The Battle of the NASes

Evaluating which Network Attached Storage Server Solution is Right for your Business.

In the digital age, it is becoming more and more prevalent and necessary for companies to maintain and assess the data that their operations are producing. However, it is not always obvious which storage solution would be best. There are many prohibitive factors to small businesses preventing them from implementing enterprise solutions. The main prohibitive factor is cost. Small businesses do not typically have the capital on hand to house enterprise grade servers that run in the tens of thousands of dollars.

This is where the battleground of the Network Attached Storage server reigns. It is a cost-sensitive solution that allows small business to run enterprise grade applications without having an enterprise level budget.  There are many options that a business has when selecting a Network Attached Storage (NAS) server. This post will primarily focus on two of the most prevalent: Synology and FreeNAS.


Both Synology and FreeNAS are solutions that are scalable for the small business owner looking to cash in on their business’ data. Synology manufactures NAS products that are as simple as a two-bay server up to rack mounted servers that contain 16 bays. For a small business, the most sensible solution lay in the middle. The Synology DS1815 is server that has 8 hard drive bays, which would be plenty of storage for a small business. The Synology DiskStation also has these core business features:

  • Certified VMWare ready
  • Certified Citrix ready
  • Windows 20120 & 2012 R2 Certified
  • Network link aggregation support and port failover
  • The ability to hold 180TB with two separate extension bays

The areas where the Synology really stand out are the ease of setup, the ability to host a company’s own email server, controlling user access to the file server, and data security. The DiskStation incorporates many features to secure data such as 2-Step verification, AES Encryption, and IP address filtering.


The closest competitor the Synology NAS is another product called FreeNAS. FreeNAS is an open source FreeBSD based server platform that is, as its title hints, free. However, only the software is free. The server’s hardware must be bought and built before the FreeNAS operating system can work. Unlike Synology, FreeNAS is all open source, free, but unfortunately does not offer any official support. FreeNAS does offer their own certified lines of servers, but some of these could become cost prohibitive. Building a server can also be a tedious, but rewarding task because the company can build the server to their own specs and save money in the long run.

The only requirements FreeNAS has to operate are a 64-Bit process and a minimum of 8GB of RAM. FreeNAS operates on the ZFS file system. The ZFS file system is unique compared to other file systems (NTFS, FAT, etc.) in that it acts as both the volume manager and the filesystem. The ZFS filesystem is designed to ensure that (subject to proper hardware) data stored on disks cannot be lost when there are events that could compromise the data.

FreeNAS has also released a new version of their operating system that incorporates many new changes. One of these changes is the incorporation of an open-source containerization system known as Docker. Unlike Synology and the ability to use Virtual Machines, FreeNAS takes a different approach by leveraging the power of containers. Containers allow the server to run multiple ‘images’ on the server. For more information about containers, check out this other blog from UDig: Continuous Deliver Powered by Containers.

Which Network Attached Storage server is right for you?

In the end, the choice between which server system a small business wants are up to the individual business. The solution ultimately depends on their needs. Both Synology and FreeNAS are highly customizable, scalable, and able to meet the demands of the business.