The "indie" NAS makers that aren't drive manufacturers, such as Synology and QNAP, are more likely to sell their NAS devices diskless, though they or more accurately, their resellers may also offer units pre-populated and configured with drives for shoppers' convenience. If a given NAS is offered in both pre-populated and diskless form, we suggest checking out the cost difference and making sure that the drives that are provided in the populated model work out to a good value. This might coincide with the hard drives they actually manufacture, or not.
Take a look at these drive-compatibility lists before you buy. If you already own a bank of hard drives you intend to install, you'll want to look for such validation. If yours are not on the list, it doesn't mean they won't work, but if you are buying drives new, it's best to stick with the NAS maker's recommendations. IronWolf Pro drives are rated for service in enterprise or commercial situations. As we mentioned earlier, NAS units that have more than one drive are built to offer the option for redundancy, so in two- and four-drive configurations the extra disks can simply "mirror" the contents of the other drive.
A two-bay unit with two 4TB drives would offer only 4TB of usable storage if you leave it in mirror mode. The other drive is in a sense invisible, as it's used to make a second copy of all the files from the other drive in the background. Usually, the user has the option to reconfigure the drives to gain the capacity of the second drive, if desired. One way you can do this is via "striping," in which the data will span both drives. Striping by itself is chancy; under some circumstances, it enhances the speed of reads and writes, since you're accessing two drives at once.
But if either disk fails, it's possible that all your data will be lost, so we don't recommend this approach. It essentially doubles the failure risk. This is marginally safer than just basic striping, but any data you save to a given drive is still vulnerable to the failure of that specific mechanism. It's also possible to combine striping and mirroring across three or more drives for enhanced speed and data security. In such an arrangement, the NAS would copy the data across the drive array in such a way that the failure of one of the drives would allow the NAS to reconstruct the array and thus save your data if you swap in a replacement drive.
This is mainly of interest to business users that need to maximize both redundancy and data transfer rates. If you think a NAS drive will let you stream any type of media you have to any device or TV, keep in mind certain devices will only play certain types of files, and you'll need to get software and hardware to work together to make this happen. It needs to be in MP4 format to be recognized. It can be complicated, though, to guarantee that a specific file or file type will play on a given device, so look at the specs of the NAS closely to determine its capabilities. A late development in NAS circles is special kinds of support for streaming 4K video, and the spec sheet is your friend in these cases.
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Some NAS with 4K acceleration will convert this high-resolution video on the fly to formats better suited to the bit rates of devices, such as smartphones, that are requesting it. This is an esoteric need at the moment, but know that some NAS makers will charge a premium for some of these features.
It's also possible to get such on-the-fly transcoding for other, lesser resolutions. Once they are plugged in, just like everything else on the NAS, they can be shared with all the connected users. A frequent arrangement: USB 2. Some NAS units also have a "copy" button on the front panel designed to make copying the contents of an external drive, such as a flash drive, to the NAS a one-button-press affair.
You just connect the drive and tap the button, and everything on the external drive is safely copied to the NAS to a predesignated location. NAS drives, by definition, will come with an Ethernet port, possibly two for redundancy or channel-bonding essentially, using two Ethernet connections to enhance speed with very high-end business models.
Recent high-end models may also offer the option for gigabit Ethernet, for screaming data transfer rates, though the throughput of platter hard drives makes this moot for most consumer and SOHO usage cases. That said, a few models come with a PCI slot that may let you install an enhanced network card.
NAS roundup: Best network attached storage options for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users
In addition to the above sharing features, most NAS drives let you send web links to people to allow them to access remotely certain files or folders located on your NAS. Your NAS can thus serve like your own private Dropbox or Google Drive , but with way more storage capacity—and no monthly bill. Many NAS makers tout this. Look for the much-bandied term "personal cloud" around this kind of feature.
With this functionality, you can also access the NAS itself from any internet connection, not just via your local network. As a result, you can download files you need on the road, or stream a movie or music files resident on your home NAS to your laptop in a hotel across the country or the world, network bandwidth permitting. Most, but not all, NAS drives offer this kind of feature, so be sure to do your research before you pull the trigger if it's a must-have.
We wouldn't get a NAS without it. Below are the top NAS devices we've recently tested, ranging from simple home-oriented models to multiple-drive arrays that can serve dozens of users in an office environment. Whether you want to serve media files to the rest of the house, keep office documents in a single, accessible repository, or simply back up your digital life from your PCs , tablets , and mobile phones, there's a drive here for you.
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For more storage options, take a look at our lists of the best external hard drives and the top SSDs , as well as our top-rated cloud storage services. Speedy performance. Easy setup. Lots of ports. Generous selection of apps. Easy to install. If you want to share and store data on your network, you may not need a NAS. Windows, macOS, and Linux also have built-in file-sharing features that make using your computer as a file server easy. But that approach takes up disk space on your computer and is more difficult to manage securely, and your computer has to be on all the time, which consumes more power than a NAS and might make the data inaccessible when your computer goes to sleep.
Websites focused on enterprise network storage, such as Computer Weekly and StorageReview.
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Many NAS devices can also manage decent on-the-fly transcoding with their own apps, but Plex transcoding currently requires a lot of CPU power, and none of the models we tested were able to handle transcoding in Plex reliably. You could make your own NAS with old computer hardware and free software such as FreeNAS or XigmaNAS , but a dedicated NAS device uses far less power usually about as much as a couple of LED light bulbs , has a better interface and more apps, and comes with a manufacturer warranty and technical support.
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Back in , we surveyed 1, Wirecutter readers on what they wanted in a home NAS, and most of those requirements still hold true. When deciding which models to test, we paid attention to a number of key features that most home users needed:. First we set up each NAS following its included install guide, if it had one.
We tested ease of use by configuring user and group accounts, as well as file and folder access permissions. We checked to see if the NAS offered a secure cloud service for remote access, which would avoid having to mess with port forwarding and static IP addresses.
We ran each test nine times in each direction: To simulate drive failure, we pulled a drive from the NAS while it was running. A NAS should beep or flash an LED to alert you that something is wrong, and the interface should show a drive-failure notification. Next we replaced the pulled drive with one of equal or greater capacity. A NAS should detect a new drive and automatically re-create the mirrored array. A good NAS has drive trays or slots that make the drives easy to remove but are sturdy enough to ensure that the drives fit tightly and securely, with no chance of getting disconnected by a random bump.
We also connected a flash drive to one of the USB ports. A NAS interface should recognize a connected drive and display its make, model, and file system. All our NAS picks have some sort of energy-saving feature. We used a Kill A Watt EZ to test the power consumption on each NAS when it was performing a task such as a file copy , when it was idle, and with its energy-saving options enabled. The playing field was much more level when we tested using our folder containing two large files: Btrfs also features near-instant server-side copying, data integrity checks, and metadata mirroring, which supposedly helps with data recovery in the case of hard-drive damage.
Thorin Klosowski. The interface in DiskStation Manager offers an overlay for system health as well as easy access to all the settings you need. You can quickly find and install new applications in Package Center. In our tests, file transfer in encrypted folders was around 60 percent of the speed of transfer in non-encrypted folders.
DSM has a toolbar on the top where you can access the main menu, notifications, and login options, search for files, and check on system health. Below that toolbar, you have a desktop where you can access Package Center a store of sorts filled with add-on software , the file browser, the control panel which includes all your settings , and a support area offering video tutorials, FAQs, and more. You can customize the dashboard to include storage, connected users, and more. DSM also includes handy features for novices. While these commands may be familiar to veteran systems administrators, new users or anyone who has forgotten the server name will welcome the embedded tip.
DSM has an optional cloud service called Cloud Station Server that allows you to access your files remotely. You can set those backups to happen on a schedule and optionally encrypt them before you upload them to another service. DSM packs in numerous security measures. For better or worse, instead of having one big app with tons of features, Synology takes a piecemeal approach to its mobile apps. We also had issues with any 4K video using the DTS audio codec, in which no sound would play.
We recommend transcoding your video files ahead of time if you plan on using your NAS as a media server. You can do this with the Offline Transcoding feature in Video Station , though unfortunately you need to manually choose individual videos to convert. Logging in to DSM, we found another notification as well as instructions for how to rebuild the drive array in the Storage Manager once we replaced it.
You can adjust the LED brightness or set it up on a schedule so the lights dim at night. Or you can set it to export, say, only video files from a specific folder. This unit also supports more than 5, different IP cameras and has special configuration settings for uninterruptible power supplies.
Unlike our main pick, the TSB can encrypt whole volumes, not just folders. Design-wise, QTS takes at least some of its inspiration from iOS, loading up all your add-on packages as icons on a desktop. When we pulled out a drive and inserted a fresh one to simulate replacing a failed drive, it rebuilt its array without trouble. QNAP provides a two-year warranty and excellent support both over the phone and via an online forum, plus a knowledge base and tutorials.
This decreases the total overall storage, however, and larger firms and businesses will likely need an NAS with more data storage capabilities. But entrepreneurs and others with smaller storage needs will likely be satisfied. The previous NAS models have all been more or less suited for home use or small commercial endeavors.
It only features two bays, which limits your expansion to two individual disks.
However, the TS has significantly improved capabilities over previous models, meaning you can do a lot more with this NAS than with less expensive ones. For one, the processor is much better and faster. Although an Intel Celeron is a low-grade computer processor, it provides more than enough power for an NAS. A dual-core CPU running at 2. The RAM is also improved over cheaper models. You can use the TS for real time video transcoding, and if you upgrade it to 2 GB of memory, you can run it as a virtual machine, streamlining operations and improving performance. Although you can use up to 10 TB drives, with this 2-bay model you will receive the best performance with two 4 GB drives.
Enjoy the security of RAID 1 or forgo redundancy and take advantage of improved storage. One of the things that I like about Western Digital is that you have a choice between diskless network attached storage or buying models that already have dedicated drives. The WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra leaves you with plenty of customization options, allowing you customized network attached storage without the hassle of setting it up yourself. The EX2 is outfitted with a 1. It is easy to sink across all your computer and across My Cloud, and your storage is easy to control with the My Cloud app and software.
The NAS even comes with surveillance software that allows you to monitor security cameras and other protection software, making it easy to keep your business safe and secure. ReadyNAS uses a powerful 1. It feature dual Gigabit Ethernet connections and comes with a cloud-based user portal compatible with Windows, Apple and Android operating systems.
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One of the best features of the ReasdyNAS are its up-to-five levels of data protection: RAID protection, snapshot technology, anti-virus software, bitrot protection and additional backup storage options if you connect it with the cloud. RAID 5 does not employ redundancy, but uses disk parity to store information across all four drives.
This dramatically increases performance speeds, but only allows for the loss of one disk without the loss of data. You can also set it up as RAID 1, which would afford you two drives worth of storage. With up to 40 TB of storage space 4 x 10 TB , you could save thousands of dollars a year over online cloud storage. It is built on My Cloud technology, providing you with easy-to-use support for all your cloud and data sharing needs. As is the case with other Western Digital My Cloud models, you can choose to upgrade the storage disks to 16 and 24 TB models.
It features a 1. With a variety of RAID configurations available, it is a great choice for businesses of all shapes and sizes, as it provides you with a wide assortment of options for protecting and accessing your data.