Synology Drive vs Cloud Station

Synology

Graphic showing devices connected to the cloudSynology Drive is one of Synology’s newest packages for DiskStation Manager (DSM). While it doesn’t match the features of Cloud Station it does physically replace it, at least on the DiskStation itself. There are significant differences between Drive and CloudStation. Whether the changes with Drive are good or depends on your needs, but there are a few differences that aren’t readily apparent until you have made the switch.

Once the DiskStation is upgraded to Drive there’s no going back to Cloud Station. (At least not in a way supported by Synology and that will keep all data and settings.)

When you install Drive on your Synology NAS it will replace Cloud Station on the NAS. All settings will be migrated from Cloud Station to Drive except for shared links which will not be migrated. The directory name is changed to “Drive.” The name change applies to the default Cloud Station folder in the home directories.

My Cloud Station to Drive Upgrades

For me, the server settings migration was flawless over several tests and for several production DiskStations. As already mentioned, no downgrade is supported.

PC and Mac clients are automatically notified that an upgrade is available through an icon in the menu bar. None of my clients upgraded automatically, although this may be due to my security settings as Synology documentation says the upgrade is automatic. Even when the update was triggered by me, the results have been mixed.

In cases where I set up a test environment and did the upgrade, without actually using Cloud Station over time, things went well. But then it was downhill. No major issues, just some things to be prepared for and allow time to straighten things out.

I’ll also point out that I didn’t do any of the upgrades (including on the NAS) until I was sure all the clients had a chance to update. I would recommend this as much as possible although it may be difficult in many cases. In my case, it was worth the effort since I wanted to eliminate discrepancies as a source of any problems.

I only updated one Windows PC (other than my testing). All my settings were migrated, but it did trigger a full sync which took some time since I don’t exclude many directories from sync. I also found that I should have waited before continuing to my next computer which also triggered a sync. I ended up with a considerable number of sync conflicts. As I previously mentioned, I knew all my files were in sync when I began so it was easy enough to delete any file with “_conflict” in the name without worrying about which was the most recent file.

At this point, I upgraded my remaining devices one at a time and waited for the sync (if one started) to end before moving on.

My first Mac OS High Sierra update failed. The upgrade wizard error out during the upgrade. When I ran the installation a second time, it ran the new install wizard, and I had to pick the settings I wanted manually. I used the new default “Drive” as the directory name and moved all the files from Cloud Station into it. In retrospect, I should have kept the old directory, which is what would have been done if the upgrade had worked. In this case, a full sync was also triggered.

The Drive upgrade on my second Mac OS Hight Sierra PC went as expected once I kicked it off manually. I breathed a sigh of relief at this since this computer a lot of Hazel scripts that move files around in these directories. I didn’t have to change any scripts. It did kick off a sync, at least based on the notifications, although few if any files were actually copied.

While Drive and Cloud Station clients cannot coexist on a PC, then do just fine together on Android or iOS. This is a good thing since there are significant differences in their capabilities. Personally, I’ve been using Cloud Station more than drive on my phones and iPad.

Major Differences & Drive Drawbacks

Some of the significant differences and drawbacks are:

  • Synology Drive mobile apps do not sync files locally to the mobile device. To access your data using Drive on Android or iOS you must have a connection back to the Synology NAS. It will open the file directly from the NAS. (Windows and Mac Drive clients still sync files.)
  • If you use Synology Office and want to run the latest version, you’ll need to upgrade to Drive. Mobile devices have very limited support for Synology Office files. Synology Drive can view the files but can’t edit or create them. To view them on mobile you do need a connection back to the Synology NAS, just like any other file in Drive.
  • Synology Drive does provide a web interface which some people may find useful. It’s also how you create, edit and manage Synology Office documents.

Summary

Synology Drive looks and feels more modern than Synology Cloud Station, but in many respects, it’s a step back. On the NAS and PCs, it continues to function as well as Cloud Station without any loss of functionality. It completely falls apart on the mobile device.

I still use Cloud Station everywhere mobile. Even with a connection back to my NAS, I don’t want to waste mobile data opening files. At least with Cloud Station, I can sync them when I’m local to the NAS and access remotely. While WiFi is more ubiquitous these days, I don’t want to have to count on it. So for me, it’s still Could Station on Android and iOS, although I still have Drive installed so I can try it out even now and then.

Synology Office is now part of Drive which does make things simpler. However, Office still lacks too many features for me even to consider using it regularly. If I’m forced to say something nice about it I’d say it’s now a lot less buggy. The lack of mobile support (view-only does not equal mobile support for me) is a show stopper for me no matter how good the app itself becomes. On the other hand, view-only is precisely what some people need. If the limited feature set works for you, then Synology Office isn’t a bad choice. It used to be that the bugs kept me away even when it met my needs. Even so, I’m not going to split my documents between two office suites.

7 comments… add one
  • David

    You talk about updating several production Diskstations. Did you have cloud station server and cloud station client running on different Diskstations so that the Diskstations were creating mirror copies of folders? I have not upgraded from Cloudstation to Drive because my understanding is that replication between Diskstations at different sites is no longer part of Drive. What was your experience?

    • Ray

      Hi David,
      I don’t have Cloud Station syncing between two NAS’s, they have independent files. These were all different NAS’s. But, CloudStation ShareSync is a separate package an will work with Drive (with limitations). According to Synology (here) there is some compatibility. In short, it will work if you don’t care about using Synology Office. That said, I wouldn’t upgrade if I relied on ShareSync. Who knows what future Drive updates will do?

      Thanks, Ray

  • Eric

    Hi,

    Thanks for the detailed article.
    I use cloudstation sync for a big file structure synchronisation for long time now. The service works well, keeping aside some deleted folders that re-appear sometimes.

    BTW, the migration to Drive was a nightmare !
    It’s a shame that Synology doesn’t describe a migration process, in order to go backward, if necessary.

    Migrating, I’ve loose all versions of the files, all synced clients connections. I’ve downgraded manually, which was a pain !
    Now I need to be very careful, while upgrading apps, since Drive is Synology’s go-to application.

    Can you please explain :
    “Once the DiskStation is upgraded to Drive there’s no going back to Cloud Station. (At least not in a way supported by Synology and that will keep all data and settings.)”

    What other way do you use ? Thanks by advance,

    • Ray

      Hi Eric,

      Sorry to hear about your issues. Like you said, Drive is Synology’s go to application so i’ve Been trying to live with it myself, but don’t recommend it to anyone already using CloudStation. Unfortunately that means no Moments or Office so it can be a hard choice.

      What I meant was that I have no way other than a fresh start with CloudStation after removing Drive.

  • Scott Fulrath

    New user…I installed DRIVE (before reading docs) then tried to install CloudStation, it said it conflicts with DRIVE and to uninstall DRIVE first…I can’t for the life of me find the uninstall for drive, can anyone tell me how to do this?

    • Ray

      Hi Scott,

      Go into package center, locate Drive under installed and double click it. Then click on the Action button. Select “uninstall” from the drop down menu.

      Ray

  • Hi Ray,
    Thanks for a very useful article! I’ve just upgraded my DS216+ to a DS418j and am a bit overwhelmed by all the new software. The difference between Drive and Cloud Station was especially confusing. I’ve decided to stick with Cloud Station after reading your text.
    Regards,
    Phil

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