There are several reasons for installing a Network Attached Storage (NAS) in your home or office. From the need to rely on a file server to the desire to have a multimedia center, passing through the possibility of using it as a personal server, as a VPN server (virtual private network server), or as a private cloud.
In doing so, NAS is being used more and more and for more and more functions, so their popularity doesn’t stop growing. However, choosing the NAS server that best fits your needs requires some minimal technical knowledge. To make your choice easier, we have prepared this complete buying guide.
The most important things in a nutshell
- The popularity of NAS servers for home use and small businesses or businesses continues to grow. The fact is that these devices, somewhere between local storage systems and cloud storage systems, offer a large number of benefits.
- The main functions of NAS servers consist in making backup copies, operating as multimedia centers, and managing files on the network, to be available for any device, without the need to connect directly with the unit in which they are located.
- Some NAS servers have built-in storage units; however, most are sold with empty bays, so you can buy the ones that best suit your needs. In this sense, you can buy specific models for NAS, which offer better performance and allow less consumption, or you can use a hard disk that you do not use.
The best NAS on the market: our selection
Below we present the ranking we have made with the five best NAS servers currently available. We have developed it by including items as diverse as possible, but always choosing products from the best brands. We also looked for the ones that offer the best value for money and with the best reviews.
- QNAP 231p – 2 bay
- Zyxel – 2 bay
- DiskStation DS218 + – 2 bay
- Synology DiskStation DS119j
- FANTEC QB-35US3-6G
QNAP 231p – 2 bay
This home-wide data storage center allows you to back up private notes or notebooks for sharing. The product, weighing 1.28 kilograms, requires lithium ions to work, which are included in the package. Contains a processor and 1024 MB of RAM. The product measures 10.2 x 22.5 x 16.6 cm.
Users like the price, judged as content compared to the functionality of the product. Although slow during start-up, it is appreciated because it is small and quiet, therefore suitable for confined spaces and offices. Reviewers recommend some experience for these articles. Very welcome is the speed of shipment and the care in packaging.
Zyxel – 2 bay
From Zyxel, this home data storage system comes with instant remote access with the Zyxel Drive app. Even via the app, you can share data with your group. Easy to configure, manage and organize, the processor frequency is 1.3 GHz and the RAID runs at a performance of 105 / 105.8 MB per second.
Users rate the product as good due to its technical features, including automatic internal disk formatting, excellent reading speed via SMB, and support for various file systems, including Apple. However, it is slow to install and may take more than one attempt. Also, the fan is quite noisy.
DiskStation DS218 + – 2 bay
Equipped with 2 Gigabyte internal memory expandable up to 66, this external memory device has as CPU an Intel Celeron J3355 with 2.5 GHz Dual Core 2.0 processor. The CPU architecture is 64 bit. The product measures 23 × 10.5 × 16 cm and weighs 1.3 kilograms. The graphics card is Intel HD Graphics 500 and the RAM is 2048 MB.
The strong point according to users who have tried the product is the graphical interface, considered intuitive even for the most inexperienced. The declared reading speed data seems respected, and the desktop backup system is also good. Some reviewers consider the price a bit high, however valid for the security offered by the article.
Synology DiskStation DS119j
A product bearing the Synology brand, this device is equipped with an Ethernet over LAN connection for increased performance. It has two USB ports compatible with different components. Also, you can download the Synology app to enjoy additional functions. The item measures 22 x 7 x 16 centimeters and has a RAM size of 256 MB.
The product is rated by reviewers as good due to the features it offers. The only flaw is the RAM, judged as too small and limited. However, customers praise the Synology apps, judged as the real strength of the article. Also appreciated are the ease of assembly and the ability to set different fan power levels.
This device has space for up to eight hard drives in one case. Superspeed USB 3.0 ports enable data transfer speeds of up to 5Gbit per second. The speed is 70% higher thanks to the UASP protocol. The 80 x 80 mm internal fan is adjustable according to three speeds and is equipped with an automatic temperature sensor.
Users appreciate the value for money and the ease of assembly of the product, even for individuals who are not experts in the field. The speed of data transfer depends on the internal disk but is considered good by many. The aesthetics of the article are also appreciated. Some find the fan to be quiet, while others find it a bit noisy.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about NAS
When buying a NAS server, there are some important factors to consider. Don’t forget that there are different NAS models and that each is designed for a different type of user. To help you learn more about this product, below you will find our answers to the questions that buyers generally ask themselves about NAS.
What exactly is a NAS server?
A NAS server is a large-capacity networked storage system that connects to a home or business network. Its function is to make it possible to access all existing files and documents on any device on the network, without the need to establish a direct connection with the drive in which they are located.
What is a NAS for?
NAS servers can have several functions. Among the main ones, manage files on the network, install a personal streaming server or offer access to a local network to a group of users. They are also often used to archive IP surveillance camera recordings.
At the same time, they can be configured as servers connected to the Internet and, therefore, can perform functions similar to those performed by web storage or hosting services. So, you can use them as an email server or store your website. It is also possible to turn them into VPN servers.
What are NAS bays?
The spaces that NAS servers have to mount hard drives are called bays. In home-use NAS, one or two bays are usually enough. However, in devices for professional users or work environments, it is necessary to have four or even twelve bays, as required.
Keep in mind that each bay has a certain storage capacity. So if it’s 10GB, you can’t mount a 12GB disk. Furthermore, the energy consumption must be considered: the more bays, the greater this consumption. Therefore, it is not recommended to choose NAS servers with more bays than necessary.
What hard drives do I need for a NAS?
While some NAS have built-in hard drives, this is usually not the case. In these cases, it is essential to purchasing hard drives that offer you adequate performance. Beyond the capacity they have, what matters is their read and write speed.
One brand that offers NAS-specific hard drives is Western Digital, with the Red range specially developed for this purpose. Without a doubt, these devices guarantee excellent performance. However, if you have external hard drives that you don’t use, you can also take advantage of them and install them on the NAS.
How do you install a NAS server?
Getting a NAS up and running isn’t overly complicated. To begin with, you need to install the storage drives you will be using. Once this is done, the next step is to connect it to the local network. And finally, all you have to do is configure it from the NAS’s operating system.
When the time has come to buy a NAS, it is essential to consider some purchase criteria. To help you in the selection process, we have selected the ones we consider most important. We hope they will guide you in your purchase and that you will be completely satisfied with your new NAS.
- The operating system that manages the NAS
- The processor
- The maximum storage capacity supported by the NAS
- The RAID
- The manufacturer
The operating system that manages the NAS
NAS devices don’t work with Windows. Large manufacturers have their own Linux-based operating systems, such as Synology DiskStation Manager, Qnap’s QTS, or WD’s My Cloud. However, there are also many free systems such as FreeNAS, NASlite, or Openfiler.
In general, all of them are pretty simple to use. Some, like QNAP, Asustor, or Synology, can also be managed from your mobile. Besides, it is also important to consider which applications each system has to manage e-mail servers, FTP (File transfer protocol), and backups, among others.
For a family environment, a 1 GHz Dual Core processor will be more than enough. Instead, for an office, you have to think, at least, of a quad-core processor. In general, mid-range models currently usually have Intel Celeron processors, while professional ones use Intel i3 or Xeon.
The RAM you will need depends on how you want to use the NAS server. If you only need to save backup copies, you don’t need to worry too much about this. For home use, 512MB memory may be sufficient. On the other hand, for an office, it may be advisable to have up to 8 GB of memory.
If you want to use it as a multimedia device to play high definition content, you will need at least 1 GB of RAM. If you want to frequently use the NAS as a multimedia player in HD or 4K quality, then you should think about a server equipped with 2 GB or more of RAM.
The maximum storage capacity supported by the NAS
Before buying a NAS server, you need to know what storage capacity it has and what kind of hard drive you will need to use. The simplest devices only have space for a hard drive. The most basic drives may allow you to store 1TB or 2TB, which can be insufficient for certain tasks.
If you plan to save large media files, you should think about capacities of 6TB and up. In the case of a NAS to be installed in an office, you can consider the idea of a capacity of up to 20 TB. Besides, some devices also allow you to install SSD drives, although the advantages of these, in NAS, are barely exploited.