Review: Synology DS920+ DiskStation 4-Bay NAS With Western Digital Red+ 4TB SATA Drives

I have a client who needed to replace a two bay NAS as a means to backup his business related files. It in turn backs up to BackBlaze. The problem was that this NAS was 10 years old and the mean time between failures for spinning hard drives is 5 years. Which means that he could be potentially facing a situation where he could have a hard drive failure. It also was over 80% full from a storage perspective. So he commissioned me to build him a new NAS. And this is what I got him:

This is the Synology DiskStation DS920+ is a four-bay network attached storage (NAS) device that is easy to expand and comes with a wealth of Synology and third-party apps. I went this route because he already had a Synology NAS and was familiar with how it worked. Plus it does not have the security issues that QNAP NAS devices have. This NAS is designed for homes with power users or small-to-midsized business (SMB) users.

Being a four bay NAS, I had to get him four hard drives so that I can do a RAID 5 setup which means that one drive can fail and his data will not be lost. The drives that I chose were the Western Digital Red+ 4TB SATA drives which are designed for NAS use. Once the RAID 5 setup was done, it would give him just under 11TB of usable storage. That is almost triple the storage of his old NAS.

Let’s have a look at the back of the NAS:

On the left side you get a reset button, Two gigabit Ethernet ports (for redundancy, bonding to get extra speed, or both), an eSATA connector and a connector for power. On the right is a USB 3.0 port as well as a security lock port. The dual fans is a nice touch as it will ensure that they whole thing stays cool. And from my setup, I really didn’t hear the fans at all. Now let’s have a look underneath the NAS:

It also has two built-in M.2 SSD slots for cache acceleration. Meaning that you can increase the performance of the NAS by going out and buying a pair of M.2 SSDs.

Included in the box are a pair of Ethernet cables, the power adapter, and four trays for 3.5″ and 2.5″ hard drives (the latter requires screws which are included, the former can be mounted directly into the trays without screws).

In terms of hardware, The DS920+ is powered by a quad-core 2GHz Intel Celeron J4125 processor and has 4 gigabytes (GB) of DDR4 RAM that can be expanded to 8GB, and the NAS itself can be further expanded to 144TB using a Synology DX517 Expansion Unit. The DS920+ supports the Btrfs and ext4 file systems and offers several RAID types, including Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR), Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, and RAID 10. It natively supports Microsoft Windows clients via SMB, and Macs via SMB and AFS.

Setup was insanely easy:

  • I first put the drives into the trays which was a quick and tools operation. That took 5 minutes.
  • I put the trays into the NAS. That took 1 minute.
  • I powered it on and was greeted with a setup wizard that guided me through the initial setup and the creation of an administrator account. One nice touch is that it forces you to not use the words “admin”, “administrator” or “root” as the name of the account. It also forces you to create a reasonably strong password. That took 5 minutes.
  • It installed some updates then rebooted. Then I was able to set it up for RAID 5. That took just over 6 hours.
  • Finally, I had to update the version of DSM which is the operating system that the NAS uses. That took 15 minutes.

Done. Declare victory and have a beer.

One last thing that I did was to run the Security Advisor which directed me to address a number of security related issues. I like this because it ensure that your new NAS doesn’t get pwned by a threat actor. Be it an internal threat actor or an external one.

Before I handed this over to the client, I did some testing. To test NAS file transfer performance, I transferred a 5GB folder containing a mix of video, photo, music, and office document files between the NAS and a Mac and timed the read and write speeds. The DS920+ turned in a respectable score of 85 MBps on the write test which is in line with most of its competition.

So do I have any cons about this NAS? The one thing that I think Synology took a swing and a miss on is the fact that they have gigabit Ethernet ports on this NAS. That is a bit of a #fail as in 2022 as I believe that all NAS products should have multi-gigabit Ethernet such as 2.5 Gbps Ethernet. I am guessing that Synology did this to hit a price point which is unfortunate. But for this client’s use case it won’t matter.

Speaking of price, this NAS was $739.00 CDN which isn’t exactly cheap. The 4TB Western Digital Red+ drives were $104.99 CDN each. That totals $1158.96 for this setup. Again, that’s not cheap, but for this client’s use case, it’s perfect for him. And if you need a four bay NAS, I think that this will fit your needs as well.

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