Review: Synology DiskStation BeyondCloud Mirror 3TB NAS

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synology_3tbThis is one of those reviews where I feel like I have to explain the tech for the unfamiliar. If you already know the terms, just skim this bit. NAS, Networked Attach Storage, is essentially a hard disk you can put on your home network instead of just in a computer. Synology has been in this space for years now, and I’ve been wanting to try their products. They were kind enough to send me a BeyondCloud to review, and I’ve been impressed.

The particular model they sent has two 3TB drives inside, in a mirrored RAID setup. For those unfamiliar, this means that one drive is active, and the other is a mirrored, redundant copy. The idea is that if one drive dies, you have the same thing on the mirror drive. It’s not the same thing as a backup, but for many users it is close enough. It’s possible to un-mirror and have a 6 TB external drive, but doing so (a) erases all your data, so do it right away and (b) is really not a good idea. (And yeah, you should still have another backup elsewhere if you want to be safe; redundancy is good, but backups are best).

What’s neat about the Synology drive is that it’s not so much a drive as it is a server. You can use it with the related Synology apps for iOS/Android, or you can log in over your local network and access the drive’s OS. It’s a full-featured Linux OS, with all that implies.

From here, you can install numerous packages to create the device you want. In my own case, I was able to use the DiskStation to replace my media server. All I had to do was install Plex, PlexConnect, and configure my AppleTV to look for the DiskStation’s IP. Suddenly, I didn’t need to leave an iMac on to serve my shows to the rest of my house. It was a huge plus to have a streaming solution that didn’t mean changing my family’s habits–switching from Ruko to an AppleTV was enough of a pain for them to begin with.

I cannot stress how impressive the collection of applications for the BeyondCloud is. Aside from the multimedia stuff, there’s all sorts of goodies. Remember, this is an actual server. You could, theoretically, run an email server or a full WordPress site on it.

I don't advise it, but you *could*.
I don’t advise it, but you *could*.

Remember those mobile apps I mentioned? There’s a whole lot of them. Check this screenshot from the Google Play store.

You don't need them all. But yes, I still installed them all.
You don’t need them all. But yes, I still installed them all.

That’s a lot of apps. Personally, I interacted with my DiskStation mostly via my network connection and the Plex app. Still, other sources show that the apps work great. One of the whole points of the BeyondCloud label is that it’s better than some cloud services–no one sees your data but you (and any users you create). By making dedicated apps to manage that data, Synology lets you have a ton of control.

Pricing-wise, you can currently get this model for only $350 on Amazon. That sounds like a lot, right? Why not just get a 3 TB USB drive and stick it in your USB port? Because then all you get is storage. Sure, you can get the other features with apps. but then your computer always has to be on and you still have to figure out a way to serve your data outside your network, and a whole bunch of other headaches that most non-power users don’t want to think about it.

That leads to my favorite thing about the DiskStation BeyondCloud 3TB: It’s suitable for someone who’s not a power user and for a power user as well. You can just use it to push out data, or you can mess around. You can even install WordPress and run an internal website on your home network. That’s pretty cool. In fact, there’s so much that you can do that it’s almost daunting. Yet you’re looking for a set-it-and-forget-it solution, it can work as that. That’s a nice, versatile system for any home.

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