Why My Synology NAS Is Still My Best Photographic Purchase in 2023

Thinking about buying another lens? Can’t you wait for a new body? (In my case, reincarnation is the only option). This article covers the main reason why my Synology DS1821+ is the best purchase I’ve made for my photography business in 2020.

where did i start

I, like most I suspect, started my photography career by storing my images on old hard drives, CDs, DVDs and memory sticks (possibly). When I finally decided to become a full-time photographer (way back in 2008), the thought of having to consolidate my images in one place meant buying a large 2TB hard drive. It cost a fortune back then, and I thought, “It’s going to take a while to fill up.” Turns out I was wrong. It lasted about a year. Since then, backing up with cloud storage and smaller, credit card-sized hard drives has become cheaper and more accessible at incredible speeds, but the need for centrally accessible storage has never been greater.

Purchasing the Synology DS1821+ (we’ll just refer to this as my “NAS” in the future for word count!) was a big decision. It was an expensive purchase for me and I’ve had the DS1815+ for a number of years and it has never failed. The drives it contained were replaced one at a time a few times, but the case continued to function despite many power outages and surges. This has been one of the reasons I’ve stayed with Synology over the years (I’ve tested many other brands and models in my professional roles). Reliability and speed are trumps and looks to me even though the NAS looks slim and sexy as hell. Can a NAS look sexy? I say yes, indeed!

Why the DS1821+?


The previous NAS had two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back, and while data aggregation was available, spreading the data across the two ports meant a global throughput of 2,000Mbps. To break it down, if multiple people are using my NAS, to access files when a cable is plugged into the rear ethernet port it would have slowed down fetch access to the content on it, but with more cables plugged in the requests are spread out across the multiple cables, a bit like a computer processor with more cores . The new NAS has four gigabit ports with a theoretical maximum of 4,000Mbps and an expansion port slot for a 10 or 25GB card should I decide to install one if I upgrade at a later date upgrade every other step in the chain. If I decide I need faster access, I can add two M.2 NVMe drives that cache recently used files for faster and more efficient delivery.

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Nothing worse than running out of space on a drive when you need to archive work, right? My NAS solves this problem by using SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID) instead of RAID 5 and SHR-2 instead of RAID 6. A traditional RAID 5 array will not recognize larger capacity drives as their true size if installed after the first array is created. SHR allows this with some minor caveats. Let me give you an example of how this works in your favor. I will use 1TB drive sizes as an example to make it easier to understand. In a standard RAID 5 configuration, 4.1TB drives provide 3TB of usable space, same as SHR. Now suppose one of those drives fails, and given RAID 5’s ability to let you read from the drive while the array is in a failed state, replace it with a 2TB drive (see are just as cheap now). at least as 1 TB, right?). This would only show up as 3TB of usable space since RAID 5 would only see this as a 1TB drive. The same goes for SHR until you replace another drive with a spare 2TB drive. Then, with SHR’s hybrid capability, you can increase storage space and take advantage of the extra storage space, giving you 4TB of usable storage space. There is a RAID space calculator on the Synology website if you want to see what the results are for different combinations. My point is that as your system fills up, you can plan to increase the storage either by buying an additional drive, plugging it into the extra space and expanding the array, or by swapping out the drives individually for higher capacity drives replace (remember that you must give them sufficient time to rebuild). This means that for a system you buy in 2020, for example, capacity can increase over time as long as the case works (Synology offers spare parts for purchase in case a fan stops working). Even if you manage to fill this up to 108TB, which is the maximum size of a single volume, you can add additional expansion units like the Synology DX517, which connect via the E-SATA 2 ports on the back, then add them to the array . I now use the Seagate Ironwolf drives in my array but have previously used the WD Red which are just as good.

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The previous device, the DS1815+, was reliable. It outperformed everything else I had technologically and the only real reason to upgrade was that there was newer technology that was faster and more compatible with the new DSM software version 7. The DS1815+ goes up to version 6.2 which still works and is great but the newer version has more features. Also, when I think about it with my engineer, there’s only a certain amount of time that a piece of hardware can work, and I’ve pushed the limits of what I could get out of it after five years. I gave it to my friend and fellow photographer Steve, who is still using it to this day with no problems, is technically 8 years old and still works fine. The newer NAS is compatible with more UPSs, has faster RAM and NVMe compatibility, and just works better.


The ways to access this thing are great. I can access files anywhere in the world over cellular or Wi-Fi on my mobile phone, tablet or computer. The Synology Quick Connect service (free with a Synology login) is epic. I type in my username and it’s like I’m standing in front of the thing. That means if I’m in Outer Mongolia (I’ve never been, but if someone is willing to fund me I’ll test this in real-time) and I have an internet signal, I can access and share my files with customers. There are apps for my phone that I can use and it’s just great for me to be able to take my stuff with me wherever I go.

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Aside from the obvious, there are a few features that make this a great buy. The apps that come with it are excellent. Cloud sync allows me to connect to many different cloud-based backup services (I use BackBlaze but there are many others available). It allows for scheduled, incremental syncing to not take up valuable resources when I’m working with it. My kids have movies stored there that they can watch in any room of the house. (Remember I mentioned a lot of people using the NAS at the same time. Did you think I meant my co-workers? I meant my little people!) There are also four USB 3 ports on the unit, meaning I can plug in a drive and transfer the contents to it in no time, which is great when I’m also quickly transferring wedding files to the main drive. The ability to quickly rebuild and expand is critical to me, and with the speed of my internal network, I can edit directly from the drive when previewing in Lightroom with no lags or slowdowns.


This is the part of the kit that I use on a daily basis. It wasn’t cheap but it will last me a long time. My dad always said, “buy cheap, buy twice,” and that’s the best advice I’ve ever received. I would add to that and say plan well, save hard and buy smart. Thank you for reading.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to read an article I wrote here about managing your photo files.

If you’re in the States, B&H has this for $999 at the time of writing. This case is a steal, being well over a grand in the UK.

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