Synology DS916+: It Will Go Full NAS, If You Want

NAS storage
The Synology DS916+ set up in my office next to the WiFi and my favorite plant.

Following up on my story about storage solutions for small studios, there’s a company called Synology that makes a very high-end NAS, which is great for video-editing outlets and for huge studios. Synology competes with companies like G-Technology (the RAID cited in my story), but most photographers and videographers like me just need a storage drive that’s big, not too slow and accessible across a network.

So I tried out the DS916+ and moved years of data from various independent drives, put it all into one location, and will also back up the “keeper filers” to the cloud. Having all of that data at my fingertips is great, and having it accessible from anywhere on the planet is even better.

Hey, You, Get Onto My Cloud

Even though Synology’s U.S. operations are based in the Pacific Northwest across a lake from Seattle in Bellevue, I hadn’t heard about them until last week when my editor assigned this story.

And, I’m impressed. I only wish I got to know them much earlier.

While I shared with you how to benefit from the cloud, with services being affordable for individuals and small business (the Google Apps suite offers unlimited data for $10 per user), the Synology hardware/software package is about running your own cloud that replicates pretty much everything Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Apple do.

That includes apps to access and sync data with your phone. If you want to go full NAS (and I’m tempted every day), the DS916+ will stream all your media, too. One of the first things I did is finally get rid of the CDs I kept as mementos on a bookshelf. With a click, I’m now running an iTunes server and streaming my audio collection.

NAS storage

Running a studio with one staffer, me, means my use case and scope is limited, but I could become a server admin, if I wanted, and set up the DS916+ for a small business/studio. Part of what impressed me the most is Synology’s browser-based operating system. It’s fast, intuitive, and there’s nothing I haven’t figured out so far, either by clicking around the OS or referring to Synology’s extensive knowledge base.

As I learned, Synology was founded by two ex-Microsoft employees who started making NAS software and eventually the hardware. Today, Synology has been in the consumer NAS market for about 10 years. The company actually was the first NAS maker to introduce a responsible web-based management interface like DSM and the first to introduce the idea of having an app store on a NAS.

The reviews of Synology products on Amazon, B&H and elsewhere are mostly positive, too.

As set up, my DS916+ costs $599 for the bay and another $130 per 4 TB drive. That’s $1,199 total, not including the 10 days I spent migrating data. With storage space being a cheap commodity and my traveling extensively for the past decade, I collected drives like a photographer collects messenger-style bags. There’s a system to how I backed up, as I shared, but it’s far better to centrally locate that data, have it redundantly stored and then permanently back up the important stuff.

In the new NAS scenario, I’m using one of Synology’s apps to sync finals to my G Suite cloud drive and removed three external drives from my desk. I also set up a sync folder to grab images from a camera card whenever it’s plugged in.

But, wait, there’s more!

One of Synology’s apps will upload photos and videos from your mobile devices and then wipe them from your device, freeing up space. Sure, phone manufacturers already offer storage solutions like iCloud or Google Drive that mirror your device, but you could certainly reduce a data budget by turning on Synology’s cloud services.

Besides the relatively quick setup, the most work in setting up your storage solution is the diligence in moving all the data to the NAS. I’m working directly on it over WiFi for photos, but for 4K video, you’ll need a gigabit router and an ethernet cord because your computer just can’t push that much data over WiFi. In this workflow, after I’m done with a video project, I drag a cable over from the NAS, plug in directly and move the Final Cut Pro project files over.

NAS storage

If you’re wondering what the difference between a NAS and a RAID is, it’s not much. A NAS is a networked RAID, and with the Synology DS916+, one that offers great value, exceptionally usable applications and a cloud system for on-the-go access.

So just how much data did I migrate to the NAS? 2.5 terabytes, and then some. Considering all the archive photos, here’s another scenario to consider. Apps like Aperture store the files inside of the app’s package and then present them in an organized manner to you, generating previews from the files.

Well, you could easily grab the masters folder out of your old Aperture install, move that to the NAS and then browse those photos as needed with Synology’s fast finder and photo player.

That’s my Plan B, by the way, if I decide not to migrate an 80K Aperture photo library to Capture One Pro.

The features of the DS916+ and specs are impressive, too, but its standout features is the OS. If interested in purchasing a Synology, look for bundled deals on drives.

Synology DS916+ Specs

  • Quad-core 4-bay NAS optimized for intensive tasks and encryption
  • Scalable storage up to 9 drives with DX513
  • Comes with 2 RAM options: 2 GB and 8 GB
  • Single H.264 4K or triple Full HD online transcoding
  • Advanced Btrfs file system offering 65000 system-wide snapshots and 1024 snapshots per shared folder

You can follow DL Byron on Twitter @bikehugger

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