Synology NAS Buying Guide: Complete Data Control – Your Own Cloud with a Home Server

Elizabeth Harper

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One of the standout features of Synology NAS is the wide range of free apps that expand its capabilities. There are apps for backing up PCs to the NAS, synchronizing or backing up cloud storage, serving as an email server, virus scanner, providing virtual computers, setting up a private cloud, streaming apps for your own network, chat servers, web-based interfaces, and much more. An interesting use case for a Synology NAS is in the realm of home security. Our guide, “Synology Surveillance Station: NAS as a Central Hub for Surveillance Cameras” provides a concrete example. We explain more about NAS in our guide “x86 or ARM, fast LAN, speedy HDDs: Finding the Perfect NAS.”

The Synology apps are available for free. While some professional services for businesses may require licensing for certain user quantities, this is the exception rather than the rule. You can find a list of most apps on Synology’s “Package Center” page. In addition to the standard packages offered by Synology, there is also a very active community that provides additional free packages. Many of these packages are based on Linux, just like Synology’s Disk Station Manager (DSM) operating system. However, users don’t need to interact with Linux directly as the entire management is done through the web interface. Experienced users can even deploy virtual servers on a Synology NAS and run complete servers or Active Directory domain controllers. Docker containers can also be utilized. In short, Synology NAS systems offer comprehensive options for sharing and archiving data and additionally provide the ability to expand their functionality with apps.

Which NAS is right for you? Synology offers a wide range of NAS systems, catering to beginners, professionals, and businesses. When making a purchase, it’s important to consider the intended use of the NAS. Especially for a home server or small to medium-sized businesses, a Synology NAS can provide extensive services and significantly reduce costs by requiring less hardware and licenses. In such cases, it’s helpful to take a first look at Synology’s online package center. This platform shows which Synology NAS models can run a specific app. Performance-intensive apps like Synology Virtual Machine Manager naturally require more powerful NAS systems. In the online package center, you can see which NAS systems support each app under the “Supported Models” section.

Synology offers entry-level NAS systems as well as systems designed for more complex environments that are slightly more expensive but have faster processors and support more drive bays. Planning the required storage space is important. It is essential to choose a NAS that has enough drive bays in the NAS enclosure to accommodate at least two, preferably more, hard drives. This allows buyers to avoid data loss caused by a single drive failure through the use of a RAID system.

Synology provides a NAS selector tool on their website to assist in choosing a NAS system. Before purchasing a NAS from Amazon or another online retailer, it makes sense to gather more information. The NAS selector tool is available on Synology’s website and is free to use without registration. After answering a few questions, the tool displays several NAS systems, narrowing down the options. However, you can still further refine the selection at any time using the tool.

Prospective buyers should also consider other aspects of NAS equipment. In addition to the number of available drive bays, there are also slots for flash storage. It’s important to note that not all bays need to be utilized immediately, but having them available as reserves is beneficial. This allows for easy expansion of storage space and the creation of additional storage pools on the NAS, for example, to migrate data. Flash slots serve as cache, significantly accelerating user access and making them particularly useful when users want to use additional apps alongside data storage. Similarly, these slots do not need to be utilized immediately but are available if needed. Additionally, Synology NAS supports the use of SSDs. Read and write access speeds are much faster with SSDs compared to traditional HDDs. However, this also increases the investment costs for the NAS, so it’s only useful if such performance is required. Examples include deployments in businesses, running additional apps, or in performance-intensive environments such as video editing or image processing. When combined with flash storage as cache and with a sufficient number of drives, it is also possible to utilize effective RAID systems, such as RAID 5. This maximizes performance and protects against drive failures. The amount of RAM in the NAS also plays an important role. When using additional apps, it is recommended to have at least 8GB of RAM, and even more when running VMs on the NAS. It is essential to ensure that the NAS still has available slots to expand the memory.

Having sufficient and fast network interfaces is crucial for a network-attached storage device. In businesses where multiple users are working with the system, it makes sense to choose devices with multiple interfaces. This allows for the distribution of network traffic and better adaptation to various apps. The Synology NAS selector tool can also filter network adapters after displaying the results by selecting “Click here to choose more features.” Under “Network”, either the “4 Ports” or “2 Ports” option should be used. NAS devices with only one port may not be suitable for businesses and high-performance environments. Some NAS systems even allow the integration of a network adapter via a PCIe slot, and this filtering option is available in the NAS selector tool as well.

Which NAS systems do we recommend? One of the best value-for-money options is the Synology Diskstation DS1522+. For those needing more power, the DS1823xs+ is a good choice. The Synology DS1522+ offers ample drive bays, 8GB of expandable RAM (up to 32GB), support for both HDDs and SSDs, and various expansion possibilities. The NAS costs around 720 Euros (excluding hard drives) but offers a lot in return. For environments with higher performance requirements, the DS1823xs+ can be used as a NAS server. In addition to numerous drive bays, it also has slots for flash storage. This NAS costs around 2000 Euros (excluding hard drives and flash storage), making it ideal for businesses. For beginners, affordable entry-level devices like the DS220j provide a good starting point with two drive bays. Many apps are supported, and the features for data storage are sufficient for small businesses and home servers. This device is priced at around 450 Euros, including hard drives and a storage capacity of 4TB when using RAID 1, which is recommended.

In conclusion, Synology NAS systems offer a wide range of capabilities and features, making them powerful home servers or suitable servers for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The abundance of free apps that can expand the NAS’s functionality is particularly noteworthy. The web interface is outstanding and allows for easy management without requiring interaction with the underlying Linux operating system. When selecting the appropriate NAS system, it’s important to consider the intended use. Synology offers various models for different requirements, ranging from entry-level NAS devices to high-performance systems for complex environments. The free Synology NAS selector tool assists in the selection process by recommending suitable models based on a few questions. When fine-tuning the NAS equipment, it’s crucial to ensure that there are enough drive bays to support RAID systems and prevent data loss. The use of flash storage as cache and SSDs can significantly accelerate access times, but they are particularly useful in high-performance environments. The choice of network interfaces depends on the number of users and required bandwidth. Recommended models include the Synology DS1522+ for solid performance at a good price point, the DS1823xs+ for demanding environments and use in businesses, as well as the budget-friendly entry-level device DS220j with two drive bays. Overall, Synology NAS systems offer a wide range of features and expansion possibilities, making them a recommended solution for home servers, SMBs, and businesses. Careful selection of the appropriate model and equipment is crucial to meet individual requirements. For more information on NAS, check out our guides “x86 or ARM, fast LAN, speedy HDDs: Finding the Perfect NAS” and “Synology Surveillance Station: NAS as a Central Hub for Surveillance Cameras.” Additionally, our article “Surveillance Cameras without the Cloud: No Monthly Costs & More Privacy” is worth reading for those interested in surveillance cameras. If you’re looking for portable storage solutions, our guide “Storage Deals: External Hard Drives & SSDs Starting at 16 Euros per TB” is a valuable resource.

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