What is a NAS disk drive?

A NAS (Network Attached Storage) disk drive is a dedicated file storage device that is connected to a local area network (LAN) to provide centralized data access and storage for multiple users and heterogeneous client devices. Unlike general purpose servers, NAS appliances are optimized specifically for storage, file sharing, backup, and management of data assets.

What are the key characteristics of NAS disk drives?

Some key characteristics of NAS disk drives include:

  • Centralized storage – NAS provides a centralized repository for file storage and backup that is independent from individual clients.
  • Network connection – NAS connects to a local network, often via Ethernet, to enable data access and file sharing across the network.
  • Multiple users – NAS supports multiple concurrent users across heterogeneous client devices like desktops, laptops, tablets etc.
  • Dedicated OS – NAS runs a dedicated storage centric OS optimized for file sharing and data management versus general computing.
  • Disk arrays – NAS systems often support multiple hard disk drives in expandable RAID arrays for storage scalability and/or redundancy.
  • Backup – Most NAS systems support automated backup of desktops, servers, virtual machines, and other devices on the network.
  • File access protocols – NAS supports common network file access protocols like SMB/CIFS, NFS, AFP, FTP etc. for sharing files.
  • Disk formats – NAS can utilize different hard disk drive formats including SATA, SAS, SSD etc. depending on storage performance and cost requirements.

What are the typical use cases and applications of NAS disk drives?

Some typical use cases and applications of NAS disk drives include:

  • File sharing and collaboration – NAS allows centralized file storage and sharing for distributed teams to collaborate on projects and documents.
  • Backups – NAS provides a consolidated disk-based backup target for client devices, eliminating need for external backup drives on each system.
  • Media storage and streaming – Large NAS disks are ideal for storing and streaming rich media like photos, videos and music libraries accessible across the network.
  • Website hosting – NAS can host website files for development, test and small scale production web sites with shared access.
  • Virtualization and databases – NAS provides storage capacity for virtual machines, database storage and logging for small scale applications.
  • Email storage – Archival of older inactive emails can be offloaded to a NAS from primary email servers.
  • Surveillance and security – NAS can store footage from multiple surveillance cameras and endpoints for video analytics.

What are the different types and form factors of NAS disk drives?

NAS disk drives are available in different types and form factors, tailored for diverse use cases:


  • Standalone – This is the most basic, single box NAS often meant for smaller businesses and homes.
  • Rackmount – These larger, rack optimized NAS systems are designed for enterprise data centers.
  • Modular – Modular NAS allow incremental addition of storage capacity using expansion disk enclosures.

Form factors

  • 1 Bay – Entry-level, designed for personal storage and light workloads.
  • 2 Bay – Offer some redundancy via RAID 1 mirroring and adequate storage for homes and SMBs.
  • 4 Bay – Balance of capacity, performance and redundancy for most small businesses.
  • 6+ Bay – For enterprises, supports large capacities via RAID 5/6/10 and redundant components.

What are the major components inside a NAS disk drive system?

The major internal components of a NAS disk drive system are:

  • CPU – The central processor runs the NAS operating system and file management tasks. Usually an Intel Atom or ARM based chip for low power consumption.
  • RAM – System memory aids multitasking and caching for OS and applications. Typically 2 to 8GB RAM in modern NAS models.
  • Storage drives – Hard disk drives provide the primary data capacity. NAS supports multiple removable SATA/SAS HDDs and SSDs.
  • RAID controller – Enables RAID data protection using the installed hard drives for features like mirroring and parity.
  • Network ports – 1GbE or 10GbE Ethernet ports enable connection to the LAN for file access.
  • Power supply – Provides stable power input and may have redundancy in enterprise models.
  • Fans – Active/passive cooling like multiple variable speed fans for ventilation and preventing overheating.

What are the typical specs and hardware capabilities offered in NAS disk drives?

Some typical specs and hardware capabilities available in NAS disk drive systems are:

Spec Capabilities
Storage Bays 1 to 60+ bays in enterprise models
Supported Drives 3.5″ and 2.5″ SATA/SAS HDDs and SSDs
Disk Capacities 4TB to 16TB per drive (higher for enterprise)
RAID Support RAID 0,1,5,6,10 for data protection
CPU Intel Atom, Celeron or Xeon processors
RAM 2GB to 512GB system memory
Networking 10/100/1000/10000 Mbps Ethernet
OS Support Windows, macOS, Linux, Unix, iOS, Android

What are the different operating systems designed for NAS appliances?

Some common operating systems tailored for NAS appliances include:

  • FreeNAS – Free open source BSD based NAS OS with ZFS file system support.
  • OpenMediaVault – Linux based open source NAS OS that can be installed on commodity hardware.
  • Rockstor – CentOS based open source NAS software for self-hosted private cloud storage.
  • Synology DSM – Feature rich proprietary Linux based OS from Synology optimized for their NAS units.
  • QNAP QTS – QNAP’s proprietary NAS OS that provides storage management apps and VM integration.
  • Asustor ADM – Intuitive NAS management system designed by Asustor for their NAS devices.
  • NETGEAR ReadyNAS – Embedded OS powering Netgear’s ReadyNAS series storage appliances.

Proprietary vendor operating systems are tailored for the specific NAS hardware while open source OS offer more flexibility across devices.

What are the advantages of using a dedicated NAS disk drive over general purpose storage servers?

Some key advantages of using dedicated NAS appliances over general purpose storage servers:

  • Optimized for storage – NAS runs lightweight OS designed for 24/7 file storage and data management.
  • Ease of use – Simple administration via browser based dashboard versus complex general server management.
  • Scalability – NAS capacity and performance can scale out by adding additional disk drives or nodes.
  • High availability – Inbuilt data protection via RAID, clustering, virtualization support and redundant components.
  • Lower cost – Compared to traditional storage arrays and servers, NAS provides affordable centralized storage.
  • Compact footprint – Small form factor NAS appliances are easy to deploy in home/office environments versus full sized racks.
  • Power efficiency – Designed for 24×7 operation with lower power processors, making them eco-friendly.

What are some of the leading NAS brands and manufacturer companies?

Some leading NAS brands and manufacturing companies include:

  • QNAP – Offer consumer and enterprise NAS for SMBs, with multimedia features.
  • Synology – Well known for easy to use NAS devices with DSM operating system.
  • Asustor – ASUSTOR NAS provide high performance storage for home and offices.
  • NETGEAR – Their ReadyNAS series caters to a wide range of storage requirements.
  • Western Digital – WD Red NAS hard drives and My Cloud NAS products are quite popular.
  • Dell EMC – PowerVault ME4 Series are affordable SAN/NAS for small to mid-sized deployment.
  • Buffalo Americas – Offer the TeraStation series of feature rich NAS appliances.
  • Seagate – Seagate’s IronWolf NAS drives and NAS products are designed for reliability.
  • Drobo – Focus on making redundant and self managing NAS storage devices.
  • Apple – The Mac focused Apple Time Capsule acts as a NAS and wireless router.

What are some key features to look for when selecting a NAS disk drive?

Some important features to look for when choosing a NAS disk drive system:

  • Disk bays – Number of storage drive bays based on capacity requirements.
  • Supported drives – Ability to accept the latest high capacity SATA/SAS HDDs and SSDs.
  • RAID support – RAID 5/6 for optimum balance of capacity and redundancy.
  • RAM – Higher RAM improves file transfer speeds and allows more users/apps.
  • Processor – Look for Intel, ARM or AMD processors suited for NAS workloads.
  • Redundant PSU – Models with dual PSUs provide enhanced reliability for business use.
  • Hot swappable – Convenient replacement of failed components without powering down the NAS.
  • Scalability – Ability to expand the NAS with more drives or add-on units as needed.
  • Warranty & Support – Multi-year warranties and technical support plans provided by vendor.

What are the typical price ranges for NAS disk drive devices?

NAS disk drives are available in a wide range of price segments catering to different buyers:

Consumer/Home NAS

  • 1 Bay entry models – $100 to $200
  • 2 Bay mid-range units – $200 to $400
  • 4 Bay high-end home devices – $400 to $800

SMB/Enterprise NAS

  • 4 Bay small office NAS – $500 to $1200
  • 8 to 12 Bay midsize business – $1200 to $3000
  • 16+ Bays rackmount enterprise – $3000+

Pricing varies based on hardware specs like processor, memory, drive types, RAID levels, redundancy features and software capabilities.

What are some tips for getting the best performance from a NAS disk drive deployment?

Some guidelines for optimizing NAS disk drive performance:

  • Choose 7200 RPM or faster SATA HDDs, or even better SSDs for storage pool.
  • Leverage link aggregation/port trunking features of the NAS and network switch to get increased bandwidth.
  • Enable jumbo frames (9000 MTU) on the NAS, switch and clients to reduce overhead.
  • Optimize RAID configuration based on required capacity versus performance.
  • Enable deduplication and compression to reduce data footprint and demands on disk.
  • Schedule intensive backup jobs to run during off peak hours if available bandwidth is limited.
  • Disable unnecessary services running on the NAS to free up system resources.
  • Add more RAM to NAS if you run multiple intensive apps like virtual machines.
  • Make sure firmware, apps and antivirus on NAS are updated to latest stable versions.

What are some best practices for data protection and backup when using NAS storage?

Some recommended data protection and backup best practices for NAS deployments:

  • Leverage built-in NAS snapshot capability for quick point-in-time restores.
  • Use NAS cloning or replication features to create copies of data on separate NAS units.
  • Enable cloud backup service integration offered by most NAS vendors for offsite backups.
  • Configure external direct attached storage or tape drive based archives from NAS for long term retention.
  • Store a copy of NAS configuration backup externally in case you need to rebuild the system.
  • Install a UPS to protect the NAS from unexpected power outages.
  • Ensure proper ventilation and operating temperatures to prevent disk failures.
  • Enable disk health monitoring with proactive alerts and self healing capabilities if available.
  • Maintain a valid support contract for immediate help with troubleshooting hardware issues.

Following best practices for both the NAS platform and company backup policies is key for avoiding data loss.


NAS disk drive based storage offers compelling benefits like shared storage consolidation, operational simplicity and cost efficiency versus traditional SAN and dedicated servers for file storage and backup. Carefully evaluating key criteria like capacity, availability needs, and budget requirements is necessary for selecting the right NAS model tailored to your use case. Following vendor recommended deployment practices and data protection procedures helps tap into the full potential safely while minimizing downtime.