King's College London

Synology was recommended to us by Western Digital who we called for advice on hard-drives. They recommended Synology as a reliable and quality NAS specialist. I was already familiar with them from using their DS214se at home but I wasn’t aware of the business options available. I’m glad I made the call to Western Digital and the subsequent purchase. Tom Dore, Learning Technologist

The Company

King's College London is one of the largest and oldest universities in London and is renowned around the world as a leading educational institution with an excellent reputation. The Central Unit of Distance Learning (CUDL) forms a small, specialised facility within the College's central services, with a remit to focus on distance learners and to produce courses that can be delivered entirely online for this market. The courses are developed by the department themselves, from scratch, in tandem with academics who work in King's College London or its affiliated NHS Trusts. The Central Unit of Distance Learning manages their own budget and needs to fit their provisions within it. Therefore, they operate similarly to a small business, though they cannot be 100% independent of the larger whole, as they also need to adhere to some strict College-wide regulations.

The Challenge

King's College London, along with another two dozen UK universities, signed up to a new initiative to provide 'Massive Open Online Courses', or MOOCs for short, through a new platform, FutureLearn. They found that MOOCs use more video files than normal courses, including normal distance learning courses, with more special effects to achieve higher production values. These facts resulted in a very sudden increase in the amount and size of files handled within the department. The files were a challenge to store, transfer and edit quickly using our existing system, which consisted of another brand and much smaller NAS system working alongside an Apple Mac mini plus numerous external hard drive units. This was designed around normal office files. It was crucial that the Central Unit of Distance Learning changed their data storage solution.

The Solution

A solution was needed that would be appropriate for a small business environment, as the Central Unit of Distance Learning operates within its own budgetary constraints. At the same time they are part of the larger whole, King's College London, so that needed to be considered with the procurement of new IT solutions. For example, to be reasonable in the claims on IT support outside the departmental unit, the solutions picked also need to be familiar technology so that the College's IT support department did not need to learn a new set of skills just for the Central Unit of Distance Learning's requirements.

Research was conducted into what different storage options were on the market and NAS seemed like a suitable solution. Mainly because it was one unit, located centrally that can be accessed by multiple users with multiple accounts with different permission levels. No more swapping external hard drive units and disks going missing! The department staff originally called Western Digital for advice on hard-drives to use in a NAS system, and WD recommended Synology for the NAS solution to use alongside their products. Tom Dore, Learning Technologist, uses a Synology DS214se at home so was already familiar with the DiskStation Manager operating system and felt it was very user-friendly and reliable. After speaking to Synology UK's pre-sales support team, it was decided that the DS1813+ was the most appropriate model for the department.

The Benefits

Impressive scalability

The DS1813+ allowed CUDL to expand their data storage needs in time, without having to purchase all the equipment straight away.It starts off with 8-bays, and can be expanded up to 18-bays with the attachment of up to two DX513. Each bay can support up to 6TB, so the complete storage solution offers over 100TB of storage.

Optimal redundancy

There is a choice of RAID options, so that even with RAID in place (to provide data redundancy and therefore enhanced security), two-thirds of the total installed space is still available to use. Using the RAID calculator on the Synology website, the King''s IT Support team decided that the Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) setup was the best one for them.This allows them the flexibility to use hard drives of different capacities and yet still retain maximum usable storage. Additional space on the larger-capacity drives will not be wasted as it normally would in traditional RAIDs. 

User-friendliness & high performance 

Other important features which were crucial for the CUDL team and IT Support were that the NAS system chosen had to be user friendly for staff members on all levels, including the editors, project managers, administrators, and IT Support. Another main consideration is the speed of access when writing or reading files. The file types to enable the MOOC courses to run include video files (3D, raw footage, final edits), text files and images. Any lack of speed would discourage people in the team from using the networked drives as they need to work on large files quickly. The DS1813+'s stellar performance in this aspect ensures CUDL's day-to-day productivity in processing all materials they encounter. 

Overall, the DS1813+ is quick to setup, fast to access, and available as a normal network share. It is convenient for the graphical interface, allowing the team to simply drag and drop when transferring files. This is the same from both Windows and Mac computers. The NAS has modernised the way CUDL deals with data storage, which is exactly what joining the MOOCs initiative calls for, with minimal effort required for all users and administrators concerned. CUDL cannot be more pleased with the purchase.

Recommended Models

  • DS1813+

Recommended Features

  • Good speed, storage capabilities, and scalability
  • User-friendly interface
  • Flexible RAID options
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