NAS NVR or Dedicated NVR – Which is better?

Which is better, a conventional dedicated NVR like the Hikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P or a NAS-based NVR solution from Synology or QNAP? This is something I get asked quite often by readers. It’s also a question that’s been on my mind for some time now. So let’s take an objective look at the pros and cons of each option.

Which is better - NAS NVR or Dedicated NVR - VueVille.com

The Contenders

To make this a fair fight, we need to pit an affordable NAS against an affordable NVR.

My DIY NVR system is based on a NAS, the QNAP TS-231+ and I have been running this CCTV setup for more than a year. I have need of just 2 IP cameras, so the 2 free IP camera licences that came with the TS-231+ have sufficed so far.

The TS-231+ is missing an HDMI port though. This isn’t very surprising as it is a budget NAS. For an apples to apple comparison, we need to choose a NAS with an HDMI port. So I have chosen the QNAP TS-251+ on the NAS side of the comparison. This model is quite powerful with a quad-core Intel Celeron processor with 2 GB of RAM.

One of the most popular NVRs among my readers here at VueVille is the Hikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P, so it makes sense to choose this 8-channel NVR for the dedicated NVR side of the comparison.

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QNAP NAS Surveillance Station

Both Synology and QNAP call their surveillance software ‘Surveillance Station’. Most entry-level NAS units come with 2 IP camera licenses free that you can use with the Surveillance software on the NAS. This essentially makes it a 2-channel NVR. Additional licenses need to be purchased directly from QNAP.

The Surveillance Station software on my QNAP NAS is quite powerful. In my opinion, it is  a real alternative to a dedicated NVR system. If you are unfamiliar with the Surveillance Station’s featurs, here are the highlights:

  • Records up to 8MP (4K UHD resolution), H.264, MPEG-4, M-JPEG, and MxPEG formats supported
  • Records up to 64 channels (dependent on NAS model)
  • 3000+ IP Cameras supported, ONVIF compatible
  • Scheduled and manual recording
  • Smart recording (24/7 recording at lower resolution, switches to higher resolution when motion is detected)
  • Live View up to 64 cameras simultaneously on a single screen, HDMI port available on some NAS models
  • Software based motion detection and email alerts, can react to camera triggers
  • 7 types of event actions, including recording, PTZ Control, alarm output, email notification, SMS notification, buzzer notification, and user-defined actions available
  • Instant playback function (plays recorded video in reverse from live view screen)
  • Supports PTZ cameras
  • Regular motion detection and alarm events marked on playback timeline
  • Synchronized camera playback
  • Intelligent Video Analytics (IVA) – can find ‘missing’ objects automatically

Read: My QNAP TS-253A Hands-on Review

Check out the QNAP IP camera compatibility list to see whether your existing cameras will work with a QNAP NAS. It is regularly updated as QNAP is quite proud of the wide range of cameras it supports.

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Hikvision NVR

Hikvision NVRs stray from the pack when it comes to the IP camera brands they support. While other manufacturers limit the NVR to supporting only their own cameras, the Hikvision supports a wide range of IP cameras from top tier manufacturers such as Bosch, Canon, Sony and Vivotek. Although Hikvision doesn’t officially claim ONVIF support in the spec sheet, they do mention “Third-party network cameras supported”.

The main features of the Hikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P are:

  • Up to 6 Megapixel Resolution
  • 80 Mbps Incoming Bandwidth
  • Supports H.264+ and H.264
  • Synchronous HDMI and VGA Output 1920 × 1080p Resolution
  • 8-ch Network Cameras Can Be Connected
  • Up to 2 SATA Interfaces (Note no RAID though)
  • Plug & Play w/Up to 8 Independent PoE Network Connections
  • Supports Network Detection, Including Network Delay, Packet Loss
  • Alarm and Audio I/O
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Features – Head to head

FeatureQNAP QNAP TS-251+ Surveillance StationHikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P
Max camera resolution 8MP (4K UHD resolution)6MP
Max channels648
Max incoming bandwidth2 Gbps80 Mbps
Recording formatsH.264, MPEG-4, M-JPEG, and MxPEGH.264+ and H.264
Cameras supportedAny ONVIFACTi, Advanced Technology Video,
Arecont, Asct(Raylios), Axis,
AVTECH, Bosch, Brickcom,
Canon, Certix, Hunt,
GE, Grundig, Infinova, Panasonic,
Provideo, Sanyo, Pelco,
Samsung, Sony, ViewZ,
Vivotek, Zavio
Scheduled recordingYesYes
PoENoYes
Alarm In/Out connectionsNoYes
Audio In/Out connectionsNoYes
Manual recordingYesYes
Smart recording (24/7 recording
at lower resolution,
switches to higher resolution
when motion is detected)
YesNo
Simultaneous Live View channels648-ch@720P, 6-ch@1080P
HDMI OutputYesYes
Motion DetectionYesYes
Email AlertsYesYes
Push NotificationAlertsYesYes
PTZ supportYesYes
Event marker on timelineYesYes
Synchronized camera playback channels648
Intelligent Video Analytics (IVA) -
find 'missing' objects automatically
YesNo
ONVIF compatibility (supports 3rd party cameras)YesLimited - Panasonic, Sony,
Axis, Sanyo, Bosch, and Acti
Instant playback function (plays recorded video
in reverse from live view screen)
YesNo
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Analysis – Its not that straightforward

The NAS has some very strong advantages:

  • It supports the industry standard ONVIF protocol. This means virtually any ONVIF-compatible camera can be added to the NAS. That’s an insane level of flexibility you often can’t get with dedicated NVRs because manufacturers like to lock customers into their own product eco-system. The Hikvision NVR actually is the most flexible you will find among dedicated NVRs as it does support a few major 3rd party manufacturers such as Panasonic, Canon, Sony etc.
  • RAID facility which provides redundant storage. A NAS does this by default, all you need is add a second hard drive and configure it for RAID 1. Most consumer level NVRs just cannot do RAID.
  • You can use a NAS for a whole lot of other things, such as a VPN server to increase the safety of remote access. Another good use is as a home media server, or a Kodi server.

The dedicated NVR has one very strong advantage and some other minor advantages:

  • Cost – NAS devices usually only include 2-4 IP channel licenses, whereas with an NVR you get more channels for your money. Each additional channel on a NAS is an extra licence that costs you money.
  • The NVR does one thing – and since it does one thing only, its likely to be more reliable. A multi-functional device like a NAS runs on complex software and that is a weakness. For example, a less than perfect software update from the manufacturer can cause you headaches if it breaks some NAS NVR functionality such as email alerts. This is the inherent risk of using one device for everything. That said, in the 3 years I have used QNAP NAS’ as my NVR, everything was fine on the software front.
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Verdict

As with most things in life, it depends on what you want:

  • If you want no more than 2 or 3 IP camera channels, go with a NAS, especially if you do not have another device running 24/7 to provide media server or VPN server duties.
  • If you want 4 channels or more, an NVR starts becoming cheaper. Especially as it avoids having to buy a separate PoE switch. Do take regular backups though as most consumer NVRs will not support RAID disk mirroring.
  • A hybrid approach is to use a dedicated NVR and then configure it to save the camera streams to a NAS as well. This gives you the best of both worlds – the familiarity of a dedicated NVR and the data safety provided by a NAS. This is probably the setup that I will move towards eventually.

So what do you think? What do you use – a NAS or a dedicated NVR? Let’s discuss!

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17 Comments
  1. What about QNAP and Synology NVR series compared to their NAS? I have made me a shortlist of candidates for my home project:
    QNAP TS-453A
    Synology DS916+
    Hikvision DS-7732NI-I4

    but then also found the that QNAP and Synology have their own NVR series. QNAP VS-4108-PRO+ is a 4-bay alternative but expensive. Synology NVR216 is about the same price as the ones I have on my shortlist but only two bays.

    It feels like the more I read, the more difficult it is to choose…

    • Hi,

      The NVR versions of the NAS are aimed at small and medium size businesses and this explains the higher price points. They also tend to come with more camera licenses, the QNAP VS-4108-PRO+ for example has 8 licenses included. For home use I would still suggest going with a NAS as you can use it for so many other things as well.

      The biggest advantage of the NVR route is the RAID redundancy – to get the same feature in a traditional NVR like Hikvision’s will cost a lot more than a NAS.

      Daniel

  2. Hi, is it possible to set the NVR up to only allow access to it via VPN? If not, then that seems like a strong advantage of a NAS setup. I want lots of cameras though, so I will need/want a NVR. But I don’t want to open it up to the world without the VPN security. What to do?

    • Hi there,

      In order to put your dedicated NVR (and the rest of your network) behind a VPN, some other device on the network needs to act as a VPN server (the Hikvision NVR doesn’t have VPN server functionality). That could be a PC, a laptop, a NAS or even a router such as the Netgear Nighthawk.

      Daniel

  3. I’m considering the Ds418 play to use as a part htpc, part nvr. Couple noob questions I have are:
    How much are extra camera licenses?
    How much is a Poe switch?
    Is getting a dedicated nvr that outputs to a nas economical? Meaning is getting a nvr package with 4-8 cameras a discount over pricing out cameras independently for just running nas as a surveillance station?

    Great article. Thanks for your help!

    • Hey Daniel yes referring to your hybrid setup. ok yah the reduncency I understand..but then why include the $500 NVR in the mix at all? Why not just have the 9 cameras go straight to the NAS with a RAID setup? The blog post says “familiarity of an NVR setup”, maybe that’s what I’m not understanding what benefit that “familiarity” gives you?

  4. Hi,

    Just wanted to check if one of the advantages of an NAS like Synology would also be that it could be mapped as a normal drive on a PC and a user can access IP camera files directly as if browsing through a folder (which for certain use cases opens up a possibility of writing an automated script to make a copy of files on local drive of PC from the mapped drive if its needed) while with most of the NVRs you need to login into their web portal through PC and then download the files manually through the playback screen. Is my understanding correct?

    Great article by the way.

    Thanks,
    Rohit

  5. Hi Daniel, I’ve been reading your blog as I plan a CCTV system. Lots of good info thanks! I’ve ran cable to 9 camera positions currently, with possibly 1 or 2 more later. I intend to use a NAS for home server, Time Machine, Plex, VPN etc, so probably will get the TS-451. I’m a little confused by the verdict here of “dedicated NVR saving to a NAS” that you’re going to transition to. I don’t mind buying the $80 POE switch.

    For 9 cameras what would I gain by having the NVR saving to the NAS (which I’ll need for other smart home functions) instead of just 9 cameras to POE switch to NAS?

    Thanks Daniel!

    • Glad you are finding my blog useful. I understand you are referring to my hybrid approach suggestion – a dedicated NVR backing up video to a NAS. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough – since most NVRs don’t have RAID support, you could configure the NAS as a real-time secondary storage location. This way even if your NAS hard drive gets corrupted or something, you will have a backup on your NAS. Does that make sense?

      • Hey Daniel, yes I was referring to your hybrid setup. The redundancy I understand…but then why include the $500 NVR at all? Why not have the 9 cameras go straight to the NAS with a RAID setup? The blog post says “familiarity of an NVR setup” so maybe that’s what I’m not understanding what benefit that “familiarity” gives you?

        Does your cameras recording to the QNAP NAS record audio? Can a NAS-as-NVR setup support recording audio if the cameras have mics?

        • ‘Familiarity’ = a device that anybody in the family can use, just like using a DVR for recorded TV shows. Using the NAS is a shade more ‘complex’ than just operating an NVR especially for those who are not very tech-savvy. That’s all.

          QNAP can record audio but I am not because this is illegal in my jurisdiction. NAS as NVR can record audio if cameras have microphones.

  6. Terrific that makes sense thanks. It’s illegal to record audio on your own private property?! :O

  7. Hi Daniel, Excellent blog…very helpful. I am debating the NAS vs dedicated NVR route. I see a pro of the NVR route as being able to use the smart event capability of Hikvision cameras whereas I understand that NAS software cannot access these event triggers. (Any idea if QVR pro will add or has this ability?). Secondly, I already own a WD NAS and was also wondering if the QVR pro software would run on it. If so, that would be the cheapest route. Lastly, in regards to home automation, I have a Smart Things system already running and was wondering if a dedicated NVR would integrate with it for event triggers. I understand that you have already integrated your system with your HS3 setup.

  8. NAS vs dedicated NVR ( with POE direct connection to the 8 or 16 cameras ) – is it not an advantage to have the video network traffic kept away from the house network y using the dedicated NVR with POE links direct to the cameras? Or to achieve the same video network traffic away from rest of house network and devices, would you connect the NAS with dual network connections ( does this exist ) one NAS network to house network so you can see replays and live video, the other NAS network connection to the dedicated POE switch into which all the cameras connect ( away from the house switch and network ).

    Which would you do?

    • I am not sure there is a downside to performance with not isolating IP camera traffic provided you have Gigabit Ethernet wiring all throughout your network. Anyway most of the QNAP NAS servers have two Ethernet ports. You can assign one port to carry just CCTV traffic – this should theoretically ensure hard disk read/writes don’t slow down playback of recorded footage. But that really just affects the NAS end of things. An ideal network setup is to create a Virtual LAN (VLAN) just for the cameras and all equipment that is not trusted such as an NVR. If you are using a NAS NVR, you could allow the cameras VLAN to communicate just with the NAS and nothing else. This achieves the same result as having a dedicated NVR and IP cameras connected to its internal PoE network.

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