2 bay or 4 bay NAS for Plex and Surveillance?

 I was set to purchase the Synology DS218+ with a couple of Seagate Iron Wolf Pro 6TB Drives, on the advice of the IT manager at my workplace. This was to replace (instead of expanding) my current cobbled-together system of a 3TB Seagate Central (my first foray into NAS) and 2TB Toshiba external drive, and my 1TB internal HDD. I found the Seagate Dashboard program and mobile access to be cumbersome and switched to using it solely as a redundant backup for the other 2 drives. I am running a Plex Server on my desktop and have about 2TB of Movies, 1TB of Music, 1TB of Photos and Home Videos, and another few hundred GBs of all types of these files stored as data on dual layer DVD disks. Of course, I expect that I will be increasing all of these slowly but regularly over the next few years, though maybe not doubling the sizes.

I need a better system but am not working with a large budget (the system I was considering would run me about US$760 on Amazon). However after finding your website, I now have so many more questions. I would like to be able to access our photos and music when away from home (in a way that would be easy enough for my tech-challenged wife), and would also like to set up the Plex server on the NAS. I found this site by googling Best 4-Bay NAS, because the more I read about using RAID systems for backup, it appeared that the benefits really increase beyond the 2-bay systems. In your 2018 article on this, you mention the WD PR4100 as being especially set up for Plex transcoding.

Should I go with a 4-Bay for versatility of RAID options or the high end (+version) 2-Bay Synology? Does it make more sense to go with Pro versions of Ironwolf or WD Red, or will this not be significant over the regular series for my uses? Should I pay a lot of attention to the ease of the interface, or are the different brands all fairly user-friendly when accessing through mobile and internet? Since I would also like to eventually use the system for home surveillance cameras, does it make sense do all of this on a single larger NAS or perhaps separate, smaller systems?

US$ 1,000 Usable 6-8 TB

When people can not decide between 2 and 4 bay NAS I always try to convince to get a 4 bay. Because you can start with 1 or 2 drives and add more drives later without losing your data access. WD PR NAS series has a special agreement with a Plex allowing it to do a hardware transcoding function without paying for a plex pass. This means that videos will be converted on the fly when access over the internet and processor will not work very hard to achieve this. This function is also available for other NAS brands like Qnap and Synology as long as you have a subscription active. Alternatively, NAS will do very same function using software transcoding which will increase CPU usage.

If you are looking for a very friendly user interface then you should choose Synology. If you like to play with settings and change all sorts of configurations then go for Qnap. WD PR series is not very good at multi-tasking so I would not recommend it to you this time.

The Synology DS918+ is powerful enough to do multiple video streams remotely as well as serve as a Dropbox alternative solution. You can back up computers as well as mobile devices very easily.

It will even have enough power left to do decent video surveillance. When choosing the drives, I recommend going for WD red non-pro. These drives will be the quietest. Regular Ironwolf drives will be slightly cheaper, but also might be a bit noisier. The Pro drives are created for environments like web server and databases or 10user or more workplaces.

The ds218+ or DS718+ will be a cheaper option but limited with its expandability later on. It will still do the tasks you want just slightly slower.


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