A NAS is great if you have a large media library, because you can store your files in one place and stream them locally to computers, phones, tablets, speakers, or media centers throughout your house or even outside it. The same goes for photographers storing photos, music producers archiving music files, designers stockpiling massive Photoshop files, and anyone else who needs to access large amounts of data from multiple computers.
You should consider a NAS if you have more than one computer at home, since you can back them all up to the NAS rather than connect an external backup drive to each computer. And if you want to protect your data and backups from theft and natural disasters, a good NAS is capable of uploading files directly to a cloud backup service , too. When you use a NAS, your data remains in your home and does not go to the cloud unless you tell it to do so.
Many NAS devices have even added photo-management tools and file-syncing services that attempt to replicate various cloud storage offerings. A NAS is a computer, so it can do almost anything a Linux computer can do. While that flexibility is great, it can also make some NAS devices confusing to use. Each NAS has its own manufacturer-specific version of Linux, and some are more approachable than others. If you want to share and store data on your network, you may not need a NAS. Windows, macOS, and Linux also have built-in file-sharing features that make using your computer as a file server easy.
But that approach takes up disk space on your computer and is more difficult to manage securely, and your computer has to be on all the time, which consumes more power than a NAS and might make the data inaccessible when your computer goes to sleep. Websites focused on enterprise network storage, such as Computer Weekly and StorageReview.
Many NAS devices can also manage decent on-the-fly transcoding with their own apps, but Plex transcoding currently requires a lot of CPU power, and none of the models we tested were able to handle transcoding in Plex reliably. You could make your own NAS with old computer hardware and free software such as FreeNAS or XigmaNAS , but a dedicated NAS device uses far less power usually about as much as a couple of LED light bulbs , has a better interface and more apps, and comes with a manufacturer warranty and technical support.
Back in , we surveyed 1, Wirecutter readers on what they wanted in a home NAS, and most of those requirements still hold true. When deciding which models to test, we paid attention to a number of key features that most home users needed:. First we set up each NAS following its included install guide, if it had one. We tested ease of use by configuring user and group accounts, as well as file and folder access permissions. We checked to see if the NAS offered a secure cloud service for remote access, which would avoid having to mess with port forwarding and static IP addresses.
Back to basics: what is NAS?
We ran each test nine times in each direction: To simulate drive failure, we pulled a drive from the NAS while it was running. A NAS should beep or flash an LED to alert you that something is wrong, and the interface should show a drive-failure notification. Next we replaced the pulled drive with one of equal or greater capacity. A NAS should detect a new drive and automatically re-create the mirrored array. A good NAS has drive trays or slots that make the drives easy to remove but are sturdy enough to ensure that the drives fit tightly and securely, with no chance of getting disconnected by a random bump.
We also connected a flash drive to one of the USB ports. A NAS interface should recognize a connected drive and display its make, model, and file system.
Best NAS for Mac – for Households and SMBs
All our NAS picks have some sort of energy-saving feature. We used a Kill A Watt EZ to test the power consumption on each NAS when it was performing a task such as a file copy , when it was idle, and with its energy-saving options enabled. The playing field was much more level when we tested using our folder containing two large files: Btrfs also features near-instant server-side copying, data integrity checks, and metadata mirroring, which supposedly helps with data recovery in the case of hard-drive damage.
Thorin Klosowski. The interface in DiskStation Manager offers an overlay for system health as well as easy access to all the settings you need. You can quickly find and install new applications in Package Center. In our tests, file transfer in encrypted folders was around 60 percent of the speed of transfer in non-encrypted folders. DSM has a toolbar on the top where you can access the main menu, notifications, and login options, search for files, and check on system health.
Below that toolbar, you have a desktop where you can access Package Center a store of sorts filled with add-on software , the file browser, the control panel which includes all your settings , and a support area offering video tutorials, FAQs, and more. You can customize the dashboard to include storage, connected users, and more. DSM also includes handy features for novices.
While these commands may be familiar to veteran systems administrators, new users or anyone who has forgotten the server name will welcome the embedded tip. DSM has an optional cloud service called Cloud Station Server that allows you to access your files remotely. You can set those backups to happen on a schedule and optionally encrypt them before you upload them to another service. DSM packs in numerous security measures.
Best NAS for Mac – for Households and SMBs
For better or worse, instead of having one big app with tons of features, Synology takes a piecemeal approach to its mobile apps. We also had issues with any 4K video using the DTS audio codec, in which no sound would play. We recommend transcoding your video files ahead of time if you plan on using your NAS as a media server. You can do this with the Offline Transcoding feature in Video Station , though unfortunately you need to manually choose individual videos to convert. Logging in to DSM, we found another notification as well as instructions for how to rebuild the drive array in the Storage Manager once we replaced it.
You can adjust the LED brightness or set it up on a schedule so the lights dim at night. Or you can set it to export, say, only video files from a specific folder. This unit also supports more than 5, different IP cameras and has special configuration settings for uninterruptible power supplies. Unlike our main pick, the TSB can encrypt whole volumes, not just folders. Design-wise, QTS takes at least some of its inspiration from iOS, loading up all your add-on packages as icons on a desktop.
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When we pulled out a drive and inserted a fresh one to simulate replacing a failed drive, it rebuilt its array without trouble. QNAP provides a two-year warranty and excellent support both over the phone and via an online forum, plus a knowledge base and tutorials. A two-bay NAS is the best option for most people who want to use theirs for home backup, but if you need more capacity or data protection, get the Synology DiskStation DSplay.
For starters, you can opt for RAID 5, 6, or 10; those data storage configurations require three or more disks but provide better data protection and depending on which RAID configuration you choose can offer better performance. A four-bay NAS also lets you expand your storage capacity more easily since you can start with two drives and add more as needed, whereas the only way to expand the storage space on a two-bay NAS is to replace first one drive and then the other with higher-capacity drives.
Four-drive NAS devices are typically more suited to professional settings—and if you want to use one, having a good understanding of RAID storage management will help. Very few NAS devices prompt you to change or reset the admin password—doing so, however, is a crucial security step, because the NAS connects to the Internet and is thus a ripe target for threats. So the first thing to do with any new NAS is to change the password on the admin account both Synology and QNAP prompt you to do this during the initial setup.
Creating a unique user account for each person who accesses your NAS is a good idea. You can do so on any of the NAS devices we tested by going into the user settings in the interface.
If you want to give someone the ability to upload files to the NAS, give that user write permissions as well as read permissions. If someone should only download files, make them a read-only user. When something goes wrong with a NAS, the culprit is usually drive failure, and according to this infographic from Seagate , temperature extremes are one of the top five causes of hard-drive failure.
Seagate Personal Cloud
Data corruption is another big issue with hard drives. Otherwise, if something goes wrong with the NAS, you may have problems getting customer support—or worse, you may discover that you voided the warranty. The same rule applies to memory: You won't lose or miss any bit of data backup at an offsite location.
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Ever have the trouble of sending large projects to clients, friends or family due to file size restriction or security issues? With QNAP Qsync, your files can sync across different platforms and you can easily manage and edit files on your NAS remotely just like what you do locally. QNAP mobile apps allow you to manage, share, view, and enjoy your files on your mobile devices including your iPhone and iPad. It acts as a home server which lets you centralize, backup and restore.
Free up space on your Mac for your important files and projects. Don't ever worry about using too much battery and capacity on your iPhone, iPad, or Macs! View your perfectly organized multimedia with Plex. Enjoy your movies and TV shows on all your Apple devices. The Best Storage Solution for Apple Users Your Mac is with you when you are sharing files with friends and colleagues, when you are streaming photos, videos and music to other devices, and when you backup your files with time machine. Learn More. Limitless Expansion Never run out of capacity!
How to Backup with Time Machine.