Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and in the current global market-space, small businesses and home-business are becoming ever-more-popular. With this comes bigger size, for the business, the demand, and in the background, a bigger need for storage solutions on your home devices. Here are some storage solutions you don’t need to pass around the office because they’re all connected! That’s the greatest benefit of what we call a NAS device (Network Attached Storage). Here, we’ve collected a bunch of top models to find out which is the best for you, but first, let’s learn what they are.
Don’t Compromise on File Access
This is surely the selling point of NAS storage, that you can forget about the days of worrying how much space your device has left, or better yet, those times where you have to delete some files you want, in order to make the space for the files that you need. Instead of this, a good NAS storage device that can connect to your device can connect your files to you from further away, without the compromise. You don’t even have to plug it into the drive, just plug-and-play from the comfort of, well, wherever the internet reaches!
What Can I Even do on This?
Well, that’s what you need to decide! I wouldn’t suggest buying one before you know exactly what you want to use for it. Most commonly, people just want to store their immense collection of word files, but there are different specialized NAS devices for each use. Simple office file sharing is easy work on near all NAS devices as a minimum, so you shouldn’t worry about shopping around too much. You only really have to worry about the small details when doing more demanding work, like HD video-sharing to multiple devices, and other more immense work-load demands. If you get to this point, it’s better to explore NAS devices with higher market specifications for memory, storage, processing, and network power. Price is usually equivalent to stronger components, so these might be more costly than the average device.
NAS Devices are built to accommodate needs, so can make it more customizable, but a little more difficult, to find the one that’s just right for you.
Basic Buying Tips
The reason any person decides to buy a storage device is for just that reason, storage. In a NAS device, the storage cards are held in bays, small drawers that the storage plugs into so that the box it’s plugged into can connect to the internet for you. For the home and small-business users, a NAS device will have about one or two bays. However, if you’re thinking of going into the big leagues, or ARE already working a large-scale operation, bigger offices commonly use a four-bay or more system for their needs!
Back to the basics though, a single bay storage device isn’t recommended, unless you’re using the device simply to backup your work which is also on your work-devices. This is just because of the lack of extra possibilities in the future. You don’t want to limit yourself the second you buy one, especially considering the price of a 2-bay can be found similarly to the 1-bay! One-bays can sometimes allow you to expand more outside of the box too, but it can become a hassle.
A two-bay NAS seems the smart choice for a home user who wants a basic ‘do-it-all’ drive. If you want to mirror your files, bigger drive sizes could be a favored choice, but for bay-sizes, two slots can make the world’s difference. Also, buy on the side of caution. You may think storage is expensive, but if you buy a bigger setup now, you won’t have to resync your data on new drives when it comes to needing more storage. If you set-up for the long run, you’ll be better off. They are reliable and Synology data recovery is more reliable.
Do I go ‘Diskless’ Or ‘Populated’?
So I have to presume that you’re exploring different NAS drives, and you come across the fine detail of ‘diskless’ or ‘populated’. What do they mean? Well, you can buy ‘populated’ NAS devices that come -pre-built with their complimentary storage drives. They’re often usually already configured and must be dedicated to the drives they come in. Often Storage manufacturers who make drives favor pre-inserting their storage. Other manufacturers may tend to sell diskless-NAS devices. These can be some-what cheaper, but you’ll have to buy your own insertable storage. You just have to do a little extra research on what to look for! In this respect, this is a head’s up on the differences between the two, but we won’t take sides on which is better, that’s your decision!
I chose ‘Diskless’: A little extra help on disk-choice?
If you’ve got a little idea that you want to go diskless, here’s the part where you have to think about disks. NAS manufacturers tend to recommend their own proprietary disks or have a favored disk-manufacturer to recommend you to (usually a list of ones they’ve tested and KNOW work with the device well). You can find these compatibility lists online before you buy them. It isn’t 100% required, but we 100% recommend it to be sure, as you’ll get the most optimized functionality out of the device.
Some of the big names in disk-manufacturing, like Seagate, WD, Toshiba, and more have specialized drives that are optimized for NAS storage, so are often the best bet. On top of this, the big names often compete in pricing, so you can get very good prices for the drives on offer. These drives are assured to run near constantly and can be very durable. We recommend you look at NAS-verified drives as your best choice on the market.
The names you want to look out for are listed here. Seagate and Western Digital are the big guns, with Seagate’s ‘IronWolf’ and ‘IronWolf Pro’ being NAS specific, and WD’s ‘WD Red’ line coming up as their NAS choice. Toshiba is also a great choice, with the ‘N’ series of disks. All three of these lines are built to perform heavy and durable and come in a great variety of sizes.
Halfway House: Redundancy and Safe Storing
We’re halfway through the round-up but there’s more to go. We’ll cover the storage choice and their pros and cons, Media-streaming (if you so choose to have it), The physical plugging in choices, and ratings on the markets biggest, to give you that last push in deciding what you need.
So, Storage choice On-board. NAS devices that have more than one drive have a choice of mirroring your files, which in short saves the one file onto both drives. That way, if something happens with one, the other is still up and accessible. After all, who wouldn’t have two parachutes instead of one! The only issue is that you half your storage choice right down. This is usually the base-setup, so if you DON’T want this, delve into your user manual for ways of turning this off.
However, in turning it off, there are two separate ways of saving your files in basic, single-copy formats. There’s ‘striping’ and there’s ‘JBOD’. What striping does, in the easiest terms possible, stretch the file across both drives, as it saves half on one drive and a half in the other, all chopped up. This still means the files functional, and often means that it can write and read faster, with the compromise that both drives cannot be used separately, and won’t work if they’re taken out separately. For this reason, for people who need to carry their drives around for plug and play, you may want to consider the JBOD setting where you can. This setting, meaning ‘Just a Bunch of Disks’, files are saved completely onto a drive in whole, not fragmented, so that you can plug-in and plug-out your drives and the files will be complete. This can be considered safer too as if one of the drives goes turn off at any point, you can still access entire files for the half that’s still available.
Lastly, for those of you who know something about NAS already, there IS the ability to mirror AND stripe across three or more drives for the added security and speed of data. The NAS could copy data across entire arrays of drives so that the failure of one drive can be patched by another complimentary striping on another drive by reconstruction. This would be for those big businesses maximizing on speed, security and redundancy measures, but can be a bit overkill for the average home user. It’s useful to have the option though!
Movies and Media without the Mayhem
NAS devices often come pre-configured, and for this reason, you need to consider what one you’re buying if you’re going to buy it as a memory bank for your favorite streaming service, or for your home movies. Only certain devices can play certain types of files, so you have to do quite a bit of research for your rig if you’re planning on a home-theatre device of the like. Think for example, that some ‘.avi’ files can’t work in MP4 players. The same can be said for NAS Units. Typically, NAS come complimentary to PC rigs, you can get a plethora of software that plays different formats like a piece of cake. You can further shop around for the NAS devices on the market that can seamlessly connect to smart-boxes, like Apple TV, Chromecast, and so on, for quick on-demand streaming. It can be hard to find the right one, prompting the reason you have to do some ‘rig research’. Look at the specifications of devices closely to ensure it does what you need it to do. At a premium, even 4K streaming NAS devices are on the market, but you’ll pay a few pretty pennies on it, as the processor within the NAS device needs to be able to accommodate such needs.
Control, Connections, and Caveats
When shopping around for different devices, there isn’t much of a casual consensus among the multiple brands on different ports on the device, beyond the commonality on many of a USB 3.0 port, the market standard at the moment. Most NAS Drives carry 2 USB ports for other devices, usually the home printer and a PC wire at most, or whatever other devices with a USB you like! They’re pretty much plug-and-play easy, and once into the NAS, they’re shared among all users on the network. A printer is a great choice for this. If it has a USB 2.0 and 3.0 port, the 2.0 port is plenty enough for a printer. 3.0 ports, the faster ones, should be saved for when you really need them.
If you want real ease of access, some NAS units on the market have buttons on the front for replication. Imagine you have a USB stick with a paper on it and need it in the network quick and easy. Plug it into the NAS, press copy, and it’ll be on the network, literally at the press of a button. Every NAS device can have its own features to alleviate the work from the workplace, so you need to shop around for what you think you’ll need!
If you want a media player, look for the devices that come with an HDMI port, in order for use with your TV-streaming devices, or directly into the back of your device. And lastly, the ethernet port, for a necessary direct connection to your internet. That’s what puts the Network into the NAS.
(Probably) The Reason You’re Here: No Wires.
Most NAS drives enable you to share files from the cloud. This can sound like common sense, considering they’re connected by a network, but it’s a particularity you have to check, for it to be present. NAS manufacturers are proud to share if they have this feature and can be a great selling point. It saves the hassle of downloading from the NAS to device in order to share it. Also, from this, you can access the NAS from any internet connection, not only your local network, meaning you can access it pretty much anywhere there IS internet access if you can log into a cloud service, like dropbox, google drive, etc. A lot of people, including us, believe that there’s no point in getting a NAS without this feature because… well, think about it. You can have a memory bank in your house only, or one you can access anywhere with the internet, altogether. Make sure you do the research on this, too! It’s a no-brainer.
Our Handful Plucked from the Bunch: A Comprehensive Round-Up
So, there’s been quite a large handful of credentials to get our head’s around, and you might want us to spell it out just a bit more clearly, rather than dancing around. Let’s separate ‘wheat from the chaff’ and give up our top picks for each scenario, and their pro’s and cons, for the ‘Home-user’, the ‘aspiring small-business’, the ‘Business Box’, and the ‘Device-Streamers’ out there, below.
The Home User
Credentials: For a home-user, you’ll probably be looking for a box with decent storage that can cover your back for months, or even years, to come. It’ll be useful to have the plug-and-play capability, a decent price, and something that seems to just work. Its own software can be helpful to take you along and not be too confusing.
Our Pick: The Promise Apollo. Looking easy on the eyes, this can fit right onto any desk in your house and look like it could belong. Coming with 4TB right out of the box, you don’t have to worry about buying anything extra.
The Pros: This little box is so easy to set-up that you don’t have to spend any extra time worrying about your externals. You can access it simply, and share files remotely. On top of this, your phone camera roll can auto-upload if you want it to. Such a user-friendly device can’t be commended enough.
The Cons: This device can seem sluggish in demanding workloads, and you need applications in order to access certain storage. In being friendly with home-users, it loses the tech-crowd who need all-access at all times. It’s your choice on this one.
The Aspiring Small-Business
Credentials: A growing business is going to want a little bit more space, and perhaps would be a bit more comfortable delving into the tech-space for something a bit more specific. File-sharing should be a doddle, and the capability for easy expansion is going to be a bit more your style. Here’s our pick.
Our Pick: Asustor AS5304T. This box helps out with a bigger workload, a solid operation, and the similar easy-setup, and that choice for wider expansion.
The Pros: This NAS provides a solid and reliable performance. It runs quieter than many of the other ones in this category, which is a small bonus for the office-space. It has dual 2.5GbE ports, and a toolless set-up (which we love to see). It also comes with apps out of the box, making it easy to navigate and use.
The Cons: Sadly, this box doesn’t come with any drives pre-built. They Do provide a list of recommended drives to go in, however, and it allows for you to buy some off-the-bat, and the rest when you need them. Also, It’s an expensive device, so you need to decide on whether it’s a good company expense or not.
The Business Box
Credentials: We’re in the big leagues. If you’re the team’s tech guru, you’re not going to shy away from a challenge. You want monstrous speed, the capability for large file-size caches, and the ability for mirroring and redundancy support. This sounds like the thing for you.
Our Pick: The Synology DiskStation DS1019+. A big machine, with a huge capability. This machine is definitely worth the money, but it IS still a lot of money.
The Pros: This NAS device is fast, it runs with impressively speedy performance. It’s a very easy device to install and set-up, which you don’t usually get with bigger devices. There’s a generous selection of built-in applications to help the user and a lot of storage options. It’s user-friendly, and runs quietly, a MUST for business. It holds five bays, an expansion unit, AND dual native SSD slots. Some eye-watering storage capabilities here. We’re talking 160TB Maximum.
The Cons: This is very pricy, and it shows. We don’t have really any other cons, other than storage, which you would have to buy. Very inconvenient, but also allows you to personalize the storage size, and for an office, that’s all the more important.
Credentials: This is a bit of a niche, but NAS can support it really well. If you get the right NAS, it can feel like a breeze to jump on the sofa, touch a few buttons, and you’re watching your favorite movies again. You’ll want HD, and even 4K capability for a great image at uncompromising speed, a strong processor to keep up the foot-work, and a good amount of storage to host your impressive movie library. A MUST is a comprehensive support for applications.
Our Pick: Asustor AS5202T. With up to 5GbE Speed, a tool-less set-up, great out of the box applications and that 4K video-decoding we were looking for, this offers a great at-home experience for the average user.
The Pros: 4K Video-Encoding, out-of-the-box applications to help you on your way, tool-less set-up for the home user, 5GbE speeds and link aggregation, and a solid and reliable file-transfer performance. 2 Drives for your mirroring or JBOD choice (JBOD can create a great library size).
The Cons: This one can seem a little pricey. It’s understandable why, with its great hardware and software supply, but still, the price is a downfall. On top of this, it comes diskless, so the price of getting disks can be a headache! Picking up 2x1TB drives can get your on your way at the lowest price per decent storage, but enthusiasts may need a little more. There’s a lot of choices here, but choosing when it comes to home appliances like these is a good thing to have. We hoped we helped you in the right direction for your next big storage solution, and helped you understand exactly what you’re looking for. Good luck on your search!