There are many reasons why you might want to mount a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) at home or in your office. Whether you need a file server or want to have a multimedia center, this equipment is very useful. You can even use it as a personal server, as a virtual private network (VPN) server or as a private “cloud.”

The popularity of these devices is constantly growing, in great part due to the fact that it can be used in more and more ways. That being said, you need to know the technical basics if you want to choose the right NAS server for your needs. We’ve designed the following article to make this decision easier for you.

Key Facts

  • The popularity of NAS servers for home use and businesses is ever growing. Halfway between local storage and a cloud system, these devices offer many advantages.
  • They are mainly used to make back-ups, to serve as multimedia centers and manage network files, which is why they can be linked to any equipment without the need to directly connect the two devices.
  • Certain NAS servers come with built-in storage units. However, most are sold with empty bays to give you freedom of choice. This means that you have access to NAS-specific models that offer better performance and lower power consumption. You can also use a spare hard drive if you have one.

Ranking: The Best Network-Attached Storage on the U.S. Market

In the next section, we’ve chosen the five best NAS available on the market right now. Our selection includes very diverse products, while all are manufactured by reputable brands. We’ve also tried to offer you the best possible value for money depending on the characteristics of each NAS.

No. 1: Synology 2-bay Diskless NAS DiskStation 

This NAS by Synology features encrypted sequential throughput performance at over 113 MB/s reading and 112 MB/s writing, dual-core processor with AES-NI encryption engine, and 2GB DDR3L of memory (expandable up to 6GB).  It also comes with advanced Bars file system offering 65, 000 system-wide snapshots and 1, 024 snapshots per shared folder.

At around $260, this NAS provides live transcoding of up to two concurrent H. 265/H. 264 4K video streaming, and by default, two camera licenses are installed; extra licenses can be purchased (CLP1, CLP4, or CLP8). This product is a top-seller and has top reviews.

No. 2: WD 3TB My Cloud Personal Network Attached Storage – NAS – WDBCTL0030HWT-NESN

At about $300, this good-looking NAS by Western Digital offers style as well as storage. It is a centralized, whole-home storage system. This NAS includes mobile and remote web access, and backs up both PC and Mac computers. This NAS also includes photo and video back-up for smartphones and tablets, and wroks on Windows/Mac operating systems.

In addition to looking greatm it can sync software to keep content up-to-date across all your computers and creates a common place for friends and family to share photos.

No. 3: TerraMaster F2-210 2-Bay NAS Quad Core 4K Transcoding Media Server Personal Cloud Storage (Diskless)

Coming in at No. 3 for only $149 is another stylish-looking +NAS by TerraMaster. This good-looking unit is equipped with an ARM V8 64-bit quad-core processor, a frequency of up to 1.4 GHz, a read speed reaching 114 MB/s (RAID 0, WD Red 4TB x 2), and it’s functions include file storage, data backup, cloud synchronization, remote access, 4K HD video transcoding, and many more.

Suitable for applications ranging from home multimedia entertainment to small office and home office (SOHO) settings, this NAS is also compatible with the DLNA protocol, TerraMaster’s multimedia servers enable users to stream 4K media content from TNAS to multimedia playback devices. The device offers 4K H.264/H.265(max 30fps) live transcoding, along with the opportunity to convert and playback 4K video on computers, smartphones, and media players that lack native support for HD formats, and includes  on six data security layers to protect your data.

No. 4: Asustor AS5202T | Gaming Inspired Network Attached Storage

At nearly $330, The AS5202T utilizes the Intel Gemini Lake Celeron J4005 dual core CPU and is 30% faster than Apollo lake. The Celeron J4005 also doubles the on-chip cache to 4MB, making the AS5202T one of our fastest NAS devices ever. It also comes with two Gigabytes of DDR4 RAM and can be upgraded up to 8GB. DDR4 RAM provides up to 30% greater performance than DDR3 while also lowering energy requirements by 40%.

This NAS also provides two 2.5-Gigabit Ethernet ports. Enable up to 150% faster performance than Gigabit Ethernet with compatible hardware and up to 5 Gbps using Link Aggregation, where available. Also features Intel Celeron dual core CPU – 30% faster than previous generation and two 2.5 GbE ports with up to 5 Gbps under Link Aggregation.

No. 5: Buffalo TeraStation 1200D Desktop 4 TB NAS with Hard Drives Included

Last but not least, Buffalo’s TeraStation 1200D is a compact desktop storage solution with standard-grade hard drives included ensuring comparability and reliability with your device. This 2-drive storage solution was designed to provide business-level software at an entry-level price While providing a personal cloud with multiple user access. enjoy easy set-up with customizable RAID data protection and exceptional performance during file transfers and everyday NAS functions.

Professional features such as active Directory, USB accessory, disk quota support, share level replication, and hot-swap hard drives help you manage your data and drives. The TeraStation 1200D also includes eleven licenses of Nova BACKUP – Buffalo Edition which provides professional backup & Data recovery solutions. The 4TB model retails at around $290, but for an even better storage value you can get 8TB for just $374.

Shopping Guide: Everything You need to Know About Network-Attached Storage

There are a number of key factors that you should take into account when you’re looking for your new NAS server. Very different models are available out there, each one tailored to a specific type of user. This is why we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions by past users in the section below.

NAS servers are large capacity storage systems that connect to home or professional networks.
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What exactly is a NAS?

A NAS server is a large capacity storage system that connects to your home or professional network. It allows you to conveniently access all the files and documents found on any of the devices of the network, without the need to directly connect to the unit in which they are located.

What is a NAS used for?

NAS servers have several different applications. They are most frequently used to manage files on a network, set up your own streaming server or give access to a local network to other users. You can also use your NAS to store recordings from IP video surveillance cameras.

These devices can also be configured asInternet-connected servers, allowing them to perform the same functions as online storage or hosting services. Your NAS could therefore be your mail server or store your website. As we mentioned earlier, you can also transform them into VPN servers.

A RAID is a group of hard disks that have been configured to operate as one.
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What are the advantages and disadvantages of NAS servers?

Having your own NAS offers you a great series of perks. It will help make all office documents and files accessible to your employees. You can use it as a media server. It also gives you the possibility to have your own network cloud without Google being able to access your files.

Advantages Disadvantages
They allow you to have quality shared storage space. Purchasing the NAS and hard drives is a fair investment if you don’t have them.
You can access all your data, files and documents from anywhere in the world through a mobile phone application or through a specific web page.
You can create a media center to store movies, music or photos. The NAS server will send them to any device from which you can play them.
If you use it as a private cloud, you will have all your documents available on the network without Google or any other company being able to access them.
Installing and configuring a NAS is quite a simple task. Many feature their own configuration wizard to help you.

What are NAS bays?

Located in NAS servers, these spaces are where hard disks are mounted. NAS designed for domestic use generally feature one or two bays. However, you can find anywhere between four and twelve bays for professional users or business environments.

Remember that each bay will have a set storage capacity. This means that you cannot mount a 12 GB hard drive in a 10 GB bay. You also need to take into the power consumption into consideration; more bays naturally means a higher electricity bill. This is why you are not recommended to opt for a NAS server with more bays than you need.

NAS devices don’t work with Windows. Large manufacturers have their own Linux-based operating systems.
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Which RAID configuration best fits a NAS?

A RAID is a group of hard drives that has been configured to operate as one. This means that they can work by joining their storage capacities or duplicating all information, allowing you to always have your data safe in case a hard drive fails. Each type of RAID presents different characteristics that we’ve explained in the table below:

Type Features
RAID 0 All disks work as a single volume. Their total capacity is the sum of the capacities of all drives. Data is written simultaneously to the disks, improving the overall speed. The reading and writing speeds are doubled. You have no protection against failure.
RAID 1 It is one of the most commonly used. The data is duplicated to avoid potential loss. The total capacity of your NAS is half the sum of the hard drives. The writing speed doesn’t improve, unlike the reading speed that doubles. Your data is protected against possible hard drive failures.
RAID 5 The data is distributed over all disks, but the capacity of one of the drives is kept for parity. This is the most frequent type in companies and offices. One of the disks’ capacity is lost. While you gain in reading speed, the writing speed doesn’t change. Your data is protected, but you will lose all your information if two hard drives fail.
RAID 6 Data is distributed to all drives, with the capacity of two drives being reserved for parity. This type is frequently used in companies and offices. You lose the capacity of two hard drives. Reading speed is greatly improved, with the writing speed remaining unchanged. Your data is protected, and up to two disks can fail. If three disks fail, you lose all your information.

What hard drive do I need for my NAS?

While some NAS models come with built-in hard drives, it is most common that they do not. If that’s the case for yours, you’ll naturally have to buy some hard drives that offer you the right features. Their capacity is naturally a key factor, but so are their reading and writing speeds.

American brand Western Digital specializes in NAS-supported hard drives, with their network line of products being developed for this purpose only. These devices provide incredible performance. That being said, you can actually also take full advantage of any spare hard drive you might have lying around by installing it on your network-attached storage.

How should I install my NAS server?

This is actually a fairly straightforward task. First of all, you need to set up all the storage drives that you want to use. Once you’ve done this, connect your NAS to the local network. Finally, all you need to do is configure it using the NAS operating system itself.

Shopping Criteria

As you know, there are a number of critical factors that you will need to take into consideration when you’reshopping for your NAS server. In the following section, we’ve detailed these criteria to help you get it right. We’re confident that this information will guide you during your decision-making process, and that you’ll be fully satisfied with your new purchase.

  • Operating System of the NAS
  • Processor
  • RAM Memory
  • Maximum Storage Capacity Supported by the NAS
  • Connections
  • RAID
  • Manufacturer

Operating System of the NAS

NAS devices unfortunately don’t work with Windows. Large manufacturers have developed their own Linux-based operating systems, such as Synology DiskStation Manager, Qnap QTS, or WD My Cloud. That being said, you also have access to a series of free systems such as FreeNAS, NASlite or Openfiler.

All of these systems tend to be quite easy to use. You can even manage some of them from your smartphone – such as QNAP, Asustor or Synology. In addition, we strongly encourage you to consider the applications that each system features, to handle mail servers, FTP (file transfer protocol) and back-ups, etc.

Remember that each NAS model is designed for a different type of user.
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Processor

A dual-core processor at 1 GHz should prove more than adequate if your NAS isplanned for use in a family environment. However, you shouldn’t settle for less than a quad-core processor for office use. Nowadays, mid-range products generally feature Intel Celeron processors, while professional models use Intel i3 or Xeon.

RAM Memory

Again, the amount of RAM you need will depend on the use you’ll make of your NAS server. In that sense, don’t worry too much about this criterion if you only need it to retain your data backups. For home use, 512 MB should be enough. On the other hand, you are advised to have up to 8 BG of RAM memory for your office use.

If you want to use your NAS as a multimedia center to play HD content, you’ll need at least 1 GB of RAM. Finally, a minimum of 2 GB will be necessary if you plan on frequently using your NAS as a media player in HD or 4K quality.

Chris HardwickAmerican Actor and Writer

“We’re not in an information age anymore. We’re in the information management age.”

Maximum Storage Capacity the NAS Supports

Before you buy your own NAS server, think about the storage capacity you need and what type of hard drives you want to use with it. The simplest devices can only hold one hard drive. The most basic drives will allow you to store between 1 and 2 TB, which won’t be enough for certain tasks.

We encourage you to buy a capacity of at least 6 TB if you’ll be storing large media files on your NAS. If your device will be set up for office work, consider models with a capacity of up to 20 TB. You should also know that some NAS also allow you to install SSDs, but they cannot fully use the advantages of these storage devices.

Connections

First of all, you are advised to connect your NAS to your router with a Gigabit Ethernet connection of 1 Gbps or higher. Otherwise, its performance will probably be negatively affected. In any case, the most current NAS servers already offer 10 Gbps connectors, with many also including a second LAN jack in the box.

If your NAS features USB ports, you can expand its storage capacity or connect it directly to your printer. Micro SD card slots may also come in handy. Lastly, an HDMI output, to connect to your TV will be necessary if you want to use your NAS as a media center.

While some NAS models come with built-in hard drives, it is most common that they do not.
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RAID

Always check the type of RAID that a NAS server supports before buying it. RAID 0 will be your go-to option if you want to make the most of its storage capacity. On the other hand, you’ll want to opt for RAID 1 if you want to be protected against potential fails and gain speed. However, remember that with this type you will scarifice half of the storage capacity.

Manufacturer

Whenever you buy a technical product, you should choose a reputable manufacturer, who guarantees quality and good performance. In that regard, the following brands are well known: Asustor, TerraMaster, Netgear and Western Digital. These firms all offer high-quality products, and you’ll also benefit from good customer service.

Summary

Due to their many applications, both home and business, the use of NAS has increased tremendously increased in recent years. Buying one of these devices is naturally an important investment. That being said, the numerous benefits they offer willmake it money well spent.

If you want to choose the right model, it is essential that you have some basic technical knowledge and know exactly what your needs are. To do so, you should start by asking yourself how you want to use your NAS. You can then think about which configuration and manufacturer are best for you.

If you found this guide useful in making your decision, feel free to share it on your social media platforms. You can also leave us a comment in the section below!

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