WD My Cloud NAS or Synology/QNAP? Which Brand Should You Buy?
For many users, the first NAS they ever owned was the affordable and sturdy WD My Cloud NAS drive. From students and teachers to console gamers and small business, the WD My Cloud range of NAS devices was one of the earliest attempts by hardware manufacturers to bring the arguably tricky subject of home server ownership in an affordable and easy to use way. Indeed, in previous years I have recommended the WD My Cloud Pro P2100 and PR4100 NAS systems for use in Plex, low-level surveillance and prosumer home network storage. However, in the last few years brands like Synology and QNAP have absolutely dominated the home and small business NAS market with a large portfolio of solutions that effectively surpass the majority of WD NAS’ in every possible way. So, we sadly face the fact that given WD has not released a new generation of their My Cloud series for a number of years and desirability has begun to fall, many users are deciding on where to go with their data, whether it’s in a new NAS or upgrading on an older WD My Cloud system. Today I’m going to discuss which NAS brand you should choose when upgrading from a WD NAS and which manufacturer deserves your data.
Is WD My Cloud NAS Still Ok to Use?
It is important to highlight that this article is not about me saying the WD My Cloud range is bad, because it really isn’t and it is still one of the best bang for your buck NAS solutions you can buy right now in 2021 – as well as being remarkably user friendly for the first time NAS user! Additionally, with the majority of WD solutions arriving with bundled hard drives, a simple streamlined user interface and considerably better high street availability than any other brand, they are still a good solution. However, like most technology, the evolution and expectations in what it can do in the eyes of buyers change rapidly and although most other brands have pushed software and hardware innovation to some incredible lengths, the WD My Cloud NAS range has remained quite steadfast in its refusal to adapt. Although WD My Cloud is sturdy, safe, robust and makes no promises it cannot fulfil, in terms of what you can do with it and how you can evolve the system in its lifespan is tremendously limited. This along with some third party app brands not updating their applications for the WD NAS OS system has led to an increasing lack of support of these popular software platforms. Ultimately, the majority of people reading this are owners of a WD My Cloud NAS that are now looking to upgrade to something with a little more future-proofing and modern innovation. However, don’t overlook the fact that you can still use your WD My Cloud NAS as another tier of your backup strategy, by synchronising over the network or internet with numerous application methods available from WD themselves and others brands.
Better Alternative to WD My Cloud NAS for Software – Synology
Unsurprisingly, if you have been researching the subject of NAS and thinking of upgrading from a WD My Cloud NAS, then the name ‘Synology’ and its incredible software will almost certainly have appeared on your radar. Although the brand is not as establish or steeped in years as Western Digital, Synology is still over 20-years old and has produced hundreds of NAS solutions in their portfolio. The main difference between Synology and WD when it comes to NAS software is twofold. The first major difference is the first party software on offer. WD and it’s NAS OS have surprisingly thin software add-ons available, with most of the system abilities being classed more as day-to-day services – RAID functionality, USB backups, synchronised backups and low-level account control. WD-OS is very functional but it has not changed much in the last 5-6 years in terms of innovation and most of its key abilities are considered rather rudimentary in 2021/2022. Synology on the other hand includes its DSM (Diskstation Manager) software platform with every NAS, which is is the equivalent of an entire operating system comparable to a desktop OS that can be accessed via the web browser and numerous mobile apps. The Synology supports all of the services that the WD My Cloud does, but has also evolved every one of them into a central data ecosystem. The range of first-party services, applications and add-ons that Synology provide are extensive and cover surveillance, virtual machine deployment, intelligent multi-tier backups, bespoke email server deployment and more. Alongside this, DSM also provides applications that attempt to wrestle the user away from third-party desktop client apps for business. Examples include Synology Chat that serves as an alternative to Skype, Synology Office which serves as an alternative to Google Docs/Office 365, Synology Video Station is a popular alternative to Plex Media Server as well as an alternative to the slick and easy UI of Google Drive and Dropbox with Synology Drive. The evolution of Synology software where is genuinely unparallel and although QNAP is always getting closer, it is still going to be very impressive for the end-user when switching away from WD My Cloud NAS OS to DSM.
The second reason that the Synology NAS software platform is significantly superior to the WD NAS software is the support of third-party applications. WD NAS OS does have access to a small apps centre that includes easy installation of a few third-party applications. Although the majority of these have been all but abandoned in terms of updates and utility in recent years, one popular 3rd party application that most users a few years ago purchased the WD My Cloud NAS for was Plex media server. However updates on the Plex media server application on the WD NAS platform have slowed down and because this is a third-party application, you are heavily reliant on the manufacturer to develop updates for the WD NAS platform – something that has become increasingly less frequent from 2020 onwards. Synology NAS on the other hand supports significantly more third-party applications in it’s app center, as well as numerous custom apps that can be installed manually. There is certainly a few bits of bloatware in this application centre that can be overlooked, but nevertheless, there is still a good 30-40x third-party applications here that are worth your time and updated with more frequency than those found on the WD NAS platform. Equally, as the popularity of Synology NAS has increased, so has the amount of time that developers have spent on both the first and third-party applications for this platform and this combined with the improvements in mobile applications has led to the Synology NAS range being wildly superior to that of WD NAS My Cloud in software. Add to this that Synology also provides the option of BTRFS as a filesystem choice option with its file self-healing and lower resource-consuming snapshot creation, as well as the Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) configuration for allowing mixed hard drive capacities, and the Synology NAS software is easily the preferred upgrade choice for those moving away from the WD My Cloud NAS platform for apps and services.
Better Alternative to WD My Cloud NAS for Performance – QNAP
The performance of a NAS drive will often be dictated by both the internal and external hardware available. The quantity and number of hard drives you install inside will always provide something of a performance boost, but overall the performance will always be dictated by the primary components that the brand chooses to use and the external connectivity that a system features by default. Each one of the WD My Cloud range of devices are very efficient, make the most of the hardware inside and are designed for smooth running with little or no intervention by the end-user at any point. However, it has to be said that the hardware featured inside pales in comparison to that of QNAP alternatives in the last few years. With the WD My Cloud series largely concentrating on an Intel Pentium processor from 2015/16, alongside several ARM processors in 32-bit and 64-bit, they are certainly comparable to a number of QNAP NAS systems in the TS-X31K, TS-51D and TS-53D Series. Unfortunately, they soon get surpassed in comparison to the wide array of more modern processors available in QNAP desktop systems that can range from Pentium Gold, Newer Gen Celeron and Ryzen, to Intel Core i5, i7 and Xeon. This disparity also extends to the memory available, with most WD My Cloud systems arriving with between 1-2GB of memory that cannot be upgraded – where has QNAP arrive with vast memory upgrade options and many models arriving with 4GB and 8GB by default.
The difference between QNAP and WD My Cloud is made even more clear when you learn that the majority of QNAP NAS systems also include M2 storage upgrade slots internally that allow you to install SSD in SATA or NVMe that can be used for an area of superfast storage, tiered storage for data to be scanned and moved to the most appropriate media source or for caching to allow frequently access data to be copied over to the SSD for improved performance in the files that need it most. Although the use of SSDs for intelligent caching is by no means a new feature of NAS, it is still something that WD My Cloud NAS has yet to integrate and something that QNAP NAS has applied to the majority of their hardware portfolio. So, with both the baseline level of hardware AND the upgradability of the internal hardware found in a QNAP NAS to be better than that found in WD My Cloud NAS, it’s a great upgrade for those that are interesting in improved internal performance in their next NAS purchase.
Better Alternative to WD My Cloud NAS for Connectivity – QNAP
The connectivity between the network-attached storage device and your local network hardware environment will massively dictate the speed at which your client devices can access your data for home or business use. Although there are a handful of more enterprise-level WD NAS solutions available, all of the WD My Cloud Feature 1Gbe with no means with which to upgrade that connectivity. Some NAS in the My Cloud range are a little better with dual 1Gbe RJ45 connections, but even then this is a small all edition that in 2021/2022 is less desirable than it once was. However if you are looking for the best possible external connectivity in a modern NAS when choosing from or upgrading from a WD My Cloud NAS, then QNAP have easily the best selection of external connectivity on even their modest hardware solutions available.
Rear of the WD My Cloud Pro PR4100
Rear of the QNAP TS-453D 4-Bay
Even on the 1/2-bay NAS solutions, you can find 2.5Gbe connectivity on a number of QNAP solution, which then scales progressively throughout their portfolio to multiple 2.5Gbe connections, 5Gbe connections and 10Gbe very easily while still maintaining a price point that remains compatible with that of even the biggest WD My Cloud solution. Then you have the fact that a number of QNAP solutions can be upgraded via PCIe or USB upgrade adaptors for more numerous external connectivity or at the enterprise level with larger bandwidth connections such as 25Gbe and 40Gbe of PCIe Gen 3 NICs for just a few £100s. Finally, there is the growing collection of Thunderbolt 3 equipped NAS systems from QNAP that allow a marginally more plug-and-play connection between the NAS and a thunderbolt 3 USB-C equipped client device. Ultimately QNAP NAS wildly outpaces the WD My Cloud range in terms of external connectivity and is arguably better for its external bandwidth than most NAS brands on the market today.
Better Alternative to WD My Cloud for Plex – Synology
As mentioned at the start of this article, many users purchased the WD My Cloud Pro NAS system as it was remarkably proficient at Plex Media Server, thanks to its choice of Pentium Processor and hardware transcoding in Plex as standard utilization. However, due to Plexnot frequently updating the WD NAS Media Server application in line with how the platform has evolved over time, the WD My Cloud Pro PR2100 and PR4100 have grown increasingly less proficient at Plex Media Server, leading to guides and support walkthroughs being needed to bridge the gap more informally and this has been one of the largest driving force for users wishing to trade away from a WD NAS and onto something a little more modern. When it comes to buying a NAS that is primarily used for Plex media server, for the sheer simplicity and Performance it is hard to argue with a Synology NAS as a better Plex media server. Although many would argue that a QNAP NAS would serve as a better Plex media server due to a higher class of CPU, the Synology NAS platform tends to get more out of the hardware at any given time in terms of efficiency which for most users and Plex media server is highly desirable for a stress-free, set up and forget architecture.
Here is my FULL Guide on Synology NAS for Plex in 2021 (Click Below):
The performance of Plex media server on a Synology NAS when compared with that of a WD My Cloud NAS though is not quite as clear-cut as you might like though. For a start, in order to take advantage of hardware transcoding on the Synology, you are going to need a paid Plex Pass, which may come as a real disappointment given that earlier revisions of Plex media server on the WD My Cloud allow Plex to use this CPU and hardware transcoding for free by default. However, the performance of this older Pentium in hardware transcoding is of a similar level to the software transcoding of the much newer Celeron found in the Synology recent diskstation releases – so this advantage can be largely negated. One final point that, although not applicable to everyone is still worth considering when looking at a NAS for Plex media server, is how the system utilises the hardware resources available between both the Plex application, other software services and the system in general. Plex media server in its recent 1.23 version consumes the majority of the hardware available on the WD My Cloud Pro system with even modest playback of 1080p media and is all but consumed by 4K files, leaving little or no resources for the rest of the NAS and it’s applications. The majority of Synology Plus Series Diskstation NAS systems, by comparison, thanks to using more modern hardware architecture and upgradeability in their design result in a smaller percentage of resource consumption buy Plex media server and therefore more fuel in the tank for other services too.
Better Alternative to WD My Cloud for Business – Synology
When network-attached storage was in its infancy, it was presented as a means for prosumers and small-medium business users to have an alternative to subscription-based Cloud services (DropBox, Google Drive, etc) with improved customizable security and larger capacities. Due to the nature of data and how it is the centre of all kinds of business in the last few decades, the idea of a business having its own server is hardly a new thing, given the importance of data retention and GDPR. However, the expectations from a business in what a server can do at even the most modest level have grown rapidly and a simple hard drive connected to the internet will simply not do! As mentioned earlier, the software available on the WD NAS OS platform is starting to look a little underwhelming in 2021, whereas Synology has invested heavily in software development for the NAS systems likely more than any other brand. This extends to more than the brand trying to ape popular business software and extends to numerous business class advantages and functions in even the comparatively small hardware options by comparison.
A business user already knows that a Synology NAS will be able to store the data in a centralised manner. However, Synology DSM also features business class surveillance with the Surveillance Station 8 platform that can easily rival that of enterprise-class NVR/CCTV utilities like Milestone. There is also the Active Backup Suite software that is included with every Synology NAS that is a licence free multi-platform backup and synchronisation tool that extends from NAS and server utilisation to Office 365 and Google workspace platforms. Moving forward there is also the Synology Virtual Machine Manager platform that not only allows you to deploy VM (virtual machine) images directly from your NAS, but also allows synchronisation and third party software OS migration from the likes of VMware and Hyper-V in just a handful of clicks. Thanks to services like these used in conjunction with the first party communication tools such as Synology Chat and Synology Mail, spreadsheet and document editing with Synology Office and even data pinning and on-the-fly streaming locally with Synology Drive for Mac and Windows – Synology provide an extensive range of business tools in their NAS software that is still a few steps ahead of practically any other brand.
Should I Choose Synology or QNAP NAS?
So, if you have reached this far in the article, you are likely wondering whether you should switch from a WD My Cloud NAS towards either a Synology or QNAP NAS? It’s a valid question, as both brands (especially in recent years) managed to carve their own very distinct design, the priority of build and available utilities for different end-users. Synology will always be the software optimized choice over hardware (60/40) and manages to get the very most possible out of comparatively less hardware in their own first-party applications. QNAP NAS on the other hand has more of a hardware focus (again 60/40) which means that they have a better 1t and 3rd party hardware balance when it comes to using their system in your environment. Synology is a solution that wants you to do things its way and in return gives you a smooth if safe and predictable outcome. QNAP NAS manages to be exceedingly customizable and adaptable and for those who take the time to tweak it, setup it up from scratch or adapt it to their 3rd party environment, can achieve much better results overall. Below is two videos that focus on each brand and key consideration on QNAP and Synology before you buy. Take a look:
Choosing A NAS – Need More Help?
So, those were the key considerations for those looking to buy a new NAS or looking to upgrade/migrate from an older NAS Drive. However, there is still so much that you may need to know to range from operating system compatibility, how to connect the NAS in the best way, ideal software and the best backup methods. If you still need help choosing the NAS solution for your needs, use the NASCompares free advice section below. It is completely free, is not a subscription service and is manned by real humans (two humans actually, me and Eddie). We promise impartial advice, recommendations based on your hardware and budget, and although it might take an extra day or two to answer your question, we will get back to you.
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