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Synology vs Nextcloud – Which Is Better For A Home Server?

Before I get hung out to dry by the Internet, I’d like to point out that this comparison of Synology vs Nextcloud is my opinion only. It is based solely on my needs and my experiences with both products.

TL;DR – I think Synology is a far superior product.

My experience with Synology & Nextcloud

I wanted to preface this post by mentioning the experience I have with the two products – I’m currently running a Synology device as my home server and previously ran a different Synology device for ~5 years.

That first Synology ended up dying and I decided to replace it with a home built server running Nextcloud. I ran that for around a year and a half, before going back to Synology.

So when talking about Synology vs Nextcloud, I would say I have a fair amount of experience with both.

Right, enough waffle; let’s crack on with the post…

My home server needs

I suppose a good place to start would be to talk about my needs from a home server. To be honest, they’re pretty basic as server hosting goes.

There are only three things I need from my home server, which are:

  1. File syncing & storage
  2. Media streaming & storage
  3. Backups

That’s pretty much it. I do use my server for other things, but these 3 services are the crucial ones. Everything else is just me mucking around.

File syncing & storage

This is the bread and butter of both the Synology and Nextcloud. And to be honest, both do this very well. On Nextcloud, I had very few duplicate files and syncing was relatively quick.

However, when it comes to the mobile experience, the Nextcloud files app is pretty poor. There are options to backup photos automatically as they are taken, but I never managed to get this to work right. Instead, they would just queue up in the app and wouldn’t actually upload to the server until I opened the app on my device.

Not very automatic, is it?

I use the Synology Drive application to sync files across all my devices – Windows, Linux and iOS. Everything works great. Photos are synced automatically using the Moments app, and unlike Nextcloud, it all works flawlessly.

Synology drive client

So the desktop experience for Synology vs Nextcloud is pretty much on par. But the mobile experience has been far superior for me on Synology.

Media streaming & storage

When my wife and I get some downtime from the kids, we like to watch TV. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime, but we also like to stream stuff from our home server.

I wasn’t able to find such a service within Nextcloud, so I opted to install a Plex server instead. Plex is a great service, but it was another piece of software for me to maintain on my server.

When I think cloud, I usually think multimedia too. So the fact that Nextcloud has no way of managing a video library is a shame, and a big gap I think, as many people use their home server/NAS for streaming.

Synology has the Video Station app for streaming videos using my web browser. There are also accompanying apps for my Apple devices, and my Roku streaming boxes. So I can access my video library from pretty much anywhere – big win!

Synology Video Station

I could also install Plex on my Synology if I wanted, but I decided to just use their native Synology app as it works really well and saves me from using 3rd party applications from outside of the Synology ecosystem.

Backups

Your file syncing application of choice is not your backup. Backups should always follow the 3-2-1 backup rule.

At least 3 copies of your data in 2 different locations, 1 of which needs to be off-site.

The 3-2-1 backup rule

Again, Nextcloud falls flat on its face here and has absolutely nothing for backing up either locally or off-site. Another big miss. So when running Nextcloud, I had to install yet another application – Duplicati.

Like Plex, Duplicati is an excellent application that works really well. But at this point, I not only had Nextcloud to maintain, but also the OS, Plex and Duplicati. This became a much bigger beast than it needed to be.

Synology on the other hand has a native application – Hyper Backup. I use this to backup all of my important data locally, then I use another native Synology app, Cloud Sync, for my off-site backups to Backblaze B2.

If you want to know more, this post talks about my Synology off-site backups in more detail.

Synology Hyper Backup

Maintenance

At this point Nextcloud had failed in everything I needed of it outside of basic file syncing. If that’s all you need, then Nextcloud is a lot cheaper to setup in terms of money in the bank. But in terms of maintenance and your time, it’s still a lot more expensive than Synology.

You see, even if you decide you only need to run Nextcloud for syncing files and that’s all your server will do, you will still have the operating system to maintain.

If, like me, you decide to run other applications outside of what Nextcloud offers, then you will need to include the maintenance of those apps too. And, let’s not forget here, all it takes is for one of those updates to go wrong and your entire server could be toast (thank goodness for containers!)

I think it’s important to say here, that if you opt for the Nextcloud snap package, maintenance is much reduced as snaps update automatically. This is what I was doing on my Nextcloud server, but I got sick of waiting for the snap package to actually be upgrade by the Nextcloud team.

In my experience, the snap package was very much a second class citizen and it was way behind the other packages. I hope this has improved since I stopped using it.

With Synology, the OS and applications are all managed via the same web interface. So whether you need to install updates for your applications, or the OS, everything is managed from the same place. It’s literally a single button click. Plus, In all the years of using Synology, I’ve never known an update to cause an issue with the system.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for my Nextcloud updates – in the time I was using it, I had my system bork twice due to dodgy updates or dependency issues.

Other issues with Nextcloud

My experience with many of the Nextcloud “apps” is that many of them are shit to be frank.

Nextcloud Talk is a hot mess of slowness. Nextcloud Mail has a tonne of random errors when connecting to a mail server and sending mail. Not to mention it has a horrible user experience.

Nexcloud Contacts and Calendars regularly failed to sync via DAV. Nextcloud News had some weird errors that couldn’t be dismissed and only worked with an official mobile app. Not very open. 🙁

I could go on, but the general consensus with my experience of many of the Nextcloud apps, was that they had been very poorly implemented.

I personally felt that this was indicative of the Nextcloud team trying to run before they could walk – they’re just trying to do too much, too soon.

Conclusion of Synology vs Nextcloud

So for me, when it comes to Synology vs Nextcloud there is no comparison – Synology wins all day long. Nextcloud is a good tool and has a bright future ahead of it (I hope).

You never know, I may even go back to it one day. But for the time being, since I need to do other stuff outside of basic file syncing, it’s the Synology.

I also like the fact that Synology have tonnes of other apps that all work really well, so I can play around with the server. For example, if I want to add a really good mail server to my Synology, it’s just a few clicks away.

Need to take notes? Synology has an app for that. Stream audio? Yep, that’s there. Torrent downloading? Check! DNS server, proxy server, Mattermost type chat application, VPN server, mail server, calendar, contacts even an office suite! It’s all there.

Synology devices are not cheap, but I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for and in this case I think that’s really evident.

Remember, this is just my opinion. If Nextcloud has proven to be a better solution for your needs, please feel free to tell me about it in the comments below.

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Comments

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  1. I’ve used Owncloud (from which Nextcloud forked from) for several years. You are definitely not wrong! It has at times been a real nuisance to just get it installed due to its reliance on older versions of PHP, and I’ve had an entire OS update fail completely due to all the extra dependencies that I had to load to get Owncloud up and running. I now only run it on its own KVM domain on an older version of Fedora that supports the PHP version it uses. I’d like to migrate it over to Nextcloud, but I’m not even sure there is any migration path from Owncloud 10.4. I may have to just export what I can, install Nextcloud fresh, and import.

    Even after I do so, it sounds like I’ll still suffer some of the same problems that I’ve always had with Owncloud. Your point about the mobile apps being terrible is exactly my experience. I’ve got some spare time now due to the human malware going around, so perhaps I’ll download the source of the Android app and try to figure out why it doesn’t do updates without manual prompting. That is incredibly annoying, as you pointed out.

    So why am I still using it instead of switching to an off the shelf product like Synology? I’ve drooled over the Synology products for many years and have never bought one, and I think the reason is mostly that I just like tinkering. As frustrating as it can be, I also have fun setting up my own RAID server and configuring all the daemons.

    Another reason is the sense of full control I have about how my system is configured and how I’ll recover my data. Beyond having multiple backups (3-2-1, as you say) I also know that my RAID server is completely generic as I’m using mdadm software RAID. Even if my server dies I know I can just build another one with spare parts I have lying around and be back up and running very quickly as long as three of the four drives are good. And this is particularly important for me as I live in South America where getting specialized products like Synology servers can be difficult, time consuming, and extra expensive.

    So I hope this answers why at least one person is using Owncloud (Nextcloud) instead of Synology, even though Synology is clearly the superior product.

  2. I agree with you, Kev. Depending on what you use, they do have similarities for comparison. I have synology running for 8 years (212j) and spended 2 years on nextcloud in parallel. My nextcloud ride on LizardFS, a distributed storage. For sync on Linux and PC, both works great. On mobile, it’s pointless to me to sync working files that I can’t work on a mobile. In terms of time, I spent 10 times more on the Linux backend than synology, that’s just a few clicks to add an app as VM or docker. In terms of cost, you still need hardware to run the nextcloud and I believe most setup will consume more electricity cost than the Synology ARM hardware. If you need to sync, it’ll be 7×24 and the energy cost will be relevant. However, I did gain some skill on building the farm of nextcloud with Linux, ngix, letsencrypt, lizardfs, proxmox…

    1. Thanks Yip, nice to hear that some have had a similar experience to me. 😊

  3. Hey, thanks for your post but it’s probably not a good idea to use “lynching” to describe what you’re worried about. I know what context you’re trying to use it in, but casually bringing up racial violence diminishes a fear that is still very real today. It would be a small change that would help a lot. Thanks.

    1. Hey Mike. That’s a really good point, thanks for pointing that out. I’ve updated the post.

  4. How to lose your time writing a selfish long review comparing apple and orange.
    Next time instead losing your time on this task use it to educate yourself.
    Embracing.

    1. 🤣🤣 and then you go and waste more of your time by writing a comment! Nice job. 👍

  5. This is irrelevant comparison because synology is NAS technology and NextCloud is simple cloud storage server. If you want make a comparison then make it with freenas.

  6. Synology Cloud needs a major overhaul, it’s inability to sync different folders on Android SD card storage is a real PITA. on some devices it’s ok on others it doesn’t work and Synology can’t seem to fix it

    1. If it works on some devices and not others, I would say that’s indicative of a problem with Android and it’s fractured nature, rather than Synology Cloud?

  7. Thanks for the user’s experience sharing. Learning a lot from the comments. I am new user to Nextcloud, exporing the Synology to be integrated soon . To my opinion, open source offers the community an alternative without being bond by a license or monopolised by big corporates. It is fair to get our hands dirty by contributing the efforts to a world of distributed cloud storage option instead of being governed by a few big global corporates like Google, Microsoft or Alibaba.

  8. @kev Tangential, but relevant: I used to have Cloud Sync do off-site backups to Backblaze. The problem was that for some reason or another, Cloud Sync would stop working and there was no way for it to notify me of failures. So I would go for months with no backups before discovering the problem.I solved the backup monitoring problem by using a Raspberry Pi, because I couldn’t find any option that would work on the Synology device itself. So now I have to manage another Linux box anyway :/

  9. Regarding automatic upload in Android with Nextcloud, try the following:
    – open the recent apps
    – hold on the nextcloud app thumbnail or look for the lock symbol
    – press the lock symbol and lock the app

    By that the nextcloud app is never killed if it’s running in the background and should fire after new photos have been taken. But I’m not sure about already existing photos. My last test had the problem that it only syncs new photos.

  10. Great article, Kev. I’m sure that Nextcloud has it’s uses, and supporting Open Source software is awesome. However, in real life, pragmatism often wins. Which is why many of us are still using AMD or Intel CPUs.

    My big requirement is ease of setup and maintenance. I simply don’t have the time to be mucking with a server that houses everything I hold (digitally) dear. I want it to work, and back up things. I don’t need to fiddle with it.

  11. @kev I installed Nextcloud snap package on my old laptop. I use it for for photos and files sync as well as sharing large files with friends and collaborative work on documents. I used OneDrive for this before and Nextcloud can do it all well too. I have never had any problems with the Nextcloud mobile app. In general, I’m very happy with Nextcloud.IMO Nextcloud needs:- Better backup solution (backing up the snap package using borg is a bit clumsy)- Better photos web app- polish

  12. Synology is an operating system. Nextcloud is a web frontend for file management. Backups happen at the OS or filesystem level.

    My nextcloud instance is running in docker, using shared storage from my freenas, with items being backed up to backblaze.

    I read some of your arguments, but this is a strange comparison.

  13. So many people have told you why it’s not a good comparison and you just ignore them… That should at the very least tell you something. Synology is an all-in-one device, hardware and software NAS. Nextcloud is just some of the software portion of what a Synology does.

  14. @GreyLinux thanks man, appreciate it. I’d love it if there was a decent RSS feed reader fro Synology. That’s one thing that’s really missing in their offering. I’m happy with FreshRSS, but having my feeds in my “cloud” was useful.

    1. I’m running Tiny Tiny RSS server in a light Linux VM on my Synology 918+. Been solid now for years. I also run a Minecraft server in a Docker container. This all in addition to the other tasks I mentioned.

  15. This is not a fair comparison at all. Synology is a NAS Operating System. Nextcloud is like dropbox, tell me can dropbox be used as a media server? Nope
    If you want it to be fair, then do Synology vs freenas or even better Synology vs Unraid.
    Look up Unraid to see all you can do

    1. People keep saying that Nextcloud is a 1:1 replacement for Dropbox.

      Tell me, can you manage mail, contacts, calendars, passwords, GPX routes and a whole lot more in Dropbox?

      Nope. That’s because Nextcloud is somewhere in the middle of Dropbox and Synology. Nextcloud market themselves as your personal cloud. I want my personal cloud to stream media. Therefore, I think it’s a fair comparison.

  16. @kev before trying to add hundreds of half baked apps . My need meet your own media streaming , backups and files storage . Although I will say I’m trying to set up a light weight caldav calendar sync server on the NAS using Radicale . But otherwise that is it I don’t need online document editing and news app for feeds just simple and stable file storage plus a couple of extras . Don’t get me wrong I know I can disable all this but why should it be on to start with, it should be base file sync

  17. @kev I agree with you Kev , I’ve very recently started using openmediavault and so far I am loving it . I found that after using Nextcloud for 4+ years I thought it would have improved the android side of things massively . Sync just doesn’t work properly unless you open the app and sometimes, I would have to open and close it a few times to fully sync all my files . I think you hit the nail on the head they are trying to run before that can walk . Getting file sync perfect first …..

  18. @kevI use both a Synology NAS and NextCloud on a RPi 4 and I agree with your summation. However, I use them for very different purposes. Synology is raw storage and media streaming (Emby rocks!), whilst NextCloud is running my tasks, kanban project management and RSS news feeds. Using NextCloud, I was able to stop paying for Feedly, Todoist and Trello.

  19. I have the same requirements as you have. Backups, Plex, Syncing.

    I DID try FreeNAS before I got my first Synology, and has to use my considerable Linux expertise to constantly babysit it. I did not want that.

    I’ve been running Synology now for 8 years. DS 212, 214play, 918+. My backups are just like yours, except I keep some versioned ones as well if certain folders.

    But what Synology does truly well, is their solid client software. I used Linux, OS X, windows and Android. All clients work really well. For all three users in our family.

    Oh, although Moments Syncing works well, both Moments and Photos are a mess. I really hope they release the new consolidated photos app soon!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Marius. I completely agree on all counts. Moments and photos needs some serious love, but it works ok for the most part.

      Not having to babysit the server is biggest win for me – my time is precious, and I don’t want to waste it in a Linux terminal when I could be enjoying time with my family. 😊

  20. @hund I don’t know. A lot of people compare the two as they’re obvious choices for a home server.Nextcloud is much more than a simple file syncing tool. It’s a whole platform too at this point, albeit a poorly implemented one in my opinion.I don’t agree that platforms should be boycotted just because of their business model. Synology provide a really good platform that’s worthy of the investment, I think.

  21. @kev Synaptics devices has short lifespans (“the goal” is up to 5 years) and it’s not open source. Those are to deal breakers that should be enough to boycott them.Also. You’re comparing a complete NAS that comes with a whole operating system, that features a set of tools and a whole package tree with multiple features with one very nishe software that does one thing; syncing and sharing files and data across devices.It’s like comparing a construction company with a hammer.

  22. So basically what your saying is that you wanted a cheaper solution for your home NAS, did one Google search and ended up with Nextcloud.

    Nextcloud (and similar products) are meant as a private replacement for Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive etc. . They are NOT developed as home NAS software, for this you’d need something like OpenMediaVault, FreeNAS etc. .

    As another commenter mentioned the two are completely incomparable. One is a completely integrated product with an operating system maintained by Synology and the other is a piece of software you can install on your own Linux/Windows/FreeBSD install.

    1. Nope that’s not even close to what I’m saying. Nice try though. 👍

      I went to Nextcloud because I had heard good things about it and I thought it would be a fun project. It was at first, but Nextcloud is a pain, so I bought another Synology.

      If Nextcloud is a replacement for Dropbox et al and not “developed as home NAS software” why do they have Nextcloud Talk, or Mail, or Contacts, or Calendar, multiple password managers, or a bloody GPX editor?

      They’re a very poor jack of all trades and most definitely a master of none.

  23. If you’re using synology, backup. That’s all I can say. We’ve used multiple, their raid is not stable. Never had a problem with others.

    1. Yeah, I am using their backup application and it works great. That’s all I can say.

      I’ve always used RAID on my Synology devices and never had a problem.

  24. Seriously, Synology vs Nextcloud. That’s comparing apples….to well…bananas. Because it’s bananas. They’re two completely different types of systems. Nextcloud is like Google Drive and office (Google Docs, sheets, etc.). Synolgy is a NAS system. NextCloud and media server. Doubtful for years to come. I help develop NextCloud. You should be doing a comparison of something like Synology and….I don’t know OpenMediaVault….or FreeNAS. That makes more sense.

    1. I disagree. Synology has file syncing and an office application, like G Docs…and a whole lot more. Nextcloud tries to do the same, only badly (with the exception of file syncing). That’s an appropriate comparison, I think.

      You’re right about one thing though. There is no comparing the two. It’s more akin to comparing a modern desktop and a Commodore 64.

      The latter is interesting to play with, but to get real work done, I need my modern desktop.

  25. I am very sorry about your bad experience. For me, Nextcloud has been working well. However, my use case is different:
    * I rarely access files through it (I use SSHFS for that, though I have SMB for other devices if need be – WebDAV is useless as nearly nothing can access that). For backups I use something else, though I do let it sync my phone’s photos, purely for easy sharing.
    * Collaborative document editing. This is an edge case purely out of laziness. Google Docs works as well if not better. Just too lazy to upload.
    * CalDAV and CardDAV is what I use extensively, complete with calendar sharing between users. No issues so far, syncing between Thunderbird (via TBsync), Outlook, Webmail, Android (DAVx3) and iPhone.

    What I never used and why:
    Talk: I fail to see why it exists. Tried it, it’s just a hassle to use.
    Mail: Frankly there are plenty of tolerable webmail clients. Nextclouds is useless crap. Then again I am not a fan of webmail anyway (big understatement).

    I do agree that Nextcloud is trying to do too much. CardDAV, CalDAV, file services – and properly sharing those – should be the focus. For everything else there are better solutions. For backups I use a dedicated backup solution. For media sharing (Video and audio) I use a proper media sharing solution. For proper photo galleries I use a proper photo gallery solution. “Do ONE thing, and do it well”.

    P.s.: I did at one point use Synology for work, but it suffered from the same issue: Trying to be everything, and failing at it – I regretted the money spent and when it failed after a few years I didn’t get a new one.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jenni. Accessing files via SSH is an interesting use case. I suppose between SSHFS and SMB, you have all your bases covered. 🙂

  26. @kev I occasionally use my friend’s NextCloud (which he likes quite a bit) and had the same experience as you, to say nothing of the file transfer problems I encountered. It took several tries for me to upload a 20GB file and we had to split a 5GB file into 500MB chunks just so I could download it.I think I mentioned the same conclusion to my friend: they need to focus on getting good at their core feature set and work on the other stuff later.

    1. The thing is: nextcloud requires a whole lot more administration than a NAS from synology.
      You need to have your apache/nginx configured properly (mem cache, memory limit, upload limit etc) as well as your database.
      Nextcloud says it’s a personal cloud because you host it, not Google or any other company.
      I think you misinterpreted what they are trying to say by personal. Nextcloud was never meant to stream media – and backing up via app on Android works just fine if you turn off the power saving for that app on your Android.
      Apart from that: if you have no idea or close to no idea on how to secure and/or administer a web server, do not use nextcloud. If you don’t know what you are doing, things can get ugly very quick.
      Synology NAS is not a cloud, it is a network attached storage. There is quite a difference.
      Depending on what you want, what you need it for, synology is the way to go – or nextcloud. In your case, I would have suggested to use the syno from the beginning on.
      Nextcloud is a lot more than just storage… Groupware, calendar, heck you can even include you email client or have video calls within nextcloud.

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