A network-attached storage (NAS) device 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 files 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.
If you’re currently in the market for a NAS device, we have reviewed the best drives in the market today used mainly in homes and small offices. Our research is based on personal use, user feedback, operating system stability, manufacturer updates, security patches, and availability of apps through the NAS interface.
Factors to Consider When Buying a NAS Device
There are a few factors you need to consider in order to pinpoint the ideal NAS device for your particular situation. Besides Synology and QNAP, there are other worthy manufacturers that might make your choice more difficult than you first thought.
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:
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.
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.
However, a RAID system won’t be effective against a fire 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.
Last update on 2018-09-22 at 19:44 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Synology 2-bay NAS DiskStation DS218j – Our Pick
Since the two-bay NAS can be configured with Synology’s superior Hybrid RAID (SHR), you have the freedom of using two hard drives that are of different sizes. Specification-wise, with 1.3GHz dual-core processor and 512 MB of RAM, Synology 2-bay NAS DiskStation DS218j is as good as the DS216 model which is marketed as a superior office-orientated NAS.
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.
PRODUCT INFO Synology 2-bay NAS DiskStation DS218j Manufacture Synology Available at View at Amazon
You can use this unit to connect all your home devices and synchronize all your files. Even more, you can make them available to your family and friends so they can access it at any time from anywhere. 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 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 the Synology 2-bay NAS DiskStation DS218j unit is a near perfect NAS for a home at this price point.
Even though it’s one of the cheapest Synology models on the market, there are few things that could be considered entry-level about the features and performance of Synology 2-bay NAS DiskStation DS218j. As long as you don’t plan on using it for live 4K transcoding, this NAS will be a reliable addition to your home.
|Compatible with Mac, Windows, Android, Apple||Tech Savvy Setup|
|Easy to put together|
|Reads at 113 MB/s|
|Two USB 3.0 Ports|
QNAP TS-251 2-Bay Personal Cloud NAS – Runner-up
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 the QNAP TS-251 2-Bay Personal Cloud NAS boasts superior specifications with a staggering 2.41 GHz Dual Core CPU and 1 GB of RAM. The downside? It’s more expensive and not that friendly to NAS newcomers.
PRODUCT INFO QNAP TS-251 2-Bay Personal Cloud NAS Manufacture QNAP Available at View at Amazon
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).
|User friendly interface||Plastic trays|
|Regular updates||Resource intensive|
|Many professional apps|
|2 Ethernet, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 ports|
QNAP TS-251 2-Bay Personal Cloud 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, QNAP TS-251 2-Bay Personal Cloud is arguably better for your home. But keep in mind that you might need to upgrade the RAM if you wish to transcode and stream 4k content. Even though it doesn’t have the equivalent of Hybrid RAID (SHR), TS-251 2-Bay Personal Cloud supports all the traditional RAID configurations. Also, it integrates well with Apple devices in case you need to use it to mirror to iTunes or backup your media from the iPhone. You can also run PLEX on it to easily access your digital media locally and remotely (but port forwarding is needed).
TS-251 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.
Synology 4-bay NAS DiskStation DS418J (Diskless) – Also Great
This Synology unit uses the same award-winning interface(DSM UI) but has a steeper price point at around $350. 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.
PRODUCT INFO Synology 4-bay NAS DiskStation DS418J Manufacture Synology Available at View at Amazon
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.
Synology 4-bay NAS DiskStation DS418J also comes with a surveillance program (Surveillance Station) that allows you to connect CCTV cameras and get a 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.
|64-bit 1.4 GHz Processor||Documentation is often outdated to to software upgrades|
|40 TB raw single volume capacity||UI doesnt work well with IE, Edge and Firefox use Chrome|
|Noise Level 20.6 dB(A)|
|Perfect for IP Cameras|
By looking at the unit from a broad perspective, it’s clear that 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 has solid features and specifications, and the price, even if it’s a little steep, it’s more than fair for what you get.
QNAP TS-251A 2-Bay Personal Cloud NAS – Also Great
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.
PRODUCT INFO QNAP TS-251A Manufacture QNAP Available at View at Amazon
A minor inconvenience is the fact that you still need to sweat a little when fitting a new hard disk (compared to Synology units where the process is painless).
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 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. Extra features like additional audio and video outputs and the QuickAccess USB port might not matter much to you – in this case, we advise you to go with our designated winner. However, if you want a premium NAS with high specifications and don’t mind paying the extra buck, go with TS-251A.
Drobo 5N2: 5-Bay NAS (DRDS5A21) – Also Great
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, the Drobo 5N2: 5-Bay NAS 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.
- Has five bays for HDD
- Has one mSATA SSD Drive Bay
- Has 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports
- Uses BeyondRAID Technology
- Has a 120mm variable-speed cooling-fan
- Supports MAC and Windows
In terms of the interface, 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.
PRODUCT INFO Drobo 5N2 5 Bay (Standard) Manufacture Drobo Available at View at Amazon
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 Drobo 5N2 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.
|User-friendly interface||Inefficient SSD cache|
|Extremely easy to set up|
|Internal battery protects against power outage|
Even if this NAS focuses on user-friendliness over anything else, Drobo 5N2 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.