NAS (“Network Attached Storage”) is all about keeping your data safe and secure, no matter where you go or what devices you use. NAS is attached to the network at your home or office, which allows multiple network users to store data in one safe place.
In the world of PC technology, NAS doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. However, NAS is something that becomes a big deal when you need it; therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with NAS features and specifications so that you can purchase the best NAS with confidence.
Last update on 2022-01-01 // The links above are affiliate // Images from Amazon
How to Choose the Best NAS
Why You May Need NAS And How It Can Be Used
Why get a NAS when you can just use an external hard drive to store your data? A NAS connects to a network, not a computer; this means that you have much more options for what you can do with the stored data. If something happens to your computer, you might lose that data forever. With NAS, your data is still safe within the connected network. Additionally, you can also use NAS to stream content, such as music and videos, anywhere you go.
Here are a few reasons why you might need NAS at your home or office:
- Everyone using the network can access the data
- Passwords can be set up for certain devices to keep things private, while still storing the data in a safe place
- NAS has its own operating system, so you don’t have to rely on a monthly subscription service to store your data; you have full control and you only have to make one purchase
- NAS is scalable, meaning that you can add more storage options, such as hard drives and additional NAS units, as your needs change over time
- Depending on the configurations, NAS is versatile and can come with several additional features, such as the ability to download large amounts of internet data even during travel
- NAS units are usually more reliable than other storage options because they are built to run at lower temperatures with a specific focus on data storage
Understanding NAS units and their specifications can be a challenge. If you’re thinking about getting the best NAS for your needs, it’s important to research how to setup your NAS in the way that works best for you.
A NAS holds hard drives within it. These hard drives can have different storage capacities.
Depending on the size of your family, business or data usage, the size of NAS you need will vary. Here are some things to consider when choosing a NAS based on capacity:
- Documents: Word documents typically don’t take up much space, so if you may not need to spend more on a larger capacity NAS if you’re just storing these types of files, such as in an office.
- Media (music, movies and images): If you’re an avid media user, editor or photographer, you’re going to need lots of space to store those files. The higher quality media you use (such as HD videos), the more storage you’ll need. This is especially true if you live or work in a place where multiple users are accessing and sharing very large data files.
- Do you use RAID? RAID (“Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks”) is something that you enable in a system, such as a NAS unit, that provides fault tolerance and performance optimization. Essentially, RAID provides added protection for your data and helps your NAS run as best as it can. If you use RAID, it will take up more space within the NAS, so keep this in mind when looking at capacity.
Disks or No Disks?
Some NAS come with hard drive disks, while others do not.
- The Pros of No Disks: You have the freedom to add your own hard drives based on the size and brand that you prefer.
- The Cons of No Disks: You’ll need to buy extra hard drives and spend more time setting the NAS up.
- The Pros of Disks: A NAS with preinstalled disks is convenient because those disks are already configured for that NAS drive. You can set up your NAS quickly and easily (in comparison to diskless).
- The Cons of Disks: The disk that the NAS comes with may not be best quality based on your needs for space and features.
NAS connects through the network at your home or office via a Wi-Fi network or your router. Most NAS units typically connect using a Gigabit Ethernet cable. In order to get the most out of your NAS, it’s important to have a high-quality router and a strong internet connection.
Whether you own your own business or live in a household with various devices, you might come into a situation where multiple users need to access a large chunk of data. That’s exactly what a NAS does; it makes it so that everybody can store and access data through the NAS server, without worrying about losing or misplacing files.
NAS can give you remote access so that you can view and manage your files wherever you are on whichever device you choose. This can be achieved by making an account with the NAS manufacturer and using your login to access your files.
As previously mentioned, RAID means “Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks” and it’s designed to provide a safety net for the data on your NAS unit. There are different types of RAIDS. The type of RAID you need will depend on the drive capacity of your NAS unit. Hard drives can break down, and that is why NAS has fault tolerance so that you can save your data even if you lose a hard drive.
For more tips on NAS security, check out this guide.
Best Network Attached Storages
Solid Entry-Level NAS
If you have a couple hundred bucks to spend on a NAS, the QNAP TS-230 would make for a solid choice as an entry level machine designed for data backup or to be used as a personal cloud.
Its main attributes are affordability, performance and a very interesting form-factor: you’ll get a nice design, a tool free enclosure (easy to upgrade), and easy installation. Moreover, its operating system, QTS respectively, makes if incredibly easy to share folders, create volumes, and configure your machine as a personal cloud server.
There are also tons of apps to be used with the T-230, which is great if you like to tinker with your devices. In terms of design, the NAS is sold with a very nice baby-blue finish, and you can put it basically anywhere in your home. The unit measures 7.4 by 3.5 by 6.1 inches (HWD) and comes with a couple of internal hot swappable drive bays with tool less sleds, that can be used to accommodate both 2.5’’ and 3’’ drives.
There are LED indicators on the front for LAN activity, system status, and USB One-Touch Copy activity, plus a USB 3.0 port, a power button and a One-Touch Copy button for copying data backups from USB.
On the back panel you’ll find a gigabit LAN port, two USB ports (2.0 and 3.0), a Reset button, and a power jack, which is more than enough for home users, as well as an 80mm fan that prevents NAS from overheating.
Under the hood, you get a 1.4GHz quad-core CPU, 4GB of flash memory, and 2GB of DDR4 RAM, and it’s worth mentioning that the TS-230 supports RAID 0, RAID 1, Single Disk, and JBOD configurations, plus hardware-accelerated video transcoding.
Finally, since QTS is a Linux-based OS with a Windows-like UI, everything is easy to manage, configure and customize, while being virus-proof and absolutely free.
- Solid entry-level NAS
- Reasonably priced
- Easy to use
- Nice apps
- Tool-free drive sleds
- Some bloatware
Synology 5 Bay NAS DiskStation DS1019+
One of the Best NAS Drives With Plex Support
This NAS is designed with two built-in M.2 NVMe SSD slots for system cache support. In addition, there are dual 1GbE (RJ-45) ports with failover and Link Aggregation support. Synology 5 Bay NAS DiskStation DS1019+ delivers fast performance with decent reading and writing speed for encrypted data which reaches up to 225MB/s. Note that it comes with quad-core CPU and AES-NI encryption engine.
The DS1019+ has two 4GB DDR3L memory modules, which means 8GB of general memory capacity. This Synology NAS is also rather multifunctional as it offers different applications not only to share files but also to backup data. What is more, there is an option of dual-channel H.264/H.265 4K video transcoding on the fly.
You can use this Disk Station to stream TV shows, movies and songs to your PC, smartphone, Apple TV or any other device. Besides, its Surveillance Station provides additional protection for your data offering network cameras, which can be managed from almost any spot of the world just with the help of a simple mobile app.
- great performance
- dual M.2 cache
- BTRFS and SHR
- Plex support
- 4K video transcoding
- RAM upgradable
- Snapshot Replication
- only 1GB Ethernet ports
- no PCIe slots
- no copy button
- plastic chassis
WD Diskless My Cloud Pro Series PR4100
Great NAS for Secure Data Storage
My Cloud Pro Series is also a great choice in case you need centralized storage to keep all your data organized and safe. This WD Diskless NAS is designed with Intel Pentium N3710 Quad-Core 1.6GHz Processor and 4GB of RAM. There are also multiple RAID options to protect your data as well as password protection and 256-bit AES volume encryption.
It can be used to stream almost any type of content including HD videos due to its high speed. What is more, there is built-in hardware transcoding which allows you to stream media in the right format. My Cloud Pro Series has also got installed Plex Media Server, so you can stream to any device. Note that the latter one comes with 3-month trial only.
WD Diskless PR4100 is simple to setup and to use as it comes with tool-less and tray-less drive bays. There is also My Cloud mobile app for easy file management and control, and access to the Adobe Creative Cloud for file editing.
- great performance
- third-party application support
- intuitive NAS management software
- reliable build quality
- installed Plex Media Server
- easy and quick setup
- no logging of user access to the device
- doesn’t automatically back up to Google drive
Asustor Drivestor 2 Pro AS3302T
Best Budget NAS
The Asustor Drivestor 2 Pro is a relatively modest (and affordable) 2-bay NAS built by Asus and designed to be used as a personal cloud server. The Asustor Drivestor 2 Pro retails for something like $300 give or take, and offers numerous USB ports and multi-gig connectivity, plus a generous catalog of apps that allow you to use the NAS in various ways, such as backup solution for important data, music and photos, or as a media server, a surveillance center etc.
The NAS offers solid file transfer performance, and it’s fairly easy to manage/install, which is great for home use. The Drivestor 2 Pro measures 6.6-by-4.4-by-9.0 inch (HWD) and has a magnetic front cover, which if removed will reveal 2 hot-swappable 3.5-inch drive bays that offer tool-free drive installation.
The NAS supports 2 drive storage capacity of up to 36 GB and also supports JBOD, Single, RAID 0, and RAID 1 configurations, as well as EXT4 and Btrfs file extensions.
In terms of hardware, you’ll get a Realtek RTD1296 ARM quad-core 1.4 GHz CPU, 2GB of DDR4 RAM, and 8GB of flash memory, which is standard for an entry-level NAS; there are no HDMI or M.2 NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) slots, but the good news is that the NAS supports 4K video transcoding and comes equipped with a 2.5Gb Ethernet port and 3 USB 3.2 ports.
To keep internal components cool, the NAS comes equipped with a 70 mm fan. Software wise, the Drivestor 2 Pro uses Asustor Data Master or ADM 4.0 which has a Windows-like user interface. Using the Asustor AI mobile app, you can control the NAS with your smartphone, and you also get a ton of pre-installed apps, like Storage Manager, Access Control, App Central, File Explorer, Activity Monitor, and Settings tiles.
Bottom line, the Asustor Drivestor 2 Pro is an excellent NAS for home use, easy to setup and install, and featuring an excellent operating system plus a ton of 3rd party apps that allow you to do virtually anything, ranging from video streaming to serving email or surveillance monitoring.
- Multi gig Ethernet
- Solid performance
- Tool free chassis
- Large app catalog
- 2.5GbE LAN port
- 4K HEVC Transcoding
- No HDMI
- RAM not upgradable
Synology 2 Bay DS220+
A Great NAS for the Price
Synology 2 Bay NAS DiskStation DS220+ is an affordable, yet very good two-bay NAS device that presents an excellent combination of compact design, solid performance, and great functionality that makes it a perfect option for home users.
This NAS is the successor of the older DS218+ model with whom it shares only its outside shell. Their insides, on the other hand, are two different worlds and DS220+ definitely brings significant upgrades that among others include a newer Intel Celeron J4025 2-core 2.0 GHz processor, as well as 2GB of DDR4 memory that can be expanded up to 6GB. More importantly, this hardware upgrade has also resulted in performance increase and better sequential read/write speeds that are now around 225MBps/192MBps values.
Synology 2 Bay NAS DiskStation DS220+ offers RAID support and comes equipped with two 1GbE LAN ports that allow for trouble-free networking. Also, it provides AES-NI hardware encryption; it is fitted with two USB 3.0 ports that offer enough connectivity for home use and on top of that, it comes in a package with excellent Synology software that will allow for easy setup and every necessary change.
All in all, for its price, Synology 2 Bay NAS DiskStation DS220+ certainly offers a lot. Therefore, if the best NAS for home use is your primary goal, you may be sure that this NAS will go up to your standards and much more.
- Excellent Synology software
- No USB-C port
- No optional NVMe SSD bays
A Great Value NAS at an Affordable Price
If you are after an affordable NAS solution that will offer easy setup and provide a decent level of security for your data, BUFFALO LinkStation SoHo 2-Bay is a good option for you. Of course, this device isn’t a top-class product; nevertheless, as long as you accept it as it is and use it mainly for the basic tasks, such as backups, you will be more than pleased with the results.
BUFFALO LinkStation SoHo 2-Bay is available in 2TB, 4TB and 8TB capacity, while the drives themselves are RAID 1 pre-configured which means you will end up with half of the declared size right from the box. However, with the help of the software you can easily re-configure them into RAID 0, JBOD or others, to perfectly suit your needs.
When talking about hardware, BUFFALO LinkStation SoHo 2-Bay is fitted with 1GbE network port, Marvell ARMADA 370 800MHz processor and the rather modest 256MB of DDR3 that won’t overwhelm you with their performance. Nevertheless, what it will deliver will be more than suitable for home or small business users looking for an easy-to-use and solid performing NAS device.
All in all, BUFFALO LinkStation SoHo presents a good all-around option for not too demanding users and altogether a great value for the money and a NAS that simply won’t disappoint you.
- Decent security features
- A limited number of advanced features
- Trouble software
The Best Compact NAS Drive by QNAP
NAS TS-453Be-2G-US is another great QNAP model. It is designed with Intel Celeron J3455 quad-core 1.5GHz processor which can be boosted up to 2.3GHz. Its 4GB DDR3L RAM can be also expanded up to 8GB. This NAS has AES-NI encryption and supports 4K hardware transcoding as well as 4K media playback.
There is dual 4K HDMI port and its PCIe port supports installing a 10GbE network card. So, you can use this NAS for multimedia viewing on HDTV via HDMI output as well. What is more, there is USB 3.1 port. QNAP TS-453Be-2G-US comes with snapshots to take a picture of your storage. It means that you will be able to roll back to the exact time of ransomware attack or accidental deletion.
By the way, you can easily boost its performance. To do this you need to use full Potential of your PCIe slot with M.2 SSDs and Qtier. This QNAP NAS is also highly compatible and supports Google Chromecast, Amazon Firestick, Roku, AppleTV, DLNA, etc.
- affordable price
- improved ventilation
- compact design
- 4K hardware transcoding
- dual 4K HDMI ports
- PCI-Express expansion slot
- simple drive installation
- great backup
- reliable security level
- difficult to setup via a smartphone
- expansion slot requires adapters with flat brackets
WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra
Great Affordable NAS Storage
WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra is one of the most reliable and secure NAS you can find for such an affordable price. It offers centralized network storage and allows access using a PC or a smartphone. Its 1.3GHz dual-core processor comes with 1GB memory. Sure, it’s not the best speed you have come across but it’s quite enough for decent performance.
The EX2 Ultra is provided with Milestone Arcus Surveillance software which has unlimited camera licenses as well as numerous RAID options. For example, you can use RAID 1 for mirrored data protection or RAID or to boost overall NAS performance. All RAID options let you customize NAS according to your needs.
- reasonable price
- neat design
- quick file transfer
- great streaming and backup features
- not many third-party apps
- poor instructions
Another Great Budget NAS Drive With Screwless Design
Zyxel NAS540 is a budget NAS with screwless design, which provides quick and simple drive installation. Besides, it delivers quiet performance thanks to its 120mm silent fan, which also takes care of NAS ventilation.
There is 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU and 1GB of DDR3 RAM. Its 3.0 ports provide data transfer rates with up to 4GB/s speed. Its SD slot comes with the latest SDXC support and lets you transfer files to NAS540 for easy and fast backup. By the way, this Zyxel NAS offers a range of RAID options what guarantees reliable protection in case of hard disk failures.
Thanks to user-friendly GUI there is also an intuitive graphic interface which makes apps management an easy process. What is more, you can use Web GUI to control network storage health status including fan speed and CPU utilization.
- 2GB Ethernet ports
- quiet performance
- affordable price
- great RAID support
- three USB 3.0 ports
- one SD card slot
- easy setup
- no iSCSI support
- no front panel indicator or audible alarm in case of RAID failure
Give Your Lifetime Memories and Professional Data Complete Protection with the Best NAS for your Lifestyle
If you’re someone who creates, uses and manages large amounts of data using a computer, laptop or tablet, you might need a NAS. If you’ve been hunting for the best SSD for gaming and the best external hard drive options you might also be interested in finding the best NAS so you can be sure that all your games and multimedia files are safe and accessible.
With the best NAS, you can ensure long-term protection of your important data and personal files. NAS leads to security, and security leads to peace of mind!