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By Steven P.
It's World Backup Day: Are you protecting your data?
by Steven Parker
Have you heard of World Backup Day before? You should have, because we emphasize it on a yearly basis! If you're new here, or just happen to avoid reading Neowin every March 31st, World Backup Day is "a day for people to learn about the increasing role of data in our lives and the importance of regular backups."
Think about it. How much personal data do you have on your phone? There's undoubtedly a bunch of photos and videos. How about your computer? Do you have any important tax documents? Excel spreadsheets and Word documents? Maybe you even have a Plex server filled with personal music and television shows?
Now imagine your phone is on your home network and gets infected with Ransomware. It encrypts everything on the device and then worms its way to everything it sees on your network, while also deleting all of your cloud storage. Your photos, videos, documents, and music are all encrypted. What would you do?
With a backup, it's important to have multiple copies of your data. At the very least, you want two copies of the data, but ideally you want at least three, with one copy stored in a separate building from where you live to protect against fire and natural disasters. You should also think about having an offline copy so that if you are hit with ransomware, it won't be able to destroy the offline copy.
Of course World Backup Day is about more than just backing up data: It's also "a day to talk about the enormous task of preserving our increasingly digital heritage and cultural works for future generations." Think about your old 8mm film, or your MiniDV tapes that can only be read via FireWire, or your thesis paper you wrote using Word Perfect 5.1 on DOS and come up with a plan to modernize the information so that your future generations will be able to admire it, instead of simply finding a 5.25" plastic square, shrugging, and throwing it in the garbage.
My backup strategy consists of
Not backing up at all Online backup Offline backup Online and offline backup Submit Vote If you already backup your data, share your strategy. If you have modernized your data, let us know how you did it. And if you haven't done either of these things, take the pledge to not only backup your data but to also modernize it.
Review of the four-bay QNAP TS-453D NAS device with 2.5GbE networking
by Christopher White
Cloud storage is great for many things, but if you want the absolute fastest performance within your home or office, or if you just want to have more control over your data, then a NAS device is definitely the way to go. I've reviewed many such devices over the years from vendors such as Synology, Thecus, and QNAP. Today, I'm going to take a look at the QNAP TS-453D, a 4-bay NAS device that has one specific special feature: Built-in 2.5GbE for faster network performance. How does it perform? Let's find out!
Powering the QNAP TS-453D is an Intel Celeron J4125 2.0 GHz quad-core processor. By default, the device has 4GB of DDR4 RAM, but with two SODIMM memory slots, you can easily upgrade the device with up to 8GB of memory. My review unit had 4GB of RAM in it, which made virtualization testing difficult.
There's a single 120mm system fan in the back to keep theTS-453D cool. I had it running in my office for over a month and found it to be very quiet, so it won't be distracting in a home office setting. QNAP has it rated at 21.1db.
CPU Intel Celeron J4125 quad-core 2.0GHz, burst up to 2.7GHz, with AES-NI encryption Memory Up to 8GB (2x4GB) SODIMM DDR4 2400 MT/s Disk Capacity 72TB (18TB drive x 4)
Network 2 x 2.5GbE (RJ-45)
USB Ports 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) in front, 3 x USB 2.0 in back, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) in back
NVMe Slots None Other 1xHDMI 2.0, 1xIR Sensor, 1xPCIe Gen 2 x2, 1xCopy Button Size 6.61" × 6.69" × 8.9" / 16.79 x 16.99 x 22.61cm
Weight 4.98lbs / 2.259kg
From a connectivity perspective, there are two 2.5GbE ports on the back that can be aggregated into one to improve performance. Note that you can't double your throughput from a single stream, but rather the aggregation can be used as either failover in case a switch port dies, or to improve bandwidth on multiple streams, assuming your network equipement supports this functionality.
Back in the day, there was something to talk about with the hardware installation section. It usually required unscrewing a front panel to access the drive bays, and then screwing the actual hard drives into the sleds before undoing the whole thing. Nowadays, pretty much every NAS device has easily accessilble hot-swappable drive bays and the sleds are tool-less, meaning you just snap them into place and slide them into the array.
The QNAP TS-453D falls into the latter category, with the only wrinkle being the device has a plastic shield in front of the drive bays. To remove the shield, there's a slide lock on the left side of the device that needs to be in the lower position before you're able to slide the plastic to the left in order to expose the drives. When the drives are in place, simply slide the cover back over the front - magnets help snap it in place - and then lift the slide lock up to keep it in place. It gives the TS-453D a cool look, even if it doesn't seem to offer any functional improvements, but note that it does seem to have a lot of static electricity that causes dust particles and pet dander to cling to it.
After that, simply plug in the included Ethernet cable, connect the power, and turn it on.
Initial setup is normally pretty straight forward, but I had some issues with the QNAP TS-453D.
My initial test had the NAS device as well as my PC plugged into a QNAP 2.5GbE switch. This switch was plugged into a Ubiquiti US-8-60W, an 8-port switch. The switch, in turn, is connected to a 24-port Ubiquti switch, which ultimately connects to the Synology RT1900ac router that provides addressing via DHCP.
With this configuration, my PC was able to obtain a DHCP lease, but the TS-453D was not receiving an IP address. After some troubleshooting, I disconnected the NAS from the QNAP switch and plugged it directly into the 8-port Ubiquiti switch, and the device was able to obtain an address. I had to then hardcode the IP address (something I would recommend for any server on your network anyway) before plugging it back into the QNAP 2.5GbE switch. Since then everything worked fine, but I still don't understand why it wasn't able to obtain a lease through the initial configuration, and QNAP support was stumped as well. After the initial setup, I was even able to re-configure the device to use DHCP, and everything worked fine.
Other than this minor hiccup, the initial installation was simple. After installing the QFinder Pro application on my desktop, the device was detected and I was given the option to go through the Smart Installation Guide to start the initial configuration.
The system starts by asking you to click a button to upgrade to the latest version of firmware, a process that takes several minutes to complete. The current version is QTS 4, similar to Synology's DSM 6.
Next, you follow a typical installation wizard, where you set the name of the device, set up an admin password, set the timezone, configure network addressing, and determine which file services you want to enable, a combination of SMB/CIFS, File Station, AFB, and NFS.
You're then presented with a summary page to review before clicking apply and setting up your new device.
After waiting a few minutes for the system to configure, you're done with the initial setup!
After the initial setup, the next step is to configure your disks in a way that makes the storage usable on the network. This process, like the initial setup, is also done via a wizard that walks you through each step.
When you first go into the Storage menu, you're greeted with a message noting that you have no volumes or storage pools, and are told to click the "New Storage Pool" button to begin the process.
One of the advanced features that QNAP provides is the ability to auto-tier storage. Called Qtier, it allows frequently accessed data to be automatically migrated to SSDs, while less accessed data can be moved to SATA disks. This would be a useful feature for a larger array, but for a NAS device with only four disks, most people are probably going to simply use four of the same types of disks.
After determining whether you want Qtier (you probably don't on this device), you select the disks to put into the pool and determine the RAID type. For the review, I put the four disks in a RAID-5 configuration. This means that one of the four disks is used for parity, meaning if one drive fails, I won't lose any data. It's important to remember that RAID is not a backup and that you should still have a second copy of your data somewhere else and a third copy offsite.
Next, under the Configure tab, you can enable SSD over-provisioning if you're using SSDs, and when the system should alert you regarding free space. You're then presented with a summary page telling you the settings for the storage pool before you click Create to start the process.
Now that you have a Storage Pool created, you can make one or more volumes that live in that pool. Since I only have four drives, I created a single volume.
There are three types to choose from. The more basic form is the Static Volume. It's created directly on the RAID group and has the best performance for random file access, but lacks advanced features such as snapshots, that you may want to use as part of a backup plan. The second type is a Thick Volume. This volume type provides snapshots, can be easily extended, and is what QNAP recommends for most uses. Finally, you can create a Thin Volume. This type only uses the storage space as data is written to the volume and are useful when creating multiple volumes as they ensure space is used efficiently. The prevailing theme continues here: These are awesome features for larger arrays, but for a small four-bay array, Thick Volumes are the way to go.
After selecting the volume type, you select how much of the pool is allocated to the volume, and what size blocks you want. If you're working with large files, like pictures or video, selecting a larger block size will improve performance, whereas smaller files could benefit from a smaller block size.
As with the other QNAP wizards, you're presented with a summary page that lays out all of your selections before you finalize the configuration. The actual length of time it takes to create the volume depends on the size and speed of the drives.
There used to be a time when different NAS devices had somewhat significant differences in read and write performance on a regular Gigabit Ethernet connection, but those days seem to be gone, with NAS devices practically saturating the connection.
The QNAP TS-453D is no exception. Transferring large (multi-gigabyte) files to and from the NAS device yielded 113 MB/s, while copying smaller (several megabyte) files to and from the NAS was slightly slower, clocking in at around 104 MB/s. Both are very fast and about the maximum you can expect from the network.
Where things get interesting is with the TS-453D's built-in 2.5GbE NIC. In theory, this promises 2.5x the performance, assuming you have a network that supports these speeds. For the review, QNAP sent me the QSW-1105-5T, a 5-port unmanaged switch. Since the switch is unmanaged, there's no configuration. Simply plug it into your network, and you're good to go. The QSW-1105-5T retails for roughly $110.
After running through a series of file transfers, I found that copying large files clearly showed nearly a 2.5x speed improvement. Instead of the copies capping out at 113 MB/s, I saw up to 280 MB/s, a significant improvement. When it came to copying small files, the increase was only 2.2x, increasing from 102 MB/s to 222 MB/s, but that's still a great bump in performance.
If you want to upgrade your network to support 2.5GbE, you'll be extremely happy with the performance of the QNAP TS-453D.
I first explored QNAP's virtualization in the TS-451 back in 2014, and it's clear the company has improved the user experience since then. To get started, simply download the VirtualizationStation from the App store.
The first difference I realized was that there's no longer a need to use the second NIC to access the virtual machines, a welcome improvement. After installing VirtualizationStation or ContainerStation, the system automatically creates virtual switches that manage the internal networking of the devices.
The entire interface of VirtualizationStation 3 has streamlined the process extremely well. In addition to creating your own VMs, there's a VM Marketplace. Similar to the QNAP App store, these marketplace has ready-to-use appliances. To use one, simply select it, provide some basic information like the name, CPU cores, and memory, and QNAP takes care of the rest.
VirtualizationStation also has a button on the main page to "Try a free Windows VM" for browser testing. Clicking this automates the process of downloading a Windows 7 or Windows 10 image with a specific version of Internet Explorer or Edge for your testing. Alternatively, you could use this as a way to build a secure browsing environment, similar to the process I described using VirtualBox.
If full operating systems aren't your thing, you can look into QNAP's ContainerStation, which allows you to pull Docker images from any registry (Docker Hub by default). Simply type what you want and the image is automatically pulled down.
Since I only had 4GB of RAM in the review unit, virtualization was difficult. By default, the Windows 10 image wanted to use 4GB of RAM itself, but after accounting for the QNAP OS, I only had three to spare. I was able to modify the requirements, but that negatively impacts performance: It took over two minutes to boot up the Windows 10 VM. It also means that, unless you're running small instances, you won't be able to do much with the virtualization unless you upgrade to 8GB of RAM.
The review has really only touched upon the main features of QTS, but there are many more I haven't looked at, such as iSCSI targets, snapshots, and HDMI output. There are also a wide variety of apps to make the NAS device do whatever you want, from serving up music and photos, to running a full-fledged Content Management System with Joomla. Many of these features (like Joomla) probably require a much bigger box, but the point is that the only limit to a NAS is your imagination.
Running QTS feels very similar to Synology's DSM, but there are some key differences. From my experience, the DSM interface is a little cleaner and more streamlined, whereas QTS has more features provided front and center. For example, snapshots are a menu option in QTS, whereas in DSM, you have to download the Synology Replication Service. Snapshots can negatively impact performance, as QNAP states a reduction between 5 and 30 percent. Both approaches have their pros and cons.
The one (very minor) complaint I have about QTS is that applications are installed in the middle of the desktop. This means when you're using various tools, the icons are covered up and it's harder to access them, whereas DSM puts the icons on the left side of the screen, out of the way. It's a minor observation, but one that I've often thought should be user configurable.
The other observation I wanted to make is that the black plastic that covers the drive bays attracts dust like no other device I've seen. The material, especially in a Minnesota winter, has a lot of static electricity that just pulls in dust particles. So while it looks sleek right out of the box, if you have any pets at all in your house, expect their fur to cover the front within hours, if not minutes.
Finally, the QNAP TS-453D does support a PCIe Gen 2 x2 card. This can be used to provide 5GbE or even GbE. You can also purchase a QM2 card that allows installation of M.2 SSD slots if you want to add more storage. Although I haven't tested this, but unlike Synology, QTS apparently allows users to configure those drives as extra storage instead of just cache.
The QNAP TS-453D is a robust piece of hardware that supports many advanced features, although many of them won't be useful on this model due to lack of drive bays and RAM. However if you're looking for a small device for your home environment that packs great performance along with amazing transfer speeds at a reasonable price, this NAS device should be on your short list. While most people don't have a 2.5 GbE switch, adding one to your network is a relatively cheap upgrade compared to the performance increases you'll see and is definitely a worthwhile upgrade.
If you have bigger storage needs, or want to do more with virtualization or other features that require more performance, QNAP has other devices that might fit the bill.
By Jay Bonggolto
Netgear announces the Nighthawk RAXE500 router with support for 6Ghz band
by Jay Bonggolto
Today at CES 2021, Netgear introduced its new Wi-Fi router that provides faster speeds over the new 6Ghz band. The Nighthawk RAXE500 is the company's first Wi-Fi 6E router.
That means the tri-band router serves the 6GHz band as well as the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, offering speeds up to 10.8Gbps with reduced latency. Netgear noted that devices that broadcast over the 6GHz band can avoid interruptions from other nearby devices that operate on the congested 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
Powered by a 1.8GHz quad-core processor, the Nighthawk RAXE500 is built to provide connections for up to 60 devices at the same time, Netgear claims. That's courtesy of Wi-Fi 6E, which opens up the 6GHz Wi-Fi spectrum in order to connect to more devices. The new 6GHz band, in particular, offers "up to 200% more available spectrum than dual-band (5GHz and 2.4GHz) Wi-Fi alone," the company explained. The tri-band router offers four streams of 6GHz, four streams of 5GHz, and four streams of 2.4GHz, expanding the capacity of networks to accommodate more devices.
The new Nighthawk features five gigabit ports and pre-optimized antennas. If you purchase the router, you can also get a free 30-day trial of Neatger's Armor cybersecurity offering built into the router to fend off cyber threats.
The Nighthawk RAXE500 is available to pre-order today for $599.99 via Netgear's online storefront. It will start shipping in the first quarter of this year.
By Steven P.
Amazon Deal of the Day: Save up to 41% off Samsung and Toshiba storage
by Steven Parker
As part of today's Amazon Deal of the Day, the company is touting "16% off Samsung, Toshiba and Kingston Storage" but as of writing the percentages are actually higher (up to 41% off) and there is no Kingston SSD deal that we can see, it's possible there was limited stock and they've sold out already. Happily, you can still save up to 41% off other storage options, which are listed below.
First up is the largest discount of 41% off the Samsung EVO Select 256GB microSDXC Memory Card with Adapter, a few of the highlights for this card can be seen below:
Memory Type: SDXC Hardware Interface: MicroSDXC Speed Class: Class 10 (Up to 100MB/S Read and 90MB/S Write) Capacity: 256GB It's now available for $29.49 (list price 49.99) a savings of $20.50 (41%) other capacities are available but with smaller or no discounts applied.
Lastly, there's a 20% discount on the Toshiba N300 8TB NAS HDD. A few of its highlights include:
Capacity: 8000 GB Hardware Interface: SATA 6.0 Gb/s Cache memory (Size): 256 Mb Built for small office and home office NAS Designed for 24/7 operation High reliability with up to 180TB/year workload rating High performance 7200 RPM drive with large cache size Integrated RV sensors to compensate for rotational vibrations Includes Toshiba 3 year limited warranty It can be had today for $163.99 (list price $204.99) which is $41 (20%) off the normal price. Again, other capacities are available at lesser discount.
You can keep an eye out on the Storage Deals here, maybe the Kingston drive or others will show up later in the day. Amazon also has a bunch of other Gold Box deals going on today that aren't so tech related that you can check out here.
Update: The Kingston deal is back, here.
The Synology DS720+: Incremental update to a great platform
by Christopher White
If you've read one of my NAS reviews in the past, you'll know that I'm a big fan of managing your own data. Cloud services are great and definitely have their place in the world, but I prefer to be in control of my own files and use cloud services more as a second backup or a way to quickly share pictures with friends and family.
Today I'm going to take a look at the latest offering by Synology, the DS720+, a two-bay NAS device that can be expanded with the Synology DX517 to a seven bay unit.
Upon initial inspection, the DS720+ looks like all of the other 2-bay NAS devices Synology has released over the past few years. One of the big differences is the fact that they included two NVMe slots on the bottom, to be used as a read or read/write cache. If you're interested in the results, you can scroll directly down to the Cache Performance section.
Synology always packs the most powerful hardware in the + line, and the DS720+ is no exception. The device sports a quad-core 2.0 GHz (2.7 GHz burst) Intel Celeron J4125 processor with on-chip AES-NI encryption and 2GB of DDR4 RAM (upgradeable to 6GB). The processor was released at the end of 2019, and you can see the details on Intel's website.
There's a single 92mm system fan in the back to keep the DS720+ cool, and it's very quiet so it won't be distracting in a home office setting.
CPU Intel Celeron J4125, quad core, 64-bit, 2.0Ghz with AES-NI encryption Memory 2 GB DDR4 non-ECC, one empty slot (6GB total)
Disk Capacity 32 TB (16 TB drive x 2) without expansion, 112 TB (32 TB + 16 TB drive x 5 with DX517) (hot swappable)
Network 2xGbE (with link aggregation/failover) USB Ports 1xUSB3 (back), 1xUSB3 (front) NVMe Slots 2 (bottom) Size (H/W/D) 6.5 in x 4.2 in x 8.8in (166 mm x 106 mm x 223 mm)
Weight 3.3 lbs / 1.51kg From a connectivity perspective, there are two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back that can be aggregated into one to improve performance. Note that you can't double your throughput from a single stream, but rather the aggregation can be used as either failover in case a switch port dies, or can be used to improve bandwidth on multiple streams.
The DS720+ has two USB 3.0 ports, one on the front and one on the back, although the "copy to NAS" button has been removed from recent Synology models.
If, in the future, you decide you need more than two drive bays, there's an eSATA port that allows you to add storage space via a Synology expansion unit. You can also secure the DS720+ with a Kensington lock if you're concerned about the physical security of the device.
The device also supports up to two M.2 NVMe SSD chips, accessible via the bottom of the device. If installed, these are used purely for caching and can't be added to your overall storage usage.
If you're looking for something that's plug and play, you can't go wrong with Synology devices. To get them up and running, simply connect the disks to the sleds, and plug them into the front drive bays. Then plug in an Ethernet cable, plug the power cable in, and then turn the device on. The system will boot up, obtain an address via DHCP, and you can connect to begin the installation process.
If you want to build the cache, installing the NVMe drives is as easy as turning the DS720+ over, opening the drive bays, and sliding the chip into place. I didn't put a heat sink on the Western Digital Black drive, and while temperatures were about 7ºF/4ºC higher than the internal drives, there were no thermal performance issues, even under load.
Initial Setup and Installation
Setting up the Synology DS720+, or any Synology NAS device for that matter, is as easy as clicking a few buttons and can be done in only a few minutes.
If this is your first Synology device, I would recommend downloading the Synology Assistant for the initial setup. Install this tool on your desktop and it identifies all of the Synology devices on your network so that you can just click on them to connect. While you could look at your DHCP server to find out what IP address it assigned, this just makes life easier.
When you first connect to the Synology DS720+ from your browser, you're presented with the Web Assistant page that begins the setup process.
After that, you're given a screen that begins the installation of Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM) onto the NAS device.
As is typical for any destructive process, the system warns you that all data on the hard drives will be destroyed, and you must acknowledge this before you may proceed.
The installation then begins. Although the process says it takes approximately ten minutes, if you have a fast Internet connection, it shouldn't take quite that long.
Once DSM is installed, it's time to setup the actual operating system. The system prompts you to give the NAS device a name, and to create a username/password combination that will act as the admin account on the DS720+.
Next, you're asked if you want to setup QuickConnect, a feature that gives you access to your NAS device from the Internet, in essence providing you with a public cloud. If you want the best security, you can skip this feature. If you want easy access to your files from the Internet, you can enable QuickConnect, just make sure you turn automatic updates on to help limit damage from attacks against your device.
On the next screen, you're given the option to share the device's network location so that you can identify it on the Internet.
That's it, your Synology DS720+ is now configured and ready to use. However just because the operating system is installed, doesn't mean you can actually do anything with the device yet, since you haven't actually configured the storage. This is one area where I think Synology could improve the initial setup. If you have a storage background, the rest of the setup is straight forward, but for those who don't, it may not initially make sense.
Initially, Storage Manager will show that you have a healthy system, but that you have no volumes or pools, only two drives. The configuration steps are simple: Create a Storage Pool, a Volume, and then finally Shared Folders.
Let's start by creating the Storage Pool. Think of this as a conglomeration of all of your disks into one big blob, and is where you configure what type of disk protection you'll have to survive disk failures. Select the "Quick" installation, since with only two disks in the NAS, there's little reason to go for the Custom configuration.
Next, give the pool a descriptive name and select the RAID type; for a two-bay NAS, I'd always recommend SHR, as that gives you protection from a single disk failure. If you select RAID-0, you'll have twice the storage space, but when a single disk dies, you'll lose the data from both disks, so it's only recommended for special circumstances.
Creating a new volume destroys the data on the drives, so you'll be prompted to confirm the procedure, before being asked to select a filesystem type. There are two choices, Btrfs and ext4. Unless you have a need to remove the disks and mount them on a Linux server or an older Synology NAS device in the future, I'd recommend sticking with the default of Btrfs.
Once the volume and filesystem are created, it'll take many hours, depending on the size of the disks, to run an integrity check against the disks. You're still able to use the DS720+ while this is happening, but performance will be degraded.
Now all that's left to do is create whatever Shared Folders you want on the system. These are used to create different characteristics for different shares that you'll be accessing on other machines in the environment. For example, you might have one share that has disk-level encryption enabled, while another has data integrity enabled, and a third has the concept of a Recycle Bin turned on.
Start by loading File Station, and you'll be prompted that there are no Shared Folders available. Click "OK" to go to the Shared Folder Creation Wizard.
You're then taken to first menu of options. You'll need to give the folder a name, and then decide if you want it hidden from "My Network Places" on the network, whether you want to hide sub-folders and files if users don't have permissions to access them, and whether you want a Recycle Bin enabled.
The next screen asks whether you want to encrypt the folder. Doing so will add security to the data, but whenever the DS720+ reboots, you'll have to manually use the key to mount it, or use the Key Manager tool. Key management is a topic I'll look to address in a future article.
Your last decisions are whether you want to enable data checksums to improve data integrity, if you want file compression enabled (only if checksum is enabled) to reduce storage at the cost of performance, and if you want to enable a quota on the folder. I'll cover this in the Performance section, but during my tests, CrystalDiskMark write performance doubled in the Random 4k Q32T16 test, and the other tests were the same, so there appears to be little reason to disable the checksum option.
Once created, you'll be able to mount the disks onto whatever other systems you want on your network.
If you want to mount storage on only a single device, you might want to look into creating an iSCSI LUN to share. This is especially useful if you're using the Synology DS720+ as storage for a VMware or Hyper-V system.
As with all of my NAS reviews, in order to test performance and bypass the PC as much as possible, I used OSFMount to create a 4GB RAM disk and then used Robocopy to test throughput between my desktop and the DS720+. The volume on the NAS was created as SHR using the Btrfs filesystem. This is similar to a RAID-1, since there's only two drives. In addition to the above method, I also used CrystalDiskMark 7.0.0 x64 to run some tests to confirm that the performance matched what I was seeing with the manual tests, which they did.
For my test, I created five separate shared folders, each one configured slightly differently in order to see how certain features would impact performance. The tests included:
A regular filesystem A filesystem with integrity enabled A filesystem with integrity and compression enabled A filesystem with encryption enabled A filesystem with encryption and integrity enabled As you'll see from the results, performance was consistently at or near gigabit Ethernet speeds when sending large files, but when reading and writing smaller files, the performance changed quite a bit depending on the filesystem.
The first thing I noticed during my tests was that performance was nearly the same between a regular filesystem and one with integrity checking enabled, except for one test: the RND4K Q32T16 write test performance was nearly double with integrity enabled. I'm not sure how real-world a queue depth of 32 is on the 4K block test, but since everything else is nearly the same, there appears to be no reason to leave integrity disabled on the filesystem.
The piece that surprised me a bit was that performance remained relatively unchanged when integrity and compression were both enabled; I would've expected there to be a slight performance hit with the compression from a read perspective, but the DS720+ experienced no slowdowns both with the CrystalDiskMark test, and with real-world file copy tests. While you should certainly do your own tests to make sure there's no impact with your workflow, it seems like there's no reason to not enable both filesystem integrity and compression for normal workloads.
Next, I tested a filesystem with encryption enabled and one with integrity and encryption enabled. I saw the same performance boost in the RND 4K Q32T16 write test, going from 33 MB/s without integrity enabled to 67.98 MB/s with integrity enabled. While this value was slightly lower than the filesystem with only integrity enabled, it wasn't too big of a hit.
However the pain came for both the reading and writing of random 4K blocks with a queue depth of only one: As you can see above, the read rate plummeted to only 8 MB/s, compared to 16 MB/s without encryption. Even worse, the random 4K blocks with a queue depth of 32 nosedived from gigabit Ethernet speeds (116 MB/s) down to a paltry 12.5 MB/s. Although the DS720+ has hardware encryption built in, if you care about performance over security, this is not a feature I recommend taking advantage of on the filesystem.
The DS720+ has two empty NVMe slots at the bottom of the device if you want to use cache to improve performance. Using one drive will improve the read cache, while installing two will improve both the read and write cache. One thing to note is that every 1GB of cache will use 416KB of memory. Installing my Western Digital Black 512GB chip utilizes 188.9MB of memory, or roughly 10% of the total system memory of my test unit.
I installed a single Western Digital SN750 500GB Black drive into one of the NVMe slots in order to test the performance of the system's read cache. Installation was simple, taking no more than a couple minutes to complete.
After the installation, boot up the DS720+, open up Storage Manager, and click the SSD Cache Advisor at the top see information on recently accessed files and what the recommended cache size should be for your system.
Creating the cache is simple. To start, click the Create button at the top of the SSD Cache section of Storage Manager, then select whether you want a read-only cache or a read-write cache. Note that in order to create the latter, you need to install two NVMe drives into the system.
Next, you're asked to select which SSD you want to use for the cache. With only one drive installed, the selection options are pretty straight forward.
Finally, you're asked how much space on the drive you want to allocate to the cache. If you're going through the trouble of creating a cache, you should probably select all of it, unless you're really short on memory.
Now whenever you're on the SSD Cache tab of Storage Manager, you're presented with a cache usage monitor that displays the hit rate over the past day, week, and month, as well as how much of the cache is being utilized.
While setting up the cache is simple, I can't recommend it for normal home users. Running a CrystalDiskMark test on a filesystem with integrity enabled showed no change in performance with the cache. Thinking it was due to the random nature of the data being written, I began copying the same files to multiple different filesystems and again noticed no difference. While caching might improve performance in a small business environment with multiple people using it consistently on a daily basis, if you're using it for a home setup, it doesn't seem like it makes sense.
The DS720+ is a great device, but recommending it will depend on the individual's use case. If you're in the market for a small NAS device to backup your files, and that has the ability to grow, the DS720+ is a great device to purchase. It provides great performance, takes up little space, and is on the whole, very quiet. If, down the road, you need more space, you could always purchase a DX517 expansion module, but that can be an expensive option.
On the other hand, if you think you might need more storage space in the future, you probably want to look at the DS420+, which has four bays, and costs only $100 more. Running in RAID-5 or SHR configuration, you would have three drives worth of storage space, as opposed to just one in the DS720+ (assuming mirroring). If you need video transcoding in addition to more space, at this point the older DS1019+ might also be a better option.
The two NVMe slots for caching are a nice feature, but during my tests, offered little in the way of performance in a small home setup, so that shouldn't factor into your decision.
Considering the maturity of both the Synology hardware devices and the DiskStation Manager operating system, if you're in the market for a two bay NAS device, it's easy recommend the Synology DS720+.