A NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive is a specialized hard drive that is connected directly to a network, rather than to a single computer. NAS drives have become very popular in recent years as a convenient way to share files and media across multiple devices in a household or small office.
What are the benefits of a NAS drive?
Some key benefits of using a NAS drive include:
- Centralized storage – Instead of saving files on individual computers, everything is stored on the NAS. This makes it easy to access files from any device on the network.
- File sharing – Multiple users can access, share, and collaborate on files saved on the NAS simultaneously.
- Backups – NAS drives make it easy to backup all the computers on your network by simply copying files to the NAS.
- Remote access – Many NAS drives can be accessed remotely over the internet, allowing you to access files stored on your home or office NAS when you’re away.
- Media streaming – Most NAS drives include media server software, allowing you to stream music, photos and videos to smart TVs, media players, tablets and other devices.
- RAID support – Many NAS drives support RAID, which allows multiple hard drives to be used together for increased storage capacity, speed and redundancy.
What features should you look for in a NAS drive?
Here are some key features to consider when choosing a NAS:
- Storage capacity – How much total storage do you need? Many NAS systems have two or more drive bays that allow you to add additional hard drives later.
- Processor – A faster processor will allow you to work with files on the NAS more quickly.
- RAM – More RAM allows the NAS to handle more simultaneous connections and tasks. At least 2GB is recommended for most home uses.
- File sharing protocols – Make sure the NAS supports common protocols like SMB, AFP, FTP, etc. to allow easy file sharing across devices.
- Remote access – Look for remote access features like a web interface, mobile apps, remote login via FTP, etc.
- Backup features – Does the NAS allow for easy scheduling of backups for networked computers and servers?
- RAID capabilities – Some NAS systems support advanced RAID configurations like RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and 10 for redundancy and performance.
- Number of drive bays – This determines how many hard drives can be installed. More bays allow for future expansion.
What are the most popular uses for a NAS drive?
Here are some of the most common ways people use NAS devices in their home or small business:
- Centralized file storage – Storing all files in one place makes it easy to access and backup data.
- Backing up computers – Easily backup multiple computers by saving files directly to the NAS.
- Media streaming – Stream videos, music and photos to smart TVs, game consoles and mobile devices from the NAS.
- File sharing – Easy and secure file sharing across computers, tablets, phones, etc.
- Remote access – Access files stored on the NAS remotely over the internet when away from home.
- Home automation hub – Many NAS units can act as a smart home hub for automation devices.
- Web hosting – Host personal websites by installing web server software on the NAS.
- Surveillance storage – Store video footage from security cameras on your NAS.
Whether it’s storing personal documents, family photos, music and movie collections or business files, a NAS provides a simple way to keep everything organized and accessible in one place.
What types of connections do NAS drives use?
NAS drives connect to your home or office network using either wired Ethernet connections or WiFi:
Most NAS drives have one or more onboard Ethernet ports that allow you to connect them directly to your router or network switch using Ethernet cables. This provides faster and more reliable file transfers compared to WiFi. Many models also allow you to aggregate multiple Ethernet ports together for even greater throughput.
Many consumers prefer to place their NAS drive anywhere in the house without running long Ethernet cables. NAS units aimed at home users typically include built-in WiFi. This allows you to position the NAS anywhere within range of your WiFi router or access point. Transfer speeds are usually faster over Ethernet, but WiFi provides more flexibility for placement.
Some models also include both Ethernet and WiFi connectivity for maximum flexibility. This allows you to connect directly to your network via Ethernet for fast transfers, while also allowing WiFi access for configuration and file management from mobile devices.
How difficult is it to set up a NAS drive?
Setting up a NAS has become much easier in recent years thanks to easy-to-use web and mobile interfaces:
- NAS devices are essentially plug-and-play for basic setup. Simply connect the NAS to your router and turn it on.
- An onboard web interface allows you to configure network settings and user accounts. This can usually be accessed through any web browser.
- Many NAS makers also have mobile apps for iOS and Android that make setup and management very simple.
- Higher-end NAS drives aimed at businesses offer more advanced management features and RAID configuration tools, but are still designed to be easy to use.
Overall the process is very straightforward: connect the NAS, access the interface, create user accounts, configure access permissions, set up any RAID, and start transferring files. There’s usually very little technical knowledge required unless you want to dig into more advanced features.
How much storage capacity do most NAS drives have?
NAS drive storage capacities can range from just 2-bays and a few terabytes, up to 12-bays with dozens or even hundreds of terabytes:
- Basic home NAS drives typically start around 2 to 4 drive bays, with each bay supporting up to 16TB drives.
- Prosumer models aimed at power users often have 4 to 8 bays, allowing for huge amounts of storage.
- Business-oriented NAS devices can scale even larger, with some supporting 10, 12 or more drive bays.
With multi-bay NAS devices, you can start small with just 2 or 4TB, and expand by adding additional and higher capacity drives later as your needs grow. Capacity needs depend on how much data you need to store and any redundancy requirements.
What types of RAID configurations are available in NAS drives?
Many NAS drives support RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) to increase storage, performance, or redundancy:
- RAID 0 – Stripes data across disks for increased performance, but provides no redundancy. Highest risk of data loss if one drive fails.
- RAID 1 – Mirrors data across disks for redundancy. Allows one drive to fail without data loss.
- RAID 5 – Stripes data and parity information across disks. Allows one drive to fail without data loss.
- RAID 6 – Similar to RAID 5, but allows two disk failures.
- RAID 10 – Combination of RAID 0 stripping and RAID 1 mirroring. Provides performance and redundancy.
Higher-end NAS drives aimed at businesses typically support advanced RAID modes like RAID 50, 60, etc. Most home users opt for RAID 1 or RAID 5 configurations for the best balance of capacity, speed and protection against drive failures.
Can you access and manage NAS drives remotely?
Most modern NAS devices offer a variety of remote access and management options:
- Web interfaces are accessible from anywhere with the NAS IP address or dynamic domain name.
- Mobile apps allow remote access and monitoring from iOS and Android devices.
- Many models offer remote backup software for accessing the NAS over the internet.
- Cloud access and syncing allows remote files access through cloud storage services.
- FTP, SSH and VPN access provides options for advanced remote administration.
With remote administration tools, you can access stored files, manage users, check system health monitors, restart the NAS and handle many other tasks remotely over the internet when away from home.
What types of data protection and redundancy do NAS drives provide?
NAS devices are designed to protect your important data using both redundancy and backup features:
- RAID configurations like RAID 1, 5 and 6 introduce redundancy by duplicating data across multiple drives or using parity calculations.
- Backup software allows automated backups from PCs and servers to the NAS on a schedule.
- Versioning saves multiple versions of a file whenever it is modified or updated.
- Snapshots take incremental backups of files as they are changed to allow rollback.
- Cloud syncing and backup provides offsite backups of NAS data to cloud services.
- Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) can power the NAS through power outages.
Using a combination of onsite redundancy like RAID combined with comprehensive backup procedures provides the best protection against both drive failures and catastrophic events like fires or theft.
How much does a typical consumer or prosumer NAS drive cost?
NAS drive pricing can range quite a bit depending on features and capacity needs:
- Small home NAS devices with just 2 drive bays start under $200.
- Larger 4 to 5 bay home NAS units typically run from $300 to $700.
- High capacity prosumer models with 6 or more bays cost $700 to $1,500.
- Business-oriented rackmount NAS units with 10GbE and expandability scale from $1,500 up to $10,000+.
Of course, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of hard drives. WD Red NAS-optimized drives provide the best performance and reliability. Overall, plan to spend at minimum $500 to $1,000 for a capable home NAS with adequate storage. Ongoing costs come from periodically upgrading or expanding the hard drives.
NAS drives provide a convenient way for home users and small businesses to centrally store files, back up computers, stream media and access data from anywhere. Key benefits include remote accessibility, RAID redundancy, comprehensive backup features and easy setup and management. While not the cheapest storage solution, a quality NAS is one of the best investments you can make for protecting your data and keeping it accessible across all your devices.