It has been a year since I got my very first network-assisted storage, the DiskStation DS420+. Ever since then, it has become a part of my daily life for both entertainment and productivity. I recently got Synology DiskStation DS920+ which is a big upgrade to what I already have. Physically, they both look the same. Both have 4 bays and have the same size. As a matter of fact, apart from the model number written below the power button, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference from a distance. However, the differences lie mostly in the technical specifications. And of course, depending on what you intend to do your NAS, the DS920+ is a lot better than the DS420+ in certain ways.
|CPU||Intel Celeron J4125 4-core 2.0 (base) / 2.7 (burst) GHz|
|Hardware encryption engine||Yes (AES-NI)|
|Memory||4 GB DDR4 non-ECC (expandable up to 8GB)|
|Compatible drive type||
|Maximum Drive Bays with Expansion Unit||9 (DX517 x 1)|
|M.2 Drive Slots (cache)||2 x NVMe|
|File System||Internal Drives
Btrfs, EXT4External Drives
Btrfs, EXT4, EXT3, FAT, NTFS, HFS+, exFAT
Dimensions (H x W xD)
166 mm x 199 mm x 223 mm
In terms of raw power and usability, the DiskStation DS920+ has a lot to offer as shown in these past couple of weeks I’ve had this review unit. Whether you’re a power home user or a small/medium business owner who finds offerings like the DS420+ not enough and needs a powerful network-assisted storage unit without necessarily breaking the bank, Synology DiskStation DS920+ might be a great choice.
Unboxing, appearance, and setup
If you’re buying this, these are items you should expect to see in the box:
- DS920+ Unit X 1
- Accessory Pack X 1
- AC Power Adapter X 1
- AC Power Cord X 1
- RJ-45 LAN Cable X 2
- Quick Installation Guide X 1
In terms of appearance, the DS920+ is quite similar to Synology’s most recent 4-bay NAS units including the DS420+. It retains the boxy design and ports placement. It comes with a black plastic finish and measures 8.73 x 7.83 x 6.54 inches. Without any drive, it weighs only about 2.25kg.
At the front, the power button is located at the bottom right, with a USB 3.2 port right above it. At the rear are two 1Gbe LAN ports, an eSATA port, the power adapter interface, and a second USB 3.2 port.
Underneath, you have two 2 x NVMe SSD slots. These are solely for cache acceleration, not regular storage.
Setting up a Synology NAS is as easy as ever. Although I’ve done this before, a new user should find it easy to put together as well. For this review, I used a 2TB Seagate Slim Backup Plus which isn’t even officially supported but worked nonetheless.
Although I had to teardown the casing to take out the hard disk and had no issue installing the HDD, this isn’t advised. You’re better off with a hard disk or solid-state drive that is on the list of supported models. From my experience, I would say it doesn’t hurt to try a 2.5″ or 3.5″ drive not officially supported. It goes without saying that it is a risk, though.
Synology DiskStation DS920+ has a maximum internal raw capacity of 64TB, with all 4 bays fitted with 16GB drive each. This can be expanded to a maximum of 9 disks with a DX517 expansion unit. However, it supports a maximum single volume size of 108TB. A 3.5″ HDD will fit snuggly into the tray, but you need to hold a 2.5″ disk in place with screws. This shouldn’t be an issue since the screws needed are already provided.
Working with DSM 7.0
To set up the NAS, a first-time installation is required. To make it as easy as a walk in the park, it is advised that you download and install Synology Assistant first. Connecting your computer and DiskStation DS920+ to the same local area network, Synology Assistant should automatically detect your unit when you click the search icon.
Double-clicking it should take you to the setup page where you need to simply follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process.
DiskStation Manager, Synology’s proprietary software for its NAS devices, received an update that bumped the version number to 7.0. This came with a huge number of changes and improvements. Basically, this update made the operating system a lot more secure and easier to use. Some redundancies have also been eliminated (like the co-existence of Moments and Photo Station).
After installing DSM, you will be required to create a volume and select a RAID type. For beginners, it is advised you choose the “Quick” mode and let the system create an SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID) volume. This gives optimum performance and space allocation. With two or more drives available for use, data protection and fault tolerance become active.
The great thing about Synology Hybrid RAID is that even if your drives are not of equal volumes, your storage is never wasted, unlike classic RAID types.
However, if you are an advanced user with a full understanding of how different types of RAID architecture work, selecting the “Custom” option is the way to go.
So far you know your way around Windows 10 or macOS, working with DSM should not be an issue. The GUI is intuitive and offers everything you need to make the most out of your DiskStation DS920+
For businesses and home users, DSM Package Manager offers everything you need, from file management addons, utilities, down to productivity add-ons. Most of these are available for free, at least, you’re not required to pay for the most important ones. Synology Drive, Synology Active Backup Business, Virtual Machine Manager, Synology Office, and everything else needed for your business are available for free.
Even for home users, the majority of the packages required to build a file server or an entertainment hub are available for free.
Performance and scalability
Synology DiskStation comes with an Intel Celeron J4125 processor. It has a 4-core architecture with a 2.0GHz base speed which goes up to 2.7GHz burst speed. This guarantees speed and great performance. By default, you have 4GBs of RAM to work or play with. For a regular user, this should be enough. Even if you’re running business applications like ABB, Drive, Office, and more, simultaneously accessing the NAS from several users should not be an issue.
However, I quickly found out this could be a bottleneck in certain cases. For instance, while virtualizing Windows 10 on the DS920+, I allocated only 2GB of RAM which made the operating system ran pretty slow. This is exactly why this model provides an easy way to upgrade your random access memory. With an internal 4GB RAM already in place, you can add an extra 4GB DDR4 non-ECC RAM module through the expansion slot available on the right side internally.
Combine this with NVMe caching drives and you have a beast of a NAS which should smoothly run whatever you through at it.
The maximum write speed is officially put around 225MB/s, while the read speed is slightly lower. However, this is only feasible with dual-Gigabit Ethernet ports in a link-aggregated configuration. Using a single ethernet port, you’re likely to get about half of this. In the actual sense, the performance of file transfer over LAN is limited by your connection speed and the kind of setup you have with those 1GBe ports. The RAM, processor speed, and disk type have little or no impact on how fast you’re able to transfer files over network.
Active Backup For Business
Data loss can kill a business, and this is why businesses spend a lot on backups solutions to mitigate disasters. With its free-to-use Active Backup for Business, Synology creates an easy way out. This solution offers centralized, unlimited backups for Windows Server, PC, VMWare and Hyper-V virtual machines. It also works great for Office 365 and G Suite, ensuring your cloud data protection.
To get started, you first need to download the addon from the Package Manager. Whether all you have on your network is a single PC or multiple PCs, virtual machines, and Windows Server, the centralized data management console makes it deploy backup tasks and monitor operations.
For businesses, Active Backup is a must-have. To back up a PC, Active Backup Agent needs to be installed and configured to connect with the DS920+ unit. With this done, the NAS handles everything else. From the centralized management dashboard, you can individually configure backup frequency, retention, and scheduling for each device on the network.
One feature that is extremely useful and helps conserve storage is global deduplication. This feature prevents having duplicate files across multiple devices backing up to your NAS storage. For instance, if you’re backing up twenty PCs, there are bound to be similar files, such as Windows system files and programs files. Global deduplication ensures such files are not duplicated on your storage.
Unfortunately, there’s no Active Backup Agent for macOS at this time, but I believe it’s safe to say that this is in the pipeline. For now, Active Backup for Business can be configured as a Time Machine repository.
The fact that there is absolutely no license restriction makes ABB the best backup solution for businesses. It’s absolutely free with no hidden cost.
Synology Drive is a solution that eliminates the need for third-party cloud servers like Google Drive, One Drive, etc. While this lets you create a private file server for personal use, it offers even greater benefits to businesses.
With the world now leaning further towards remote working, collaboration becomes an even important aspect of running a business. Synology Drive makes data sharing and access possible at absolutely no cost. With cloud storage services, the more storage space you consume, the bigger the fee you have to pay at the end of the month. With Synology Drive, the only limitation is the size of your drive.
Synology Drive also has a backup feature. With this configured, you can automatically synchronize important files to your NAS. It offers options for synchronization scheduling, file conflict resolution, and more.
Synology Drive allows local or remote file access with QuickConnect ID. It also offers several protocols for easy access on any device. These include SAMBA, AFP, NTS, FTP, and WebDAV. For mobile devices, apps like DS File and Synology Drive let you have easy access to your files on the go.
Virtualization and Docker support
Although solutions like VMWare exists to allow you to create virtual machines locally on your computer, DiskStation Manager also lets you do this using your Synology NAS. With DSM, the virtualization software is offered for free. I was able to get a Windows 10 virtual machine running with a web browser in just a few steps.
It’s worth mentioning that this does put a strain on the system. It’s important to have an extra 4GB RAM installed to make this work right. Allocating just 2GB of RAM out of the 4GB available by default made the virtual machine ran slow. Combining an extra RAM chip together with SSD cache acceleration should make a huge difference.
Unlike virtual machines which are as resource-intensive as real operating systems, docker contains are relatively lightweight. These run greatly on the DS920+ without any issue at all.
What else can you do with the DS920+?
As with every Synology NAS, the Package Center offers unlimited possibilities. Whether you are an SME owner, a developer, or a power home user, the DS920+ lets you do everything imaginable with your network-assisted storage. Want to create a private chat server for your organization? Synology Chat Server does it. A private mail server? A monitoring and video management tool for surveillance cameras? A VPN server? There are packages available that do this and more. In addition, there are mobile apps for each of these that make it possible to work on the go.
Is Synology DiskStation DS920+worth it?
Synology DiskStation DS920+ has enough power already and offers scalability on top of this. For SMEs and professional home users, the DS920+ is the perfect choice in terms of performance, features, and price. DSM makes it easy to manage your NAS and add more functionality.
One common gripe with the hardware is the lack of a 2.5Gbe port. Personally, I don’t see this as an issue as my current network setup is limited to 1.0 Gigbit for now. Besides, from my personal experience, the speed is more than sufficient.
When compared with offerings like the DS420+, the DS920+ is worth the money as it gives you twice the power with just a small difference in price. It is available on Jumia.