Synology NAS units are fantastic pieces of kit for storing all your precious files and backups. But they can do so much more than store data. They're perfect devices to run as low power consuming and easy to maintain home servers that can run all manner of server applications. Not only are there dozens of software packages available from Synology directly, there are dozens more third party packages - each well supported - that make your humble little NAS incredibly powerful.
Synology packages can be added via the web interface's Package Centre. You can also add third-party packages by following the simple instructions on the SynoCommunity website.
Here’s five of my favourite Synology packages:
An off-site backup is a crucial part of your backup strategy. Just dumping files onto the NAS isn't enough. What if your home burns down, is flooded, or some grub decides to nick your NAS? Amazon's Glacier is a cheap place to stash all your files. Install the package, point it at the folders on your NAS you want sent to Amazon Glacier and away you go. When you need to restore a backup, that's also easy to do via the app interface. No need to go digging around Amazon's admin pages. The Glacier package is officially supported by Synology too.
Plex Media Server
No doubt you've heard of Plex already, but if you're one of the few who haven't heard about this wonderful HTPC package, read some of our previous articles. Having Plex run directly on your NAS means you've got loads of storage to go around for your entire collection. It also means anyone can watch what they like without having to turn a computer on - very handy. Plan ahead though, as some of the lower power NAS units (particularly the ARM-based ones) will struggle with transcoding. If you plan on playing a lot of media your Plex clients can't handle, get one of the beefier Intel-based NAS units from Synology.
Plug a USB TV tuner into your NAS and Tvheadend will stream and record live free to air TV anywhere you want. Got multiple people in your home who want to watch TV at the same time? Just get more TV tuners and Tvheadend will stream to multiple devices at once, even if they're watching different channels. Utilise one of the many Tvheadend client apps on your smartphone or tablet to watch free-to-air TV anywhere you like, even away from home.
Deluge is a very flexible BitTorrent client, that runs right on your NAS, so there's no need to have a PC running and then copy the files across to the NAS. Having Deluge run on your NAS instead of the PC also means you can seed torrents all the time, not just when your PC is turned on. There's also smartphone apps that let you connect to your Deluge server, so that you can control your torrents anytime, anywhere.
If you're a nerd who's into the Internet of Things, Home Assistant is probably a name familiar to you. It's a home automation platform that can act as a one-stop shop for all the connected things in your home. Control lighting, garage doors, thermostats, view temps for all the sensors in your house, and any other Internet of Things thing you have. If Home Assistant doesn't do it for ya, there's also Domoticz, which may have support for gear Home Assistant doesn't.