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Synology Surveillance Station in 2021: (Still) the Best DIY Security Cam System

If you have a Synology NAS server, you probably know that there are so many things you can do with it, besides the host for backups and file sharing.

One of those things is the ability to build your own surveillance system via the Synology Surveillance Station app.

In my opinion, this feature is so valuable and fun that it alone can be the reason you want to get a Synology NAS in the first place.

This post will explain what Surveillance Station is and how you can make use of it. Before continuing, though, check out my take on Synology NAS servers first to get an overall idea of working with a server, including accessing its web user interface.

Dong’s note: I first published this review on May 20, 2019, with Surveillance Station running under DSM 6.2, and last updated it on October 21, 2021, to add more information under DSM 7.

Synology DSD1621 NAS 1
Among other things, a Synology NAS server makes an excellent host for an advanced surveillance system via the Synology Surveillance Station add-on app.

Synology Surveillance Station's Rating

9 out of 10
Synology Surveillance Station Live View
Design and Setup


Lots of recording features and settings

Supporting thousands of IP cameras on the market

Highly customizable

Excellent interface and remote management


Only two camera licenses are included with a server

Require networking know-how for setup and management

Only works with cameras in a local network

No solar-powered cam option

What is the Synology Surveillance Station?

When it comes to home security surveillance, there are many options on the market. Most of them are exclusive: once you’ve picked a vendor, you’re stuck with it.

For example, you can’t use a Soliom Bird S60 (hint: don’t!) with a setup of Arlo Ultra and vice versa. That’s where the Synology Surveillance Station is different.

Synology Surveillance Station
The Synology Surveillance Sation has an excellent user interface.

Surveillance Station: A versatile DVR add-on app

Briefly, Surveillance Station is an add-on function that turns your Synology NAS server into a digital video recorder (DVR) for network cameras. It allows you to put security footage directly on your NAS server instead of the camera’s SD card or the vendor’s cloud.

Synology first introduced the Surveillance Station back in March 2008 and has been improving it regularly since.

The current revision, version 8.2.x is many times better than when I first used the app back in 2010. This version has also spanned across DSM 6.2 and DSM 7. In other words, if you upgrade from the former to the latter, expect your Surveillance Station to remain unchanged.

All Synology NAS servers released in the past 10 years support this latest version. If you have an older server — a Synology NAS can last for a long time — you might have to use a previous release of the app, which is less capable but still very good.

A few things that make this Synology’s Surveillance Station app so much better than other canned home security camera solutions:

  • You have complete control over the recording — there’s no need to fret about your privacy.
  • There’s no monthly fee, even when you want to have very long video retention. The more storage your server has, which you can easily upgrade, the longer you can keep the footage.
  • You have the freedom of mix-matching cameras that fit your needs — Crucial when you need to use different indoor, outdoor, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and PoE cameras together.
  • It’s Internet-agnostic, your system is still running even when your broadband connection is down or unavailable. Also, you won’t need to worry about data usage, except when you view live or recorded footage when you’re not at home.
  • You can set up the system to stay alive even when there’s a power outage by using PoE cameras together with a high-capacity UPS.
  • You have the option to use the web interface, the Synology Surveillance Station desktop application, or the DS Cam mobile app to manage your camera system, locally or on the go.

And the Surveillance Station will give you a lot more since it has lots of features, including the ability to manage our system via the Internet. Almost anything you’d expect from a professional surveillance system you’ll get from this app.

Amcrest IP Surveillance Cam for Synology
Amcrest is one of many vendors whose cameras work well with the Synology Surveillance Station. I’ve used this particular unit for more than two years.

What cameras does the Synology Surveillance Station support?

Synology’s Surveillance Station supports thousands of IP cameras on the market. Here’s the complete list. It’s important to note that even those not (yet) added to the list but support ONVIF — many cameras do — chances are they will work with Surveillance Station.

Case in point: I used two Amcrest IP2M-852W cameras for this article, both were not yet on the support list, and they’ve been working flawlessly for more than two years.

Generally, if a camera has a web interface, chances are it will work with the Surveillance Station app. Or you can turn an old Android phone into a camera.

You can also expect camera support at the vendor level. If you find a camera from a particular vendor that works with the app, other cameras from the same vendor will likely work, too.

And there are just a handful of security camera vendors whose cameras won’t work. Generally, data-mining vendors make highly proprietary cameras, such as  Arlo, Google, Amazon, etc.

Read this  Synology DS218+ Review: A Box of Fun and Productivity

Important: For now, all solar cameras are not compatible with Surveillance Station. That’s because these cams generally do not have enough power to support ONVIF. So all solar-powered cams require their own proprietary DVR.

When a camera is supported, most, if not all, of its functions and features will be available to the app. For example, if the camera has pan and tilt functions, the app can control those. For all cameras, all essential features, including zoom, night vision, motion detection, are all there.

How many cameras can I use with my Synology NAS

The total number of cameras depends on the NAS server, but generally, each server can handle a dozen or more cameras — more than a home would need.

The DS218+, for example, can support up to 25 cameras. Larger servers, like the DS1019+ or DS1621+, support many times more each. So, you won’t need to worry about having too many cameras.

What you should worry about is the license cost. Each Synology server only comes with two camera licenses for free. If you want to use more cameras, you’ll have to buy additional licenses, at some $60 a pop.

Synology Surveillance Station: Straightforward setup

Setting up a camera with the Synology Surveillance Station is not exactly hard, but it’s more work than other packaged solutions, like the Arlo.

That’s because it’s a two-step process, with each being potentially involved depending on the camera you use. You first need to connect the camera to your network, and only then can you add it to the Surveillance Station.

Set up a camera with your local network

Hooking a camera in your system is a standard procedure. If it’s a wired camera, plug it in via a network cable, and that’s it. For a Wi-Fi camera, you’ll need to follow the camera’s manual to connect it to the Wi-Fi network using its web interface or mobile app.

After that, follow the camera’s instructions to change its basic settings to fit your situation. Examples of these generic tasks include:

  • Set up the user name and password for the camera access. Make sure you use a secure password. (Note down this information, you’ll need it for the next step.)
  • Adjust time zone and locale.
  • Customize the camera’s video quality (you want to use the highest setting), timestamp display, logo display, and so on.
  • Update the camera to the latest firmware.
  • Reserve an IP address for each camera. You don’t want its local IP address to change, which will cause disconnections, and find out its port. Most cameras use the port 80, 88, or 888, and you can also set the port to a value of your liking. In any case, you need to note down each camera’s IP address and port number for the next step.
  • Mount the camera where you want them to be.

And that’s it. Now you’re ready to hook the camera to your NAS server. But before that, let’s get familiarized with the Surveillance Station’s user interface.

Synology Surveillance Station Timeline setup
The Surveillance Station’s Timeline includes lots of customization.

Excellent user interface

By default, Synology NAS doesn’t include the Surveillance Station app. It’s an easy fix: Log into the server’s web interface, run the Package Center, and install the app. It’s free.

After that, run the app, you’ll notice it has a web user interface of its own with five self-explanatory icons on the desktop. Each icon links to a function. Here is the lowdown of what they do:

Live View: Allow you to view live footage of all cameras and perform any live actions with them. The live view doesn’t affect the recording. In other words, a camera still records (based on your settings) when you’re viewing its live feed.

Timeline: View of recordings of previous days in a 24-hour timeframe. There’s also a neat search function for you to find videos of objects based on motions at a particular part of a camera’s view.

IP Camera: This allows you to add cameras to the Surveillance Station and customize their settings.

Recordings: View recording of individual cameras. You can download a recording or export multiple recordings based on different parameters.

Application Center: Allow access to a list of tens of other functions and apps to add even more features to the Surveillance Station. There are links to download the Surveillance Station desktop and mobile apps that you can use instead of the web user interface.

Similar to the server’s interface, the Surveillance Station’s interface can handle multiple windows at a time, so, for example, you can do a live view and view the timeline footage at the same time.

But since we need to set up a camera, we need to start with the IP Camera icon.

Synology Surveillance Station Apps
The Synology Surveillance Station has a slew of add-on functions via the Application Center.

Set a camera up with Synology Surveillance Station

This step is when you hook a camera, already connected to your home network, to the Synology Surveillance Station. It’s pretty straightforward.

  1. Click on the IP Camera icon which will bring up the IP Camera window. Here, you’ll see all existing cameras (if any).
  2. Click on Add then on Add Camera. Now you can choose to do a Quick Setup or a Complete Setup. (The latter will run you through all settings of the camera, which, if you pick the former, you can do manually at a later time — see below.) Then click on Next, the Add Camera Wizard will come up.
  3. Enter the name, IP address, and other value of the camera that you have collected from the first step above. You can enter the brand and model of the camera if it’s on the supported list, or pick [ONVIF] if your camera support ONVIF. Alternatively, you can also click on the magnifying glass icon and let the wizard detect the camera in the network for you.
  4. Click on Test Connection to make sure your camera is connected — you’ll see a preview of the camera’s view.
  5. Click on Finish.

And that’s it; the camera is now part of the system. But you’ll need to customize its settings to your liking first.

Synology Surveillance Station Setup
Setting up a camera with the Synology Surveillance Station is a straightforward process.

Lots of settings, highly customizable

To customize a camera’s setting, call up the IP Camera icon again, select the camera on the list, and click Edit. Surveillance Station has a lot of settings and customization in five categories, including the following:

Read this  NAS Server Explained: Why It's Cool, and You'd Want a Synology, Too!

Device settings: Change general camera settings, including video compression format (h.264, MJPEg, and so on), video quality (resolution, frame rates, image quality, and so on), or pick an external speaker as the audio output for the cam (if supported).

Recording Settings: All recording-related settings are here, including storage space and video retention options, scheduling (when to record based on motion detection, when to record continuously, and so on), and mapping recording (motion detection or continuous) with a stream profile. You can also set the length of each video from 1 to 240 minutes.

Live View Settings: Determines the video quality for live streaming using the stream profiles.

Optimization: Miscellaneous settings, such as timestamp onscreen display, camera orientation (flipped, mirror), time synchronization, and so on.

Event Detection: Set motion detection source (by the camera or by Surveillance Station), sensitivity (from 1 to 99, the higher, the more sensitive motion detection is), and threshold (from 1 to 99 as the size of the object that can trigger detection.) You can also change detection areas to ignore certain parts of the camera’s view.

It’s important to note that the number of settings and their values changes depending on the camera. In all, Surveillance Station has a lot of customization to fit anyone’s recording needs. And again, there are also even more available via the Application Center.

Synology Surveillance Station: Excellent performance

I’ve used Synology NAS servers for more than ten years now and have used Surveillance 8.2 for almost three years. For the most part, I’ve been happy with how the app works. It’s reliable and delivers excellent performance.

What I like most about Surveillance Sation — compared with other canned security camera systems, like the Arlo — is that there’s almost no limit in how long a recording can be.

The Timeline view and Sync playback are also helpful when I need to find a particular recording or have a good picture of what’s going on at a specific time.

Remote access to the system is also convenient. You can do that via the web interface, the Surveillance Station desktop software, or the DS Cam mobile app. All of them use Synology’s QuickConnect vendor-assisted portal to access the NAS server. Alternatively, you can also use Dynamic DNS.

By the way, using remote access with the Surveillance Station means you stream recording (or live footage) from the NAS server. For this reason, the performance depends on the Internet speeds at both ends, where the NAS server resides and the remote location.

Synology Surveillance Station Mobile App
The DS Cam app is an excellent way to manage the Synology Surveillance Station remotely.

It’s worth noting that the Surveillance Station doesn’t take a lot of system resources. Over the years, I’ve used this app with more than a dozen of  Synology NAS models — DS410, DS411slim, DS1511+, DS412+, DS712+, DS713+, DS1513+, DS214play, DS214se, DS414slim, DS415+, DS1515+, DS1517+, DS218+, DS1618+, and DS1019+, DS419slim, DS220+, DS1621+ — and none of them had any issue.

For example, the DS1618+ server, which has 8GB of RAM and no other upgrades, runs the Surveillance Station app quite smoothly in tandem with a few other heavy apps, including a Windows Server 2016 virtual machine.

Obviously, the more cameras you use, the more the NAS server has to work. However, my take is if you employ five or fewer cameras — I’ve always used only four at a time –, it’s safe to say you won’t need to worry about the server being slowed down.

Minor shortcomings

Like everything else, the Synology Surveillance Station is not perfect. Here are a few things that you should be aware of:

Camera license

As mentioned above, each NAS server, no matter how big or expensive, includes just two camera licenses.

If you want to use more cameras, you’ll need to buy additional licenses at about $60/each. I feel the company should include a free license per drive bay. So a 4-bay server should have four free camera licenses and so on.

By the way, you can transfer a purchased license from one server to another. Just delete it from a server, and it will become available to use with another. However, the two built-in licenses will remain with the server, even when you don’t want to use them.

Impractical default settings

In my experience, if you use the default settings, one or all of these will happen:

  • No motion detection recording
  • Video quality automatically set at the lowest
  • Short video retention.

So, take time and configure each camera properly. If you use multiple similar (or the same) cameras, you can make batch changes to all of them at a time.

No camera support via the Internet, or solar-powered cameras

You cannot use a single NAS server to host cameras at multiple locations, like your home and your office — you’ll need a NAS server at each address.

The reason is the app can only handle local IP cameras and not cameras via the Internet. That said, if you want to manage security cameras of multiple properties in one place conveniently, the Arlo Q or Q Plus is a good alternative.

As mentioned above, there’s no solar camera that works with Surveillance Station. While this is not exactly Synology’s fault, it does limit your options.


Just like the NAS server, the Synology Surveillance Station is not for everyone. It requires a certain level of networking know-how to perform the setup and ongoing management.

However, in return, this do-it-yourself surveillance system is much more comprehensive than any other canned home security camera set. What’s more, you’ll have complete control of your security recording and will not have to pay a monthly subscription.

That said, if you already have a Synology NAS, get one or two cameras and try out this add-on app. Most importantly, if you have a large property and want to protect it with an advanced security system, get a Synology NAS server instead of paying for a service. You’ll save a lot in the long run.

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22 thoughts on “Synology Surveillance Station in 2021: (Still) the Best DIY Security Cam System”

  1. Hi Dong,

    Thanks for your review. I’d like to use a Synology for only running Surveillance Station with three 8MP / 4K IP cams on a separate network.

    I am looking to find a model that is powerful enough to get smooth streaming for live view from all three cams simultaneously. Since it is 8MP steaming I guess that CPU requirement would be more of an issue for this use case.

    Which model(s) would you suggest looking into from CPU standpoint? Diskwise I am thinking of setting up RAID0 (accepting the zero fault tolerance) but getting better R/W performance. I do not need 4 bays really, could do with 2.

    Love to hear your unsalted opinion. 🙂

    • Any Plus (+) or higher-end model can handle that easily, Ed. If you want to make sure:

      1. Use SSD as the server’s storage. (This is not a must).
      2. Use network cables (PoE) for your camera. (This is a sure way since Wi-Fi can be temperamental.)

      Good luck!

  2. Hello Dong. Thank you for nice review. I have been recommended to look into Synology for my private surveillance system. I just have some questions about Synology:
    1: Buying licenses for more cameras, is it a one time cost?
    2: I was thinking of buying a NAS, what more do I need to be able to watch my property when I’m not at home? I also want to control my PTZ camera remotely from my I-phone.
    3: I’m new to this, so a detailed (not so expensive) list of models and software would be nice to get from you.

    • Hi Garry,

      1. Yes
      2. Nothing else. You use the free apps of Synology.
      3. This review and related post (linked within) are all you need and what I can provide.

  3. Hello Dong. Thank you for nice review. Would you know answers to some of these questions:

    1. Can an older ARM-based DS214 support 7x 2MP cameras? In specs I see max # of cameras 12, but I am skeptical given the weak dual-core ARM CPU.
    2. What kind of load is Surveillance Station (SS) putting on CPU?
    3. The Dahua IPC-HDW5241TM-AS cameras I intend to use with my DS214, do not have a profile in SS. Should I use ONVIF profile or Dahua_Generic profile?
    4. What are the pros and cons of ONVIF vs Dahua_Generic profile?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Peter,

      1. Yes, totally.
      2. Not a huge amount. The stress is mostly on the drives. The more cams you have, the more concurrent write might take place. But as a rule, you shouldn’t expect to use all of the server’s apps at their max. So if you just use it for cams, it’s fine to max out the supported number. Generally, I’ve never had a problem with cams, including ith low-end servers. The issue is when you playback, in that case, a faster server will help with the delay.
      3. If the cam support ONVIF, it’ll work, at least as a generic cam. You might NOT be able to access all of its features (pan/tilt/zoom) etc., though.
      4. See #3 again and this depends on the particular cam or vendor.

      • Thank you. One more question came to my mind. If a mobile device running DS Cam is used for Live View, is mobile CPU utilized to render the Live View? Or NAS CPU is doing the work? Would a cheap Android tablet be capable of displaying Live View from 7 cameras?
        And if DS Cam is used to play recordings, who is decoding them – NAS CPU or mobile CPU. Thank you.

        • You should have numbered your questions so it’s easier for me to address them. And these are multiple questions, not one.

          Generally, both parties are always involved to a certain extent. As for “cheap” Android, you shouldn’t use one, the issues with running an app would be the least of your problem. The server takes care of the encoding, but the phone needs to render them and that takes power. In short, things are a matter of degrees. There’s nothing black or white like the way you ask your questions.

          • Thank you very much. Yes, by ‘cheap’ Android tablet I meant relatively cheap, which would be used like a single purpose device. Only thing it would do is to run DS Cam.
            You are right about the black or white, my bad. I just wanted to know which device is mostly burdened in those scenarios. I guess I will use SS once I have the cameras and test it.

    • By default, it’s a notification on your phone, Borho, just like any notification. But you can customize it to be anything, text, email message, push, etc. and choose to send plain text, an image, or a 5-second snapshot. There are many other customization settings for this.

  4. Ok, I solved the multiple notifications problem. Notifications -> Advanced -> Notification Combination Setting.

  5. Thanks for the quick response! I’ll look more into how feasible a wired backhaul will be. A wired connection to the NAS will be easy as my broadband connection is upstairs (top level) in the office where the NAS will be. And I’ll def check out the other benefits of having the NAS server! Thanks again!

  6. Hey Dong, really appreciate all the information you share on your site!

    I’m looking to upgrade my home wifi network (3 levels/3400 sqft) and am curious as to your opinion of using the Synology Surveillance Station compared to the “canned” ring or nest options?

    Ideally I’d like to set up a mesh wifi network and if I go with a DIY security system then I think I’m leaning toward the Synology RT2600ac as the router, the MR2200ac as the satellite, and the DS218+. Do you think this would be a good configuration? Or would you suggest something different or more forward compatible like a WiFi 6 setup? Alternatively, I could forego the NAS server and get a canned surveillance system down the road. If I do that, would you say the synology router/satellite combo is still a great option? Just want to be most efficient with my resources and also don’t want to upgrade and then have to upgrade again in a year or two. Thanks in advance!

    • Thanks, Matt.

      That’s a great configuration. The Synology mesh you mentioned will work with anything. If you can use wired backhaul, you can ignore Wi-Fi 6 (for many years), if you can’t, it’s still good for a long time.

      The DS218+ is good for many things, surveillance is just one of them. You should definitely try the Download Station (and its DS Get companion mobile app). Also, make sure the NAS connects to the router via a network cable.

      A canned system like Nest sure is much more user-friendly, in exchange, it collects your information and might incur a monthly cost. So, it’s your call.


  7. Synology needs to add a snooze setting for motion detection. If there is a prolonged motion event, I’ll get multiple annoying notifications; I only need the first one.

  8. First off thank you for this article. I have a DS and two cameras at my house and have had issues with the cameras disconnecting. After reading your article I was reminded that I never set a static IP address for the DS and cameras. For the last few months I have ignored the cameras being disconnected. I just reconnected my cameras with static IP addresses. They are up and running and I hope that by changing the IP address to static will solve my the issues that I have been plagued with. Thanks again!


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