Having your own cloud storage is the ultimate dream, and it’s rather easy to get started with pre-built solutions like Synology DiskStations. While Synology is better known for its hardware, it’s lately been stepping up its game on the software side as well. Synology Drive, for example, takes on Google Drive with a clean interface and several modern features, convincing many to switch away from Google’s service. If you’re in that group and looking for ways to set up Synology Drive as a Google Drive alternative, you’re in the right place.
Should you even consider using Synology instead of Google Drive?
It must be said right off the bat that Google Drive (or any cloud storage service you prefer) would be a much more feasible option for most users than jumping to a Synology NAS, especially for a single purpose, like just to back up your data. Sure, you don’t need to pay a monthly fee when you have a NAS of your own, but there’s still an upfront cost attached — a pretty hefty one at that. Even if you pay Google a monthly fee, it will take years to match up to what you’ll be coughing up for your own network storage.
Unless we’re talking more than a terabyte of data, Google Drive should be your best bet, with all the smarts and integrations it comes with. It all boils down to how much value you place on your personal or business data and how important it is to keep your files in your own storage space instead of someone else’s cloud servers. Then there are a few use cases where you absolutely need spacious local storage, for maybe a team to share, making it necessary to make the switch to a Synology NAS. Google One, the subscription service that includes Google Drive storage as well as Google VPN and other niceties, starts at $2/mo or $20/year for 100GB of storage, going up to $300/month for 30TB of storage. The sweet spot is $10/mo or $100/year for 2TB of data, which is cheaper than most 2TB HDDs, so just keep that in mind before you make this move.
But if you’re here, I’m guessing you’ve already made up your mind on jumping ship. So let’s dive in.
Managing your files on a Synology NAS
Synology has a couple of file management systems in place with a bit of overlap, and it honestly can get confusing if you’re new to this. Bear with me as I try to break down what works best based on how you plan to use your network drive.
Map your Synology NAS to Finder or File Explorer
File managers on both Mac and Windows can connect to your network drive, allowing you to access your files on Synology just like you would from the internal storage. This way is best for single users who are fine working directly inside Synology folders that don’t occupy any space on your computer’s storage. This is how you can set it up:
Go to your Synology DSM in a web browser, select Control Panel, and enter File Services. Under the SMB tab, enable the SMB and WS-Discovery services and click Apply. You can play with some advanced settings on this page, but you should be fine with the defaults.
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Next, in Mac’s Finder, click on Go in the top menu bar and select Connect to Server or use the Cmd+K shortcut to enter your NAS’s local address. This address could be a custom name you’ve given, like smb://xyz.local, or a local IP address that your router has assigned to the NAS, usually in the 192.168.X.XXX format.
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For Windows, right-click on This PC on the side panel of File Explorer and select Map network drive. Select the drive label and pick your Synology NAS under Browse. Your NAS would appear in this list if you enabled WS-Discovery in the previous step.
- Enter your login credentials, and your Synology NAS should now be visible in Finder or File Explorer.
If you’ve mounted the entire folder directory accessible to your Synology user account, a good tip would be to pin the folders you frequently use to the sidebar for quick access. Though do note that since you’ve mounted a local network drive, the files will only be accessible when you’re on your home network.
Allow Synology to automatically sync/backup your computer’s folders
Google Drive has seemingly been a big influence for Synology’s own alternative — conveniently named Drive. Besides borrowing the name and a few smart features, Synology also has a syncing and backup tool for your computer, similar to what Google Drive has been offering for a while. This will come in handy particularly when you want to sync some of your folders with multiple devices and/or people on your network. It takes just a handful of steps to get Synology Drive up and running:
Go to your Synology’s DSM in a web browser, open Package Center, and search for Synology Drive Server. Hit the install button under it and let it run until the process is done. Doing this will install the Drive app itself along with the admin console. At this stage, you can start using Drive’s web app and move files in other directories to it. But we’ll go further to set up sync and backup for the files on your computer.
- Download the Drive Client for your computer from Synology’s website after providing the required details about your NAS model and its OS version. Go with the usual installation flow and enter Synology’s address and your login details, as shown in the previous section.
On the next screen, you’ll be asked to set up sync or backup tasks, both of which are pretty self-explanatory. Hit Backup Task and select the folders you want Synology to keep a copy of. In the following step, you can set a backup schedule or allow it to run all the time.
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- For syncing, create a new Sync Task from the Drive app on your computer, select the folder both on your NAS and computer that you want to keep in sync, and you’re done. You can set multiple rules, like filters by size or file type, to further fine-tune the sync behavior.
A major difference between the first and second methods is that you’ll be accessing your files directly from the NAS by simply mapping them to your computer’s file manager. But with syncing, a copy of the files and folders takes up the internal storage on all your synced computers. Given the significant overlap in their capabilities and features, you can choose to either go with one of the ways or use both simultaneously, say Drive for frequently accessed files and File Station for everything else — whatever fits your bill.
However, Synology Drive comes off as a more versatile tool with all its smart features — think of it as a spruced-up version of the regular file manager — giving it some clear advantages that we’ll discuss below.
What you get and lose with Synology Drive
Connecting to your Synology NAS over the internet
Cloud storage apps like Google Drive have gotten so popular is in part because you can access your files just about anywhere — all you need is an internet connection. It’s possible to do that with your NAS as well, and the simplest way is to use Synology’s own solution: QuickConnect.
You can turn it on from Control Panel > External Access > QuickConnect > Enable QuickConnect. Make sure you have a Synology account (not your NAS user account) linked to your NAS for the feature to work. This way, you’ll get a custom web address where you can sign into your NAS from virtually anywhere in the world. And it saves you from having to tinker with your router’s port forwarding settings, which may not be everybody’s cup of tea.
A big perk of using Synology Drive is setting up sync across multiple devices and users so that everybody on the network has an updated copy of the shared files and folders. You can enable team sharing from Synology Drive Admin Console > Team Folder. When in there, select one of the shared folders, and click Enable.
After doing this, repeat steps 2 and 4 on the second (or more) computer you want the synced folders and files to appear on. Bear in mind that only existing Shared Folders on your Synology can be added to the Team Folder, so make sure that the indented users have read/write permissions to that particular folder for the sync to work properly. You can change that from Control Panel > Shared Folder > select the folder > Edit > Permissions.
Sharing links to files with your teammates on the network is also an easy task through the context menu. You can even share public links (expirable and password protected) for those outside your network to access your files if you have set up QuickConnect.
Synology Drive for Android
Compared to the old DS File app on Android, Synology Drive looks and feels much more modern (though not as good as Google Drive). Even though most of its features have been taken from Google Drive, they work exactly as intended. There are numerous ways to sort your files, like labeling or starring them, while the search feature is decently powerful and quick. Offline access is also an option inside the Drive app, and you can create both private and public share links from the mobile app itself. Though the web app still gets you some more advanced features to manage your files in Drive.
In case Drive wasn’t enough, Synology has also cloned Google’s productivity apps. Just install the Synology Office package on your DSM, and it will directly integrate into the Drive app on the web. This will give Drive the ability to natively open MS Office files, though you’ll need to convert them to Synology’s proprietary formats to be able to edit them. While basic text-only files convert without any formatting issues, it could be rough with more complex documents.
The editor screen is unsurprisingly also similar to Google Docs. The good thing is that you have your basic formatting tools right where they belong, so you’ll feel at home. And you have the option to export your files in .docx and .pdf formats. In short, Synology Office is good for basic work, almost as much as Google Docs is, but it isn’t trying to replace more sophisticated tools like MS Office.
What you’ll miss when switching from Google Drive
Synology has done a decent job of bringing over most of the essential features of Google Drive. Thanks to that, you certainly won’t be missing any individual feature in Synology Drive, but it’s the whole tightly-knit character of Google services that you’ll wish for. Synology Drive can’t even come close to Google’s ubiquity and general acceptance across various third-party tools and services — and not to forget its own services used by billions of users.
Convenience is Google Drive’s strongest suit. All you need is a Gmail account (which pretty much anyone using the internet has) and can get started in seconds. That’s something you cannot expect from Synology, particularly at the initial setup stage. You should be fine after that, though.
How to move files from Google Drive to Synology Drive
Now that you’ve set up everything on the Synology Drive side, it’s time to move your existing files in Google Drive to your NAS. Thanks to the new Google Drive for Desktop tool, the process isn’t at all complicated, though the time it takes could be high if you’re syncing several hundred GBs of data.
Using the Google Drive widget on your computer (download the desktop app, if you don’t already have it), go to app preferences and under Google Drive, select Mirror files, and confirm the save location. This will download all the files stored in the cloud to your computer, so make sure you have enough disk space or use an external hard disk. Once the synced folder populates, you just need to simply upload those files to your Synology NAS using one of the two methods discussed earlier.
That’s it! The process may take a few hours to complete, and again, it’s not going to be for everyone, but the advantage of having a mirror of your hard drive, or just syncing a few important folders, to a backup source that’s securely located in your home and accessible anywhere is potentially a major advantage. Plus, once your transfer is complete, you can potentially cancel your Google One subscription, especially if you decide to move your Google Photos content over to a Synology NAS, too.
If you’re looking for a great starter Synology NAS to move your Google Drive over to Synology Drive, the DiskStation DS220+ is a great option.
Buy Synology DiskStation DS220+
Yep, can’t even wait until Friday proper
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