More randomness and the Synology Rackstation RS409+

A reader comes up with a neat solution for Mark Gibbs' randomization problem, having got his sweaty hands on a Droid he takes a first look, and slices and dices a really impressive SMB NAS solution, the Synology Rackstation RS409+. A busy week indeed.

In a recent column about my efforts to generate a random sequence of numbers from 1 to 75 I described how I resorted to a labyrinthine system of Web services and proxies because I couldn't figure out how to do it with Excel without resorting to a VBA script.

Reader Peter Butler, Santa Clara, Calif., who is apparently smarter than the average bear, figured out an answer. The only issue is his approach generates a pseudo random string (generated by an algorithm) rather than truly random string (generated by a random event) as I discussed.

Rather than try to explain the methodology Butler used, send a note to gearhead@gibbs.com with the subject "Random Sequence" and I'll send you the spreadsheet. This is cool and very clever.

Now onto the main event. This week I have a great device for your delight and delectation: The Synology RackStation RS409+. This is a 1U rackmount, network-attached storage (NAS) appliance that can support up to 8TB of SATA storage on four hot-swappable drives.

You can set up the storage to be a basic configuration (no RAID support and just a single active drive), or JBOD (all the drives as a single volume), or go with RAID 0, 1, 5, 5+Spare or 6. With the RAID 5 configuration you can add a hard drive on the fly. The RS409+ also supports iSCSI.

But wait! That's not all folks …

Oh no, the RS409+ is not only a CIFS server with eSATA and external USB support, it also (take a deep breath) supports Active Directory Services and is an FTP/NFS/AFP/MySQL/rsync server, a print server (two USB printers with LPR, CIFS  and AppleTalk), a Telnet/SSH server, a Web server that can run PHP applications, a video vault for as many as 12 IP cameras, an iTunes server, an audio server (both USB mode and streaming), a BitTorrent, FTP, HTTP, NZB and eMule client, and a DLNA/UPnP Media Server. It's even got two 1GB Ethernet ports, a firewall and Dynamic DNS support. And, as the old joke goes, turn it over, it's a chain saw!

Seriously folks, this is an amazing device.

The RS409+ provides up to 2,048 user accounts that can be divided into as many as 256 groups and up to 512 concurrent file sharing connections can share as many as 256 folders.

A great feature of the RS409+ is that it was designed with power conservation in mind. The minimum power consumption of the RS409+ is 28W and the maximum is 60W. You can also set scheduled power up and power down times as well as the timeout for the drives to power down.

The RS409+ comes with three client-side applications: The Synology Assistant, a Windows-only program that finds Synology servers and launches a Web browser management console; Synology Data Replicator 3, a Windows-only backup tool that I can't say I like very much -- it does the job but looks and feels rather "old school" (I found that Siber Systems' GoodSync worked great with the RS409+); and Synology Download Redirector for both Windows and OS X, which allows clients to initiate Bittorrent and URL file downloads directly to the RS409+.

The performance of the RS409+ is excellent (according to Synology, it can achieve more than 39MB per second when performing RAID 5 writes and more than 55MB per second with RAID 5 reads) and the Web-based AJAX user interface is also very good.

The documentation is good, but not great. For example, there's a lack of detail about how to set up the RackStation for iTunes and there are many instances of bad grammar ("Schedule Backup can be performed while logout by design."), which makes me wonder whether anyone actually proofread the documentation.

I'm surprised that the RS409+ doesn't include anything in the way of RSS feed aggregation (although I suppose a PHP script could be used for this purpose) and support for Ruby and Python would be a great enhancement.

When I get the time I'll be taking a look at the Web server and PHP support (I'm interested to see if a couple of cool PHP projects I have in the queue will run on the device) so we'll be revisiting the RS409+ in the future.

The Synology RackStation RS409+ is a great NAS solution for workgroups and SMB applications and at around $1,300 very affordable. I'll give the RS409+ a rating of 4.5 out of 5. I'll also give it a "highly recommended."

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