If you want to synchronize files between several computers and mobile devices, the well-known cloud services from Microsoft or Google are the obvious choices. For local networks, Synology Drive is an efficient solution that runs directly on the popular NAS from this manufacturer.

If you use several PCs, such as desktops, notebooks, or Macs, then you might want to keep all documents and pictures in sync everywhere. This also applies to additional mobile devices.

Public or private cloud ^

Well-known cloud services, such as OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox, are often used for this purpose. However, if you prefer to keep your data on your own network, you can use private cloud solutions such as OwnCloud or NextCloud instead.

If you own a NAS from Synology, you can do more with it than just use it as a network drive. In fact, there are a variety of applications for these systems. One of them is Synology Drive, which can synchronize files for individual users or even for teams and create backups of connected devices.

Installing Synology Drive ^

After opening the DSM web interface, the service can easily be added to the NAS via the package manager. There, you enter the corresponding search term and click the Install button for the Drive Server.

Installing Synology Drive Server via DSMs package center

Installing Synology Drive Server via DSMs package center

The process runs largely without user intervention; dependencies, such as node.js, are also added automatically.

After successful installation, you will find the icons for the Synology Drive Admin Console and Synology Drive under the apps. The latter launches a web interface for accessing synchronized folders on the storage system. Synology Drive ShareSync is not of interest in our context because it is used for synchronization between multiple NASs.

Installing Synology Drive adds icons for the admin console and the web based file manager

Installing Synology Drive adds icons for the admin console and the web based file manager

Now, you run the admin console. Immediately after launching, this offers to download clients for the various supported systems. There are versions for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. You can also download them later via the Download Center, if you find the programs there.

From the Admin Console you can immediately download the required clients

From the Admin Console you can immediately download the required clients

The next step is to navigate to the Team Folder section in the Admin Console. There, select a shared directory to be used for synchronization. If the desired share does not yet exist, you can set it up via the DSM control panel under Shared Folder.

The name Team Folder is not quite correct because you can also set up the synchronization of the directories Documents, Pictures, Videos, etc. for individual users. This is done via the My Drive entry, while all other shares are meant for teams. For the latter, you have to make sure that the intended users have all the necessary permissions.

The My Drive entry is used to synchronize the directories of a single user

The My Drive entry is used to synchronize the directories of a single user

In our example, we'll look at syncing files from a user's profile. By default, My Drive is disabled, so you need to enable that option first. A message appears here instructing you to activate the User Home service.

Prompt to activate the user home service

Prompt to activate the user home service

Click Yes to confirm this. You are then taken to the appropriate location in the Control Panel, where you can activate the service at the bottom of the page. It also makes sense to enable the Recycle Bin to recover deleted files on the NAS.

Enable user home service

Enable user home service

Then, you return to the admin console to configure versioning. It ultimately determines how many old versions of the files can be restored and for how long.

Version control settings

Version control settings

Setting up clients ^

On the server side, the installation is now complete. Now, you need to install the client software on all the devices involved. This is very simple and requires no further explanation.

Then, you start the program and log on to the NAS in the first step. In the following dialog box, select Sync Task as the task type.

Choosing between synchronization and backup

Choosing between synchronization and backup

The next screen shows the configuration of the folders to synchronize. You can also create separate tasks for several folders if you want to use different settings for them.

Configure synchronization for a folder

Configure synchronization for a folder

For a simple configuration, select only the folders on the client and the NAS. Here, you will usually not want synchronization to occur locally in the SynologyDrive subdirectory. In this case, you have to deactivate the corresponding option.

In addition, you have the option to disable Enable On-demand Sync. This feature ensures that files are only downloaded to the client when they are needed. If you deactivate it, all files are always completely synchronized.

It is also worth taking a look at the advanced settings. In the Folders section, you can deselect certain subdirectories. On the File Filter tab, you can also exclude certain file types. These might be large files that change frequently, such as virtual drives.

The options under Sync Mode are important. There, you can determine whether the synchronization should take place in one or both directions. In addition, Enable On-demand Sync can also be deactivated if required.

Starting sync ^

After completing the wizard, Synology Drive automatically starts synchronization. As long as only one client is connected, it will only synchronize with the NAS. If other end devices are added, they will exchange files with each other.

It is not a problem if the user is logged in to the devices under different accounts (e.g., local and domain). The decisive factor is that they always log in to the Synology Drive client under the same name.

Conclusion ^

If you want to synchronize files among multiple devices and are considering a private cloud for this purpose, then you should definitely take a look at Synology Drive if you own a NAS from this company. This way, you can avoid setting up your own server for this purpose.

The program is easy to set up, although the documentation is not particularly helpful. Synchronization is practically real time and supports the most common operating systems, including those for mobile devices.

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Besides synchronizing a user's files among multiple devices, you can also use the tool to share documents between members of a project group.

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