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Last updated: June 22, 2020

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

The supply and demand of this device is constantly growing, mainly due to the fact that it can be used in many different ways. That being said, you could do with knowing the technical basics in order to choose the right NAS server for your needs. The following article has been written to make this decision easier for you.

First things first

  • 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.
  • Their main use it to make backups, serve as multimedia centres and manage network files, which is why they can be linked to any equipment without the need to directly connect the two devices.
  • Some NAS servers come with built-in storage units. However, many are sold with empty bays giving you the 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.

The best network-attached storages on the UK 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.

Synology DS218j 2 Bay Desktop NAS Enclosure

Synology is a Taiwanese company that specialises in network-attached storage products, and a world leader in the industry. The DiskStation DS218j is a 2-bay NAS server which perfectly fits home and personal users to build your own personal cloud. It offers effortless data sharing, multimedia streaming, and cloud synchronisation.

Its a cost-effective home storage server featuring real-time incremental backup technology. QuickConnect allows you to connect via a secure, customisable address, so that you can instantly access media and work files on any Internet-connected device.

WD Red 8TB 3.5″ SATA NAS HDD/Hard Drive

Western Digital is an American company that focuses on developing data storage solutions for domestic and professional use, and they have almost 50 years of experience in the business. This is a newcomer in the range but has a staggering number of reviews with 3/4 of consumers rating it a 5*.

This NAS is built for optimum NAS compatibility is suitable for home or small businesses and is mainly aimed at demanding players, this product won’t fail in meeting your expectations.

Toshiba N300 4TB NAS 3.5” SATA HDD ‘Bulk’ (HDWQ140UZSVA)

This NAS N300 by Toshiba has an internal hard drive and is designed to meet the reliability, performance, endurance, and scalability requirements of 24/7 network attached storage application. It is suitable for personal, home office and small business use.

The drive, which can support multi-RAID systems with up to 8 hard disk drives, allows large volumes of data to be reliably stored and accessed. This particular product has a capacity of 4TB but is available in various increments up to 14TB. Its a great price with many positive reviews

IronWolf is an ideal companion for your NAS for 24 × 7 remote access, backups and file sharing from anywhere, making sharing ideas easy. It is enhanced with AgileArray technology for optimal reliability and system agility.

Enhanced power management saves energy and delivers power when the NAS needs it most. It is built for connected homes and multi-user environments. The Seagate Ironwolf shown here is a 4TB but again is available in a range of capacities up to 14TB

Buffalo LS220D0402-EU 4TB

Last but not least, here is the new LinkStation 220 Series which provides simple network storage and backup and offers an assortment of features, allowing users to store, organise, access and stream media files from any computer, smartphone or tablet.

This is ideal for home users being able to stream up to 4 HD films simultaneously allowing each family member to watch their favourite film, on their own device, at the same time. Buffalo Technology’s LS220 series is a two bay Network Attached Storage device available with 2, 4, 6, or 8TB capacity.

Shopping Guide: Everything you need to know about network-attached storages

There are some very different models available that offer a number of key aspects that you should take into account when you’re looking for your new NAS server, each one being tailored to a specific type of user. We have put together the most commonly asked questions which you will find below.

People fix server network in data room.

NAS servers are large capacity storage systems that connect to home or professional networks.
(Source: Panumas Nikhomkhai: 46086465/ 123rf.com)

What is a NAS exactly?

A NAS server is a large capacity storage system that connects to your home or professional network. It allows you to 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. You can use your NAS to store recordings from IP video surveillance cameras, but more frequently they are used to manage files on a network, set up your own streaming server or give access to a local network to other users.

These devices can also be configured as Internet-connected servers, which allows 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.

Businessman hand working with a Cloud Computing diagram on the new computer interface as concept

A RAID is a group of hard disks that has been configured to operate as one.
(Source: Everythingpossible 28742962/ 123rf.com)

What are the advantages and disadvantages of NAS servers?

Owning a NAS gives you a whole host great perks. You can use it as a media server or allow employees to access all office documents and files. 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 high quality shared storage space. Purchasing the NAS and hard drives is a great 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 store movies, photo’s or music by creating a media centre. The NAS server will send them to any device from which you can play them.
All of your documents and network will be available to you if you use it as a private cloud, without Google or any other company being able to access them.
NAS is quite simple to Install and configure. Many feature their own configuration wizard to help you.

What are NAS bays?

NAS bays are spaces where hard disks are mounted, they are located in NAS servers. Generally, domestic use NAS feature one or two bays. For professional use and business environments, you can find anywhere between four and twelve bays.

Each bay will have a set storage capacity, which means for example; it is not possible to mount a 12 GB hard drive in a 10 GB bay. You will also need to take into consideration the cost involved, more bays will increase the power consumption resulting in a higher electricity bill so it is not really recommended to have more bays than you actually need.

Rackmount LED console in server room data center

NAS devices don’t work with Windows. Large manufacturers have their own Linux-based operating systems.
(Source: Sashkin7: 66167787/ 123rf.com)

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?

Some NAS models come with built-in hard drives but it is more common that you need to buy your own to git your needs.  You will need to consider the features you need and of course the capacity is an important factor but so are the reading and writing speeds.

American brand Western Digital specialises in NAS-supported hard drives, with their network line of products being developed for this purpose only. These devices provide incredible performance as you can imagine but you can make use of any spare hard drive you might have around by installing it on your network-attached storage.

How should I install my NAS server?

It’s quite a straight forward task installing a NAS server. The first two steps are pretty simple, you just need to set up all the storage drives you wish to use and then connect your NAS to the local network. Once this is done, you will need configure it using the NAS operating system itself.

Shopping Criteria

As you may have come to understand, there are some crucial points you need to take into consideration when you’re looking to buy a NAS server. In the next section, we’ve listed the shopping criteria and then expanded on each to provide you with as much technical information as possible leading you to make the right decision when choosing a NAS and to ensure you will be completely satisfied with your purchase.

Operating system of the NAS

NAS devices 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 NAS are generally quite easy to use and can even be managed from your mobile phone, these include QNAP, Asustor or Synology – . In addition, we strongly recommend you to consider the applications that each system features to handle mail servers, FTP (file transfer protocol) and backups, amongst others.

server racks in server room data center. 3d render

Remember that each NAS model is designed for a different type of user.
(Source: Sashkin7: 72172358/ 123rf.com)

Processor

A dual-core processor at 1 GHz will be more than enough if your NAS is destined to be used 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 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 keep 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.

If you decide to use your NAS as a multimedia centre to play HD content, the minimum you will need is 1 GB of RAM. Finally, if you plan on using your NAS as a media player to regularly watch HD or 4K quality, you will require a minimum of 2 GB.

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

Maximum storage capacity supported by the NAS

Before you purchase your own NAS server, consider the storage capacity you require 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 recommend you choose a capacity of at least 6 TB if you’ll be storing large media files on your NAS. Businesses will require a higher capacity so consider models with up to 20 TB. You should also know that some NAS also allow you to install SSDs, although they cannot fully exploit the advantages of these storage devices.

Connections

Its best to connect your NAS to your router with a Gigabit Ethernet connection of 1 Gbps or more, otherwise, its performance will be impeded considerably. In any case, the most current NAS servers already offer 10 Gbps connectors, with many also including a second LAN jack.

If your NAS features USB ports, you will have the ability to expand its storage capacity or connect your printer directly to it. Micro SD card slots may also come in handy. Finally, if you wish to use your NAS as a media centre, you will require a HDMI output to connect to your TV.

Man fix server network in data center room .

While some NAS models come with built-in hard drives, it is most common that they do not.
(Source: Panumas Nikhomkhai: 46086486/ 123rf.com)

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 this type will make you lose half of the storage capacity.

Manufacturer

When you’re looking to buy a technical product, you should always choose a reputable manufacturer to guarantee quality and good performance. With that in mind, the following brands are well known: Synology, TerraMaster, Netgear and Western Digital. These companies all offer great quality products, and you’ll also benefit from good customer service.

Summary

Due to their many applications, both domestic and professional, the use of NAS has increased dramatically in recent years. This is a great investment so it is important to choose the right product which suit your needs. The numerous benefits they offer make your investment more than worth it.

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 our guide useful in taking your decision, feel free to share it on your social media. You can also leave us a comment in the section below!

(Source of featured image: Lucadp: 16644379/ 123rf.com)

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