The key component of the Synology is the Software. You can buy cheaper NAs devices if you just want a network storage device. Honestly, the price justification is almost entirely in the software, though the Hardware RAID (as opposed to Software RAID) is a partial factor as well. The box itself isn’t all that sophisticated or exciting honestly.
I don’t plan to cover every available app by any means this is just sort of a run down of some of the apps I find useful, and probably the ones that are most commonly used.
The main reason I even bothered with investing in a NAS at all was because of my Photo collection. Everything else is a bonus. I’ve got 250GB of family photos I’ve taken over the years, plus a whole mess of other photos from Blog Posts etc. I’ve gone through a drive crash on them and the drives I’ve been using are aging rapidly. The wife doesn’t care to lose photos either.
Photostation is of course, made for Photos, and it’s pretty great. The interface is very similar to OneDrive, which is is probably my favorite interface of all the photo services I’ve used. Everything flows together to make a wall of photos, real great for easy navigation. There are also tagging functions which I plan to use later once everything is loaded.
I’ve tried several solutions for streaming my audio collection to my phone. I had sort of mostly settled on Google Play Music since it’s the only service that would let me upload my entire collection of some 20,000 songs at once. I don’t really NEED all these songs at once but I do like having the option. I buy most music these days via Amazon and so streaming via Amazon is always an alternative as well.
Unfortunately, my recent conversion to Windows Phone from Android means neither service is an option. I’ve been back to putting music on my device like a caveman. Fortunately, there is a DSMusic app available for Windows Phone, and I don’t have to worry about any limitations of any service, it’s just all there. Now I just need to build some good playlists.
A secondary benefit here, Google Play Music was one of the few Google Services I still sometimes used. I’ve worked pretty hard to divorce myself from all things Google for a variety of reasons, primarily privacy concerns and secondary they are starting to push their own semi proprietary services on the web over long standing more open ones. Basically, they are using their considerable size to bully everyone to their methods. “Don’t Be Evil” doesn’t seem to be a thing anymore, but anyway, Google isn’t the topic here. Having a good Google Music alternative that works on WP is.
I don’t use Torrents too often, mostly for my Humble Bundle downloads, but the Synology has a really nice built in Torrent client. I don’t have to worry about keeping a program running elsewhere or drive space on my PC in use, it just downloads them right to the NAS. There is even some auto extraction settings, though I have not looked into those yet.
A nice little bonus here I wasn’t quite aware existed before buying this NAS, it can function as a web server. I’ve long given up hosting my own web sites from my house but I do keep some wordpress and other files on an internal web server for archival purposes. The web server has allowed me to archive these files off my Ubuntu Server to the NAS, which also means I get the backup functionality of the NAS itself.
Another unexpected surprise, though I have not explored it completely yet, the Synology includes an app called Note Station, which can sync (or at least download) from Evernote. I’ve been racking my brain for a while on a good way to backup my Evernote notes, with ideas ranging from Print to PDF using some script to just pulling it weekly to a PC client. Problem solved.
Another nice backup feature, The Synology can hook into and sync with both Dropbox and One Drive. I use One Drive for some backups and Dropbox for some phone syncing so pulling both to an internal local storage is a plus. I may even look into using One Drive as a secondary backup like I had originally planned. Office 365 now includes unlimited storage on One drive, in addition to client licenses for 5 copies of Office (there are conveniently 5 people in my family all with PCs). It’s a really tempting offer, and with it I could set up the Synology to start pushing all (or select) data to the cloud for an offsite backup.
Last, and the ONLY feature I have been disappointed with so far is the Surveillance Station. I mentioned recently setting up cameras for monitoring and security. I currently have three cameras and may install a few more. The Synology only allows the use of 2 cameras before needing to purchase additional licenses. I’m not super irritated about the additional cost, I get the whole “It supports dev costs”” thing. My problem is that licenses are $60+, EACH. If I wanted to add another 3 cameras like I am considering, I’d need 4 more licenses, or $240. I’d be alright with maybe $10-$15 per seat, or even $60 for “unlimited” (within the capacity of the device) but $60 each is a little ridiculous.
I suspect there is some lame ass license fees Synology has to pay to someone involved but that is also kind of giving them the benefit of the doubt.
I’m still super satisfied with the box, but having better/cheaper access to Surveillance station seats would be eliminating my Ubuntu server completely.