This is the 1st of a total of 5 posts in the "Synology 101" thread. The intro thread covers what this series of posts will be by topics as well as some general information that beginners might find useful.

Getting a new piece of hardware... Nothing beats that in the eyes of geeks ;). Well, after the great unboxing of your new Synology NAS, you are faced with an equally simple task of placing the drives into the device, hooking it up to a network and powering on. 3 simple steps.

Installing the drives (HDDs or SSDs)

Depending on the model of your NAS you will either have to open up your NAS and install the drives inside it, or use outside accessible trays that you will use to place the drives in and slide them in place. The first scenario is common for Synology "J" and "play" while "value" and "plus" lineup come with trays accessible from the front of the device (not all of them). Regardless, you can follow the step by step diagram that came with your device and follow it along.

If you are wondering if you can use small 2,5" SSDs or just 5,25" HDD the answer is you can use both. Some model are in a subcategory called "slim". Those NAS devices  can only accommodate 2,5" drives. That being said, this does not mean that you can't use 2,5" in a non - slim NAS.

Connecting your NAS to the network

This part is simple enough. Considering that Synology NAS is a network device you should connect it to a switch or a router so that it's accessible to your entire network and/or Internet (depending on your needs).

Some might have a question about connecting a NAS to a single device like a computer via a network cable or even a UBS cable (most of Synology devices have multiple USB and eSATA ports as well). The short answer is don't and you can't. That's not entirely true, so if you want, keep reading.

While you still can connect your NAS to your PC via a network cable, you can't do the same with the USB one. USB ports are there to provide connectivity for any external device that you want to have access to via NAS OS (DSM). Same goes for eSATA ports. Still connecting your NAS to a single device kills the definition of NAS as a network attached device and that's just throwing away money IMHO.

After you connect your NAS (some have multiple ports, more on that a bit later) the last thing you need to do is turn it on!

Power on, installation and raid configuration

Well you got this far, all thats left to do now is turn it on and wait for the light show to start. The boot process will depend on the status of the NAS. Considering that its still not setup and configured with any apps/service it will take a short while for it to be accessible on your network.

After all the lights have turned on you have to find your NAS on the network. This can be done by one of 2 ways:

  1. Synology assistant
  2. find.synology.com URL

Synology assistant is a tool that you install on your local PC (Mac, Linux, win) and use the find function to locate your NAS on the network. If we assume that your DHCP (usually by your router) will assign a new IP address to your NAS, it would be a bit of a guessing game on what IP your NAS is currently on. That's what Synolgy assistant is for.

If you don't want to install any software you can start this 1st step using the find.synology.com URL. It will open up a search web page in your browser and scan your local network for any Synology device, it can detect (NAS, router). This is something that might not work, depending on your network configuration and your NAS configuration, but for the most part it will work just fine.

DSM Installation

Any hardware without a (great) software is worthless. In case of Synology NAS same rules apply. Synology OS is called Disk Station Manager (DSM). Its a Linux based OS with a fancy HTML5/CSS3 user interface accessible via your favorite desktop or mobile browser/app.

Soon after you have detected your NAS on the network, 1st thing you need is to install DSM on it.

New NAS detected on the network using find.synology.me

If you use find.synology.com URL you will land on a page similar to the one above. Simply click on the Connect button to continue with DSM installation.

Step 2, installing DSM

In the second step you will have the option to manually place a DSM installation package or the wizard can do that for you (not visible in this screen). If you want to place the installation manually, just go to https://www.synology.com/en-global/support/download, select your model and under the Operating system tab (1st one) download the PAT file.

Click on the "Manual Install" link in the wizard (picture) and point it to the PAT file you have downloaded. Finally, click the green button on the bottom, "Install Now".

Post install screen, setting up your user account

After the installation is completed it's time to setup your account and define some basic settings (like update method and time). Enter your desired username and password and continue to the next step.

You made it! One more screen and you are there!

Confirmation screen telling you all is well and good. Let's see what's next!

DSM "desktop" interface

That was easy, right? Who said it's gonna be hard? Well, now that you have installed DSM successfully give yourself a break and enjoy a simple yet powerful and beautiful desktop that will allow you to do all kinds of great things on your NAS.

Ok, now that break is over lets push forward. Details over DSM UI and features will be addressed in the next part(s) when we start working with different sections of the system. Right now we have one more main thing that needs to be done before you can really start using your new NAS, and thats RAID configuration.

RAID ARRAY configuration

Before you can start using your NAS, installing apps, copying data, etc, you need to configure how your data will be organized on your hard drives. At this point I'm not talking about folders but volumes. Volumes in DSM can be configured in multiple ways. Single volume on all drives (as a mirror, one giant volume with or without redundancy), or multiple volumes on the other hand. Separate volume on each HDD you have inside your NAS.

This is something that 1st time users struggle most with. In large number of cases the mistakes are made here and later on they can "cost" you time and money.

Make sure to use and visit Synology RAID calculator BEFORE you continue forward with this step if you have any questions

The best thing is to consult RAID calculator to see just how much space you will get with your NAS and drives you have chose.

Synology NAS supports a number of RAID options (depending on the number of bays and models this can vary). Most common one is SHR or SHR2 (Synology Hybrid RAID). On the other hand, you have your industry standard RAID0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 0+1, JBOD, Basic, etc.

As I said before, this will depend on the number of  bays considering that some options will not be possible due to the fact that some RAID types require a minimum number of drives (RAID 5 for example needs a minimum of 3 HDDs).

To start with your volume creation use the Storage Manager app from the main menu (upper left hand corner of your DSM UI).

Storage Manager - overview

This will open up Storage Manager that will list all the options regarding your volumes, pools, individual HDDs, any host spare drives that you might have as well as SSD cache (on selected models).

Storage Manger - Volume creation and overview

Head down to Volume section and use the Create button to start with your volume creation. In the following wizard, you will drag all the HDDs that you wanna use with your volume in order to make one. Depending on the number of drives you will have RAID types that will be listed. Using the raid calculator from Synology site and your desired total space/redundancy be sure that you are certain what type you have chosen.

I'm saying this because this is something you will not be able to change on the fly later on. Of course you will be able to change it, but not without destroying your volume and starting again. You can see how this can be a problem if you already move some data on the NAS? This is why this step is very important. Make sure that you know how much space you need/want, and what specific raid array offers that result (again, be sure to read ALL the info on the RAID calculator site!).

Depending how big the drives are and how big the end volume will be, creation time will depend. It can take a few minutes to a day or even longer. Until the status of a volume in Storage Manager is not saying "Normal" with green letters, it's not ready, leave it be.

You can log off from your NAS for now and let it crunch away. Use the person icon in the upper right hand corner of your DSM UI and select "Logout". Don't worry, volume creation as well as any other operation will continue in the background without you looking at the progress bar.

In the next part of Synology 101 we will focus on user account, how to create them, allow them permissions on specific apps/services/folders and more.