Scott Hanselman

Synology DS1520+ is the sweet spot for a home NAS and a private cloud

September 04, 2020 Comment on this post [20] Posted in Reviews
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61fje6GaYKLMy long love of Synology products is well-documented. I checked my Amazon history, and I bought my Synology DS1511+ NAS in May of 2011! I have blogged about the joy of having a home server over these last nearly 10 years in a number of posts.

It's great to have a home server - it's a little slice of the cloud, in your home. I like home servers because while I trust the cloud, I trust a computer I can touch about 1% more than someone else's computer.

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Anyway, my Synology DS1511+ is about ten years old and it's working great but I am using it more and more and throwing more and more at it. It did have some challenges running a Minecraft Server recently, on top of all its other responsibilities.

I use Seagate 2TB disks and I run 4 of them in the 5 bay device, with a fifth drive as a hot spare. If a drive goes bad - which happens about every 2 to 3 years - the Synology will rebuild with the spare, then I pull the dead drive. I have two additional 2TB unopened Seagate Drives ready to go, so when this happens it's as close to a non-event as possible.

Synology is amazing

I have every digital photo and digital video and family document we've created since 1998. I've also got local backups of my Gmail from which goes back to before Gmail started when I was running my own POP3 mail server. It's all easily less than 5TB. Remember also that Google Takeout can get you Zips of all your data! Back. It. All. Up!

Twenty years of photographs

Fast forward to today and Synology came out with the Synology 5 Bay NAS DiskStation DS1520+. It's basically a ten year's newer clone of my 1511+ workhorse, updated and refreshed! It's WAY faster. It was immediately noticeable on startup. File access is faster, indexing is faster, my Docker images start faster.

Now, a little more money would get you a 6 bay NAS and just $150 will get you a 2 bay, but I love the size and power of a 5 bay for our home and my office. Four disks are for my array and 1 is that hot swap drive. I think that for small businesses or home offices five bays is the perfect size and price - about $600-700 USD.

The Synology 1520+ has 4 GbE network ports (which is nice with Link Aggregation in a busy house), supports two eSATA externals (I use one to backup the backup to a single disk, as I believe in the Backup Rule of Three and you should, too!) and works with any SATA drives, 2.5" or 3.5". One of the big reasons that attracted me to this update is that there's slots for 2 x M.2 2280 NVMe SSDs for caching. I put a 512G M.2 drive in there to accelerate file system access.

5 Drives in a Synology

If you want, you can have up to 15 drives using two DX517 drive expanders up to 240TB, but with just 4 slots and large drives like Seagate Ironwolf drives in the 10TB to 18TB range, storage is really a non-issue. I use Seagate 2TB drives because they're plentiful and like $50. We treat it like a massive infinite local disk in the house that everyone can talk to. We named it SERVER, so it's just \\SERVsynoER for everyone.

The Synology OS software is deep and broad and runs entirely in your browser. You'll figure it out very quickly as it's all windows and wizards. I am a fan of the Cloud Sync feature that I use to backup my Google Drive, Dropbox, and One Drive. Again, this is a level of paranoia, but damned if I'm gonna get locked out of my own data.

Synology Cloud Sync

The Synology HyperBackup goes in any direction using whatever cloud and whatever tools you are familiar with. You want Rsync? Cool. Want to backup to Azure or AWS? Cool.

Backup to Azure from a Synology

I was concerned that migrating would be hard or involved basically starting over from scratch, but since I was moving between two models in the same family (I was moving from a 1511+ to a 1520+, even 10 years later) It was literally just move the drives in order and boot up. Took 10 minutes. For movement between device families or to new drives there's at least three good options.

It was actually scarily simple, given there's ten years of history here. I moved the drives (maintaining order) and booted up the new 1520+ and was greeted with this screen:

Migrate your Synology

I clicked Migrate twice and was all set.


If you are migrating and upgrading, I'd be sure to read the section on HDD Migration and look closely at the table, considering your Source and Destination NAS models.

So far this new Synology is WAY snappier, runs Docker faster, can run Virtual Machines now (although in 8 gigs, only small utility ones), and the SSD cache has made browsing family photos whip fast. All in all, it feels like a 10 year refresh BUT it's the same size.

SSD Cache in a Synology

My home NAS is sitting quietly on a shelf in my office. The kids and spouse are having their PCs backed up in the background, family photos and DVD backups are all available easily (and there are Synology iPhone apps as well to view the files).

Synology devices specifically - and home NAS devices generally - are a great addition to techie homes. There's a bunch of 1st and 3rd party packages you can run on it to make it as much or little a part of your Home IT setup as you like. It can run DHCP and DNS, iTunes Servers, Mail, Chat Servers, or even their own web-based Office clients. Take a look at the Synology 1520+ if you're in the market for a home or business NAS. I'm looking forward to another 10 years with this NAS.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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September 07, 2020 12:46
You say you still use Crash Plan. Is that only the crash plan software, or also their cloud storage plans?

I chipped out Crash Plan when they stopped caring about individuals and haven't really found a good affordable replacement yet.
September 07, 2020 14:53
What is your strategy to sync mobile photos? Do you sync your families phones with the Nas and with de cloud service providers (Google Photos, etc.) ?
What’s the sync sequence (steps) of your backup strategy?
September 07, 2020 16:30
I couldn't agree more about NAS in general. It is a life saver for the last 5 years that I have it. I'm using QNAP, but I'm curious if your model supports IDrive backup service. My NAS has only 2 bays and I am thinking about upgrading it to 4 or 5 bay model.
September 07, 2020 23:04
Hi Scott! Do you have suggestions on people getting started with a NAS in 2020?

Things like
- which drives do you recommend,
- settings,
- should I be weary on noise? (how loud is it if I live in a small apartment and it would need to live in a common area like living room)

Thanks again for sharing your posts!


When is the 2020 update for will come out? I've always enjoyed those posts!
September 07, 2020 23:30
Nice ode to Synology that I share 100%.
On Synology, 1 SSD drive means read-only, more than one needed for read-write. So it would have been interesting to get 2x250 GB SSD.
September 08, 2020 0:46
If a drive goes bad - which happens about every 2 to 3 years

This doesn't seem normal to me. What type of drives are you using? Special NAS drives, or your average desktop hard drive?

I'm have a volume where every drive is 5 years old, currently hitting 3+ years of continuous uptime in my DS414. In all that time I had one drive showing some bad sectors, but it's still usable.
September 08, 2020 1:19
I actually have this powering the office for a small business. It had a couple of PowerEdge Dells that were coming to the end of their life and I didn't see any reason to fork out a small fortune upgrading to service about 25 users. Samba 4 runs smoothly in place of Active Directory and it integrates seemlessly with the cloud backup services I installed. It works like a charm.
September 09, 2020 18:40
"My home NAS is sitting quietly on a shelf in my office."

How quietly, exactly - I would be sitting right next to mine, and have become accustomed to a quiet PC, so having a MAS "taxiing for take-off" would be sub-optimal
September 11, 2020 1:10
A bit disappointing it is limited to 8Gb but then my 1513+ is chugging along just fine with 2Gb (I have a reconditioned Dual Xeon HP Workstation running Vmware EXSi for compute and Docker)

Was really impressed how easy it was to use Synology software to backup entire VMs from there and even use it to clone VMs by restoring as a new VM. (Cloning is not part of free version of vmware). Also was easy to backup Synology to Azure. [Note to self: must do another DR test, backup is only as good as the restore!!]

Also used as time machine backup for 3 Macs (in parallel with external hard disks for each Mac) and Cloud sync for data on iPhones and iPads.

Probably shouldn't say this, but the 4 WD red 3TB drives I have in Raid 5 have 52000 hours uptime with no errors in the S.M.A.R.T stats. Spare Hot disk is unused.
September 11, 2020 12:22
Thanks Scott, great set up! I'm still running my 212j, been solid for 8 years now!

I'd really like to know what your iOS photo backup strategy is as well - since moving from Android that's been the hardest part to replicate for me.

I used to be able to run a sync that:

1. Moved all of the photos off my families phones into //server/photos
2. Create a folder structure yyyy/mm/dd and sort the photos.

It seems the limitations on background processing in iOS make syncing difficult and I found the DS Photo app limited due to that. Be interested other peoples experiences with this.
September 13, 2020 18:05
wow a great article about cloud services thanks for sharing
September 14, 2020 22:12
I did some reading when I got my Synology (a DS918+), and I discovered that using a hot spare is maybe not such a good idea (I was planning to have one too.)

Rebuilding the RAID array is very intensive in I/O operations, and with hard drives of increasing size, the risk of a second drive failing during the rebuild is non negligible. So the articles said it would be preferable to start the rebuild manually, when you decide, after making sure, with the array in degraded mode, that everything that should be backed up is, etc.

I don’t have the articles in question at hand, but searching for “unrecoverable read error raid hot spare” should give you some good results.
September 18, 2020 11:37
I will have to setup home server too. Copying files between computers using USB stick is annoying.
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October 09, 2020 21:43
Have you looked into Unraid? I currently have a synology 1515+ and it is serving it's purpose well, but I'm starting to wonder about more drive bays and the cost of the large units seems to go up pretty quickly for hardware that isn't exactly state of the art. The value of synology is definitely in the software, and I'm curious if you have compared it against any of the other platforms out there.
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October 19, 2020 17:02
I've been juggling with the idea of a NAS for a while now. I also have a lot of video files. Thanks for sharing.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.