Why are NAS so Expensive?

Monster900

Active Member
I usually frequent the satellite TV forum on this site and this is my first post in this forum. There do seem to be a lot of knowledgeable people here giving sound advice and information which is good to see because I'm a bit of a novice with networking.

I have had, for many years, a Zyxel NSA310 NAS which has proved a slow but reliable workhorse as both a NAS and media server. My wife and I have been using this to store more and more data which is important to us so that it can be accessed from PCs dotted around the house. As a result of this I have been getting slightly worried that a single disk NAS is not a very secure way to store such data and so I resolved to move to a two bay NAS with RAID 1 redundancy and also to move to a NAS / media server which could do transcoding if necessary.

I started out by looking at products from Synology and QNAP and was shocked to see prices of around £230-£400 for what, in PC terms, would be pretty basic hardware. A few years ago I built a quad core, low power, small form factor, Windows 10 Pro PC based on the AM1 platform with an AMD 5350 quad core, 2 GHz processor and small SSD. It cost £205 pounds to build using all new parts. The slight cheat here is that I did have a Windows 10 Pro licence spare. I reckon I could build a similarly specced machine for much the same money today but I may have to use a Linux based OS to stay within budget (as Synology and QNAP do) . The equivalent hardware spec. NAS from Synology or QNAP would be ~£400.

I have now removed the 4TB WD Red drive from the Zyxel and installed it in the PC, added another 4TB drive and mirrored them in Win 10, copied the data back onto the mirrored drives, set up the appropriate shared folders, and enabled Windows 10 DLNA function. It now seems to operate exactly as a NAS / media server should and functionally mimics the Zyxel only much faster. As I understand it, if I need a more sophisticated media server function I can add Plex, Universal Media Server or Kodi, but I don't know much about this. The upside is I can still use this as a PC to surf the internet, pick up email, stream TV, play music etc. as well as it functioning as a NAS/media server on the network. The only problem that I can see is that Windows 10 isn't a particularly stable platform, with Microsoft making a concerted effort to break it every six months or so with their 'features' updates.

So am I missing something here? What is it that makes QNAP and Synology NAS/media servers worth nearly twice as much as the equivalent PC?
 

Jester1066

Active Member
I usually frequent the satellite TV forum on this site and this is my first post in this forum. There do seem to be a lot of knowledgeable people here giving sound advice and information which is good to see because I'm a bit of a novice with networking.

I have had, for many years, a Zyxel NSA310 NAS which has proved a slow but reliable workhorse as both a NAS and media server. My wife and I have been using this to store more and more data which is important to us so that it can be accessed from PCs dotted around the house. As a result of this I have been getting slightly worried that a single disk NAS is not a very secure way to store such data and so I resolved to move to a two bay NAS with RAID 1 redundancy and also to move to a NAS / media server which could do transcoding if necessary.

I started out by looking at products from Synology and QNAP and was shocked to see prices of around £230-£400 for what, in PC terms, would be pretty basic hardware. A few years ago I built a quad core, low power, small form factor, Windows 10 Pro PC based on the AM1 platform with an AMD 5350 quad core, 2 GHz processor and small SSD. It cost £205 pounds to build using all new parts. The slight cheat here is that I did have a Windows 10 Pro licence spare. I reckon I could build a similarly specced machine for much the same money today but I may have to use a Linux based OS to stay within budget (as Synology and QNAP do) . The equivalent hardware spec. NAS from Synology or QNAP would be ~£400.

I have now removed the 4TB WD Red drive from the Zyxel and installed it in the PC, added another 4TB drive and mirrored them in Win 10, copied the data back onto the mirrored drives, set up the appropriate shared folders, and enabled Windows 10 DLNA function. It now seems to operate exactly as a NAS / media server should and functionally mimics the Zyxel only much faster. As I understand it, if I need a more sophisticated media server function I can add Plex, Universal Media Server or Kodi, but I don't know much about this. The upside is I can still use this as a PC to surf the internet, pick up email, stream TV, play music etc. as well as it functioning as a NAS/media server on the network. The only problem that I can see is that Windows 10 isn't a particularly stable platform, with Microsoft making a concerted effort to break it every six months or so with their 'features' updates.

So am I missing something here? What is it that makes QNAP and Synology NAS/media servers worth nearly twice as much as the equivalent PC?
I have pondered this very question myself. The only logical reason I can see for the price difference is that proprietary brands such as QNAP etc, require minimal setup and configuration by the end user - (OS is usually pre-installed etc).

These NAS's are aimed at those that want a simple plug n play, streaming/storage device, with the added functionality of being able to replace/upgrade hard disks etc, Which you don't get with a sealed unit such as the Western Digital My Cloud and the like.

Consumers have always been 'happy' to pay a certain premium for convenience - think ready meals, fast food etc. Like you though, I'm not sure it's worth paying nearly double!

With regards to the stability of windows as a base for your NAS solution, you could consider running a duel boot system - using a linux OS for NAS duties. Then only booting to Windows for surfing, emails etc?
 

Monster900

Active Member
I have pondered this very question myself. The only logical reason I can see for the price difference is that proprietary brands such as QNAP etc, require minimal setup and configuration by the end user - (OS is usually pre-installed etc).

These NAS's are aimed at those that want a simple plug n play, streaming/storage device, with the added functionality of being able to replace/upgrade hard disks etc, Which you don't get with a sealed unit such as the Western Digital My Cloud and the like.

Consumers have always been 'happy' to pay a certain premium for convenience - think ready meals, fast food etc. Like you though, I'm not sure it's worth paying nearly double!

With regards to the stability of windows as a base for your NAS solution, you could consider running a duel boot system - using a linux OS for NAS duties. Then only booting to Windows for surfing, emails etc?
Thanks for the quick reply. I'm glad you agree it is a bit of a puzzle too and, as you say, people do seem to be willing to pay a high price for convenience.

I have been thinking about a dual boot with a Linux OS, and I may get round to it one day. For now, the benefit doesn't seem worth the effort as it all seems to work, as is, with little extra work being involved compared to what I would have to do if I had bought a proprietary NAS, because I already had the Windows 10 PC already built.

I have mitigated, to some degree, the 'features' update problem in the update settings by delaying features updates for 365 days.
 

Sloppy Bob

Distinguished Member
A lot of these devices are aimed at SOHO type buyers.

They're not IT experts and don't want to spend time messing about with Linux and working out why it's not doing what they want.
The software is a large part of what you're paying for, and the support and warranty you won't get self-building.
 

bubblegum57

Well-known Member
Another reason for the high cost, is, that generally a NAS is on 24/7, it's low powered & has a small footprint.

You can install plex onto windows or a version of Linux, but leaving it on, could be expensive in the long run.

In my opinion, if you just want to play movies from a usb drive at home, Kodi, is best.

If you want to play movies away from home, Plex is best.
 
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Monster900

Active Member
Another reason for the high cost, is, that generally a NAS is on 24/7, it's low powered & has a small footprint.

You can install plex onto windows or a version of Linux, but leaving it on, could be expensive in the long run.

In my opinion, if you just want to play movies from a usb drive at home, Kodi, is best.

If you want to play movies away from home, Plex is best.
I agree with the 'small footprint' comment. The PC I'm using, despite the mini-itx platform and cube style case, is twice the size of the equivalent proprietary NAS.

In terms of low power, I think I have largely achieved that by the choice of m-itx motherboard, processor and PSU. I will have to measure sometime.

Thanks for the advice re: media server software. I will be mostly playing media at home off the the PC / NAS. So far, the Samsung TV and other media players seem to be able to find and play videos and music straight off the shared drive with no additional software installed. The folder and file structure doesn't seem to work quite right for some players, including the TV, but everything is viewable and playable if you know where look.

Thanks again to all for the thought and input.
 
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There's a bit of economies of scale there, surely.

PCs, even mini ITX systems have much broader applications. A NAS box is really an enthusiast device with not much use. It's too basic to use for business/commercial use and it's too specialist to use as a normal PC. Everything is proprietory for a single use, a network attach storage for the home user. The board and CPU is built like a server (uses ECC ram), the cpu and board components, the case have to be optimised to run 24/7.

Because of lower demand, it needs to be produced in lower volumens and that put the price up a bit.
 

TheBlueRaja

Active Member
You can use some old PC hardware and something like FreeNAS software and do it yourself.

Lots do, but, I like the low power usage of a proper nas.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
A NAS box is really an enthusiast device with not much use. It's too basic to use for business/commercial use and it's too specialist to use as a normal PC. Everything is proprietory for a single use, a network attach storage for the home user. The board and CPU is built like a server (uses ECC ram), the cpu and board components, the case have to be optimised to run 24/7.
Not really. I know and have installed NAS in plenty of small businesses. I am sorry your information is just plain incorrect. Many small businesses don’t want the expense or hassle of running a Windows server, nor do they trust their information to the cloud. A NAS is a perfect platform in this type of environment.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
For all of the facilities that a NAS potentially provides the cost is cheap.

If we break the costs down (retail prices) A genuine copy of Windows 10 pro is £219 or if you want true server functionality with various levels of access then Microsoft Windows Server 2019 Standard £480

HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Opteron X3421 2.1 GHz 8GB No HDD Tower Server - £500 (inc)
Windows 10 Pro - £219

So lets call it £720 for a 4 bay mini server - No HDDs (No true server functionality)

So for the same money you could buy

Synology DS918+ 4 Bay Desktop NAS Enclosure - £520 - No HDDs
Synology DS1019+ 5 Bay Desktop NAS Enclosure - £759 - No HDDs

So in real terms of out of the box a Synology NAS is no more expensive than an equivalent Wintel solution and is far easier for the average user to set-up and maintain. Both will act as a basic File Server. The NAS will offer much more in terms of built in features, Antivirus Server, Mail Server, Out of the box web server, radius server, print server etc etc. The Synology in its standard configuration offers far more security than a standard Win10 box, to get equivalent levels of security you would need to add another £260 to upgrade to windows Server.

So in real terms, a NAS is actually more cost effective and that is without adding support costs which would seriously bump the TCO of the Wintel solution.
 

jouster

Moderator
Remember you can buy a two bay NAS far cheaper. If 4TB is enough for you then a 2 drive NA should be fine.
 

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