Are NAS drives worth it?

What is a NAS Drive?

NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. A NAS device is dedicated storage hardware that is connected to a local area network (LAN) and serves data to multiple computers and devices on that network.

Unlike a regular external hard drive that connects directly to a single computer via USB, a NAS connects to the network and can be accessed wirelessly by any authorized device on that network. This allows multiple users and devices to store, access, share, and stream data from a centralized location.

A basic NAS device is comprised of one or more hard disk drives for storage, a built-in operating system optimized for hosting and delivering files, and network connectivity, usually Ethernet or WiFi. More advanced NAS systems may also include RAID array configurations for redundancy, backup capabilities, data encryption, virtualization features, and hardware clones for easy setup.

In summary, a NAS provides a simple and efficient way to consolidate storage and backup for multiple users while enabling easy file sharing and remote media streaming capabilities for homes and businesses.

Benefits of NAS Drives

NAS drives offer several key benefits that make them an attractive storage solution for many use cases.


One of the main advantages of NAS is accessibility. Since the NAS is connected to the local network, authorized users can easily access files from any device on that network, whether they are on-site or remote. This makes it convenient for collaboration, file sharing, and remote working. NAS devices often include features for remote access as well, allowing users to securely access files when away from the office (Source 1).

Centralized Storage

Rather than having storage siloed on individual devices, NAS consolidates storage into one centralized location on the local network. Centralized storage makes it easier to manage large storage needs, implement backup strategies, and ensure protection of critical data assets. Users and applications can access the same set of files on the NAS (Source 2).

RAID Configurations

Many NAS solutions support RAID configurations, which provides redundancy by spreading data across multiple drives. This protects files in the event of a single disk failure. Common RAID levels like 1, 5, and 10 provide an ideal balance of redundancy and storage efficiency.


NAS devices include built-in software and operating systems that allow administrators to automate tasks like storage allocation, access controls, backups, and more. This saves time compared to managing standalone drives.

Drawbacks of NAS Drives

While NAS drives provide many benefits, they also come with some potential drawbacks to consider. Some of the main disadvantages of NAS drives include:

Cost – The upfront cost of a NAS can be high depending on the storage capacity and features. Many consumers may find NAS devices cost prohibitive compared to external hard drives or cloud storage services.

Complexity – Setting up and managing a NAS drive requires more technical know-how than a regular external hard drive that can just be plugged in. Users need at least a basic understanding of networking, IP addresses, security protocols, RAID configurations, etc. This can frustrate less tech-savvy users.[1]

Single Point of Failure – Having all your data in one centralized NAS device creates a single point of failure. If the NAS fails or becomes corrupted, you could lose all your data at once with no backups. It’s critical to have a backup strategy for your NAS.

While the advantages often outweigh the drawbacks for many home and business users, it’s important to carefully weigh the pros and cons when deciding if a NAS is right for your needs.

Primary NAS Use Cases

Some of the most common uses for NAS drives, particularly in home and small business settings, include:

Home media servers – Storing and streaming personal media like photos, videos, music, and downloaded content across devices in the home. NAS drives excel at this with features like media servers, apps, and transcoding. Many consumer NAS systems like Synology’s DiskStation line are designed specifically for home media use.

Business file servers – Storing, backing up, and sharing documents securely between employees in an office. Features like user access controls, remote access, syncing, and backups make NAS ideal for small business file storage and collaboration.

Backup storage – Using the NAS as a central repository for backups of other devices on the network, providing redundancy and protection against data loss. Cloud backup and synchronization features allow offsite protection as well.

NAS Drive Features

NAS drives come with a variety of hardware features and software capabilities that enable them to serve as centralized data storage and file servers.

On the hardware side, NAS devices typically include multiple drive bays to hold multiple hard drives for storage capacity and redundancy. Many feature fast gigabit ethernet connections for network access and some high-end models include 10GbE ports for faster speeds. The CPU and RAM impact the performance of the NAS when handling multiple users and requests. Most NAS units also have one or more USB ports to connect additional external drives.[1]

The operating system is a key differentiator between NAS models. There are both proprietary OSes like Synology’s DiskStation Manager and open source options like FreeNAS. The OS provides the interface for managing storage, users, shares, apps, and more. It also determines supported features like snapshots, replication, clustering, and virtualization support.[2]

Remote access is enabled through the NAS OS or third party apps. This allows accessing stored files over the internet when away from the local network. Built-in mobile apps from brands like QNAP allow easy remote access and file management.[3]

Many NAS units also offer a variety of built-in apps and services beyond just file storage and sharing. This includes multimedia apps, surveillance and backups, website hosting, virtual machines, and more. The apps available are dependent on the NAS OS and model capabilities.




Setting Up a NAS

Setting up a NAS involves getting it connected to your network, configuring user accounts, and enabling remote access. Here are the key steps:

First, connect your NAS to your router using an Ethernet cable. Most NAS devices have instructions to help you get connected to your network and obtain an IP address. Many also have setup wizards that can walk you through the process.

Once connected, you’ll want to create user accounts to allow different users to access the NAS (Source 1). Assign privileges and folders to each user as desired. Many NAS devices support Active Directory integration if you want to connect NAS users to your Windows domain accounts.

Finally, enable remote access if you want to access your NAS over the internet when away from home. This usually involves port forwarding on your router. Some NAS devices also support their own cloud access services to simplify remote access. Be sure to use secure passwords and enable HTTPS.

With those core steps complete, you can start using your NAS for file storage, backups, media streaming and more. Refer to your NAS documentation for tips on all the features available.

Managing and Maintaining a NAS

Properly managing and maintaining your NAS is crucial to ensure continued performance and protect your data. Here are some best practices:

Adding Storage

As your storage needs grow, you may need to expand the storage capacity of your NAS. Many NAS systems allow you to add additional hard drives. Be sure to use compatible drives and configure the NAS software to take advantage of the new space.

Some key factors when adding NAS storage include drive formats, RAID configurations, and hot swappability. Refer to your NAS manual for specific instructions. Backblaze provides a helpful NAS storage optimization guide.

Monitoring Health

Keep an eye on critical NAS statistics like drive health, CPU/RAM usage, and network throughput. Most NAS software has built-in monitoring tools and alerts. Check the dashboards regularly to spot problems early.

Tools like Onsite Helper can monitor NAS health metrics and send notifications when something needs attention.


A NAS failure could destroy irreplaceable data if backups aren’t configured properly. Use built-in tools or third party software to schedule regular backups to external drives and cloud storage.

Test restores periodically to verify your data is intact. Rotate backup drives to limit wear and tear.


As a network attached device, NAS security is critical. Enable firewall protection, disable unused services, and install software updates promptly. Use secure remote access methods like VPNs or SSH when accessing NAS settings remotely.

Consider physically locking your NAS if it’s in a public area. Enable drive encryption for an added layer of protection.

Top NAS Drive Brands

When it comes to NAS devices, there are a few major brands that consistently rise to the top in reviews and recommendations. According to experts, some of the top NAS drive brands to consider include:

Synology ( – Synology is often considered the leader in the NAS space, known for its user-friendly DSM operating system and wide array of helpful apps and add-ons. Models like the DiskStation DS220+ offer excellent performance and ease-of-use.

QNAP ( – QNAP is another well-respected NAS brand that offers advanced features, impressive hardware, and a deep degree of customization and control. The TS-251D is a popular 2-bay option.

Asustor ( – Asustor NAS devices run the ADM operating system and provide robust tools for media, surveillance, and backup needs. The AS5304T is a great 4-bay model.

WD ( – Western Digital brings its extensive hard drive experience to NAS with user-friendly options like the My Cloud Home series. It’s a budget-friendly NAS brand.

Seagate ( – Along with WD, Seagate is a major hard drive brand that offers NAS devices like the IronWolf 110. It focuses on providing reliable, easy to use NAS options.

NAS Cost Considerations

The upfront cost of a NAS drive can vary greatly depending on the storage capacity, hardware specs, and additional features. A basic 2-bay NAS enclosure without any hard drives may cost between $150-$300. Once you factor in the hard drives themselves, the total cost ramps up quickly. For example, adding two 8TB hard drives at around $150 each would bring the total initial cost to $450-$600 for a 16TB NAS.

As your storage needs grow over time, you’ll likely need to invest in additional hard drives. Thankfully many NAS units support hot-swapping drives, allowing you to easily add storage without any downtime. Expect to pay around $15 per TB for additional NAS hard drives. Some key factors that determine drive pricing are RPM speed, cache size, and warranty period (NYTimes).

In terms of operating costs, NAS units are generally very energy efficient. For example, a typical 4-bay Synology NAS may use around 30W while active, and as little as 6W when idle (Reddit). This translates to around $5-10 per month in electricity costs depending on usage. Overall, factoring in the initial hardware cost plus ongoing electricity use, you can expect to spend around $400-$500 per year owning and operating a typical 4-bay home NAS.

Final Verdict

Network attached storage (NAS) drives offer some compelling benefits for businesses and prosumer users seeking to build at-home data centers. Having your data stored on a dedicated NAS device allows you to centralize storage and backups, as well as scale storage as needed without reliance on cloud services. NAS drives provide more flexibility, security and control over your data compared to consumer cloud storage options.

For general home users who just need extra storage space and don’t need advanced features, a basic external hard drive is likely sufficient and more cost effective. However, for power users who want features like media streaming, remote access, backups, and data redundancy, NAS drives are an excellent solution.

The three main use cases where NAS drives shine are 1) Centralized storage for multiple devices/users 2) Network backups 3) Media servers for streaming and transcoding. For these specific needs, a NAS is well worth the investment over a standard external drive.

When evaluating NAS devices, key factors to consider are processing power, number of bays, supported RAID configurations, and business features like SSD caching. Leading consumer brands like Synology, QNAP, and Asustor provide excellent options. Overall, NAS drives are ideal for advanced home/SOHO users and businesses seeking an on-premises data storage solution with room to scale.