Network Attached Storage: What Are The Accessible Options?

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Because my wife and kids aren't particularly good managers, I am the default network administrator and backup manager of our home's computer and smart devices. We have gotten to the point where individual backups are taking way too much of my time, so I plan to automate the process with a NAS.
I have done a good bit of research and narrowed my choices to two different manufacturers - Drobo and Synology.
My question - has anyone used either of these products and, if so, how well do their interface software packages work with Voiceover. My concern is not the hardware (either will work well). I want to be able to use the interfaces without sighted assistance.
Any advice appreciated.
Ray

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Comments

Submitted by robin24 on Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hello Ray,
good question. I've personally tried a Synology NAS at home, but that was completely inaccessible with VoiceOver so I was forced to return it. I also tried contacting Synology about this, but unfortunately they weren't at all responsive or helpful in any way. Additionally, I've tried a NAS from Qnap, but this one had the same problem of having a completely inaccessible web interface. I don't know anything about the second manufacturer you mentioned, so if you get one of those I definitely would love to hear if it's accessible or not. My personal solution to the problem was to take an old computer, stick in 4 new hard disks and install Debian Linux so I could set up Samba and Netatalk for network file storage and Time Machine backup.
This way, however, does require some degree of Linux administration skills, so depending on your knowledge of such things you might not wanna go that route. Personally, I would suggest you go with an Apple Time Capsule, as long as that has sufficient capacity for your needs. You can then configure all systems to back up to that over the network, and administration is easy and completely accessible...
Hth!
Robin

Submitted by Jonathan Mosen on Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hi Ray. I purchased a Synology NAS earlier this year. They are challenging but wonderful products.
I wrote a comprehensive blog post on my findings here.
http://mosen.org/index.php/my-new-synology-nas-great-product-nasty-acce…
Since that post was published, I have had extremely encouraging dialogue with Synology about the issues. While I've not been given permission to say anything specific, I can say I feel very confident the accessibility problems are temporary.
Hope that's of some help. If you can get initial assistance with the set-up, I don't think you'll regret the synology.

Submitted by robin24 on Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In reply to by Jonathan Mosen

Hey Jonathan,
thanks a lot for your comment and the extremely helpful link to your blog post! It's a real shame that, in order to properly setup your Synology Diskstation, you had to take advantage of a 'human screen reader'. I was thinking about the same back when I received mine, but as I like to tweak things and change stuff on my own without needing sighted help, that simply wasn't an option for me. So, I returned the device and built my own solution, but I'd still be very interested in an accessible DSM. Do you have any public EMail address where I could contact Synology about DSM accessibility? If I visit Synology.com here in Germany, I only get to the German website - with no way of changing languages or contacting the English-speaking support. I've tried the German support previously, but they weren't of any help at all sadly...
Thanks!
Robin

Submitted by David Goodwin👨‍🦯 on Thursday, November 6, 2014

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Jonathan,

That’s a real disappointment, as I’ve a new Synology box arriving today and had been planning to install the DSM 5.1 beta in the hope that it did include the rumoured improvements.

Fortunately, much of what I need is doable via the DS Finder iOS app and the mobile interface that you can access via the app. Far from ideal, though, and I’m sure that a few curses will be heard around here later today.

Submitted by robin24 on Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hi David,
I'd like to follow up on your post regarding your Synology NAS and setting it up using VoiceOver. Please, could you be so kind and let me know how this has been going for you, and whether or not you were able to set up all that you required using VoiceOver? I'd still love to buy one of those wonderful NAS systems, however in order for that to happen the interface simply would have to be accessible in an acceptable way...
Thanks a lot for any comments on the current accessibility situation!
Robin

Submitted by ray h on Thursday, December 18, 2014

While all the features of network attached storage would be ideal, and I recognize you certainly lose features, what do folks think about simply hooking up an externally powered USB drive to the router and accessing it from multiple machines?

Submitted by david s on Friday, December 19, 2014

Unless your router has a USB port, you will need a NAS.

It can be as simple as the Apple or a Seagate Black Armor. The downside to a simple single drive is redundancy. You can get a huge hard drive but if it fails, you lose all the data. You can sign up for a cloud service like Amazon or Google and have your NAS back up to it. I learned the hard way when my Black Armor crashed. I was able to recover my data but took hours since it was spread out through several computers and devices.

If you get a NAS, get one with at least two drives and set the RAID to mirror. And if you’re really paranoid about your data, get a cloud back up service in addition to setting to NAS to mirror.

HTH and good luck.

Submitted by David Goodwin👨‍🦯 on Friday, December 19, 2014

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In reply to by robin24

robin24,

The NAS is up and running … albeit to only satisfy some fairly basic needs (it’s used as the Time Machine destination for my Mac, stores my iTunes media, and is used as a means to backup and share files across the various computers that we have in the house).

Being honest, I found the browser based interface an absolute pig to use with VoiceOver. It’s doable, but not much fun, as the movement of VoiceOver focus through elements can at times appear rather random. Some controls - most notably some checkboxes/radio buttons for making selections are difficult to reliably locate and activate. Considering that this is the type of device that you will want to know for certain is configured securely and correctly … well, I think that it would be hard to be certain of this if you are relying solely on a screen reader. I also have a sneaking suspicion that there were elements/controls/features within the interface that VoiceOver simply failed to find, leaving me unaware of them.

Being frank, without the benefit of some residual vision to give me at least some idea of what was happening on screen, I think that I would have struggled to get this configured and working the way that I want.

Also, I should retract my earlier statement that much of what I wanted to do could be done via their iOS app. This did not prove to be the case.

Unless somebody knows otherwise, I still believe that Synology is the best choice if you are looking for a well-featured NAS. However, in terms of accessibility, it should probably be considered as the least worst option rather than the best.

Submitted by Declan on Sunday, February 8, 2015

My answer to that wold be speed. I did think about using a large USB drive, but I have a USB 2.0 mac and a gigabit LAN NAS would be a lot faster. FireWire 800 isn't a sensible option as no-one uses it anymore.

Everyone: if you have used the Synology NAS how have you found file permissions working? I have a Windows XP PC and after upgrading to Mavericks I find that everything comes over as me: read & write, everyone: no-access. Checking in the terminal I find that these files are in the staff group, but it has "no access" as well. Do you have this problem with files stored on the NAS?

robin24: how do you back up your iTunes data on the NAS that isn't part of a Time Machine backup?

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Sunday, February 8, 2015

I'm against a nas for one reason. Back blase, the service I use does not support nas drives so for me a large hard drive works fine. I have a usb3 4tb elements drive. I guess what I could do is build a 3-4 drive storage bey and use it for stuff,but wonder if they come usb powered only and not as nas devices.

Blessings to all.

Submitted by Eileen😷 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019

I'm in the market for a NAS and was wondering if there has been any change in the accessible NAS landscape since this discussion. Have things improved? Are there new and accessible options not already mentioned above?

Thanks all.

Submitted by KE7ZUM on Tuesday, August 13, 2019

I'm also wondering this as well. I'm not looking for an NAS however it might be a good way just to get my stuff from one computer to another easier etc with out too much fuss, and my family can access some of my stuff as well.

Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Hello Everyone. currently, I have a Toshiba Amazon Fire TV, which has the Voice View built into it. I also use an Apple TV 4th Generation, and a Windows 10 PC. I am looking to set up a NAS for my home so that I can stream my mp3 collection of movies, TV shows, and music to either the Apple TV or the Toshiba TV. . While researching, I found this post. I have zero knowledge as to how to go about setting up a NAS. I'm wondering whether or not the Synology NAS drive accessibility has improved since this thread was started. Also, if anyone could give me some suggestions as to how to go about setting up the NAS, it would certainly be appreciated.

thanks.

Submitted by Dalia on Wednesday, May 5, 2021

I've seen no improvement in the accessibility of Synology's NAS software in the 7 years I've been using it. Some areas are sort of okay, but there are far too many areas where things are unclear or simply inaccessible. Checkboxes and tables are a prime example of where things are inaccessible. If I didn't have somebody swat sighted to check, there would be much that I simply would not know was present. I've also had to rely on others to set things up.

I persevere because I mostly now know where the software works and doesn't work, and have somebody to step in where necessary to help out.

There is frankly no way that I would recommend a Synology NAS to somebody who is totally blind and has nobody else to assist (or quite fairly is angered at the fact that it might be necessary). It's simply not the type of hardware/software where you have to guess and hope that things are setup as you intended and need.

When my Synology dies, or I get tired of having to fight with its software, I'll be looking elsewhere for a solution.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Wednesday, May 5, 2021

It is just about usable but really, it's a headache.

My setup, one person house, is an audiobook server which is on a raspberry pi 4B plugged into a WD elements 4TB drive. If you're comfortable with doing a little command line stuff, this is the cheaper and more accessible way forward.

An alternative for shows and movies is to use direct play apps such as infuse, which is great. No transcoding required, and is available on Mac, iOS and Apple TV. I have mine linked to a cloud drive so I basically have my own Netflix going on.

In terms of backing up devices, I think this can mostly be done in the cloud too now. The use of NAS, as broadband continues to improve, seems less and less appealing. Cloud storage, at least, has redundancy built in, whereas, even if you're running raid, there is still a chance things will be lost.

My suggestion is, get a portable HDD such as the elements USB 3.0 from western digital, back everything important up to it, put all of it in the cloud too and just, from time to time, make sure everything is synced up.

NAS is expensive, doesn't perform particularly well, hardware dependent, when transcoding, can be noisy, another thing to set up and worry about and, for us, another hill to climb.

In short, infuse with cloud storage for tv and movies, and a large capacity HDD to up date from time to time for anything more important whilst also keeping that in the cloud.

Hope this helps. I've spent most of lockdown playing with different solutions. Cloud always wins, especially if you want things away from home without the headache of setting up port forwarding.

I agree with Oliver that cloud storage in conjunction with 1 or 2 external drives is the way to go. You can get a 4TB portable drive from Western Digital (my preferred brand) for well under $100. The portable drives do not require a separate power source, they get their power through the USB connection, making them very easy to connect and disconnect from your computer. Connect them periodically to make backups, then disconnect them to keep your data safely offline. Then, use cloud storage as another form of backup and to make your data/media available to your various devices.

If you do want some network storage, Western Digital offers MyCloud drives that require virtually no setup. Just plug them into one of the ethernet ports on your router, open File Explorer and map a drive letter to the drive which should be located in the Network section. It's as accessible as any other drive on your computer.

Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Wednesday, May 5, 2021

First of all, thanks for responding so quickly and with such great info. I am so glad that I checked with my AppleVis community, before going down the NAS road and getting a headache from trying to implement this storage, when it seems that it may be a fading technology solution, and an upward hill climb. I so appreciate this community.

I have a couple of questions.

First, can the Infuse app push my files to all devices as long as they are on my network, without using a cloud service?

Second, Infuse seems to have several versions available. Some say pro, others just look like the latest version, i.e., Infuse version 7. I can't figure out if the pro version, which has an earlier software number on it is better than the latest version number seven. Any suggestions? I would prefer to pay for a lifetime license with all upgrades included.

I'm not familiar with Infuse, so perhaps it offers features you cannot find elsewhere, but there are other apps that can access files and media in cloud storage. VLC is a player that supports many media types, both audio and video. For music on my network, I use an app called Evermusic. I think probably most of the cloud services offer some built-in viewers/players in their apps as well.

Submitted by Roxann Pollard on Thursday, May 6, 2021

Hey Oliver, after looking into this and reading your review, I am most certainly going to go with your suggestions. I already have a WD 4 TB drive, but I don't know if that would work or not for plugging into my router. If not, then I intend on upgrading to one of their My Cloud versions anyway, for more storage. So whether or not my current drive works, I'll be covered. thanks again for all of the suggestions.

Submitted by Jason White on Friday, May 7, 2021

If you have a router that can run OpenWRT and which offers a USB port, you can attach a drive for it and run a network-based file system such as SMB (using Samba). These days, Mac OS uses SMB as its preferred file sharing protocol, so this arrangement is well supported under both Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.

The Web interface of OpenWRT is quite accessible, in my experience. However, the real power of it lies in your option to access the Linux command line interface via ssh and to edit configuration files, install packages, etc., as you think fit.