Talk to me about Synology drives

I see Synology drives mentioned a lot here and I’m wondering if this might be a solution to a few related storage and media problems I’m pondering.

Problem number one: I’m struggling with 1TB of internal storage space on my Mac. This is mostly made up iTunes music and films, photos, video, and almost 20 years of graphic design projects. At the moment I’m importing GoPro footage and drone footage onto an external drive because there’s not enough space left on my internal HD. The external drive is then connected to my Mac (when I remember) and it gets backed up as a connected drive to Backblaze. This is only a short term solution as I’m adding more and more images and 4k video to my Photos Library.

Problem number two: My husband also has a Mac with a growing Photos library and we’d both like to be able to stream the photos and videos from our Macs to the 4K AppleTV. This is a complete faff, having to go into the settings to switch Apple IDs and often it doesn’t actually load anything, we just get the spinner and give up.

Problem number three: Backups. Both Macs are currently backed up with Backblaze and then we also have an external drive backup (mine cloned everyday with CCC and my husband has a time machine back up). Ideally, I still want to run a Backblaze back up of the Mac internal HD, but I also need anything on external or networked drives to have an offsite back up incase of fire or theft.

I’m quite technical, but I know very little about networked drives, but could Synology be a solution? And if it is where do I start?

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Problem 2: Have you tried the Apple family plan? It should alleviate the account change problem.

Problems 1&3: The biggest problem with network drives is the backups. Unfortunately, Backblaze won’t back them up. You would have to use another service like Arq & Backblaze B2/AWS for those backups.

Backblaze will backup external drives, you just need to select it in preferences. The simplest solution for you might just get a large direct attached disk (or array) for your machine. Backblaze will do the rest. You did not say what kind of Mac you have, so that may not work if your both on laptops.

I currently have a Drobo 5N which I have to backup via a Mac Mini (2007) running Arq & B2. That works out to be about $25/month for 5TB. I would recommend staying away from NAS just because of the backup problems associated with them right now. Drobo/Synology both have built in cloud backup options, but they become prohibitively expensive over 2TB.

If you really need a NAS, I would probably buy a old Mac Mini, attach a Drobo (or the like to it via USB) and share the directories. It can serve iTunes and run another license of Backblaze to backup itself and the Drobo.

I use my Synology to offload old projects and photos from my iMac. I also use it to back up a laptop, my wife’s Macbook Air, and to store large design assets. I find it very useful, even though it is a bit slow now (running a five year old entry level cabinet).

For backup of the Synology, I use Amazon Glacier. Very affordable, IMO, but restore could take a while as there is no guarantee that my files are kept online at all times.

The lack of control over the Apple Photos library is the reason I don’t use it.

I love my Synology. I don’t find it complicated or troublesome … the primary downside is cost (and as noted, backup). The primary value of a NAS is that it is a big chuck on storage that is available to multiple users. It your issue is primary needing a lot of storage for one computer then I would likely just go with a direct attached drive. My wife and I both need storage and need to share some files and the NAS solves that problem.

Backup is an issue (although since the NAS uses RAID there is the extra level of protection). I subscribe Office365 which gives us each 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. So a big part of my backup strategy is to use the Synology Cloud Sync app to sync all of our important folders to OneDrive. Cloud Sync supports several cloud services so this can be a fairly general solution.

The other benefits of the NAS:

  • Growth. I have a 5 bay unit with 3 3TB drives right now (that gives me 6TB with RAID). I can add two more drives of any size and I can upgrade my 3TB with bigger ones.
  • Other apps. My synology is my VPN Server when I am out of the house. It is a Plex Server for both commercial and personal videos and other media. And there are dozens of other apps.

But there is a price. You have to pay for the drives either way, but the NAS chassis means a few hundred pounds in addition.

I also have 2 Macs and a Synology NAS. All NAS can be a bit fussy but I’m really happy with my Synology and have put it to many uses. I wrote a post awhile back about the many uses for mine.

Our iMac has two external HD attached. One is a Time Machine destination for both Macs and holds a bootable backup created by CCC(did you know that a Mac can be a networked Time Machine destination for other Macs) and the other is storage for video projects. It is not uncommon to store projects being actively worked on the internal drive and then archive completed projects to an external drive. Both internal and external drives can be backed up to a NAS. The contents of the Internal disk go to iCloud which I’ve found to be reliable. And you can recover deleted files using iCloud.

When you need to restore a locally attached Time Machine or CCC is by far the fastest. A NAS is a bit slower for TM. For a limited amount of files a restore from a Cloud provider isn’t too bad. But if you need to do a large scale or a complete restore doing so from a Cloud provider like BackBlaze will take a very long time. It’s even worse if you have bandwidth limits.

I’m a big believer that I need 3 copies of all important files. The live version, a backup version in a very convenient place, and an offsite version. For my needs I don’t use a service like BackBlaze for offsite. My offsite is a combination of iCloud and a large external disk stored in a bank vault and updated monthly. If I did large video projects or was a full time professional photog I’d include BackBlaze or something like it.

One note on NAS: You don’t want to edit large files stored on the NAS, in general. Internal or external hard drives will perform better for that. Also some apps don’t support working on files stored on networked drives.

Hope the above makes sense/is helpful.


Based on what you need I doubt that a Synology is the right solution for you.
If your major usage is to have a extra storage for video projects, it probably is a good idea to something like a Drobo solution or likewise.

As stated above - a Synology is a Linux based server solution which provides much more than diskspace - it serves as a server for VPN, media players, mail, backup, etc. Actually for a pure storage solution it is too much, imho.

My Synology serves as a VPN Server while traveling, my private cloud (incl. calendar & contacts), media sharing with remote family members, file sharing remote, backup of of my iMac & MacBookProand some other stuff. I couldn’t do without it anymore … but I use it more than purely file storage.

Thanks for the replies! It sounds like a Synology might be overkill then for our needs and I might be better off buying a large external drive for my extra storage needs, at least it will solve the back up issue as Backblaze will take care of that.

@Maggoteye I’m currently transitioning from a 2013 iMac to a MacBook Pro and my husband is on a 5K iMac. I’m going to have to be careful to make sure that the external drive gets connected to the MBP regularly in order for it to be backed up by Backblaze.

I’m still left with the problem of streaming photos, video footage and films ripped from blue-ray to the Apple TV. This is our biggest pain point as a family with two Macs.

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I do streaming from my Synology. But you set up a Plex server on one of the Macs as well. If you need video transcoding on the fly you’ll need to pay for the Plex pass version of the server. If not then the server is free. It takes some work to get your files named and organized the way Plex likes it but after that it works well.


As you might expect, there are a lot of different ways to handle your data needs.

WHile I am big fan of the Mac Mini with a large external drive solution as a server, or at least I was in the past, I am not longer quite as enthusiastic since the deprecation of the Server app, which has made maintaining much of the server functionality of the Mini much more difficult. As a result, I use my Synoloyg as my primary server, with a daily clone of the Synology to a Drobo on the Mini then being sent to B2 via Arq, as others have noted previously.

It sounds like your shared data needs are primarily related to streaming video to your Apple TV, and beyond that, you and your husband do not have shared data needs, but rather you need a significant amount of storage for handling large amounts of video footage.

As a result, I would have to concur with other suggesions. Specifically, what I would propose for you is that you put your movies and such on your husband’s iMac, either on the internal drive if there is room, or on a large external drive. You should either get enough disk space on your new planned MBP to handle all of your needs, if you can afford that large an SSD drive, OR get the SSD you can afford and get a large external USB drive for storage of your video footage. With either USB-3 or even a TB3 external drive your should be able to handle your video needs; if you find that your video editing is too slow, you can keep currently being edited projects on the internal drive and offload completed footage to the external drive.

I am a big fan of keeping multiple backups, so I would certainly consider a large external drive or even a two-bay raid external drive (in RAID1 for redundancy) for backup. You could attach it to the iMac, assuming it is always on (as it would need to be to serve up the movies to the Apple TV anyway), and make backups to it via TimeMachine or Carbon Copy Cloner, or both.

You should also continue to use BackBlaze, and of course ensure you attach your external drive at least every 30 days so it is backed up as well (remember if it is not connected for more than 30 days, BackBlaze will delete the data it has stored!). BackBlaze will email you to let you know it needs to be attached in case you forget.

A Synology is not a bad idea in that it can have multiple volumes created, once of which could be where you store the archived video footage and also function as a target for TM and CCC if you want, but is an expensive solution.

My own approach, since I work only with a laptop at this point, is that my Synology provides two separate shares, one of which is exclusively used to store files for my business, and the other which stores all of my personal stuff that I don’t need ready access to. I also use Synology Drive as my private Dropbox setup. The Synology provides VPN services so I can remote into my home LAN, and once I have done that I can mount either Synology share if I need access to that data. My working files are in the Synology Drive folder, which syncs to the Synology and to my Mac Mini, so I have three copies locally of all of the most important files. My laptop uses Arq to backup directly to B2. My Mac Mini uses ChronoSync to clone the two Synology shares daily and then uses Arq to back them up to B2 so I have my offsite backup, encrypted. The laptop also uses ChronoSync to clone daily to the Mini. I also have a separate USB drive connected to my TB3 dock on my desk, so when I am docked (which is infrequent), CCC updates a bootable clone for the laptop. There’s a lot of redundancy, all of my working data is on the laptop with copies on the Mini (via Synology Drive), so if the laptop dies, all of my working data is not only backed up multiple times but I could also sit down at the Mini and work with all of my crucial data readily available. However, the Synology is going to be a bigger upfront cost for you than a few external hard drives, since you are buying both the Synology and the drives. I think it’s worth it. My laptop isn’t where the value is; the value is in the data.

  1. I’m curious if Photos is the best solution for the video files, especially given they are 4k quality files. I myself am thinking about separating my video files from my picture files and using something else to browse them. Granted the exception would be videos shot with my iPhone though I don’t shoot in 4k with my iPhone either.

  2. If I understand correctly, you don’t mind maintaining separate Photos libraries but would both like the ability to stream photos and videos from your Mac’s to your Apple TV right?

  3. Just want to applaud you that you actually are backing stuff up. Far better then most and there’s always room for improvement.

I get the thought behind a Synology, it would be a networked storage system and expandable.

Do you mean that you can’t run Arq directly on them which further complicates things or something else?

@airwhale what do you use to manage your photos and videos?

@lsamberg nailed the benefits of a NAS. I too think that a possible solution for you though would be to buy an 8TB or 10TB external drive and attach it to your husband’s iMac and or your computer.

@Sven maybe @leanda should think about a NAS on the backburner. I do think Synology long term would be the way to go instead of a Drobo as you can’t throw a Drobo drive into a machine and access files but Synology you can.

Props to @nlippman for a fantastic and detailed response. If I’m following correctly you have your Drobo connected to your Mac Mini and the Mac Mini is used to backup the Drobo to B2 using Arq right?

Hi @Jonathan_Davis - for photo management, I still use Adobe Lightroom (CC Classic). It is, IMHO, a fantastic piece of software for photo management and editing. It has served me well since the early betas, prior to v.1.0.

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I too use Lightroom CC Classic for photo management at present as does @airwhale. It is a great piece of software which I have been using for a number of years, since Aperture was clearly no longer going to be supported. I have been playing, however, with Luminar by Skylum and with OnOne Raw, although I have not been able to get as comfortable with either as I am with LR. Neither supports asset management the way LR does; I am waiting to see what the next release of Luminar does as it is supposed to add asset management and I may make the change, to get away from the monthly Adobe subscription fee.

In terms of Arq, it does not run directly on the Synology (or on any other Unix/Linux based system; they support Windows and MacOS only, and from my last email with them a few months ago, Linux support is not in the works). I run Arq on my Mac mini. I was having it back up the Synology shares mounted on the Mini, but have just changed to have it back up the daily clone instead since that data does not change often enough to need more than a daily backup. Note that Arq does not care what your source or target are: it will handle network shares, local drives, whatever, and backup to local folders, sFTP servers, B2, Glacier, S3, etc. Arq is just the conduit, unlike systems like BackBlaze which provide both the software and the storage and hence have an interest in controlling what you back up. With Arq you can backup anything you want, files of any type and size, etc. Arq doesn’t care, since you buy the software from them and pay for whatever storage you use directly to the storage vendor.

And yes, you did understand my schema correctly. Each day the Synology shares are clone by the Mini to a Drobo directly attached to the mini, and then Arq backs up the cloned copies (excluding the _Archive folder, because Arq is doing its own versioning, so I don’t need to also backup the versions kept by ChronoSync). I do exclude some things that if I lost (eg if my Synology and the clones of it both died, I would not feel I had to restore) to save cost at the B2 end.

I have been a big fan of the current generation Drobos which have been reliable for me. I know enough others that have had Drobos unrecoverably fail on them to understand why there has been concerns about their reliability, but that has not been an issue for me on the current generation. The first models (I owned the original 4-bay USB-2.0 model) were a different story with real reliability issues in my experience.

You are correct that if a Drobo dies, you will have to either a) restore from another medium, or b) if you must get the data off the Drobo, buy a new unit to put that disk pack into. There are data recovery services that claim to be able to recover Drobo data. From what I have seen they are very expensive, way more so than buying a new Drobo hardware unit, and I have no idea how they accomplish this task or how good they are.

If you are using a Synology, you can take the drives, thrown them into an external USB array (for instance), connect to a Linux machine, and use the mdadm package to access them, and this is (reportedly) true even if you use SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid). I have never tried this, but I do have a lot of past experience with Linux and in the past ran my offices servers on Linux (two identical machines, carbon copied for redundancy, self built, and using raid which I configured “by hand” with mdadm) so I am comfortable with this process if it came to that, but again I would hope that if my Synology became unrecoverable, I would just restore from the clone anyway.

Frankly, if my Synology hardware were to die, I would buy another one anyway, and put in the current drives and reboot. From everything I have read, if you install your drives into a new Synology it will “just work.” You might have to place the drives int he same order, that I don’t know, but I am sure the Synology help system will answer that question if it comes to that. If I lost a drive from the raid array, I would replace it and initiate a rebuild.

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I think your explanation solidified the convenience of having an always on computer like @katiefloyd does with her Mac Mini as well. I notice that when I have my Mac plugged in, it will sometimes log off or restart which then disables the Arq backup. I think I’ll see in preferences to keep it on given it doesn’t leave my house. Couldn’t you alternatively run a Windows VM to handle Arq using the Synology and Drobo or do you also use the Mac Mini for Hazel rules too?


On another thread, someone else had also suggested running Arq in a Windows VM on the Synology to do the backups. What I do not know is what access to the native Synology shares a VM has, but I assume since he said he was doing this, it would work out fine. I have not tried creating any VMs on my Synology, and I don’t actually know if the Synology OS supports this “out of the box” or if additional software much be purchased. Presumably, Windows must also be purchased to run in the VM. Since I got the Mini (basic 2014 model, spinning HD, only 4GB of RAM) for $299, the cost differential wasn’t all that great and I don’t have to hassle with having a Windows installation to keep up to date on to of everything else, although I do have to deal with cloning the Synoogy shares to the Mini and then letting Arq back them up, which is my current implementation, or having Arq mount the shares to do the backups (which I did previously).

Beyond that, yes, I also use the Mini for background Hazel rules, and that makes having it worthwhile for me as well. Plus, if my laptop dies, the Mini is my “emergency” Mac just in case.

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Just a FYI - the other day, my Synology started beeping loudly. I logged into the management interface, and sure enough, it had encountered bad sectors on one of the drives and taken it offline. Luckily, this was one of three drives in a RAID configuration.

I powered it down, ran off, got a replacement drive at my local dealer, replaced the failing drive and powered it back up. Now I’m just waiting for the volume repair to complete (which is painfully slow) but at least I don’t expect to loose a single file.

The bulk of the 3.2 TB of data are my 15 years of digital photos, so it’s nice when technology works as advertised. Had it been locked on a single drive, I would have been up the creek…

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Hopefully you have other backups beyond just what’s on the Synology.

Yes, I have the Synology backed up to Amazon Glacier. Very cheap, with the trade-off that restore is rather slow…

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I have been using a NAS for about 5 years. I ended up in the QNAP camp, when I started using a NAS. Great experience, the device accomplished everything I wanted. Every time when I visited the CeBIT in Germany, the QNAP stand was very interesting. The QNAP employees were very competent. I learned a lot. I was fine with QNAP.

Over the years, I always wondered about Synology. If you are a Mac podcast listener, you hear everybody talking about Synology. If you read the blogs, Synology everywhere. Also here in the forums: everybody is pleased with her/his Synology NAS.

This year, the QNAP system asked me, if I was located in China or somewhere else. Well, we all know what this question was about. Apple had the same issue going on. Basically, it is about the Chinese government’s interest in data…

Of course, I am not located in China, but I started to feel a little uncomfortable. I am quite certain that I did not need to be concerned and I was not concerned, but it felt a little funny.

Being the geek I am, I wondered what the next NAS might be for me. I considered the Synology DS918+ and the DS718+. Last week, I ended up buying the DS718+. I do not need a 4-bay NAS.

After one week, I ended up to be in heaven. The NAS is running just great. Synology Drive is amazing. I am no DEVONthink user because I want to be able to access all my documents everywhere and I do not want them to be stored in a database. I prefer a folder structure that is accessible via the network. With Synology Drive’s search functionality and with Universal Search, the NAS almost feels like a full-fledged CMS solution and everything stays where it is.

The virtualization of Windows 10 is not at all a problem. When the VM is not working too hard, the host CPU sometimes even gets down to 15% of use. Amazing!

Setting up the system and discovering new packages in the Synology Package Center works just great. Setting up a firewall just for local access, blocking IP ranges from different countries and stuff like that: I am in awe how easy this can be (I am talking from the standpoint of a long-year NAS user, I have to admit).

There is only one thing I cannot get to work: the infamous German umlauts. If I access my Synology shares via SMB (it does not matter if it is version 1, 2 or 3) or via AFP, folders or files with umlauts will not show up or I am not able to access them when they show up. Apparently, this is an issue with the network protocols working differently on different devices when it comes down to umlauts. Some are talking about NFS being better for this, but I do not want to go the NFS route. The recommendation is to still use only ASCII letters for folders and file names. Sounds a little dated, but apparently, this is still how networks roll, if you have Linux, PCs or Macs on a network sharing stuff. Sometimes, you get stuff to work with umlauts, sometimes you don’t.

I do not know how, but it worked just nice with my QNAP NAS. Oh well! So, I went to my backup on a USB drive and I started getting rid of German umlauts using the awesome A Better Finder Rename. After cleaning up the mess, everything is being put back onto the NAS with pristine ASCII file and folder names.

There is only one issue left: I have my iTunes library on my NAS. I rarely use it these days (I am living in Plex, Apple Music and Movies and TV Shows on my AppleTV), but still, it is a minor issue. Because iTunes does not care about umlauts, it uses them everywhere it wants to, when I buy Music or when I download it from Apple Music. It is a mess. Oh well, I might end up putting the iTunes library onto my iMac’s external drive (if you have a better solution how to get iTunes not using non-ASCII letters when creating files and folders, please tell me).

Please forgive me about “hijacking” this thread, but I really felt wanting to talk about the Synology NAS systems. If you are in the QNAP camp, consider looking at Synology. :slight_smile:

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Great read your blog post.

Please could you elaborate on the Docker? Got very curious about running homebridge from my Synology. What about security for the rest of the Synology functionality (mainly backups)?


You need a NAS that can run Docker. Can your model do that? You should be able to look in the Package Center for it. If you’re unsure post your model number here.

Once you have Docker, you can use the Docker registry on the NAS to search for this HomeBridge container to install. It’s made for Synology NAS.

Once you have that follow instructions such as these to configure everything.