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22 Ratings
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64 Ratings
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Score 8.7 out of 100
Top Rated
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Score 8.9 out of 100

Highlights

FreeNAS and Synology Diskstation are both Network-Attached Storage (NAS) solutions that provide a server specializing in storage and file sharing/serving.  FreeNAS is a free operating system that can be installed on most hardware to create a centralized location for data access.  In contrast, Synology DiskStation provides a complete hardware and software NAS device out of the box. Both NAS solutions are most popular with mid-sized and larger businesses, though they can also be used by smaller businesses.

Features

Both FreeNAS and Synology Diskstation are functional NAS solutions, but they also have some features that set them apart from each other.

FreeNAS is a free to use software with flexible implementation options.  While it usually does not come with any hardware of its own, it can be used on almost any hardware platform to create a NAS solution, so businesses are enabled to create their own solutions. Since FreeNAS is installed on custom hardware, it is easier to upgrade compared to prebuilt hardware options. FreeNAS is a strong choice for businesses looking for an affordable, or highly customizable solution.

Synology Diskstation provides software and hardware in a single, complete package. One major benefit of Synology Diskstation is simplicity.  If there is any issue with the hardware or software, no troubleshooting is required as Synology will handle that for you since all parts are from them. Synology Diskstation also provides a more power efficient, quieter solution, compared to the custom hardware rigs that utilize FreeNAS.  For businesses looking for a simple, ready to go solution out of the box, FreeNAS is a strong choice.

Limitations

Though FreeNAS and Synology Diskstation offer feature rich NAS solutions, they also have some limitations that are important to consider.

FreeNAS is a free to use, highly customizable solution, but it doesn’t offer a complete, one time purchase solution.  Businesses that don’t want to build their own hardware may prefer other solutions.  Additionally, since FreeNAS rigs are built using custom hardware, the systems are generally less power efficient compared to Synology Diskstation.  Businesses looking for a powerful, lightweight solution may prefer Synology Diskstation.

Synology Diskstation provides an easy to implement, complete solution with hardware and software, but this means it isn’t as customizable as FreeNAS.  Businesses that want to choose their own hardware, or have highly specific spec requirements may prefer a more open software that can be applied to custom hardware. Businesses may also prefer the free pricepoint of FreeNAS, particularly if they already have hardware available for FreeNAS.

Pricing

FreeNAS is a free to use, open-source software, though they also offer some hardware solutions that start at $700.

Synology Diskstation offers a wide variety of solutions with different specs.  These solutions start as low as $160, and reach well above $1,000 depending on the needs of the buyer.

Community Pulse

Reviewers Who Considered Both Products

FreeNAS

No answer on this topic

Synology DiskStation

Chose Synology DiskStation

Synology DiskStation is by far the best all-around NAS solution on the market. QNAP provides more hardware variability and some better prices, but QNAP's OS, QT, is simply not as good as Synology's DSM OS. FreeNAS is an extremely powerful and robust open-source NAS solution …

Chose Synology DiskStation

Easy setup. Good price for TB. Easily accessible hdd drives.
Thanks to e-mail notification. In the event of a disk failure, I will immediately get a notification to replace the HDD.

Attribute Ratings

  • FreeNAS is rated higher in 1 area: Likelihood to Recommend
  • Synology DiskStation is rated higher in 1 area: Support Rating

Likelihood to Recommend

9.0

FreeNAS

90%
7 Ratings
8.8

DiskStation

88%
21 Ratings

Likelihood to Renew

FreeNAS

N/A
0 Ratings
10.0

DiskStation

100%
2 Ratings

Usability

FreeNAS

N/A
0 Ratings
10.0

DiskStation

100%
2 Ratings

Support Rating

8.0

FreeNAS

80%
2 Ratings
9.5

DiskStation

95%
12 Ratings

Likelihood to Recommend

iXsystems

FreeNAS is well suited for most storage serving scenarios, whether it be for an office file server, backup destinations, data replication across the internet, or as backend storage for virtual machines. It can serve various types of clients via a plethora of standard protocols and can easily integrate with existing infrastructure using LDAP authentication and so on. It's pretty simple to use (it helps to have at least a basic understanding of the underlying technologies) and almost maintenance-free. One scenario that springs to mind that it may not be appropriate for (yet) is as S3 storage. However, S3 functionality was added in a recent release and may have improved greatly since then. I'm sure it will eventually work very well for this.
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Synology

The Synology DiskStation is well suited as a NAS solution, easy enough to mirror a Windows file server shares setup. Access to the Hyperbackup utility eliminates the need to purchase a tape backup solution. A portable USB drive can be used as the initial backup target. For air gap purposes can connect Hyperbackup to the various cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, GCP to copy backup data there. Utilizing it as a backup solution has also been great, instead of purchasing a tape solution, tapes and an offsite tape repository. Active Backup for Business is another excellent backup utility for physical servers, VMWare virtual machines, etc. Restoring files is fairly intuitive. Until Synology introduced the dual controller setup, using it as a SAN was less appropriate as there was occasional downtime when the controller had an issue but this was less important for the scenarios we were using it for. It would be more of a concern if we had used it for things that require more robust uptime requirements. Overall we are happy with the features of the Synology DiskStation.
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Pros

iXsystems

  • The FreeNAS web interface is modern looking. It makes tasks like provisioning drives into raid volumes easy.
  • The ZFS raid option allows you to add in an SSD as a cache drive to increase performance.
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Synology

  • Synology DiskStation offers lots of options for creating links to share files or request that some uploads files. It makes it really easy to just share a link that can have an expiration or a set number of times it is accessed.
  • We always had enough storage on our Synology DiskStation, we never had to worry about something being too big to upload or share.
  • Love how you can create folders that are shared and also have some that are private. This makes it so easy to have shared collaborations with coworkers or clients, but also allows you to have a private place to save things that only you need.
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Cons

iXsystems

  • Not good for beginners as it requires deep understanding of networking and storage.
  • Most of the good and required features are not available in free version.
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Synology

  • While BTRFS is a more advanced file system than ext4, it also is in a perpetual state of development, with many features not fully functional and a plethora of bugs. Synology has managed to overcome many of these limitations by placing BTRFS on top of a LVM, but there are much better file systems that Synology could have used, such as OpenZFS.
  • DSM's built-in backup software, HyperBackup, while robust, oftentimes runs into issues. Specifically, backups can be working fine for months or years, and then suddenly the backups will fail. Sometimes these failures can be resolved, but oftentimes the backups need to be completely restarted. Fortunately, even when the backup fails, the existing backups are still accessible, it is just that new backups can not be performed.
  • The underlying Linux OS provides significant benefits, but also adds a fair amount of complexity. Most of that complexity is wonderfully hidden by the DSM interface, but when certain problems arise, delving into the Linux command line is not out of the question.
  • Perhaps the biggest issue with Synology DiskStation is Synology's support. The issue isn't that the support is bad, but it can be frustratingly slow when dealing with a major issue. Synology does have a very active community that is always willing to help, but nothing beats first-party support.
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Pricing Details

FreeNAS

Starting Price

Editions & Modules

FreeNAS editions and modules pricing
EditionModules

Footnotes

    Offerings

    Free Trial
    Free/Freemium Version
    Premium Consulting/Integration Services

    Entry-level set up fee?

    No setup fee

    Additional Details

    DiskStation

    Starting Price

    Editions & Modules

    DiskStation editions and modules pricing
    EditionModules

    Footnotes

      Offerings

      Free Trial
      Free/Freemium Version
      Premium Consulting/Integration Services

      Entry-level set up fee?

      No setup fee

      Additional Details

      Likelihood to Renew

      iXsystems

      No answers on this topic

      Synology

      It provides us with great ROI compared with other solutions. It is also a versatile product, having NAS and SAN product lines depending on the business requirement. Furthermore, the implementation of dual controller lines would allow us to consider it for more critical applications to supplement the more enterprise-level SAN solution. It also is a wonderful backup solution, having all the applications available after purchase of the appliance without the further need to purchase additional software or licensing.
      Read full review

      Usability

      iXsystems

      No answers on this topic

      Synology

      The Synology DiskStation is fairly easy to use, but maybe a challenge for those who not super IT savvy. With some trial and error, you can pretty much figure out how to configure the NAS the way you want it configured. I would say it is easy to use once it is set up and maintaining the device is likewise pretty straightforward as well.
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      Support Rating

      iXsystems

      There were some things that can be found by other users on forums and Google and some things that were not.
      Read full review

      Synology

      Unfortunately, the one time I've had to reach out to DiskStation support, it did not go well. My NAS appliance wasn't appearing on the network, and no matter what the support team tried, they could not get it back online. Instead of offering to send me a new unit, they told me to go buy a new one - obviously, this was a disappointing response and not very eco-friendly either! Fortunately, through some internet research of my own, and some ingenuity, I figured out I could restore my NAS to factory settings by removing all the drives and resetting. Only then did I realize I had a bad disk. I had to experiment for a while to figure out which one it was. Once I had done that, though, I was able to get the latest DiskStation loaded back on, no thanks to the DiskStation support crew. If notifications were rock solid, I suspect I would have caught the bad disk before it because an OS problem, but I never received a bad-disk notification.
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      Alternatives Considered

      iXsystems

      FreeNAS effectively uses all resources really well and it is highly recommended for in premises NAS. It has unlimited ROI as it is really free and open-source. The only payment we need to pay is when we need any support from those guys. FreeNAS helps us to effectively do our work with the legacy systems as it manages all the components really well. FreeNAS although rebranded to TrueNAS will still be there until our legacy systems run.
      Read full review

      Synology

      Synology DiskStation packs a punch with the latest and greatest feature set which goes above and beyond many other vendors. It allows for a turn-key solution to cover almost every use case in the SMB market leaving other vendors behind.
      Read full review

      Return on Investment

      iXsystems

      • Low-Cost Network Attached Storage
      • Provides additional network storage to support client & business operations
      • FreeNAS secures our data using custom encryption keys
      Read full review

      Synology

      • It has helped us go from printing things out to file them away to going 100% digital with our files and documents because we have a secure place to save stuff.
      • We are organized. I can't really put a value or number to how amazing this is for us, but when we deal with so many documents and files it can be so hard to keep things organized, but with Synology DiskStation, we have all our files in specific places and it helps us stay organized and definitely saves time because things are so easy to find.
      • One negative thing has been that our Synology DiskStation relies on us either being plugged into the network in the office or having a strong internet connection at home. With the pandemic and everyone working from home, we have had "outages" where we were not able to sync our data, and things were lost and we had to start over.
      Read full review

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