Why I Think Synology DS220j Is The Best Home NAS For Beginners

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By Joe


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The world is so connected and it’s time we start to rethink our own privacy and rights while having the accessibilities to internet facilities.

Sadly, the same can’t really be said about our privacy on the web now, can it?

Each day that goes by, I find the internet to be more regulated, with greater oversight and control.

At the same time, we are moving towards a cloud-based computing environment where our devices are soon going to become mere workstations for running remote software tools.

What’s more, even our personal data is burgeoning at an alarming rate.

In such a situation, there’s no way we can avoid using the cloud for official as well as personal use, at least not at the expense of our privacy.

The Need for Network Attached Storage for Home

But the trouble is, even though cloud backups have gotten more reliable over the years, they’re still not free from security risks.

After all, when you’re uploading your data to the cloud, you never get to know where it’s being stored.

And let’s face it: how many of us take trouble reading through the detailed privacy policies that we have to agree to in order to use these services?

The above problem has been on my mind for quite some time now.

Cloud storage is great and flexible. With all the privacy promises and security improvements, it just seems like a proper and ultimate answer to my problem here.

But if you are in the industry long enough, you will be quick to understand that nothing beats the calmness of having data and privacy in the hands of your own.

Not even the most secure cloud storage on earth can do that.

And like everything else, I was intent on finding a solution to this truly private storage problem.

Thankfully, after intense research, I finally got a solution in the form of Synology.

Synology is a Taiwanese brand that’s renowned for manufacturing quality personal storage solutions.

Their specialty lies in creating Network Attached Storage Devices (NAS) that can be used to create personal cloud solutions and media servers for personal use as well as small businesses to enterprise level.

Synology DS220j – an entry-level 2-bay NAS

Here, I’m going to talk about the DS220j, which I think is the best NAS for home or beginners like me.

As I am a first-time user of NAS as well, why I think it is what I’m going to focus on for this review.

At the same time, I’ll discuss how you can select the best NAS for your home and also make a quick comparison of Synology with one of its major competitors: Qnap.

So, there’s already been much ado.

Let’s not delay any longer and get going with our DS220j review.

What do I like About the DS220j?

Synology has made quite a name for itself in the NAS space, and with good reason.

Their products are well-created and easy to use, and the company comes up with innovative solutions and upgrades every two years or so.

Its last model was the DS218, and as far as looks are concerned, the DS220j adopts the same glossy finish as the DS218.

The DS220j is decidedly an entry-level NAS and is ideal for small businesses (2-3 persons) as well as personal backups.

It can also be used to set up media servers and for sharing files quickly and efficiently.

The entire unit is just 6.5 x 3.9 x 8.9 inches and has a simple power switch for operating it.

There are a number of LED indicators in the front for indicating the proper operation of the system.

At the rear, you’ll find a couple of USB 3.0 ports, a power jack, and a reset button.

And yes, there’s also a Gigabit LAN port for you.

But form is not the only thing that this unit is all about. It’s also about the function.

The Synology DS220j is equipped with 512MB of DDR4 RAM, along with a Mediatek 1.4 GHz quad-core processor. It has two hard drive bays that can take in 2.5, and 3.5-inch SATA drives of 16TB each.

This means you can expand the unit to a total capacity of 32TB (no RAID configuration), which is massive for personal use at least.

The device supports up to RAID 1 configuration and an EXT4 file system.

At the back, you have a single fan that keeps the parts cool.

It was extremely quiet during operation with literally no noise, which is a big plus for a system that runs 24×7.

Coming to the OS, the DS220j uses Synology’s very own DiskStation Manager OS, which offers a fluid configuration and management experience.

The user interface is quite similar to Windows, and anyone can learn to use it with a bit of tinkering around.

A Quick Setup on my DS220J

The next aspect that I have to mention about the DS220j is that it’s extremely easy to set up and configure.

One of the main reasons why I pick them over the others.

All I had to do was to slide a part of the enclosure off.

Then, it’s a cinch to install any hard drives of your choice in the bay and reattach the enclosure and screws in the rear panel.

And you’re done!

All that’s left to do now is power it up and install the latest version of the OS (All in all it takes less than 30 minutes).

I also took the trouble of running a fair number of performance tests on the unit, and I must say that the results were more than satisfactory.

Granted, this unit is not built for blazing-fast speeds, and you’ll be able to clock a read/write speed of about 54MB/s, though the reading speed of my Seagate Iron Wolf hard drive can go up to 180MB/s.

But the utility of this device lies in offering the Synology experience at an affordable price tag.

All the great features make it the best home NAS.

Detailed Setup and Installation Guide on my DS220J

Remember that I said it takes only 30 minutes to set up my home NAS, below is the detailed breakdown of my installation and setup.

Basically, I divided it down into 2 parts which are the hardware and software setup:

a) Hardware

Tools needed: A Philips screwdriver
Duration: 4 minutes

This part involves only 4 steps and it took me 4 minutes to get the DS220j powered up.

  1. Slide-out the casing
Slide out ds220j casing
  1. Plug the hard disk into HDD1. If you have 2 hard disks, slot the second one into HDD2.
Slot the harddisk into Hdd1
  1. Screw to secure the HDD in place.
Screw the harddisk
  1. Slide the casing back, screw it, connect the LAN cable to your router and plug in the power adapter.
Slide back the casing

b) Software

Tools needed: PC, laptop, or smartphone
Duration: 25 minutes

This was the easier part as I just need to follow the instruction on the screen and the software setup was a breeze though it took me almost half an hour.

Most of the time was taken to format and get your hard disk ready.

  1. Type in http://find.synology.com in your browser and you should see the below screenshot if both of them are connected to the same network.
Find Your Synology NAS
  1. Click “Connect” and it will prompt you to install DSM (DiskStation Manager) which is the operating system for all the Synology NAS. All you need to do now is just follow the instruction on the screen. Scroll through the screenshot below to have a better overview.
Setting up - 1
Setting up - 2
Setting up - 3
Setting up - 4
Setting up - 5
Setting up - 6
Setting up - 7
Setting up - 8 (1)
Setting up - 9
Setting up - 10

Well, that’s it.

My home NAS is now ready for action.

I would advise going through some of the settings and tutorials for ease of operation to suit your usage behavior.

Here’s a great library of guidelines from Synology, or drop by their Synology community discussion for more user encounters.

Who Shouldn’t Go For It?

Despite the rather enticing features, I don’t recommend this device if you’re a person with very little data to back up.

After all, if your data backup runs in the range of less than a few GBs, then getting the DS220j will be a waste of massive time and money.

Also, bear in mind that this is a NAS, which means you’ll need to have a stable broadband connection at home to use it to its full potential.

In case you don’t have a broadband connection at home, this unit is certainly not for you.

Data is an ever-increasing number and sooner or later your data size will keep growing and there will come a time when you will need a good solution to backup your data.

Do not cry over your own negligence!

Best Use Case Scenarios for the DS220j

So, now you know all about what the DS220j is and how it works.

You’ve also seen who should best avoid spending on the device.

Naturally, now it’s time that you got to know all about who should be using it and for what.

1) Heavy Casual Photo Shooter

The best use case scenario for the DS220j is for storing personal data such as photos, videos, and personal documents.

You can also use it to make secure backups of your laptop and smartphone.

What’s more, you can also store data such as photos and videos directly from your smart devices. Which I think will cover 80% of the usage behavior for this type of home NAS user.

I know I am one of them.

Talking about photos, I must mention a bit about the Synology Moments app.

This is an app that is available for use with Synology NAS solutions and can be used for backing up your photos to your personal cloud with ease.

Downloading Moments app from app store
Moments app from Synology

It’s not always rainbows and butterflies though. I did some glitch moments with the apps on my iPhone as well at first.

It was all great and backing up all the photos from my phone as expected, but it all stops and halt when it was halfway done.

No way that I could get it running even after multiple resets or tweaking with the cache limit and etc.

End up, I had to delete the app and reinstalled it. It all went smoothly the second time without me doing any modifications, weird though.

If you back up a lot of photos and videos, please be patient. It could take up days or weeks before it is completed. I just let it runs in the background.

Using the Moments app, you can gather and upload all your photos and videos from a single interface. The app uses advanced AI-based technologies such as image recognition to improve your photo-storage experience.

Moments support uploading HEIC format directly; but as for the backup photos, the file format will be the same format as your original files.

Moments allow you to free up space on your device storage by uploading and storing photos on the cloud.

It offers a timeline view that’s similar to that offered by smartphones.

It uses deep learning-based algorithms to ensure that even randomly uploaded photos are grouped together according to common themes and subjects.

Some of the other essential features of this app are as follows:

  • Provides support for live photos
  • AI-based auto-color and rotate features
  • Moments select
  • 360-degree photos and videos
  • Super resolutions

These are only some of the many benefits that you can get from using the Moments app.

If you ask me, I think it’s an ideal replacement for Google Photos, considering the many privacy concerns surrounding Google nowadays.

At the same time, there’s also the fact that Moments’ photo quality is much better than Google Photos.

Further, Google Photos is no longer going to offer unlimited storage post-June 2021, which can pose a serious problem for shutterbugs.

An alternative to cloud storage for photos might just come at the right time.

With Moments, there’s no such problem as you get sufficient storage facilities.

A normal photo capture under 12 megapixels averagely takes up 1.5 MB in size. If you installed a 2TB NAS drive, you are able to store around 1.3 million high-resolution photos. I’m sure you can do the math on your own.

But I had drawn out a simple table for you to get a bigger picture of this. The highest capacity for DS220j can go up to 32TB with 16TB of hard disk taking 2 of the bay each with no RAID function.

Drive CapacityPhotosVideos (4k)
2TB1.3 million5700
4TB2.6 million11,400
8TB5.3 million22,850
16TB10.6 million45,710
32TB21.3 million91,400

12megapixel photos ≈ 1.5MB
1 minute 4k video at 60FPS ≈ 350MB

The above table summarizes how many photos and videos your home NAS can store based on the assumption.

To prove my case when I said there will be sufficient storage for all your media.

Here’s a screenshot of my Google Photos account.

The total number of photos is less than 10,000 (9018 to be exact) since 2007; mind you that I had dumb everything (personal) in there since it’s unlimited storage.

Total number of photos in Google Photos

Imagine what you can do with millions.

2) Small Home Office User

Remote working has become a norm and anyone can work from anywhere.

Synology Office is the best tool for such a situation.

This is a built-in document editing tool like Excel, Word, and PowerPoint without the subscription fees.

Users need to install Synology Drive first to use Office.

You can edit your working documents online once you had to access the file from your NAS server and it will save in real-time.

That’s the convenience of working remotely and you can even share it with your colleagues and they can edit the same. You had to dive in and try this Office suite for yourself to truly experience its awesomeness of it.

Did I mention the Synology Chat?

It’s an internal instant messaging feature like Flock or Slack, again without the subscription fee.

Getting a Synology NAS is like setting up a collaboration tool for a small office in my opinion. It’s much more than the cherry on the cake.

Check out some of the collaborative tools offered by Synology below.

Collaborative Suite from Synology

How to Pick A NAS for Home Users?

So, I think by now I’ve given you all enough reasons to get a Synology DS220j.

But the real question is, how do you know it’s the one you need?

After all, there are so many NAS providers in the market, and it can be tough to realize which device is best suited for you.

In this section, I’ll be giving you a brief guide into some of the factors that you must look at when selecting a NAS for your home.

Keeping these factors in mind will help you make a decision with greater objectivity.

Let’s take a look.

1. Budget

The money factor is the first and foremost aspect to look into when you’re selecting a NAS for home use.

In general, any NAS device, together with the hard drives, will require you to shell out at least $300.

For my case, a DS220j from Amazon costs around $168. 2 pieces of 2TB Seagate IronWolf need another $160 ($80×2).

Those are excluding shipping and import fees depending on where you are.

In total, it cost more than $320 for a 2TB Synology NAS with RAID 1 capability.

In case you feel that’s beyond your budget, I’d recommend going for the best cloud storage that requires less than $10 per month for a decent storage solution.

Or you can try one of these free cloud storage with no commitment for a starter.

Any form of backup or storage is way better than no backup at all.

2. Storage Requirements

The next aspect to look into is the storage space your need.

For data reserves lower than 1TB, a NAS isn’t really needed as you can always make do with an external hard drive or SSD.

Only go for a NAS if your storage requirements exceed 2TB.

Don’t forget that NAS is good for low to medium collaboration needs, so this might be something that you might want to look into for future proof of your usage.

3. Number of Hard Drive Bays

In this respect, I’d say the more, the merrier.

No matter what, you need at least two bays in order to be able to implement mirroring or RAID configurations.

RAID or mirroring backup is the key essential to why we are offering NAS in the first place. Without these, a NAS is like a “toothless tiger”.

If you don’t have much data as of now, choosing 2-bay would be enough; yet if you think your data will increase gradually, pick the 4-bay type.

Always “start small and expand when needed”.

4. CPU Specs

Finally, make sure you go for a powerful CPU. Of course, here also the kind of power you’ll need depends on the kind of data you’ll be storing.

For regular data transfer, a dual-core chip from Intel will do just fine.

However, if you’re going to transfer large files, such as for 4K video, then a quad-core CPU is essential.

Apart from these four factors, you might also consider the write speed and cache size as they will affect the performance of a NAS.

For a home NAS, my speed testing on the DS220j was sufficient for daily usage.

Qnap vs Synology: A Brief Comparison

Finally, as promised, I’m going to give you a brief overview of the Qnap vs Synology debate.

These are two major giants in the NAS domain, and first-timers might feel a bit confused regarding which brand to go with.

Don’t worry; I’ll keep things as simple as possible and explain the essentials.

Though both are Taiwanese brands, they do have a basic difference in their business philosophy.

Qnap has a larger range of products and offers very good hardware specifications. In this respect, it can be considered as the “Android” equivalent of NAS.

Synology, on the other hand, is more like “Apple” in that they focus more on user experience and offer a limited range of products for different usage and categories.

As a result, their products have greater life spans. Also, the company provides continued support for its products.

I know it’s unfair to Qnap as I’d only tested the Synology DS220j.

But, this is not a pro vs con kind of comparison. Merely general research and thoughts from me as a first-time user of NAS and ended up picking Synology.

Those are my personal perception after thorough research of home NAS that is best suited to my usage, nothing more nothing less.

Perhaps in the future, I might invest in a Qnap Nas if needed.


So, there you have it!

My review of the Synology DS220j, which I think is the best NAS for home use.

I hope you’ve had a great time reading through this article and can now make a better-informed decision regarding whether the DS220j is best suited for your needs.

Even if it isn’t, I’m sure you can find a NAS of your choice using the simple buyer’s guide I’ve included.

Just a bit of advice, if you’d like to call it that before I leave. It’s no secret that currently, we live in the age of data supremacy, and the more we use computing resources, the more our personal and professional data stores will continue to bulge.

In such a situation, a NAS can provide the best solution for all your storage needs.

Be it at home or in your small office; the DS220j is ideal for creating a personal cloud server with absolute privacy and security.

Just make sure you have broadband at home, and a pair of solid hard drives to go with it, and the ds-220j will provide you with the best service that money can buy. I certainly am enjoying mine for now.

If you are still on the fence. I would suggest you go through my NAS vs Cloud Storage here.