Network attached storage, or NAS, has become an increasingly popular data storage solution for both home and business use. NAS devices are standalone storage devices that connect to your network, allowing you to access and share files from anywhere. Synology is one of the leading manufacturers of NAS devices.
When choosing a Synology NAS, there are several factors to consider: your storage needs, budget, and intended use case. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss these key considerations and provide recommendations to help you select the right Synology NAS for your needs.
One of the most important factors is determining how much storage capacity you need. Synology NAS devices range from 2-bay models with a few terabytes of storage up to 12-bay devices that can hold over 100TB.
Consider how much data you need to store now and how storage needs might grow in the future. For home users, 2 to 4 bay NAS devices with up to 20TB of storage are typical. Power users and small businesses may need 6 to 12 bays to provide up to 100TB or more of capacity.
It’s also important to consider storage expansion options. Many Synology NAS support adding additional storage drives or expansion units as needs grow over time.
Home/Personal Use Storage Needs
- 2-4 bay NAS with up to 20TB storage
- Media storage for photos, videos, music
- Backups for multiple computers and mobile devices
- File sharing and synchronization
Business/Enterprise Storage Needs
- 6-12 bay NAS scalable up to 100TB+
- Shared storage for multiple users and devices
- Backups for servers, workstations, virtual machines
- Database and application storage
- Archives and records management
Intended Use Case
In addition to storage capacity, think about how you intend to use the NAS. Synology offers a wide range of NAS models designed for different use cases.
Home/Personal Use Cases
- Media Storage – Store photos, videos, music for playback on TVs, mobile devices
- File Sharing – Access files from multiple devices on home network
- Backups – Protect computers, phones, tablets from data loss
- Home Security – Store video from security cameras
- Home Automation – Integrate with smart home devices
Business/Enterprise Use Cases
- Shared Storage – File server for simultaneous multi-user access
- Backups – Protect vital business data with snapshots and replication
- Virtualization – Storage for virtual machines and containers
- Surveillance – Manage video from security camera systems
- Collaboration – Global file sharing and synchronization
- Mail Server – Host email with Synology MailPlus Server
- ERP & CRM – Integrated business application platforms
Consider which use cases are most important to choose an appropriate Synology NAS model.
Synology NAS devices range widely in price from a few hundred dollars up to several thousand for high capacity enterprise models. Consider how much you are willing to invest for hardware, additional storage drives, and optional Synology software packages.
For home users, expect to spend $300-1000 for a starter 2-4 bay NAS with drives. Businesses should budget $1000+ for advanced 6-12 bay devices with SSD caching and extra RAM. Large scale deployments with all SSD storage in 12-24 bay devices can cost $5000+. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to purchase hard drives or SSDs to populate the NAS bays.
Some budget friendly Synology NAS options include:
- DS220+ – 2 bay, up to 32TB (~$300 diskless)
- DS418 – 4 bay, up to 64TB (~$450 diskless)
- DS720+ – 2 bay, up to 32TB (~$400 diskless)
- DS920+ – 4 bay, up to 64TB (~$550 diskless)
For growing businesses, consider advanced models like:
- RS820+ – 4 bay rackmount, up to 64TB (~$1200 diskless)
- RS820RP+ – 4 bay rackmount with redundancy (~$1400 diskless)
- DS1621+ – 6 bay, up to 96TB (~$950 diskless)
- DS1821+ – 8 bay, up to 144TB (starting ~$1200 diskless)
Performance and RAID
The hardware specs of the NAS model determine the overall performance and speed of the device. Important factors to consider include:
- Processor – Impacts overall NAS responsiveness. Look for quad core or higher CPUs.
- Memory – More RAM provides better performance when multitasking.
- Drive Bays – Support for SSD caching and M.2 NVMe drives improves performance.
- RAID Support – Allows combining drives for speed, capacity or redundancy.
- Networking – Multiple LAN ports or 10GbE support improves bandwidth.
RAID configuration is also an important performance consideration. Synology DSM, the NAS operating system, supports various RAID types:
|SHR||Synology Hybrid RAID maximizes storage capacity and allows combining different drive sizes.|
|RAID 0||Striping optimizes performance by spreading data across multiple disks with no redundancy.|
|RAID 1||Mirroring provides redundancy by duplicating data on two or more drives.|
|RAID 5||Striping with distributed parity for both good performance and redundancy.|
|RAID 6||Similar to RAID 5 but can tolerate failure of up to two disks.|
|RAID 10||Combination of mirroring and stripping for increased performance and redundancy.|
Choose the RAID level that best meets your performance and protection needs for your data.
The type of hard disk or solid state drives you use with your Synology NAS also impact performance and cost. Key drive factors include:
- HDD vs SSD – Hard disks offer more capacity for lower cost. SSD drives improve IOPS and speed.
- Drive Interface – SATA HDDs are standard. SSDs may use SATA, U.2 NVMe or M.2 NVMe interfaces.
- Drive Size – Larger drives provide more storage, smaller ones tend to be less expensive per GB.
For home or starter NAS units, 3.5″ SATA hard disks from reputable brands like WD, Seagate or Toshiba are recommended. For advanced business use, consider enterprise class HDDs or SSDs.
Some popular drive options include:
- Seagate IronWolf NAS Hard Drives
- WD Red NAS Hard Disks
- Seagate Nytro Enterprise SSDs
- Samsung Enterprise SSDs
When budgeting, factor in the cost of populating your NAS with enough drives to meet your storage needs. Cost per TB is lower with larger high capacity drives.
Software, Apps and Services
A major advantage of Synology NAS devices is their wide range of software features, apps and services available on the DSM (DiskStation Manager) operating system:
- File Sharing – File sharing protocols like SMB, AFP and NFS for Windows, Mac and Linux.
- Backup – Tools to backup and restore data on PCs, servers, virtual machines.
- Productivity & Collaboration – Apps for mail, chat, documents, calendar, contacts.
- Multimedia – Media server, audio station, video streaming, iTunes support.
- Surveillance – Manage IP cameras and video recording, monitoring.
- Virtualization – Host virtual machines and Docker containers.
- Databases – MySQL, MariaDB.
- CMS & CRM – Packages like WordPress, Drupal, SugarCRM.
- Cloud Sync – Public cloud integration with Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive.
- Security – Firewall, malware protection, VPN access.
The extensible Package Center allows installing and managing 100+ add-on apps and services. Be sure to review available apps to choose a Synology NAS model that supports the features your environment requires.
Management and Monitoring
Synology provides excellent management tools to monitor NAS performance and utilization. Key capabilities include:
- Storage Manager – Manage storage pools, volumes, iSCSI LUNs, hard drive health.
- Resource Monitor – Track CPU, memory, network, disk usage over time.
- Analytics – Usage trends, performance reports, logs for troubleshooting.
- Notifications – Customizable alerts for system events and status.
- Mobile Apps – DS File, DS Finder, DS Cam for iOS and Android.
Advanced business class NAS models include more robust monitoring and analytics capabilities to manage storage in multi-device environments. The Synology Storage Manager application provides centralized management for multiple Synology NAS deployments.
Data protection and security should be a top priority when choosing a NAS. Synology DSM offers many security capabilities:
- Firewall – Built-in firewall to filter incoming network connections.
- Encryption – Volume encryption and encrypted file shares.
- Access Control – Granular permission management for users and groups.
- VPN – Site-to-site VPN and client VPN support.
- HTTPS – Force web applications to use encrypted HTTPS protocol.
- Audit Logging – Track access and changes to the system.
- Malware Protection – Scan for viruses and malware.
- Backup & Recovery – Point-in-time snapshots, replication to remote NAS.
For sensitive data, opt for NAS models that support maximum drive bays for redundancy, dual LAN ports for network failover, and ECC memory for error correction.
Choosing the right Synology NAS involves considering your storage needs, performance requirements, intended use cases, and budget. Define the features and capabilities you need upfront to narrow your search.
Focus first on storage capacity, drive bays, and hardware specs to ensure the NAS model can grow with future data needs. Then examine the included DSM software features and available apps to confirm the NAS matches your use case – whether home media server, business file sharing, backups, virtualization, surveillance and more.
Plan your disk drive population for optimal capacity and performance. SSD caching and M.2 NVMe ports accelerate key workloads. Take advantage of the flexible RAID solutions Synology offers to balance speed and redundancy.
Finally, don’t neglect the importance of manageability, monitoring, security, and data protection. Choose a Synology NAS that provides the tools you need to safeguard your data and get the most value from your investment.