A NAS provides central storage space in a network, with the advantage that you can access the stored files from any device. But the possibilities don't stop there (by a long way). A modern NAS can even replace a complete server. If you are looking for a NAS, you may be wondering: Synology or Qnap. In this article, we highlight differences and similarities between these popular NAS brands.
A NAS is mainly intended to store files centrally in the (home) network. That is very practical, tidy and well-arranged. For example, you can copy all the photos and videos from the vacation to a shared photo album, which immediately frees up space on the original storage device. And you can just as well view them with, for example, the app of your nas. But actually that's just the beginning.
The NAS has gained many functions in recent years and can - partly due to the increased computing power - easily replace a small home server. This makes the NAS a real hub in your network, without the complicated management that often accompanies a 'real' server. Although Synology is the market leader, Qnap also has an attractive offer.
Software: QTS vs DSM
Putting a NAS into use is a bit of a chore, but after that you don't have to worry about it anymore. The first step is to install the hard drives, followed by locating the device on the network and installing the operating software. For further management, log in with a browser. The nas can go into the meter box.
More important than the hardware is the software on the NAS, especially if you want to do more with it than just network storage. Here we see that Qnap and Synology offer almost the same possibilities, but very different in terms of working environment and ease of use. The user interface in the browser resembles a complete operating system in both cases, including windows for settings and applications.
You can try QTS from Qnap online at qnap.com/nl-nl/live-demo and compare with DSM from Synology at demo.synology.com/nl-nl/dsm. These demonstration environments are slightly less interactive than in practice. QTS is very colorful and the configuration options are extensive, but we think DSM is a bit nicer, neater and more user-friendly. This is partly because the screens are more thoughtful, difficult settings are hidden, the translations are better and help texts are more extensive.
After the operating software is installed, you need to provision the storage. Qnap gives some food for thought, for example whether a volume should be static, thick or thin and whether space should be reserved for snapshots. Such snapshots are essentially snapshots of a disk volume and can be a rescue from a virus or ransomware attack because you can restore the entire volume (as well as individual files and folders) from a snapshot. Each snapshot contains only the changes compared to the previous snapshot. This saves a lot of space and you can, for example, take a snapshot every hour or every day. You also create users via QTS.
At Synology, snapshots work a little easier by using the so-called Btrfs file system. After you create the storage space, you add users and shared folders, choosing who can access them and whether they can read or write for each folder.
You can of course access folders on the NAS directly via the network, which is fine for a software or video archive, for example. For administration, documents, photos or other files that you often edit, it is more practical to synchronize the folders on the PC with the shared folders on the NAS. Qnap has QSync for that, which works about the same as Synology's Cloud Station. The principle is reminiscent of cloud storage such as Dropbox, with the difference that you use your own NAS with usually much more space and a faster connection.
You could also see it as an extra backup: after all, the files are on both the PC itself and the NAS. One of the perks is that you can keep previous versions of files up to a configurable number of versions back. Useful for restoring an edit, just like sharing files via link.
Like Synology, Qnap offers a large number of additional applications that you can install on the NAS. Popular are Video Station and Music Station for managing movie and music collection respectively. You can access the content from, for example, smart TVs, media players, game consoles, but also – via an app – with a smartphone or tablet. If you don't like the default applications, you can also install a variety of third-party applications, such as the popular Plex Media Server. You can easily install many applications via App Center.
If you miss something, you can also get started with so-called Docker containers, just like with Synology. That sounds complicated, but it actually comes down to letting an entire system (with operating system and applications) run on the NAS, separately from the rest of the system. The magic word is virtualization.
It is a relatively simple way to, for example, set up a download server (for which there are also built-in applications) or to get started with WordPress or Home Assistant. Qnap goes even further than Synology in this.
Manage photos and videos
Managing your own photos and videos works well with the Qnap nas, although some more actions are required than with Synology. You first create a shared folder for the files with the desired access rights. Next, in the Multimedia Console, you must mark the folder as a so-called content source folder so that its contents are indexed. In Photo Station you can then manage the content and create albums.
A special mention deserves QuMagie, an application that automatically recognizes and groups people, things and places in photos via artificial intelligence. This allows you to request all photos with a specific person. It also groups all photos with 'things', in which it goes way beyond Synology's Moments. For example, we saw not only a group with all animals (including birds), but also a group with only birds and even only parrots. It also recognizes certain flowers and plants.
It's not perfect, but it's a nice help if you're looking for a lighthouse in your photo collection, for example. Grouping photos around places is just as practical. And you don't have to do much for it, apart from naming the people in the photos.
Another application that we would like to highlight is video surveillance. If you have one or more IP cameras in and around the house, a NAS is an ideal device for collecting the images. You can view these images on your PC, for example. And you will receive a notification in the event of movement, for example. Qnap's Surveillance Station is dated and not as nice as Synology's package of the same name. But the newer and more modern QVR Pro makes up for it, although it requires a powerful NAS. On the other hand, you add eight cameras at no extra cost, while with Synology you usually only get two camera licenses and have to pay almost 50 euros for each additional license.
Read more about camera surveillance on your nas here.
A NAS offers a wealth of possibilities, much more than just file storage. The differences between Qnap and Synology are small. It is clear that the competitors do not want to compete with each other. Qnap offers more configuration options, but is less user-friendly. Setting up is more obvious with Synology. It's a bit like Android versus iOS in that regard. If you need it, the extra connections and expansion options that Qnap offers on many models do offer added value.
We also think QuMagie is an interesting addition, because it allows you to browse through photos in a very convenient way. And for camera surveillance, QVR Pro is a beautiful and modern option, with a generous eight camera licenses.
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