unRAID on Thecus N5550 with 6 drives

This post is specific to owners of the Thecus N5550 but will apply to almost all of the Thecus NAS lineup as well. Anyone with Thecus NAS devices knows that the operating system “ThecusOS” has been practically abandoned. The vendor came out with “OS7” but it never fully finished and development died somewhere along the way. It also did not fully support the N5550 and many other models. Owners were left with unsupported devices.

This was fine with me for a while since I never really used the management interface except when configuring or troubleshooting issues. However after a couple years now the interface is very outdated and I was looking for something more modern.

I did upgrade one of my N5550’s to “ThecusOS7”, a beta version. It was able to install and it appeared to be functional however I was unable to create a RAID volume. Which means I could not use it for much of anything. Not to mention it was clunky and the older UI actually seemed to be more functional. It was clear that OS7 was just trying to mimic Synology’s DSM, but lacked all the polish. My attempts to downgrade were unsuccessful and I had pretty much bricked the NAS.

So now what? I have three N5550’s and don’t want the hardware to go to waste.

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Website Improvements: RunCloud.io, OVH, BunnyCDN and Redis Cache

Quite a few back-end improvements to the vSkilled.com website this week. 

For starters the website was moved to a new server on OVH Public Cloud and it’s running RunCloud.io for management. 

The website also runs in a dual-CDN configuration using both Cloudflare and BunnyCDN. Cloudflare acts as the primary web proxy while BunnyCDN serves up the media lightning quick. 

vSkilled is now also using Redis Cache which has significantly improved the page loads as well as keeps the server load down. 

Thank you to these companies for offering superior products and services. 

NAS3 SSD Upgrade

This week NAS3 got a storage upgrade from 128GB SSD’s to 500GB SSDs. NAS3 is my SSD NAS which is used for hosting virtual machines.

NAS3 has been running with the 128GB SSD’s for many years now. In fact I paid more for the 128GB SSD than I did for the 500GB SSD. However that was exactly my reasoning for waiting so long to upgrade. NAS3 is not intended to be a performance beast since it’s limited to 1Gbps networking. It would literally be a waste to use high end SSDs in this machine.

Choosing an SSD is sometimes a difficult decision. You have to weigh the performance, cost, and endurance (quality) of the drive. Especially so in a NAS or RAID environment where SSD’s “total bytes written” or “TBW” endurance rating will become a factor.

I paid $90/each CDN for five Crucial MX500 500GB 3D NAND SATA 2.5 Inch Internal SSD – CT500MX500SSD1(Z).

I don’t like using a parity RAID with SSD’s because you will wear them out faster, but in this case I simply don’t care. I would rather have a little redundancy with the trade off of a faster wear rate. Considering the old 128GB SSD’s have been running in RAID5 for many years now as well, from my experience it’s not a big issue.

In RAID5 the disks give me 1.81 TB of usable SSD space. Compared to about 477 GB before. So big upgrade in comparison.

This upgrade should last a few years at least. The next storage upgrade for the SSD side will be getting rid of the ancient Thecus N5550’s and replacing them with a Synology NAS. But that’s a future wish-list.

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Adding a SSL Certificate to Untangle Firewall

Untangle SSL not working? A small hack here for those that might be struggling adding a third party signed certificate to their Untangle firewall.

Using self-signed certificates isn’t a problem. However when you try to add a trusted third party certificate to Untangle using the GUI it doesn’t work.

The GUI doesn’t seem to add the intermediate SSL certificate to the chain which causes the certificate to be broken and sometimes even a very broken Apache.

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Using Cloudflare Firewall to Secure WordPress

If you’re using Cloudflare for your website you might not realize the security protections that it can offer.

Using the free package you get access to setup up to five active firewall rules. On the Pro plan this goes up to 20 active firewall rules. The Pro plan also includes the Web Application Firewall (WAF) which will greatly improve security if you are not using any other type of WAF for your website.

What can we use these firewall rules for in a practical sense with WordPress?

  • Restrict access to wp-login.php
  • Restrict access to /wp-admin/
  • Block WordPress XML-RPC xmlrpc.php

On the free plan the easiest win is to implement 3 rules for the above. This will greatly reduce your outside attack surface.

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Serverless WordPress

Can it be done? Yes. Is it practical? No.

That is so far what my conclusion is at the time of this writing. I was looking again at the web tier for the vSkilled website. I want to ideally run the website serverless, but without ditching WordPress. Like many others I use WordPress as the back end CMS. It’s a powerful platform that can do almost anything you’d like within reason. I don’t really want to give that up just for the sake of a serverless architecture.

While that sounds like it should be possible – it’s really not ideal. There are services out there that help with this process, like Shifter and Hugo. But it’s not truly a serverless WordPress environment. How it works is by hosting a temporary WordPress website then when you’re done editing, converting the entire site to static content.

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