Advice for Choosing an 8-Bay NAS: TrueNAS Mini XL+ and Synology DS1821+


Good afternoon. This is probably a bit intense for my first post, but I’m shopping for my first small business/home office NAS, and I could really use some advice on how to go forward.

I’m planning on purchasing my first NAS. I should say up front I have a strong technical background, but I have no experience with NASes, so I’m sort of diving in to the deep end of the pool based on what I want to do. I’m used to tinkering with various servers, computers, web admin interfaces, etc., so hte fact that the TrueNAS OS is more complex and less abstracted is not really a consideration for me.

I have roommates and work from home, so I’d like to start out investing in something fairly powerful, with plenty of upgrading potential. That’s got me looking at the two 8 bay options listed above: TrueNAS Mini XL+ and Synology DS1821+. (Note: the DS1821+ is an announced but not yet shipping version of this 6 bay machine: )

It’s my understanding, up front, that either the Synology or the TrueNAS Mini XL+ would work for my needs, and provide both more power than I actually need at the moment, as well as room to expand. One issue I have with Synology’s offering is that it’s almost too good at abstracting how the RAID and everything else actually works. I’d like to actually learn how to assemble a RAID array and manage it, so I have the option of building my own from scratch some day when I want to upgrade–especially if that would save money. That would seem to point at the TrueNAS as being the better option. In that light, I suppose I’m looking for any reason I absolutely should not choose one of these products given my proposed use case.

I’d really appreciate any advice or suggestions. Thanks!

Some usage notes and questions:

  1. 10Gbps Networking: I will be upgrading the router within the next 12-24 months after purchasing the NAS, so having 10Gbps come as either stock or available via an add-on card would be ideal. The only immediate advantage of getting it stock is, I suppose, that I can connect my main production machine (w/ 10G networking) directly to the NAS and work on files directly on the server with greater ease.)
  2. Computers on Network, Including Streaming Media Players, that are in constant use and may conceivably pull data from the NAS or engage in heavy network usage simultaneously: 8
  3. What I am Not Doing: Heavy impact read/write access by multiple users. I am the only one that would be trying to do any work directly off the NAS, so I’m not going for a Linus Tech Tips 150 Video Editors 0.5 CPUs-type thing.

Anticipated Usage (in order of present priority)

  1. Full Backup & Time Machine Backup/Snapshots of 4 computers w/ at least 1 TB of storage, each.
  2. Cloud storage compatibility: RAID is not backup, so I want to be able to back up certain files from the NAS to the cloud fairly easily. Ideally, I’d be able to point my on-LAN instances of Dropbox/OneDrive/etc. at the local Dropbox/OneDrive/etc. service on the NAS, as well. I believe Synology supports this, but I’m not sure about TrueNAS.
  3. Home-wide media server. Not sure whether this will be Plex or something else, as it’s not really something I want to try to set up on either my main production machine or the Raspberry Pi running the network DNS and load balancer.
  4. Docker/containerization compatibility: I use docker heavily on my Raspberry Pi to support Pi Hole and a number of other microservices, and would like to use the NAS as external storage for this as necessary. (I realize with TrueNAS docker is not directly supported on the device, but I do have a love-hate relationship with docker after getting an IPv6 DNS server image to work, so that’s not necessarily a show-stopper.)
  5. Network Boot/USB Boot for Raspberry Pi: This is very much overkill for a device like this, but it would save space vs. a separate external SSD for the Pi.
  6. Steam server and or Plex Server. This is low priority, but as long as I have the space, I’d like to implement one or both of these.
  7. Storage and direct editing of video files. I’d like to get into video editing in 2021, and would prefer to be able to store and edit video files on the NAS if necessary. (Hence why the TB3 connectivity on the QNAP appealed.)
  8. Private Web Server: I would like to set up at least one containerized web server that is not publicly accessible to host the Geocities archive, just for my amusement and because I think it would be fun to have a copy of something so historic. There’s about 650GB of data, but the actual traffic would be minimal, as it would just be me and what handful of people I allowed access–which is probably going to be zero since I can’t be responsible for hosting other people’s data publicly.
  9. Public Web Server: If my currently skeletal WordPress site ever amounts to anything, I’d probably end up wanting to host a web server so I can self-host my WordPress. The files would be stored on the NAS, though I’m not sure if I’d actually run the server off the NAS yet, as I haven’ researched the security implications of that. Traffic would be low to not-as-low. (I am exceedingly boring, and rarely have time to post things.)

Speaking from a perspective of never owning a TruNAS, based on your needs I would recommend that route if you can afford it. From what things I have seen I would look at that for its flexibility.
Synology is a great solution for VM storage via iSCSI or localized shares. As a VM Host Synology can be a little underpowered. Hopefully, this gets other’s opinions running.

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Based on your current and future usage requirements TrueNAS is your best choice. TrueNAS gives you the benefit of ZFS that is mature and proven as opposed to Synology’s use od BTRfs. TrueNAS much better value.

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First some background:
I haven’t tried TrueNAS. My experience with NAS is a custom built Openfiler with 6 drives, over to a DS1812+ and now upgraded to DS1819+ with added dual 10Gb nic.

I’m very happy with it. It just works.
Obvously I don’t know much about TrueNAS, but one feature on the Synology that I really do like is SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID). It lets you run RAID with different size disks. This makes it really easy to upgrade. I’ve upgraded from 1TB to 2TB, 4TB and now almost done upgrading disks to 10TB.
It makes it really easy to do gradual replacement of disks and capcity.
Head over to the Synology RAID calculator to see different size disks and what they will amount to:

I do not know if TrueNAS got something similar.

So a few comments on the numbered list, from a Synology perspectice (since that is all I got to add in this thread):

  1. I haven’t tried backup from Mac. But I know Synology have an article about it.

  2. Synology have apps for that :slight_smile:

  3. I’m running Plex in my home, but the Synology is only providing media through a fileshare. Plex server is running on a bit more beefy server (need a bit more computational power in order to transcode media on the fly)

  4. Synology supports Docker.

  5. Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) is supported. Either as a DHCP server or just the TFTP part with another DHCP server on your network.

  6. There is a Plex app on Synology, but I haven’t tried it. As I mentioned I prefer a bit more beefy server in order to do multiple on-the-fly transcodings. Steam should run as a docker I think, so that would be supported.

  7. Video editing is hard on any storage system and I haven’t tried it, so can’t really help you there.

  8. You can run a webserver in docker, but I would really advice against it. Don’t mix data and webserver, even if it is limited through firewall. A webserver needs to be hardened and you need to be able to wipe it and redeploy if it is compromised. I know the UI for Synology is web based, but that is why I do not expose it outside of a limited VLAN.

  9. See 8 :slight_smile:

Anyway. My 2 cents :slight_smile:

Video editing is not any harder on a storage system than it is on local storage, that’s a myth. It had a place back when 100mbps LAN was all you could get, and IDE was the control of choice, but not today. It’s all about what codec you are working in, and how many simultaneous streams you need to play.

Work in a compressed codec or a proxy workflow and you are fine with most 4 drive systems (for single and couple of users). I’ve tested our Freenas several times and working with XDCam EX (35mbps) we can get more than ten clients all playing two streams of video which is enough for most common projects. This was with an aggregated gigabit connection with two ports. Now we have two aggregated 10gbe ports and the disks will be the slow point. We have 8 spinning disks in the server, no cache disks, and only 32GB of RAM. I think it is 12 cores 24 threads in two processors, but it never uses much processor so I’m sure you could go smaller.

We also move wave files over this same storage at the same time, I’m not finding an issue.

All that said, I need to test with DNxHD at 145mbps and see how many streams I can support. We’ve own older Avid storage, as well as not so older Studio Network Solutions storage for the video work. While I’d like to have something as simple as another Avid server, we can’t justify the money, not compared to what I can build or buy from ixsystems.

If you are working with high bit rate files, then you will need more specialized storage, but I’d find it hard to believe that anyone in this forum would need significantly faster storage for video work, I highly doubt there are any “Hollywood” film level production people here looking for storage tips. If there are, I’d simply say buy Avid storage, or rent it while you are in post. I have never worked with a system that was as simple to section off chunks of storage for each user, and the throughput can be incredibly high. High enough that NBC sends almost all “to be edited” video from the last couple of Olympics back to NY between these servers. Ingest at location where you need the speed, transfer back as fast as you can afford, and then edit where the speed is once again needed. Expensive to have storage at both ends, but it works rather seamlessly due to more technology making life easy. among many articles about how they moved data across the globe. Current storage is called Nexus, though it is about due for a name change.


Looks like the post I was replying to is no longer here. Might have spent the effort for nothing then.

Video editing is not any harder on a storage system than it is on local storage, that’s a myth.

I stand corrected :slight_smile:
Thanks for the information on this one. I’ve always just assumed this was true and never had the chance to verify it myself.

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I will add that some editing applications frown on “ordinary” shared storage and you will need to enable this feature. This goes back to the days of 100mb connections and capturing off of tape, dropping frames is a problem. With file based workflows, about the worst you will get is stuttering during playback or other “slowness”.

Specifically, in Avid Media Composer you need to open up the “Console” and type “alldrives 1” in order to make it use all drives as media drives. Otherwise it wants local storage or iSCSI storage even though not all iSCSI are created equally. You can set it back to “special” media drives with “alldrives 0” or “alldrives” toggles from one state to the other as many times as you enter it.

Most of the other editors no longer care, and you can get slow frame rates in any number of ways. Especially noise reduction and some color correction nodes in Davinci Resolve on a lower specification computer, or not waiting for something to render to RAM in an Adobe product.

Really high bit rate stuff may get into a problem area, I don’t work with anything over 220mbps. Sending “uncompressed” video or high resolution RAW files can be an issue. Even HD with Cinema DNG might be a problem because it is a series of “tiff” files put into a wrapper, so many small files which always leads to performance issues. Just copy thousands of PHP files for something like Joomla from one drive to another. All these small files might benefit from local only workflows.

“Uncompressed” 1080/60p is approximately 3gbps, “uncompressed” 4k/60p requires approximately12gbps connections. But that’s a lot more off topic info that probably few people wanted to read.

Uncompressed in quotes because it is often in a 4:2:2 color compressed format


Thank you for the information and taking the time to write those post :slight_smile:
I really appreciate details like this!

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Thank you, everyone, for all the replies. I’m still studying them (and all the links and additional research rabbit holes you’ve given me), but it’s been wild and crazy here, so I haven’t had a chance to revisit this project for a while.

So far, the thread has solidified my decision to go with TrueNAS/ZFS. :slight_smile:

I’m still looking at starting with 4 2TB drives, and adding sets of 2x2TB as needed.

I have an old Synology DS-412+ 8TB RAID 5 that I have replaced with a Dell Poweredge R720xd 48TB (SAS) RAIDZ 3, 64GB RAM, 2 x 10Gb Ethernet and 2 1Gb Ethernet. The cost of this system is just under $2000.

I don’t think my technical background is near as solid as yours in this area but I have to tell you that getting the R720xd up and running with FreeNAS (now TrueNAS Core) was relatively easy. I am a 71 year old electrical engineer and my only super power is being able to suffer through problems better than your average tinkerer.

My initial impression when starting to think about building this thing was “OMG this is so different that your normal PC.” Now I’m convinced it is much simpler to deal with both the hardware and software with the enterprise systems than with the consumer systems.

I will be building a second system, probably based on the R720xd, that I will install at my Son’s house. This will be part of my “3,2,1” storage plan. Three copies, two on site and one off site.

I made a mistake with the first system by only implementing one ‘vdev’ with all 12 SAS drives. I will have two “vdev’s” on the new system which will essentially double my read speeds. I will probably back of to RAIDZ 2 since I will have 3 copies of everything.

I use the system for storage of course but I do a lot of video editing for some non-profits. Some of the bit rates can be quite high. I think my NinjaV can produce more than 500MBps files. The direct connected 10Gb can handle that easily but my single ‘vdev’ can’t. The 64GB memory helps.

I don’t think you would regret going with an enterprise level system. I would go the used route myself. I’ve had no problems at all in the last year since I started using it. Come to think of it I haven’t had problems with the Synology box either.

Good luck!

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With Freenas you will be better off with more smaller drives than a couple bigger drives with plans to add more later. Much easier to increase the size of the pool by swapping bigger drives (in a set) than adding more drives and combining vdevs (at least in my opinion).

Also make absolutely certain that you get CMR or PMR drives, SMR are BAD for Freenas


Thanks for both the tip about more smaller drives being preferable as well as the warning about SMR. I was already aware of this issue, but amplifying it is always a good idea–especially given how unhelpful some drive manufacturers are being about making sure their customers get this info.

I’m planning on 4 pools of 2 drives each, with each drive being 4 TB. I’m going to start with at least 4 bays populated.

It’s not exactly that smaller drives are better. But because ZFS isn’t the same as RAID5 or RAID6, you need to be aware of some things when planning your storage:

  • in a system using ZFS, which is what TrueNAS uses, data is stored in zpools
  • actually data stored in data sets on a zpool, but that’s outside of a discussion of what size disks to use
  • a system can have multiple zpools
  • a zpool is made up of one or more vdevs
  • a vdev is made up of one of more disks
  • the redundancy in ZFS happens at the level of the vdevs
  • if you loose a vdev, you loose all the data in the zpool, so choosing the right level or redundancy for your vdevs is important, and that gets into “best practices”
  • a vdev for a NAS will always have more than one disk in order to have redundancy
  • there are different configurations of vdevs that offer varying levels of redundancy and performance: mirror, raidz1, raidz2, or raidz3, etc.
  • you can expand a zpool by adding another vdev
  • it is possible to mix and match different vdev configurations in a zpool but not recommended for performance reasons. At this point, I’m not sure if TrueNAS will even permit it via the GUI since they try to guide you to what’s smart not just what’s possible with ZFS
  • best practice is to have all the same size disks in a vdev and all the vdevs in a zpool the same size and configuration. ZFS doesn’t require it, but I think TrueNAS may enforce it via the GUI. I’ve always tried to follow best practices so no experience trying it
  • it is possible to swap out each disk in a vdev one at a time, letting the pool rebuild each time, and when you’ve changed all the disks in a vdev the increased size will automatically be recognized

But that barely scratches the surface. Lots of details left out. ZFS is very configurable with lots of options to do many things. It will let you some things that definitely don’t fall under the heading of what would currently be considered “best practices.” But TrueNAS tries to guide you to what is best for most people as a starting point.

  • Implications

Unlike in Unraid as an example, you can’t simply add one more disk whenever you want to. When you want to expand a zpool, you’d typically add another vdev rather than swapping all the disks one at a time

In TrueNAS the smallest vdev will be a two disk mirror, but mirrors can contain more than two disks, and the other vdev configurations contain even more disks. So to add a vdev to a zpool is going to take a minimum of two disks, or more, depending on the configuration of the other vdevs in the zpool and application of best practices.

  • Consequences of a bad start

If you started with ten disks in a raidz1configuration, 9 data and single parity, then best practices would indicate you’d need to add ten more disks (Not sure if TrueNAS enforces this in the GUI)

I think this might be where the “you should use smaller disks” advice originates? Ten smaller disks costs a lot less to add than ten big disks?

Or maybe, as was said above, it is the option to swap one bigger drive at a time to get to a bigger vdev? Anyway, if your case doesn’t have room for any more drives, swapping disks is a handy option to have

  • Better start

The original layout could have been two vdevs of five disks each so to add a vdev the same size you’d only need to add five drives

  • Conclusion

The larger point is that in regard to how many disks to use and in what configuration, the answer is going to be it depends on what you want to do with it. It’s very tuneable and getting more so as features are added. Yet the focus remains on protecting your data.

  • Appropriate drives

As mentioned above, avoid SMR drives at all costs. Not just for TrueNAS, but for any NAS, and I’d go further and say for any application. Generally speaking, they are a bandaid technology with limited appropriate application.

The problem is WD started slipstreaming SMR drives into their WD Red NAS drive product line without saying a word about it. Same Red NAS branding. Just a different product code that nobody ever had a reason to pay attention to. Even if you did, there was no indication of what the different product code meant.

Major problems ensued. Now they’ve introduced “Red Plus” for CMR NAS drives. You can find more details on the web.

Seagate has not put SMR drives into their NAS line and has said they aren’t appropriate for a NAS, but they have slipstreamed them into their desktop line of hard drives.

Here is an interesting article exploring some of the things to consider when deciding on your choice of vdev configuration:

This was true, but there was such a backlash, that they now include whether a drive is CMR or SMR in the product name, at least on Amazon.


Yes, they now include “SMR” in the lengthy product name/product description on Amazon and New Egg. But have they fixed the mess they created? As far as I’m concerned, no. WD Red drives, the product line specifically for use in a NAS, still has SMR drives in it. I’m usually pretty easy going about things. You do it your way and I’ll do it mine. But this is flat out wrong.

SMR drives (specifically drive managed SMR) have absolutely no business being in a product line intended for NAS use. So to that extent, WD has fixed nothing. And frankly, I think SMR drives have no business anywhere except as write once archival drives. And savings to the consumer between SMR and CMR Red 4TB drives, as an example, $6 CAN. So pretty much nothing.

Sure, they created the new “Red Plus” sub-brand for CMR drives after the big uproar. But it still leaves anyone not aware of this underhanded move thinking one WD Red is as suitable as another for NAS use. It was deceptive when they did it, and by continuing to sell “SMR” drives with the “Red” branding, it continues to be deceptive.

I’ve got two WD Red CMR 4TB drives sitting next to me on my desk. The only way to differentiate them from the SMR crap that WD is now selling with the same branding is a four letter code somewhere on the label on the drive.

So no, I don’t see them as having fixed this mess at all. And any anger you feel from this message is entirely directed at the incompetents at WD who created this mess and refuse to fix it properly, and definitely not you.

In contrast, Seagate does not use SMR in their NAS drives and has stated they don’t think they are suitable for use in a NAS.

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Fair enough. Having only read about it and not personally experienced it, I was under the impression, it was largely resolved, but you make fair points. Perhaps vote with your dollars and start buying Seagate.


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For my taste the article at is a bit too much biased in favor of mirrors. It always depends on the use-case. So the impact of resilvering in a RAIDZ2 is not necessarily such a big issue. And this is the core argument he makes in favor of mirrors. Also, the risk of loosing two disks in a “simple” mirror is pretty much glossed over. Three-way mirrors would indeed solve this, but I guess not many people would like to see a 33% net storage capacity. Lastly, this article is a couple of years old, which will change performance characteristics, especially if we think about NVME-based SLOG devices.

So overall this article contains a lot of good stuff, but IMHO it is ill-suited for the beginner because sometimes it presents opinion and personal preference/use-case as universal truth.

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I have wondered about 3 way mirrors as with some of the much larger disks how much capacity is required. I know that statement depends on each individual use case etc.

I’m starting out with a pool config of:
2 x 3TB
2 x 3TB

I’ve got some RED CMR 3TB drives to also consider using, three in total at the moment.