When looking to purchase a NAS (network attached storage) device, there are several key specifications to consider to ensure you get the right system for your needs. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the most important NAS specs and what to look for when shopping.
The CPU is one of the most critical components of a NAS. It handles all the background tasks and operations. For home and SMB usage, a dual or quad-core processor is sufficient. Higher-core CPUs like 6, 8, or even 12 cores are only needed for intensive workloads and virtualization. Some popular NAS processors include:
- Intel Celeron
- Intel Core i3
- Intel Xeon
- AMD Ryzen
When evaluating processors, pay attention to the clock speed. Higher GHz generally means better performance. 3.0GHz and up is ideal for most use cases.
RAM enables the NAS to handle multiple requests and operations simultaneously. More RAM means better multitasking capabilities and prevents bottlenecking. For home users, 4GB is sufficient for basic tasks. 8GB provides good future-proofing for advanced features. Power users may benefit from 16-32GB or more.
Most NAS units support easy DIY RAM upgrades, so you can always add more memory later as your needs change.
Storage Bays and Capacity
The number of drive bays determines how much raw storage capacity the NAS can hold. Common configurations include:
- 2 bays
- 4 bays
- 6 bays
- 8+ bays for rackmount models
With multi-bay NAS devices, you can mix and match hard drives of different capacities based on your storage requirements. The general rule of thumb is to get a NAS with more bays than your current needs to provide room for expansion.
In addition to drive bays, look at the maximum supported capacity per NAS model. Many consumer and SMB models top out at around 16TB, 32TB, or 64TB. Enterprise and rackmount units can scale into petabytes.
NAS hard drives come in two main flavors:
- HDD: Hard disk drives provide the highest capacities and lowest cost per TB. They are great for bulk storage but run at lower RPMs which reduces performance.
- SSD: Solid state drives have no moving parts, generate less heat, and offer much faster read/write speeds. However, SSDs are more expensive and offer lower total capacity. Many NAS devices offer both HDD and SSD support.
RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Drives. It allows you to configure multiple drives to act as a single volume.
There are several RAID types that provide different balances of speed, capacity, and fault tolerance:
|Stripes data across drives for fast performance but offers no redundancy. Highest risk of data loss from drive failures.
|Mirrors data across two drives for redundancy. If one fails, data is not lost. Half of total capacity is usable.
|Stripes data and parity information across three or more drives. Allows one drive to fail without data loss.
|Same as RAID 5 but allows two drive failures. Slower write speeds.
|Mirrors data and stripes the mirrors. Provides speed and redundancy but requires a minimum of four drives.
The ability to implement different RAID levels provides great flexibility. Many NAS systems also support on-the-fly RAID migration and expansion.
Since the NAS is connected to your network, the network interfaces play a major role. Key things to evaluate:
- Ethernet ports: Most NAS units have 1GbE ports. High-end models offer 10GbE or link aggregation for increased throughput.
- Wi-Fi: Built-in WiFi allows flexible placement anywhere within range of your wireless network.
- Link speed: Match the link speed to the speed of your wired network. 1GbE is good for 1Gbps networks, 10GbE for >1Gbps networks.
A key benefit of networked storage is the ability to easily back up your PCs and servers. Look for built-in backup solutions like:
- File-level incremental backup for Mac and Windows
- Bare metal restore for disaster recovery
- Versioning to roll back unwanted changes
- Cloud backup integration with services like Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
Good backup support ensures your data is protected from hardware failure, viruses, accidental deletion, and other threats.
SMBs and power users may require advanced NAS features like:
- iSCSI and Fibre Channel support for block-level storage
- Snapshot replication to clone files and folders
- Virtualization support for VMware, Hyper-V, Citrix, etc.
- Windows Active Directory integration for access control and permissions
- Video surveillance and POS compatibility
- Cloud station syncing and data tiering
Look for a NAS that comes with the business features your organization needs baked in.
Having the ability to access your NAS from anywhere over the internet is extremely convenient. Capabilities like:
- Web-based login to manage the NAS from any browser
- Mobile apps to access files on your smartphone
- FTP support for easy remote file transfers
- Media server for streaming video/audio
Make offsite access and collaboration a breeze.
Since the NAS is connected to your network, security is paramount. Strong security features include:
- Disk encryption like AES-NI 256-bit
- Firewall for intrusion detection and prevention
- VPN support for secure remote connections
- Access control and permission management
- Role-based access for administrators and users
- One-touch malware prevention
Choose a NAS OS that prioritizes security to protect your sensitive data.
Ease of Use
A good NAS operating system provides an intuitive interface that is easy for novices to navigate. Features like:
- App-based packages for point-and-click installs
- Drag-and-drop file management
- Smart wizards for RAID, backup, apps, etc.
- Granular desktop, mobile, and web access
- Scalable infrastructure that grows with your needs
Allow even IT novices to effectively manage storage and data.
NAS devices run the gamut from budget-friendly to extremely high-end. Consider how much you are willing to invest upfront and for future expansion. Consumer models start around $100 for 1-2 bays and lower specs. Power users looking for 10GbE, SSD caching, and high core counts can spend $1000+.
Think about how critical your data is and budget accordingly to get the right hardware, redundancy, and features.
Popular NAS brands include:
- Western Digital
Stick with well-known brands that offer excellent customer support and warranty coverage for your peace of mind.
The OS is the brains of your NAS. It controls the features, apps, and access controls available. Some top NAS operating systems include:
- QTS – QNAP
- DSM – Synology
- ADM – ASUSTOR
- OmniOS – Western Digital
Choose an OS that offers the apps, automation, and ease of use you require.
Choosing the right NAS involves evaluating your current and future requirements in terms of:
- Storage capacity
- Drive types and RAID configuration
- Network connectivity
- Backup support
- Business features
- Remote access
- Ease of use
- Price and hardware quality
- Operating system
Take the time to figure out your needs so you can select the ideal NAS specifications for your use case that provide power, speed, protection, and seamless access to your data.