aligns up properly before screwing down the metal backplate.

The included outemu red switches, I also swapped out with AKKO Jelly CS Whites. These I like mainly because of the soft press, and these are slightly less noisy than the red’s. Just be careful when you’re putting the switches in, push them directly from the top, not off-set or anything, otherwise you might bend a pin.

For the money, this is a compact, beautiful looking keyboard with tons of functionality and usability. I personally find this board to the most comfortable of the bunch, at just the right size. I find this the most comfortable board for gaming or speed typing on

Redragon K582 Surara

The OG keyboard in the house. The first mechanical I purchased, and by far the most utilized tool in my arsenal. This is the board that got me into the wide world of mechanical switches, and has reliably served me since the Covid lockdown. The Surara was originally my budget purchase, but it’s now a staple and fixture in my home as the one that started it all.

Covid-19 hit the entire world in 2020. I, a cloud analyst figured since I was working at home for the next few months wanted a comfortable, fun and enjoyable typing experience. I looked at some youtube clips, made some notes and hopped on Amazon. Some refer to it as ‘Red-Dragon’, where as some of the UK actually say ‘Re-Dragon’, because they say things properly over there. I picked up this keyboard based on price, backlight options, hot-swappable, and that sound.

This is the workhorse of the bunch of keyboards I own. Since I swapped out the Red switches for Akko tactile CS jelly purples, it’s awesome for every day use. For some reason I don’t feel this is my most comfortable board, that goes to the Redragon K599. I however prefer the full 104 key layout for the number pad, full F-key row, and the overall esthetic. Many times I just feel comfortable using this keyboard for daily tasks or gaming.

For a ‘budget’ mechanical keyboard, there’s a surprising amount of heft, and this provides a premium quality. The metal backplate gives weight on the bottom, since this is a wired board, there’s no sound deadening, nor any insulation on the inside. The keys, and switches are hot swappable, and if you really want, you can actually remove the outside outer plastic cover that covers the bottom and top. The multimedia controls are easily accessible via the Fn+ F keys along the top – volume control, media play-back to name a few. Plus, there’s 18 different lighting modes for the backlight – who really needs a desk lamp these days?

  • Standard 104 size
  • Multi-media shortcuts
  • Backlit, many different lighting modes
  • Easy disassembly
  • Hot-swappable keys + switches
  • Included extra switches + key puller + switch puller

As a budget board, the number of connectivity options is limited: USB-A, and that’s it. Compared to some of the newer boards I picked up, some have 3x bluetooth, detachable USB-C, or 2.4GHz wireless dongle. This isn’t a deal breaker, but if you’re sparse on desktop space you may regret not having the option of a detachable USB-C to connect your other keyboards. There’s also times I wished there were a physical knob at the top of the board; but these are just my thoughts. For the price, and the options provided it’s still pretty good.

Removal of the plastic housing requires only a bit of finesse. A plastic pry tool does the job quite nicely. After that, removal of keycaps, and switches is straight forward. I highly suggest when pulling keycaps to make absolutely sure the metal tool pinches COMPLETELY from top to bottom – I’ve cracked a few by not paying attention.

Once the switches are removed, there’s 8 machine screws holding the K582 together.

The PCB board is very simple, with just the USB-connector attached at bottom. As you can see below, there’s nothing else in the bottom housing; no molding, no tape, no sound deadening, no battery, just a big plastic, empty shell.

While I can’t say for certain the experience with ALL keyboards, it take a few months of my wrists adjusting to the height of this keyboard (which, is pretty much standard for all mechanical boards). At it’s highest (the F-row) it’s about 4cm high. I would suggest anyone new to mechanical keyboards look at a wrist rest since this seems to alleviate the problem almost immediately.

The K582 is a solid choice for the price. As my daily driver from the past 4 years I still think this board is by far one of the most reliable, if not the most utilized keyboard in my inventory. While other keyboards are slowly making their way onto my desk, the K582 will always be the original.

Synology DS420+ review




A little over 7 years ago, I purchased a DS413J. It was everything I needed; lots of storage, ample power, and served media in the house suitably well. Fast-forward to 2020, the DS413J is feeling rather aged. The Web UI and 2FA login sometimes takes a little longer than two minutes to fully login. Transfer speeds at 30Mb/s feels unimpressive, and it takes sometimes up to 10 minutes to reboot.

I decided it was time to get into a DS420+. This would serve as my main file/media share while to leverage the CPU, upgradeable RAM and much improved performance.



Synology mainly deals in networking products. The company started with consumer network storage, and have expanded into IP surveillance, and consumer router hardware. Synology’s network storage is pliable across consumer to SMB all the way to corporate SAN. This is also where they really shine. A NAS – Network Attached Storage runs file shares without the overheard of a running server that consumes space, cooling, network, licensing, and power. Most of the NAS models – the DS series, which I’ll cover below are small, quiet, and very unassuming.

The consumer NAS market is competitive, with names like QNAP, Terra Master, Western Digital, Drobo, and Buffalo to name a few. While I won’t go into each of those name brands, I typically see consumers here in Canada picking between QNAP and Synology.

If you’ve ever wondered about the naming convention of the Synology NAS devices, I’ve broken it down here:

Synology DiskStation naming explained
  • 1 – Leading letters [DS][RS][DX]. DS – Diskstation (the formfactor you see here). RS – RackStation (Rack mounted NAS). DX – Diskstation Expansion, and so on.
  • 2 – The first number(s). Sometime a single digit. This is the maximum amount of internal drives the NAS can house, with expansion units. [ie. A 1812+ = 8 disks in unit, with 10 extra disks from expansion units allowed]
  • 3 – The last 2 digits. Demarks the year released. [DS413J = released in 2013, DS420+ = released in 2020]
  • 4 – The very last character denotes the performance. This does change depending on the market segment. Generally, the most common ones are J= home entry level, Play = media specific functions with some encoding, Plus (+)= performance level, XS = Top tier specifications.


Who buys a NAS? Who is it meant for? A NAS is meant for anyone with lots of data that needs to be securely and safely stored in a central location. I emphasize ‘central’ because we all know the pain of multiple USB drives. While convenient, they do end up in odd places or sometimes misplaced when you need them.

This is where a NAS steps in. One location for storing all the files, easily accessible by smart devices, and more flexible and cost friendly over cloud storage. A NAS can also stream media; which means you have the option to watch any owned, stored media on your device of choice. And, no streaming service fees either.

The Synology Diskstation Manager also offers a massive menu of different applications; security, webhosting, authentication, and surveillance. For guys like me, there’s Virtual Machine manager, Radius Server, Active Directory integration – the list keeps growing.



Intel Celeron J4025 2-core 2.0GHz, burstable up to 2.9GHz


2GB DDR4 [expandable to 6GB]

HHD Bays

4 x 3.5″ or 2.5″ SATA HDD/SSD (not included)

2 x M.2 2280 NVMe SSD (not included)


2 x USB 3.0 (front and back)


2 x 1Gbe RJ-45


100 V to 240 V AC

HD Drive bays are all plastic and screwless. Everything has markings for sliding into the standard 3.5″ HDD pin holes. Included are screws for 2.5″ HDD’s as well. Once the HD’s are in the unit, they’re snug with no vibration. There’s also a Synology Key for each drive bay to lock each independently. The front of the unit has indicator lights for status, each individual drive, and the power button. One USB 3.0 connection in the front, and one USB 3.0 in the back. Sadly, there’s no Esata connection for expanded / backup storage. The double RJ-45 connections can also be used independently, teamed, or for failover.

Network protocols


File System

-internal: Btrfs, ext4

-external (connected via usb): Btrfs, ext4, ext3, FAT, NTFS, HFS+, exFAT

RAID types

SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID), Basic, JBOD, RAID 0/1/5/6/10

SSD Cache

-read/write cache support

-M.2 NVMe SSD Support

File Sharing Capacity

-Max local user accounts: 2048

-Max local groups: 256

-Max shared folders: 512

-Max concurrent SMB/NFS/AFP/FTP connections: 500


Vmware Vsphere 6.5, Hyper-V, Citrix, OpenStack


Once again, the Disk Station Manager web GUI is flawless. On initial boot you’re asked to install the latest DSM, then format any installed Hard Disks. After it reboots again, it’s off to configure your RAID storage. Interesting note here, the official spec sheet mentions Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) as an option. On first install with 2 disks, SHR was available.

Volume Creation Wiz rd 
Configure storage pool property 
RAID type: 
Minimum number of driæs 
r RAID: 
Sto g e_ 1 
1 (SHR with only one driæ will 
able to driæ 
This is the RAID type for uærs. this type 
pu to driæs of siæ in the to optimiæ siæ and 
to data

After installing another 2 disks, SHR was absent? I have a feeling the option was quietly removed to favor disks of the same size to fit industry standards.

Storage Pool Creation Wizard 
Configure storage pool property 
Storage pool description (optional): 
RAID type: 
Minimum number of drives per RAID: 
RAID 5 Description: 
RAID 5 provides fault tolerance and increased 
RAID 5 can sustain the loss of a single drive. I 
reconstructed from parity striped across the re 
performance is severely impacted while a RAID 
space and cost are more important than perfor 
RAID 10 
hree drives is required. 
from the failed drive is 
ad and write 
D 5 is ideal when 

SHR has the ability to protect disks of different sizes. This isn’t a deal breaker to me, but it’s worth noting for someone that’s looking for this functionality. Just to point out, it IS best practice to use disks of all the same size for any sort of RAID configuration.

The Web GUI is incredibly quick and responsive. This largely because of the Intel Celeron J4025 processor and 2GB DDR4 RAM. Even after adding 2Factor authentication, it’s much speedier than my 413J. Creation of shares, installation of new packages, configuring Media services and Video station are easy and intuitive. During my initial burn in period, I mounted some external CIFS shares around my network to copy the data onto this 420+. I was never disappointed, the new DSM even provides an estimated time of completion for large jobs.


Disk Station Manager (DSM) rocks. Simple as that. Super robust, quick, snappy, it just does everything that regular desktop machine would do, just within the browser. Anything is at your fingertips within DSM. Some of the things I use on a regular basis are Hyper Backup, File station (when I want to do CIFS to CIFS transfers), Synology Drive and Storage Manager.

D isk 
Task Manager 
Connected Users 
Speed Limit 
Performance Alarm 
DSM Help 
Memory Composition 
Netvm rk 
Type : 
4.6 Ga 
Click to up nctifiætions. 
utilization 8 
used 3.31 TE 
capacity: 7. IE TB 
O System H It h 
Ym_'r S',molcgy NAS 
Resou«e Monitor 

Everything is intuitively set up. I do recommend setting Control Panel to ‘Advanced Mode’. Just in case you want to see things like the indexing service, external devices, Terminal or Privileges icons. All things are very straightforward, and the help menu is surprisingly, well, helpful. Customization of the login screen, desktop background, color theme, even image or icons are available. I’ve enabled 2FA for login, email notifications, quickconnect, media services all just by clicking around menu’s. The interface is simple enough to get you to your location, yet sophisticated and secure enough to give me comfort when I leave the house.


Super Feature packed. I’ve noticed the Plus (+) series of Synology NAS offers much more packages than the plain “J” series. There’s even a beta package section I’ll be trying out soon. Each new feature brings new items to tweak, and more value to the Synology. Just the other day I configured Replication services, and Synology drive, next up will be Directory server.

It really is a dazzling array of programs this little NAS can run. There’s multiple sites that report using this strictly as a 4K Plex Server. I’ve even seen a few startup businesses using some of the bigger + (plus) models for storage and security with IP cameras. These really are customizable to no end, and based on the new up-and-coming Kubernetes images, these could one day replace traditional server technology.

The 420+ also offers an M2 cache buffer. I’m not quite using it yet, perhaps when I try out mail station or get heavier into web development I’ll populate the drives.

This also has an upgradeable RAM slot on the right of the unit to compliment the current 2GB DDR4. I’ve already got a 4GB stick in there – not best practice, I know; it should ideally be a matching 2GB stick. But I had an extra stick that matched the voltage lying around and thought I’d give it a shot. It’s been 3 weeks without any sort of hiccup.

The Android App store also has many of the general items, like file, video, audio, moments and DS cam. I also noticed there’s a Synology Chat icon in there, which I’m sure complies with secure communications between you and some friends. I’ve been using the DS finder since I have 2 NAS’s in the house, and it’s been great looking over the current usage when I run backup jobs or kube containers.


Absolutely worth every penny! Speed, security, feature rich, and reliable name brand. Synology is really improving their DSM with every release, DSM 7.0 is already beta testing, which hopefully is a general release within 2020. My only complaint is a missing e-sata connection in the back of the unit. I could use some of the bigger DX expansion series – if I ever could fill that much space! For the price, the included features, the never-ending applications for any sort of business or personal need, this is another near perfect offering from Synology.

Synology DS413J review

DS413J-oh yeah (Small)

I was overjoyed to get a bigger NAS device.  Mainly because my Dlink 323 was running out of space, and I yearned for something with a little more usability and functionality.  I shopped around looking and compared the QNAP, Synology, Thecus, WD, and even some Drobo units.  Smallnetbuilder’s NAS charts were a huge help in getting what I wanted.  I’m not here to plug them, I just think they have a lot of useful content and reviews that were suited to what I was looking for.
Moving away from the very consumer based Dlink 323, which was tapped out at 12MBps, I found myself in want of something faster and up to date. Synology’s hardware was sound, with a proprietary hybrid RAID, and a kick ass WebUI that simply destroyed the competition.  I originally was hooked on getting the DS1512 +, the price being the breaking point factor in this scenario.  I eventually went with the DS413J with 4 x 2TB 7200RPM Seagate Drives.  Consider that I was able to purchase the DS413J and four hard drives, the cost of the DS1512+ without hard drives was still MORE expensive.

All the reviews put the Synology Disk Station Manager (DSM) as the multi-faceted powerhouse to which all other NAS devices should follow, and it’s easy to see why.  You can drive the unit entirely from a browser any where, has plentiful plugins and offers usability for beginner to expert levels.

First Impressions
The DS413J came in a very marketing-manager-friendly box, plenty of pretty pictures and an overall glossy feel at least made me feel like I had made a worthwhile investment.  I was a little shocked to discover there was no manual with this unit, Synology smartly eschewed a physical one for a PDF attached to disk.  A nice little touch.  The unit was immaculate, pristine and wrapped with care in a sheen of plastic wrap and free of dust and any other particulates.  Unboxing the NAS felt more like working with a professional scientific instrument instead of a toy, it’s well put together and presented that it just has that feel to it.  I wasn’t crazy with the white plastic encasing the unit, the brushed aluminum top and back likely does more for cooling, but if it was entirely black or entirely aluminum that would have been a nice touch.  As it is, the white will do – if you’re nit-picky about that sort of thing.

Synology DS413 Box (Small)
The Box the Disk Station arrived in. Plenty of pretty picture on all sides and top. There’s even links to partner companies listed in bullet format

The power brick is a large, unflattering chunk of plastic – if only the power supply was embedded in the unit it would have saved me a little more space on my Rack.  There’s ample screws for hard drive installation, from 1.5mm to 2.5mm, flat and flushed heads: more than enough for 4 drives.  The drive trays are simple flat gray plastic with no rubberized anti-vibration absorption, but the engineers have  tightly integrated them into the NAS chassis, so there’s no movement anyway.  The front of the unit has seven LED indicator lights: Power, Status, LAN, and one LED for each hard drive inserted.  The colors are straightforward for anyone to understand as well: Green=Good, Red=Bad.  The middle power button is always blue, probably because it just looks cool.

DiskStation_DS413j_1 (Small)
Blinking LED indicators tell you at a quick glance what’s going on with power, LAN, and your Hard drives. No LCD display, but you can do everything from the DSM web GUI

This is where the Synology really shines, after setting up and formatting hard drives (surprisingly quick), you are given a choice to either install the DSM from the Synology external update site or manually (you first download the package and point to it).  I did the latter and installed it from my laptop via a wireless connection.  Immediately after logging in, DSM tells you such items as uptime, resource monitoring, logs and current connections all as a pop up in the bottom right hand side.  The wizard can help you configure backup, router configuration for firewall and external port access and offers easy to read configuration items in the control panel from the start.

DSM Image 1
DSM treats your experience like another desktop, complete with icons, and Windows-esque useful health ‘gadgets’ such as health monitors, transfers, logs and whatever else you can decide from the drop down menus

Easily the most user friendly NAS device I’ve ever come across; the hardware is straightforward – plug in your drives, provide power and ethernet, and press the power button.  The Synology Disk Station Manager (DSM) AJAX web server is incredibly powerful and lightning quick, even from external access where my uploads are slower.  Mounting files from within the DSM was a snap, just open their File Station (equivalent of Explorer, or if you prefer, Finder) and mount the remote folder share you have on your network.  Creating users and groups is intuitive and fast, the linux style of read/access based on shares makes things much easier to figure out. The Packages are well put together and definitely have great business potential; such as the multiple CRM’s, Wiki abilities, Mailstation and VPN server.  Even the backups are dead simple; I configured my old linux based NAS into an Rsync location for the DS413J.  The dual USB ports even allow for plugging in of external hard disks for USB copy / backup jobs, and everything can be scheduled.  The system log is also very useful for tracking down changes and logins, as well as the health monitor that tells you every task-manager-esque what’s going on, who’s doing what and what processes are using CPU and memory.

Quick pic of currently installed packages on the DSM GUI.  You can add even more 3rd party applications that are handy like 'currently connected'
Quick pic of currently installed packages on the DSM GUI. You can add even more 3rd party applications that are handy like ‘currently connected’

I only have great things to say about the DSM, it’s like logging into a new computer each time you add a new package.  The new features add a new dimension each time, allowing for further tweaks and functionality that wasn’t before present.  Some such as Media Server didn’t appeal to me, but others such as 3rd party add-ons like Switch Service and Current Connection make the experience much more informative.  With such features like Radius Server, I could now change my wireless encryption to an enterprise level format capable of local and ldap authentication protocols.  I’m sure the next time I’m a party, I’ll have to drop that nugget of information.  Other features such as media station helps create an internal website complete with thumbnails and auto-playing movies and streaming audio (even over the internet).  There’s so much power at the DSM’s disposal, that it would take a whole article for each add-on feature.

The DSM package center has endless possibilities with different configurations and applications with categories such as business, productivity, web and mail serving and more
The DSM package center has endless possibilities with different configurations and applications with items for business, productivity, web and mail serving and more

I struggled with the price and (theoretical) performance of the much meatier Synology 1512+.  When weighing price vs. performance, the 413J came out ahead and I save a few hundred dollars a result.  Synology Claims a maximum 53MBps Upload (write) and 108MBPs Download (read) on their website when working with a 5GB file and 1500MTU max over a 1Gbps LAN environment.  My own benchmarks were not far from the result, although I did tweak my settings with 9000MTU on the Synology and Intel NIC with Win7 64x Ultimate edition with a 5GB file and the speed was little over 50MBps for a write, and around 55MBps for a read.


I am definitely sold on the Synology name brand.  The DSM software gives a user complete control of data, backups, security, and a whole plethora of other features with the additional Synology packages available for download.  With features like SSH ability at the flip of a switch, remote management that’s both easy, intuitive and icon based, I only have great things to say about the Synology DSM unit.  The price is right for this unit, larger Synology units can accommodate more hard drives, have greater integration with virtualization platforms and even greater transfer speeds.  For the home user with storage needs, it’s a near perfect offering.


Closing Thoughts
I wrote a ‘love letter to Drobo’ some time ago.  I revisited the Drobo box with hope that I my opinions would have changed.  Not surprisingly, I’m still disappointed with drobo’s performance and lack of options.  I stand by my original post,   the product feels unfinished and flaky, and under performs in simple tasks like file transfers.  Presented with both choices for a NAS device, I would pick the Synology 10 times out of 10.

My love letter to Drobo

Drobo is a US based firm that makes storage devices for home and small business. The amount of bays available range from 2 to 10 and you can purchase disks of any size, and all the units offer protection using their home-grown BeyondRAID.

I personally don’t own a drobo, I have to use one at one of my jobs and it’s quite painful, the list below will explain why:

  1. You have to use the Drobo Dashboard for everything.  The Drobo Dashboard is a windows based platform, and installs a Drobo service into your windows registry. It only takes up 20 MB of space, but you have to use it to configure shares, administrator passwords, IP addresses, and most of the other tools including copy jobs and so forth. The dashboard is java based so it seems to take a long time between clicks to get somewhere useful. Waiting to get to the admin panel takes 4 clicks, and clocked in about a minute. That might not seem like a long time, but when you’re pressed for time waiting for some animation to finish, it gets very tiring, very quickly. I’d prefer to see a web browser interface. My home NAS has it, and it can be accessed anywhere as long as I can forward the right port.
  2. It’s slow.  Copying to and from this thing caps out at 20MBps. That’s on a good day. It’s surprising since I’m running full GB nics forced with 9000MTU’s on each Drobo. This is using a Cisco catalyst 2960 with full Gig duplexing turned on. I can copy files from PC to PC at close to 80MBps – why does this drobo with 10TB of storage only recieve a quarter of that speed? I thought “maybe it’s just the computer I’m using”. So after installing SSH with many reboots (see below) I logged in and did a “rm-r” command from putty. The command seemed to take up to 5 minutes to work on one 4GB file.
  3. The apps don’t always work.  The Drobo website says it’s a simple: from the GUI (that has to be loaded from Windows), enable the droboapps check-mark (in a place that doesn’t really make sense). Then the unit restarts (why, I don’t know). When it restarts, it produces a new share called droboapps. Put whatever droboapps you can find from the Drobo website into this folder and restart [again] so the folders expand and install. However, the apps don’t always work properly – I tried to get ssh working and after restarting how many times it still didn’t show port 22 as being open. The same thing happened with Rsync: after finally getting ssh to work after about 5 reboots I tried Rsync from the command line, only to be shown ‘Rsync is a not a recognized command’. Lovely.
  4. You can’t view the log files.  The log files on the Drobo are all encrypted when you generate them. Why would a company encrypt their log files in the first place? Some of the most useful features of any NAS or storage unit is the ability to view history in the log. Useful information such as boot times, RAID configuration, share points, local users, groups, even being able to see a TIME stamp would be helpful, instead all I have is the GUI, that can only be loaded from a local computer, and only has basic options.
  5. You don’t know what kind of RAID configuration you’re getting.  When you first set up the RAID array, it doesn’t specify what type you want, it just seems to create it’s own RAID structure (see BeyondRAID). The only option you’re presented with is “protect my data”. I don’t even know what that button really means, it just does SOMETHING and the amount of free space I have somehow changes.
  6. Copy jobs aren’t saved on the the unit.  There’s a Drobo copy feature you can access that allows you to copy information from a PC to the Drobo.  I found this useful as I could copy another network share onto the Drobo.  However, that option disappears when you change computers or open the Drobo GUI on another computer – the job should stay with the drobo device. Just annoying
  7. Barely any features.  No USB connections, no eSATA connections, no print service ability, droboapps are sparse if not dismal.

Perhaps I’m a little critical on the Drobo offering, as I had tested all performance with one unit. When another showed up on my desk I had to configure a replicated backup solution I was a little perplexed why both had terrible transfer performance. Drobo insists that the ISCSI transfers are fantastic, but I don’t plan on putting any virtual media onto this yet as I’m not certain it will break past the 20MBps threshold I consistently achieve. The original intent for this was to be used as a file server, given the poor performance I can’t in good conscience recommend it. The other painful point is the lack of Active Directory integration, the linux file permissions just don’t work for a business with a Windows Domain Controller.

I’m hardly the first person to complain about Drobo units, and by the looks of things I certainly won’t be the last.

Drobo seems to reply back to every piece of negative media, which makes me wonder if the company is attempting more damage control and not enough development.  I’m certainly not fishing for anything here, with my experience with this device there’s certainly no way one would find it’s way in my home.

Model: Drobo Pro FS - (2 of the same model )
Disk config: 8 x 2TB WD Green 5300 RPM drives for both
Role of Drobo Pro FS (1): backup to disk location
Role of Drobo Pro FS (2): replication of backup to disk