A network-attached storage (NAS) drive makes storing, sorting, accessing and backing up data a lot easier. Even more, it’s an ideal way of giving multiple users remote access over large amounts of data. By organizing your data with a NAS system you remove the responsibility of file serving from other servers on the network.
All NAS devices currently on the market will allow you to set up a raid configuration capable of mirroring and backing up of data (depending on your RAID type) – this takes away the worry of losing data as a result of a disk failure.
Since you can connect your NAS device to your router, the data stored is available to all network-connected devices. Every connected device and computer can have access to photos, videos, music, and other file types. But you can also restrict certain folders and files to some users by configuring permissions. These NAS devices can also be configured remotely to be accessed from an external network.
Currently, in 2021, a lot of new companies and creative individuals are popping up all the time. If you are on of them, and you happen to work on large video projects, a video game, or any sort of huge project, you’ll need to store all of that data in a safe place. That’s why we’re here to help you out and save you the headache of doing extensive research.
What Do You Need To Know?
There are a few factors you need to consider in order to pinpoint the ideal NAS device for your particular situation. With similar specifications and features on all the most popular NAS devices, it’s difficult to designate a clear winner. However, there are a few factors that you can focus on and see whether a NAS unit fits your particular needs or not. Here’s a list of factors that you should be considering when researching NAS devices:
Storage capacity is important regardless of which problem you’re looking to solve with a NAS unit. Keep in mind that while some NAS devices will arrive with included hard drives, most units will arrive with no hard disks at all (bare drives or diskless). This can be an advantage since you can choose the drives yourself depending on how much capacity you need.
But the most important storage aspect is the maximum capacity. Before you spend money on a NAS unit, you need to be aware of the maximum number of disks that it supports and the maximum single volume size that is supported by the device. Being aware of this ensures that you don’t end up relying on a hard disk that is not supported by the NAS device that you end up buying.
Special Types Of Drives
Although most NAS manufacturers will encourage you to buy specialist NAS hard disks (if they don’t include on themselves), you don’t really need disks designed for heavy used in high-temperature environments if you are going the NAS device in a home or small office. You can get away with using consumer drives or even reuse disks that were previously used on a PC.
However, if you want to buy a durable hard drive for your NAS, look for the ones that were specifically designed to work with NAS boxes. As of now, there are several drives that are universally accepted as being worthy of a NAS device: Western Digital Red, Seagate IronWolf, and HGST Deskstar NAS.
If you’re positive that you’ll need to access NAS-hosted files from outside your internal network, then you’ll need to look for a NAS device with good remote file access capabilities. If you’re intimidated by the fact that you’ll need to use a third-party DNS service to access your stuff from anywhere in the world, don’t sweat it – most NAS units currently on the market will allow you to access your files via their own services.
One of the main reasons why users decide on investing in a NAS unit is the perspective of keeping their data safe against disk failure. NAS units that use a RAID system are capable of recuperating lost data in case one of the disks breaks. Although you can’t really go wrong with this feature, some manufacturers provide their users with even better options. While some manufacturers focus on making the configuration of a RAID system as easy as possible, others offer an alternative to the traditional RAID system.
However, a RAID system won’t be effective against a fire hazard or something just as catastrophic. If you want to be protected against these kinds of events, look for a premium service that allows you to backup your data externally.
This NAS uses Synology’s DSM interface, which can be accessed from any web browser and is very similar to a macOS computer. Everything is as simple and as straightforward as possible, with a few drawbacks when it comes to the available customizing options.
Everything that Synology units offer is designed to be as easy as possible. An example of this is QuickConnect a feature that lets you access any type of files remotely with minimal effort. You just need to set up a customizable address, and you are good to go.
The Surveillance Station lets you view a live feed of your home so you can monitor what is happening in your household. You can also connect it to Samsung TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and other DLNA devices for multimedia streaming. Even more, constant updates to security tools will always protect your devices against the latest security threats.
Bottom line is, this unit is a fast NAS, with excellent transfer speeds and easy-to-use operating system. Even though some of the first-party apps are down-right limited, it doesn’t change the fact that this unit is a near-perfect NAS for a home at this price point. As long as you don’t plan on using it for live 4K transcoding, this NAS will be a reliable addition to your home.
Runner-Up Drive Bays: 2 | Memory: 2GB DDR3L (Expandable up to 8GB) | Maximum Internal Capacity: 20TB | Maximum Single Volume Size: 10TB
2. QNAP TS-251 2-Bay Personal Cloud NAS
Drive Bays: 2 | Memory: 2GB DDR3L (Expandable up to 8GB) | Maximum Internal Capacity: 20TB | Maximum Single Volume Size: 10TB
QNAP TS-251 NAS came pretty close to our designated winner. It is a powerful device that will backup your data, synchronize your files, and provide home entertainment with great transcoding. It is an easy way to have remote access to your data whenever you need it. You can manage all your files in one device and allow all computers and smartphones in your house to have access to those. Every family member can enjoy media streaming in the convenience of their own rooms.
But perhaps even more important is the fact that this NAS unit boasts superior specifications with a staggering 2.0 GHz Quad-Core CPU and 2 GB of RAM. The downside? It’s more expensive and not that friendly to NAS newcomers.
This QNAP device will allow you to access your personal cloud through a web browser or through the free mobile app. You have remote access and complete control of the cloud and set it up according to your preferences. You can ensure that the files are protected, and the device itself can serve as a VPN.
You can also install the Cloud Drive Sync app so you can sync your files from your online cloud storage. The QNAP TS-251 2-Bay Personal Cloud is, without a doubt, packed with features. It offers real-time and offline video transcoding. It streams media via DLNA, AirPlay, and Plex. You can even install more apps from the App Center and it offers support for third-party applications (which our winner doesn’t).
This NAS device contains almost everything one would need in a traditional home. However, it’s clearly targeted towards users that have some IT experience and are welcoming the challenge of tinkering with a NAS device. If you’re a tech-savvy person, this unit is arguably the better choice since it will allow you to do advanced stuff like setting up proxy servers, setting up VPNs, installing VMs (virtual machine), etc. If you don’t mind the price point and you are ready to tinker, the QNAP TS-251 2-Bay Personal Cloud is arguably better for your home.
It is definitely one of the most versatile NAS in its price range. Even though it’s much more powerful than our designated winner, you still need to add more RAM memory to use it to its full capabilities. It might look expensive for a home NAS, but it’s really a bargain if you are ready to tinker and use it to its full capabilities.
This Synology unit uses the same award-winning interface but has a steeper price point. The good news is the initial installation is extremely straightforward with a great installation wizard that makes things clear. Featuring 1 to 2-disk redundancy, your data is protected in case a drive fails.
Same as with every Synology unit, you can synchronize your data in real-time across all your devices. But a great addition is the Intelliversioning function which utilizes storage space by prioritizing the most important versions of your files. Also, you can work on your documents and spreadsheets in the privacy of your own cloud and access your files remotely via QuickConnect.
You can easily create, manage, and expand storage volumes with the Synology Hybrid RAID. It is easy to manage and does not require additional details on RAID. Your files can be synced and shared with anyone and any device that is connected. This unit is capable of streaming 4K media content anywhere and anytime from any device that supports Ultra HD formats.
This particular also comes with a surveillance program (Surveillance Station) that allows you to connect CCTV cameras and get live streaming of your house. But keep in mind that this is a barebone NAS – this means that you need to add disks to it. However, if you have multiple hard drives laying around unused in your household, this NAS might just be the perfect choice to store your media collection.
By looking at the unit from a broad perspective, it’s clear that the Synology NAS DS418 is designed for home users that need a lot of storage space but are on a limited budget. It’s a good fit for uses with big media libraries but can also serve small businesses if the need arises.
This NAS unit can serve as a complete multimedia setup and deserves to be one of the best NAS drives on this list. But the fact that it’s quite expensive (around $320), not great with transcoding and has quite a few bugs with the software makes it less than ideal to serve as a home NAS.
The TS-251A model is clearly a high-end unit with an entire plethora of features that will make your files extremely easy to access – regardless of where you store your files or where you access them from. On the front, you have an SD card slot and the USB 3 Quick Access port in addition to another USB 3 port that is used for storage.
In fact, the USB Quick Access is probably the highlight of the TS-251A with innovative features that can hardly be found anywhere else. You can use it to access your files, apps and the NAS Interface over USB even if the network is down or not available.
A minor inconvenience is a fact that you still need to sweat a little when fitting a new hard disk. In case data loss occurs, you can simply restore the data on the NAS drive at any point assuming that you set up a RAID system. The backed up data will be restored via a web-based snapshot tool. Should you encounter any technical difficulties, you can use the “HelpDesk” app to contact the staff directly and ask for assistance.
As with any other QNAP model, the TS-251A features a centralized way for you to manage all your email accounts. The email agent lets you access and easily switch from your different accounts online.
All in all, TS-251A is a highly specified NAS, but depending on your particular needs you might not need to pay the extra bucks if you only want a NAS capable of keeping your home files safe. However, if you want a premium NAS with high specifications and don’t mind paying the extra buck, go with TS-251A.
Drobo is one of the few NAS manufacturers capable of releasing units comparable with Synology and Qnap. Drobo 5N2: 5-Bay NAS is one of the best attempts (yet) at shifting the emphasis to simplicity and streamlined consumer experience.
Besides decent performance numbers, this great NAS unit has a bunch of other features worth noting such as mix drive size utilization, dual Ethernet ports, solid storage monitoring, and an SSD cache. All your photos, videos, music, and documents can be stored in the large storage capacity of the Drobo 5N2. The focus is clearly on making the NAS as user-friendly as possible. Even if you don’t have a technical mind, you should be able to set up a 5N2 unit with minimal hassle.
In terms of the interface, the Drobo Dashboard resembles Android with a suggestive general menu that will give you quick access to all of 5N2’s functions. Even if Drobo Dashboard will enable you to get the job done, it doesn’t really stand up to the modern standards that QTS or DSM imposed on the market.
You can directly connect the Drobo 5N2 to your network via the high-speed Gigabit Ethernet ports. A good feature of the Drobo 5N2 allows you to combine HDDs and SSDs for better performance.
One thing that the unit excels at is the ability to protect against data loss. Aside from the single or dual-backup, it also protects your data in case of a power loss. This unit has a battery that powers up the drive when the power goes out – it will automatically recharge as soon as the power comes back.
Even if this NAS focuses on user-friendliness over anything else, it falls short over performance and quality control issues. The only reason why you would want to pick Drobo 5N2 over the other featured devices is if you’re after something that’s all about simplicity. But be prepared to compromise in the performance department.