User Review My first ever NAS device - Synology DS218j Review


Prelude

It was one of those many Fridays when I was lying down on the couch after giving 12 hours of my daily life to work and watching random tech reviews.

While scrolling mindlessly, a review for best NAS devices caught my eye and I thought “Why would someone compare NAS devices? Aren’t they all the same?”.

Until then, for me a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device was a hard drive I could connect to my router and access it withing my home. But yeah, why would I attach a hard drive to my router if I can just plug it into my PC directly via USB. I knew plugging it into a router will only decrease the transfer speeds.

There was no interesting video left that in my feed that time, so I decided to give 10 minutes of my Friday night to this seemingly bizarre comparison video of NAS devices.

After watching it, I realised how poorly informed I was about the NAS industry. NAS is just not a hard drive that you could plug into the router to access locally. Not anymore. After a research of 2 hours, I got to know how evolved things have become in this area.

I slept on that thought and dedicated the weekend to the research on NAS devices. To cut short and sum up the outcomings of my research, all I could think was “The future of cloud is in your own home - using a NAS”. It was mind boggling for me.

If you are new to this area like I was, I strongly recommend you search for what a NAS could do these days. To this day, I just could not believe how did I miss this revolution in the storage industry. I knew I needed to get a NAS for myself before it’s too late. Spent another day to shortlist which one should I get and which one I could afford.

Showtime

Fast forward a few weeks. I got this

f-DS218j_right-45-add.jpg

A brand-new Synology DiskStation (DS218j). It is worth mentioning that there is plethora of options to choose from in the NAS category. I got one of the most basic ones from Synology which they call DS218j. DS stands for DiskStation which is their range of NAS devices. You can see the whole list here.

You must be thinking, “Why should I care about getting a NAS device as I already have an external HDD which works just fine”. For that, just read through the following statements
  1. Does your external hard drive ensure no data loss?
  2. Are you confident that those photos that you took from the DSLR camera will be safe for a very long time in your hard disk?
  3. Can you access that video of your cute niece from your phone while your hard disk is sitting idle in your home?
I’m pretty sure your answer would be NO in all cases until you have a special arrangement with your external hard drive.

Here are some questions which I believe you would answer with a YES
  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could stream the movies that you own already to your phone? Just like your own Netflix or Amazon Prime. That too without paying any extra money!
  2. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could store all those DSLR photos that have been kept with care in your external hard disk to somewhere safer and give them the ability to be available everywhere you go? Just like your own Google Photos. That too without any extra cost and compressions.
  3. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could sync all your important files and documents to a cloud provider without paying anything extra?
  4. Oh, you are an audiophile! And aware of the fact that no streaming service has all the songs that you want to listen and prefer organizing your own music library. Wouldn’t it be great to have your own free Spotify and stream music wherever you go?
  5. Wouldn’t it be nice to have automatic backups of all your portable devices, be it Android or iOS, with virtually no cap on storage?
  6. Wouldn’t it be nice if all your data could be stored somewhere safely so that you don’t have to think twice about drive crashes and data corruption? And access it remotely? That too without any extra cost!
You probably said YES to at least 4 of these questions and might be thinking that I can do all that and more by getting a fat cloud storage. After all, cloud storage is quite cheap.

I thought just that and calculated the total size of data which I wish to upload to a Cloud Storage. It came out to be somewhere around 1.5 TB. Mountain of photos, sweet collection of movies and some important things that I just won’t like to miss.

According to that situation, I needed at least 2 TB of storage. For Google One (erstwhile Google Drive). The 2 TB plan costs Rs. 650/month or Rs. 6,500/year. If I’m willing to keep this data for at least 10 years, that will cost me not less than Rs. 65,000. Click on the below image which shows current Google Drive plans in India.

1576688886734.png

I’m ignoring the fact that this subscription cost will keep rising every few years and my data won’t be limited to 2 TB for sure. I might have to eventually upgrade to a 10 TB option which will cost Rs. 6,500/month and a whopping Rs. 7,80,000 for 10 years. You could get a brand-new premium hatchback car with that money. No kidding.

What if I told you that you can get 4TB of virtually lifetime storage with all the capabilities of a cloud system by merely making an investment of Rs. 35,000 one time! That is double the storage space and half the 10-year price of Google Drive.
You just need to buy 2 things:
What about the price of electricity? It takes 17 Watts when being used and 7 Watts when not being used. By taking 10 Watts per hour average (as you won’t be using it all the time), it will cost around 90 units (KWh) per year. Do the calculations as per your unit price of electricity. It is negligible.

For most of you, 4TB is more than enough for storing the data of whole household for more than 10 years. It can include movies, photos, music, phone backups, laptop backups, eBooks and much more.

But just storing things is not enough. We want high accessibility of all the data. We want to stream the movies and music. We need all our photos nicely organized in albums with no loss in quality. And we need all these things for everyone in our household or family.

Enter the dragon

Let me clear the smoke and answer a few questions that might have occurred in your mind till now.

This elegant and small piece of tech that I’m talking about is a powerful computer in itself having a dual-core processor and 512 MB of DDR3 RAM. Not just that, it has a dedicated Linux Based award-winning Operating System called DSM (Disk Station Manager) which is accessible as a web application in your browser.

I highly recommend you take a live demo of DSM to know what a NAS could do these days. I believe you will be asking the same question that I did when I first saw it - “Tell me what it can’t do!”

This demo was the thing which struck me the most. It was one of the most important reasons I went with Synology. I’m a fan of software and ease-of-access (wink to all those iPhone users out there).

There are many companies which are making NAS devices out there and have really good revenues as well but there is something which is quite different about Synology and it could not be well understood without putting out a famous quote by Alan Kay.

People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware
- Alan Kay

For me, Synology is that company which sees itself as a software company than a NAS manufacturing company. The future is software and they have a strong foundation.

DSM has its own App Store called the package manager which has a lot of apps. See the image below and you will get an idea what it could do

dsm-package-manager.jpg

This small device can
  • Host a website
  • Can work as cloud drive
  • Can work as a streaming server
  • Can work as a photo organizer
  • Can download things from multiple sources
  • Can work as high-speed external storage
all at once!

You can create separate accounts for all the users of the NAS and they get their own private space for storage with options to encrypt the data.

To complete the ecosystem, Synology has developed impressive apps for Apple App Store as well as Google Play Store. You can have a look at them below

Play Store: apps-play-store.jpg


iPhone & iPad: iPhone-Apps-Store.jpg


Apple Watch & Apple TV: apple-watch-tv-apps.jpg

Summing it up

Things have changed a lot since I have installed this NAS in my home.

I no longer need to look for my hard drives to safely store things. I have multiple network drives in which I keep organizing stuff without the horror of losing any of them.

All the photos I had since school time are safe within my own house and always available to me over the internet.

I can watch the movies I own on my Apple TV using the DS Video App whenever I want. If I’m about to travel, I can just download a movie on my iPad and watch it during the journey.

I had a collection of very old songs and I kept them moving from one external hard drive to another as they were priceless. They are sitting peacefully inside my NAS, ready to play at my fingertips.

One recent instance that would have been different without a NAS is shared below…

When I bought the BluRay print of Avengers Endgame, my brother would’ve had to wait for 2 weeks before we met, so that he could watch it. But not anymore! I uploaded that to my NAS device into a shared volume and guess what… he could stream it right away on any device he wants.

I no longer need to buy cloud storage plans for backing up all the critical data I have and keep my PC running overnight so that it could sync those big files. Everything is done automatically with lightning speed because now I have my own little tiny yet powerful cloud.

It’s been 3 months since I got it and I have just scratched the surface. DSM 6.2 is quite powerful, and they are soon going to release DSM 7.

Let me know if you have any questions about it. Would love to help


Thank you for your precious time.
 

blr_p

Well-Known Member
Veteran
We don't hear much about NAS these days ever since this 'cloud' business started. Could never really get into it. A USB HDD hooked up to a router is a personal cloud and a NAS takes that a step further.

NAS was all the rage five years ago. Somebody here i chatted with back then whose handle begins with a V and i can't remember more than that imported one from abroad.

30k odd it came to.
 
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adder

Well-Known Member
Veteran
I was looking at synlogy NAS for my ip cameras, but greedy synology wanted you to buy a license costing $54 for each additional cameras(2 cameras can be installed without license) a total rip off.

Now my router is doing everything, I first had a netgear R7000 it was a bit slow, doing all the work streaming 4k, writing BT to hdd , 20+ wireless device connected. But the more powerfull R7800 router is doing a good job as nas drive. I have a 8tb hdd connected to it.

If some one wants a cheaper option, diy option there are much cheaper Arm processor based boards, which are super quick. I will be going with diy option for another place where I want to install Ip cameras. Since its even cheaper then routers like R7800 it costs 1/3 the price of base line synolgy and his much faster
 

mach9

Das Layzeemeister
Adept
Where'd you get it from? The normal retail pricing is quite expensive until Amazon goes a bit crazy and really cuts prices.

Been eyeing the more expensive 4bay DS918+ for a while now
 

shoobham

Member
Disciple
Where'd you get it from? The normal retail pricing is quite expensive until Amazon goes a bit crazy and really cuts prices.

Been eyeing the more expensive 4bay DS918+ for a while now

There is difference of ~25% in Amazon.in price and Amazon.com price. It's showing 53,999 to me right now. I don't think it is ever going to be available below 48-ish.
And that's a powerful machine. I might buy it in future.
 

shoobham

Member
Disciple
I was looking at synlogy NAS for my ip cameras, but greedy synology wanted you to buy a license costing $54 for each additional cameras(2 cameras can be installed without license) a total rip off.

Now my router is doing everything, I first had a netgear R7000 it was a bit slow, doing all the work streaming 4k, writing BT to hdd , 20+ wireless device connected. But the more powerfull R7800 router is doing a good job as nas drive. I have a 8tb hdd connected to it.

If some one wants a cheaper option, diy option there are much cheaper Arm processor based boards, which are super quick. I will be going with diy option for another place where I want to install Ip cameras. Since its even cheaper then routers like R7800 it costs 1/3 the price of base line synolgy and his much faster

That's a good deal I would say. You just have a risk of disk failure without RAID setup.
 

shoobham

Member
Disciple
We don't hear much about NAS these days ever since this 'cloud' business started. Could never really get into it. A USB HDD hooked up to a router is a personal cloud and a NAS takes that a step further.

NAS was all the rage five years ago. Somebody here i chatted with back then whose handle begins with a V and i can't remember more than that imported one from abroad.

30k odd it came to.

I literally missed that time. I'm from post-cloud-inception era. I feel a lot of potential in NAS space due to a few things
  1. Super fast transfers due to presence of device in local network
  2. All my family can just share everything at lightning speed
These two points save a lot of time and money for me. Rest just depends on the software and the apps which are there to come.
 

shoobham

Member
Disciple
Where'd you get it from? The normal retail pricing is quite expensive until Amazon goes a bit crazy and really cuts prices.

Been eyeing the more expensive 4bay DS918+ for a while now

Update for you @Das Layzeemeister

I guess I compared it with something else...The price on Amazon.com is close to $700 after taxes (approx 10%) which is on par with the Indian price.

You can go to Synology Official Amazon Page to see all listed products by Synology. It's their official page.
 

CA50

Well-Known Member
Adept
Very nice read liked it a lot.
For people who want to use Synology Software without their hardware, they can use xpenology with their custom hardware.

I am using it around 8 months or so.
 
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itspriyank

Well-Known Member
Adept
Great read bro. Have always been wating to have a NAS on my Home network
I have been in such a fix that should I diy a NAS or just keep depending upon cloud. ?
NAS feels like a great idea as I have 4 WD Surveillance drives 3 TB each and they can be put in raid 5. Currently I am on Google One plan.

But then I don't need the data to available all the time and I rarely have any downloaded media. I mostly just stream content. Though I have a complete Home network with cat6 cables running every nook and corner or my home.
 

CA50

Well-Known Member
Adept
@itspriyank , if you are planning to setup your own NAS, i suggest you to go with Synology (Xpenology) because it comes with SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid) which is similar to RAID5 but provides more storage space.
Another advantage is its UI.

The only problem that i see with Xpenology is that, it won't support Synology QuickConnect, which allows you to access your NAS from external network. This can be solved via DDNS.
 

FIGGY JAM

New Member
Disciple
I am planning to buy this product but pricing is stopping me from doing that.

I have 4 TB worth of data already in external drives. So with that logic, I need at least 8 TB which will cost me around 40k

Price of 8 TB is mad

17000+11000+11000

Synology + 4TB HDD+ 4TB HDD = 40k
 

Arya

Well-Known Member
Adept
@itspriyank , if you are planning to setup your own NAS, i suggest you to go with Synology (Xpenology) because it comes with SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid) which is similar to RAID5 but provides more storage space.
Another advantage is its UI.

The only problem that i see with Xpenology is that, it won't support Synology QuickConnect, which allows you to access your NAS from external network. This can be solved via DDNS.

I found unraid to be better choice. There is a large community and very good VM/Docker support. It requires a license but worth the price. Depends on use though. My plex, portainer, timemachine backup and a lot more running from this NAS. Btrfs still has issues so sticking to xfs for now.
 

Sumi

Member
Disciple
Very well put, I have no knowledge about NAS but got interested to know more after reading your thread and looked around the internet about it.
 

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