Welcome to our review and test of the Synology DS918+. This device has been provided to me by Synology for testing, but has no way changed or biased our opinion on this test.
Contents of this review
As a heavy user of lots of large media files, designs and videos, creatives require lots of storage. For the time I was moving out of my old office space where I had a FreeNAS setup, I had to store my files to the cloud. Comparing prices, it was the best for my usecase to get a dedicated server and install NextCloud – or so I thought.
It was one night where I was trying to simply update a file on my server, and I had accidentally moved a directory of the filesystem. The next day without knowing I could not reach any of my data nor could I remote login using SSH to my account. At this time I was stuck with no access, clients waiting for their project files and my websites being down.
There was also no customer support, as it was a dedicated server. Luckily I was able to reach my tech-savy friend @Truzze, that was able to recover all the files from my cloud drives. After this I was on the search for a secure, easy to use and maintain NAS that sits locally in my office.
Unboxing the DiskStation
Out of the box, depending on your configuration, the DS918+ comes with no hard drives installed – you must provide these yourself or purchase as a bundle. Synology sent over two NVMe drives, but these must also be purchased.
In the very minimalist, but well packaged box we will find the DS918+ NAS, an external power supply and mains cord, two cat-5e ethernet cables, quick start guide and keys to lock the drive bays in place.
On the device it self we can find on the front the four large drive bays that support hot swapping, 5 status LEDs, and an USB 3.0 slot. On the back we can find the two ethernet gigabit connectors, eSATA and another USB 3.0
Setup and HDD installation
Coming from my own custom built NAS server in the past, using FreeNAS I knew what I got myself into here. But when the time arrived to setup and install the hard drives I was pleasantly surprised how effortless the whole setup process was.
I was not overwhelmed with pages of instructions or tons of screws like I knew if from previously setting up my own NAS. Much rather, this time it literally took me a matter of 5-10 minutes to install my 4 WD Red 3TB drives into the screw-less hdd caddies, along with the two NVMe drives that require no screws as well.
Personally what I enjoyed the most was that everything of this install was even simpler than I could imagine, especially the fast and tool-less installation.
After installing all the drives and connecting the power and ethernet cables to my network, I was ready to get started setting up the NAS. The quick-start guide did indeed guide me through the process of simply heading over to my computer and navigating my browser to a special website designed to quickly find and help setup the DiskStation.
The onscreen wizard guided me through the terms of service, installing the latest firmware and software (known as DiskStation Manager), erasing my installed HDDs for the new partitions. Finally I was able to finish by setting up my user account. There are some optional options at the end of this process, such as setting an auto-update schedule or creating a Synology Account. This process took me around 15 – 25 minutes, with some short breaks making sure I have everything correctly entered.
Before we can connect the NAS, I had to configure my HDDs. This process was again very easy and thanks to the DSM manager, it was a breeze to get my four 3TB drives set up in a RAID array. Simply head over to the IP address of the NAS in your browser, login with the details we set up earlier and configure the hard drives.
After my RAID was set up it was time to start adding the NAS to Windows. This process is surprisingly easy, and it appears to show up on your PC as a regular hard drive, which you can access just as if it was installed to your computer.
You only need to set two properties, one being the drive letter, in the screenshot I chose Z: and the other the drive location. Optionally you can hit “reconnect at sign-in” to avoid typing your username and password each time. This should enhance your workflow drastically if you restart your pc regularly.
With the drive mounted, I started using it almost daily, to edit my videos for the YouTube channel in Premiere Pro or After Effects.
Along editing videos, I was blazing through large design files in Photoshop. Utilising the NVMe caching drives, I could see an improvement in loading times and also how Photoshop handles layers that were saved to my NAS.
Drive speeds and testing
When editing videos in Premiere Pro I saw the large advantage of the cache drive. Once my video was indexed to the NAS and I started editing I could scrub through the timeline with absolutely no lag or latency.
Also I didn’t experience any stutters or downscaling issues either. For me that was the main problem when editing from the cloud drive before.
The speed of the drive was surprisingly fast enough to handle 1080p and 4k video exports with a high bitrate for YouTube.
This meant I could set my PC to export to the NAS, and once it finishes it can shut down my PC. Later using the remote access I could then upload the video to YouTube using my MacBook without even having to download the video locally.
Mobile and remote access
This one was a tricky one for me, as I previously had trouble setting up the correct port forwarding service to use my FreeNAS. Recently I also switched to Cable Internet, that does not support IPv4 and only supported IPv6lite meaning I could not port forward without hassle.
The DS918+ comes with a large array of different apps, which can either be used locally by logging directly into your DiskStation over the network, if both devices are connected to the same network. Or by using the Synology Account, which acts as a port forwarding service specifically for your DiskStation.
I used the second approach and created my online account with Synology, as I would like to be able to remotely access my work and files. Once I had my ID created and linked in the DSM I could sign in to one of the apps available from the App or Play store.
This is where I encountered a few hiccups, in the beginning the remote access would work fine, but after a few weeks it would promt me to sign in again, and when signing in using the correct credentials it could not find my DiskStation back at home. When I came back to check, the NAS was still connected and I could reach it locally, and it only left me with the option to sign out and in again on the DSM for the online access.
If you are a freelancer, or running a smaller business, I can only recommend you to purchase a NAS to store and save all your data on. Using the DS918+ from Synology has been a pleasure and a very delightful user experience, which I would have not expected from a NAS being focused for office use.
The DSM (DiskStation Manager) has a very clear and intuitive UI, that can be setup to be reachable anywhere, and with a small learning curve, this NAS can pack a lot of features for an unbeatable price.
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