What Is It
All of us probably remember running out of space on a home PC or a laptop and forced to decide what to remove from your HDD to free some space, which is tough. Or finding yourself in a reverse situation of losing your crucial data due to some malware. Situations vary, but you certainly want your data to remain safe and accessible. A dedicated storage can effectively address the issues of data security and quick availability. A Network Attached Storage (NAS) is exactly such kind of storage. In essence, a NAS is a standalone network-enabled file server designed to provide users with dedicated storage accessible via the Internet or a local network. The storage space provided can be used for critical data backup, data sharing, cloud storage creation or any other storage-related purposes. In our network attached storage review, we regarded the 5 best network attached storage devices that can satisfy the needs of most users.
If you need a portable data storage device, you can also read about external hard drives. The devices provide up to 5 TB of data storage and connect via the USB interface.
What Features to Compare
Type and capacity of HDDs or other disk drives installed in a NAS storage should be considered first when you choose a NAS since these drives will store and secure your data. That is why you need to decide on the purpose of the considered network attached storage device. Think whether the NAS will serve as archive storage for your favorite videos or as a storage space for backing up important documents and files. Single-drive NAS solutions are suitable for storing multimedia and noncritical data but they are incapable of disk mirroring (replication of logical disk volumes onto separate physical hard disks in real time). Contrary to these solutions, dual and multiple-drive NAS storages support disk mirroring allowing you to create RAID arrays of drives. The RAID-enabled network attached storage devices offer a greatly increased security of the data stored by creating an exact copy of one drive on another thus preserving the data even if one of the drives fails. The NAS storage type also conditions the maximum available storage space. So for a network attached storage for home, which you want to use as a media storage 4 TB of storage will suffice in most cases. On the other hand, if you need an enterprise NAS storage or a critical data back-up NAS, we recommend NAS models with 8 TB and more storage. With that, the support of hot swap feature on your NAS enables you to swap the drives without shutting down the NAS system in case you want to increase the storage space or change a RAID arrangement.
The performance of a network attached storage device is also an important aspect of the NAS you have in mind. Due to the storage-oriented design of network attached storage devices, their performance depends first of all on the performance of storage drives used. However, as NAS devices are actually standalone PCs without conventional input devices and displays their onboard CPUs and RAM determine how quickly the stored data is accessed by users and how many users can access the data at once via a network connection. The number and type of the LAN ports supported determine the number and bandwidth of channels for the stored data accessing. If you plan to use your network attached server in an enterprise network with a large number of users we suggest choosing the server with a high-performance CPU and a large amount of RAM, which are not necessary for a home use scenario.
NAS connection interfaces and features are also to pay attention to. For example, home network storage systems are much easier to use when they feature a user-friendly interface and require an easy setup. However, the flip-side of NAS setup simplicity is a lack of system customization capabilities and fine tuning of its administration, which are the key features for business network attached storages. The connectivity of your NAS device defines your ability to expand the dedicated storage space and efficiency and functionality by connecting such external media as external hard drives, flash drives or such input/output devices as USB IP cameras or printers. This flexibility and expandability make it possible to create your own cloud storage, establish a shared access not only to the data stored but to the external devices connected to the NAS, stream and automatically transcode video, etc. You can also benefit from having your own centers for applications that allow you to define the NAS device functionality in order to make it best suitable for your personal needs.
Synology DS216j 2-Bay Desktop
Buy, Plug It in and Use It Straight Away
Perhaps the most important aspect of NAS usage experience, aside from hardware configuration is its software environment or, in other words, operating system. The case is many users nowadays assemble their network attached storages by themselves from separate elements instead of buying ready-to-use solutions and installing server operating systems on the assembled NAS systems, which are not very effective and fast to install for a personal use. The Synology company made a decision in favour of facilitating the use of their products by offering a balanced network storage system, which is preconfigured and can be used right out-of-the-box. The proprietary preinstalled Synology DiskStation Manager OS is a perfect solution from the perspective of individual or small group use that is based on a web-browser. The Synology manufacturer installs this software to all its NAS servers, which greatly contributes to their high-speed and error-free operation and makes user's experience much more comfortable. The Package Center feature lets users download and install various add-on packages designed specifically for individual or enterprise needs giving you more time for entertainment or work. The Synology DS216j will take care of your files and make them accessible and secure round-the-clock. Please, note that for establishing a high-speed Internet connection to the Synology DS216j NAS and unlocking its file sharing possibilities you will need an Internet router with a high bandwidth.
QNAP TS-253A-4G 2-Bay
Streaming 4K Videos
The QNAP TS-253A-4G network attached storage has some modern features that distinguish it from the rest of similar systems. Perhaps the most prominent of these features is the support of 4K video hardware decoding and transcoding of 4K H.264 videos on-the-fly or in an offline mode hence offering a fast processing of videos with four times the resolution of 2K. The resulting videos have an astonishing quality and can bring an immersive watching experience. This one of the best network attached storages is capable of outputting the decoded or transcoded video via the two built-in HDMI ports. For more convenience, the TS-253A-4G 2-Bay network attached storage supports image cloning thus making it possible to output identical video data to two displays connected. This NAS model uses the HD Station software solution, integrating flexible Kodi media player and various applications, such as Chrome browser, YouTube, and Plex Home Theater, thus enabling you to watch videos from the TS-253A online even via YouTube at the maximum resolution. These advanced features are supported owing to utilizing a powerful CPU and 4 GB RAM on the hardware side, which though impressive for such a device is easily expandable to 8 GB by inserting a memory stick into a vacant slot in the system. With the QNAP TS-253A-4G network attached storage you can access a full collection of your movies and videos via the Internet or local network without stuttering and choppiness. Hint: to boost performance of your QNAP TS-253A-4G NAS by expanding the RAM replace both, if there are two of them, memory sticks with a set of analogous memory sticks.
D-Link ShareCenter 2-Bay Cloud
A High Performance Clad in a Stylish Design
Despite the fact that there are a lot of network attached storage devices on the market there are not many products that combine functionality and high performance with an elegant design. Luckily the D-Link ShareCenter is exactly one of these examples and was designed a powerful yet attractively looking NAS without unnecessary and excessive exterior details. After connecting the ShareCenter solution to the Internet via the cable you will be able to use a special software application by D-Link for watching the content stored on the NAS hard drives from your smartphone or notebook even when you are a hundred miles away. Though connecting the NAS to the Internet brings risks of data security breach and virus/malware attacks that can cause data loss or corruption. To address this issue the manufacturer implemented the support for RAID 0 and 1 modes. Arranging your HDD drives in a RAID array on this NAS enables you to ensure not only much higher data protection by disk data mirroring procedure but to increase the speed of hard drives operation. Notwithstanding the sophisticated disk mirroring and data protection algorithms you will have all the features of the D-Link ShareCenter NAS at hand and easily controllable with a single software utility. The simplicity of control is completed with a compact size of the storage device and its design aesthetics, which make it blend with any interior and give you many options for its placement. Please, keep in mind that unstable power supply and electric surges may damage your electrical devices, including the NAS, therefore, you need to use mains filters that can quickly respond to significant over or under voltage and provide under/over current protection and to cut off the power to prevent damage to your equipment.
Buffalo 220D 2-Bay Desktop
A Quick Interuser Exchange of Data
The availability of Internet connection allows us to download various media content and access different media storages. The Buffalo LS220D0202 network attached storage supports the BitTorrent peer-to-peer data exchange protocol, which you can use with the preinstalled client. The benefits of using this protocol are the high speed of shared files downloading and their immediate availability. To provide more convenience in using the BitTorrent the Buffalo LinkStation 220D NAS allows downloading files directly to the HDDs installed in the NAS without the need for connecting a PC. If you value high-quality and high-resolution music then you will definitely value the Buffalo’s ability to stream it without any downsampling and loss of quality, thus being able to enjoy your favourite music tracks just like they were recorded at a studio. This network attached storage by Buffalo also supports such a cutting-edge format as Direct Stream Digital. Thus, you can play high-resolution PCM and DSD natively or via the DSD over PCM protocol on compatible network-capable receivers. Apple equipment fans, especially those who use Apple high-performance notebooks, will be able to store their backups on the HDDs of the 220D NAS after creating them on a laptop. In addition to the convenience of storage, the Buffalo LS220D0202 ensures its reliability and security. Even if you have no Internet access and no opportunity to use a cloud storage at the moment, you can transfer files from the NAS hard drives to a connected USB flash drive or an external hard disk drive.
Western Digital 3TB My Cloud Personal
Type and Capacity
Western Digital WDBCTL0040HWT-NESN 3TB My Cloud Personal Network Attached Storage is the network-attached storage for home use. Its exterior and size allow you to place it on your desktop next to the computer. The NAS storage comes with the 3 TB Red hard drive of the same company. Also, if desired, you can extend the NAS capacity up to 8 TB by replacing the HDD with a compatible drive of greater volume. This home network storage supports only one drive, so it works better as a data repository. We don’t recommend using it as a backup station since the data might be lost if the disk fails.
This network-attached storage uses a Mindspeed Comcerto C2200 processor with two Cortex A9 processing cores and ARM7 architecture, clocked at 1.2 GHz. It has 256 Mb 1600 MHz DDR RAM memory and 512 Mb flash memory module for storing the settings and operating system files. The NAS storage has a passive cooling system which makes it practically silent. The only thing making noise is the hard drive inside, but, according to the specifications, the noise level doesn’t exceed 28 dB (A). And given that some of the noise and vibration are absorbed by the housing, the storage is very comfortable to use. The NAS store also features a Gigabit LAN port providing connection to your home network and one USB 3.0 interface that lets you quickly create backups from data storage items.
Interface and Functions
My Cloud OS 3 operating system is based on Linux, namely Debian Wheezy. This means it’s not difficult at all to extend the functionality of the NAS storage. For example, you can install the Transmission torrent client and download torrent files directly to the NAS without using your PC. The NAS also allows you to create your own cloud storage, just create an account in the WD My Cloud online service. You can also work with mobile devices and make backup copies of your photos, music and videos. The NAS storage is also compatible with Apple® Time Machine®, which allows you to make backup copies of Mac devices.
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