In an age where data privacy and security are even more important than ever, online storage no longer cuts it. While it is often a leave it and forget it solution, and can be very inexpensive, the fact you don’t control your files is just not acceptable in today’s world. This is why everyone, business and home users, needs a NAS (Network Attached Storage) for peace of mind, and to give you full control over your data. While there are plenty on the market, the Synology DiskStation DS920+ impressed us with the range of features, flexibility, and set of apps that set it apart from the pack.
Synology has been a name in storage solutions for years, and that experience shows. The DiskStation DS920+ is a great looking device, even out of the box. It gives you everything you need to get started and manages it without being an eye-sore on a shelf or around the office. It offers 4 bays for drives, giving you a potentially massive level of space depending on your needs, and it offers simple lights on the right side of the unit to let you know what is actively being used and what is ready to be taken out. The front also offers a USB 3 port, and a backlit power button to turn the NAS on or off.
It is a good size without being unwieldy, measuring 6.5 by 7.8 by 8.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.9 pounds. Looking around the back of the DS920+ you will find the rest of the connections, including two LAN ports, a secondary USB 3.0 port, and an eSATA port. Sadly, Synology limited @Chriboth ports to standard 1gbs, compared to the 2.5Gbps ports seen on some newer NAS options from competing brands. It also has an exhaust for the fans, that helps keep the drives in the NAS cool even when the system is working hard.
“The Synology DiskStation DS920+ is a great looking device, even out of the box.”
Under the hood of the DiskStation DS920+, you will find a quad-core 2GHz Intel Celeron J4125 processor and has 4 gigabytes (GB) of DDR4 RAM. As mentioned above, the system is cooled by a set of quiet variable speed fans that keep the internal components and drives running cool. The DS920+ can be filled by 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch SATA or SSD drives with a total allowable storage of 64 terabytes (TB) between the four drives. The drives are also hot-swappable based on needs, so you can configure the DiskStation DS920+ as you need, giving ample possibility for home or the office. The DS920+ supports the Btrfs and ext4 file systems and offers several RAID types, including Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR), Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, and RAID 10.
Once all plugged in, and drives installed, you can load up the company’s Synology’s DiskStation Manager (DSM) to get the NAS setup up and running. This interface is built to be simple, resembling a Windows desktop, complete with icons, widgets, and monitors to give you easy access to everything the DS920+ can do. The system can be configured as you see fit, but at the start, the DSM is populated with the default set of apps, along with a store to download more should you want more advanced features.
Before you do everything, you will need to get the drives you installed in the DS920+ up and running. For our review unit, we started with dual Seagate Iron Wolf 2 TB drives, giving enough space to test a range of features and options. Once everything was plugged in, including the LAN cable, I was able to jump onto my desktop, open a browser at http://find.synology.com and get things started.
Here you will make your first account, set up the storage pool, select the storage type you want, and everything is up and running. It should be noted, that while you can load up any drive in the system, they will be wiped as they are initialized, so please make sure you have nothing valuable on the drives before installing.
The DS920+ offers a range of RAID types and can allow for both Btrfs and ext4 file systems, so it is based to log onto the company’s documentation, and read what the options, advantages and limitations are for each configuration before selecting one. It is hard to change once everything is installed and, depending on your needs, it can be hard to recommend one over another. Although, please note that Raid 0 does not allow any redundancy, so if a harddrive crashes, that data will be lost.
If you want to maximize the read/write speeds of the DS920+ an SSD drive or using the optional ability to expand the system with an M.2 SSD cache could be in order. While it does lead to increased costs, it does make accessing your files much faster, especially if you are using the NAS as a media server or just hate waiting for files to transfer.
Once everything was installed, we got to finally run some tests, and see how the DS920+ stacks up to the competition in speeds. Thankfully, we found in our range of transfer experiments, the Synology managed a respectable 90 megabits per second (MBps) read score, with it only slightly slower at around 87 MBps when it was writing files. This puts it right in line with many other NAS systems we have tested, although it does fall short of some other players in the field of NAS products.
With testing out of the way, we began looking at how the DS920+ can expand the possibilities with the Package Center. There is a range you can add to the system, including Docker, Plex, along with over 100 other apps that can make the NAS unique to your needs. In our office, we have it setup as a file storage, along with a media server for all the CGMagazine videos we have made over the years. It works wonderfully, and the addition of Docker makes it endlessly expandable as we find new uses for the storage, along with new needs are found at our office.
There are options for everything from VPN server apps, backup solutions, and even Collaboration software. It is clear Synology knows their market and has a range of things that should fit business needs, along with enough to keep the home user happy. I was impressed with what could be set up though Package Center, making even some of the more complex tasks a few button clicks away from being setup.
We were very impressed by what the DS920+ had to offer. It was one of the most well-constructed and full featured NAS systems we have tested. I loved how the attention to the needs of the users has led Synology to building something that, although easy to set up and use for beginners, has the potential to expand and push the limits for office environments. While I would have loved to see the DS920+ offer 2.5GBps in future iterations, and see the price come down a bit, for anyone looking to bring a new level of onsite protection for your files, the DS920+ delivers where it counts.