NAS or Network Attached Storage is a set of devices that we have long been talking about. External mass storage, network-connected, could be a simple definition. However, do we really know what a NAS?
Today we begin a specially focused on the NAS. What these are? What are they for? What is the difference between a NAS and an external hard drive? About this and much more, it is what we will discuss in this article. In addition, yes, of course, we will discuss what are the main guidelines to keep in mind to present you with one of these devices.
What is a NAS?
With a number of peripherals, today in the market has, a very specific definition of what is needed is a NAS.
NAS comes from the network-storage area; it comes to mean something like network storage. It is precisely this feature that distinguishes a NAS from any other storage device, the interface is the local network connection, typically Ethernet or RJ45 network cable.
This implies that the NAS are usually connected to a router, with the increase in speed that this implies: the implementation of a gigabit network, 1 Gbps or about 128 MB/s. However, in reality, the transfer rates of these devices tend to be lower, hovering around 30 or 40 MB/s, as there are numerous obstacles and complications that speed limit.
How is a NAS installation
Although there are several possible configurations, the most widespread is connecting the NAS to our router. This takes you a direct connection to both the local network (i.e. to other computers on the network) and the Internet itself, in case you want to use some of the services and features that usually come implemented.
Something the NAS offer a very simple way is the ability to share information on a local network, usually through a network drive accessible through any computer. This can be useful, for example, for a small office where you want to have a small data server, all centralized, with some speed and without requiring connecting a device every time you want to save or load something. Of course, it requires a previous installation, but usually a simple process.
Precisely on the installation, all NAS we tested in use a simple process a few steps, usually enters the device name and little else. Just we need to have connected to the network, on and with a small program (which is downloaded from the manufacturer’s website) and a firmware (which also find on the same site) will have it in about ten or fifteen minute’s device.
Items needed a NAS and basic functionality
The external appearance of a NAS is a small box with dimensions that depend on its final characteristics, mainly on the number of hard drives that can use it. The hard drive is one of the fundamental elements of any NAS, as the device itself has no internal memory, or in some cases has a few megs that are not worth much more than the system itself.
The hard drive makes storage functions of two parts: one stores the firmware and the operating system of the NAS (yes, what is called firmware also considered an operating system); on the other hand, it serves as storage for files wish made thereto.
The good thing NAS is that many of them allow you to use multiple hard drives, unlike the vast majority of external hard drives through USB. This aspect we will see in future posts of this special, it must be one of the strongest reasons to opt for a model of NAS or another.
In addition to the hard drive, all NAS market make up a small computer, as if any market computer uses the basic hardware: processor and memory RAM, among others. Although the basics will serve for the average user, it is possible that some public need a more powerful computer, although usually not usual. There NAS that integrates Intel Atom microprocessors, for example.
And we completed this first entry with a first conclusion: the main mission of the NAS is to serve as an external mass storage and connected by a network. In addition to storage as such, one of the biggest attractions of the devices NAS is offering numerous additional features, on which we’ll talk in the next post of this special.
What a NAS can offer us, at least, we will focus on the most general. We also discuss the web interface, a common denominator to all models of the market and demonstrating outstanding performance.
Hundreds of features, the main attraction of NAS
Without forgetting our conclusion in the first inning, the main mission of the NAS is to serve as an external mass storage and connected by a network, the NAS are more than just storage. Below is a list of the main features that the vast majority of models on the market offer:
- P2P downloads (eMule, Torrent) and directs (Megaupload, Rapidshare)
- Web server (PHP, SQL)
- Server FTP
- Media Server (DLNA, UPnP, iTunes or photo viewer)
- Server for network printers
- Creating users and user groups with custom permissions
- Configurations RAID
- Changing hard drives hot
- Integration with (Windows, Linux or Mac OS X) operating system
- Drive Bracket USB or eSATA
- Support for third-party plugins
This is a small list with the most important offering many of the major models in the market. A must mention remark that manufacturers update the firmware quite often their devices, which are often added new features from time to time, something that is appreciated from the point of view of the user.
In addition, the last point of the above list is something that today is pretty green, but can improve a lot in the future: the support for plugins and small third – party programs means that there are communities that program and develop their programs for NAS, which allows you to add new features (even more) to these devices. Although as mentioned is something that still has little use in the future will be one of the aspects to consider.
Striking, simple and powerful web interface
If you read any of our analysis devices NAS we have done you may have noticed that we place great emphasis on web interfaces. In addition, no doubt, they are one of the main attractions of these peripherals.
Simple but effective, one of its advantages is that they are accessible from any browser on any computer. They are dynamic and fast because they use technologies such as AJAX visually appealing; and they are very well structured, usually in the form of categories and subcategories.
In the NAS of the three manufacturers have tried, Synology, QNAP, and Thecus, a web interface was used to access the device and its configuration on all models, and also with a user experience more or less similar in all cases.
Much more than that we will use in reality, the NAS offer a multitude of the features implemented factory and offered by the manufacturer. We will from the basics, which is to connect the device to your computer or P2P downloads, even added much more advanced as Web servers or FTP , and all without forgetting that it is a field that has just been born a few years ago and has a very promising future.
However, it is curious that some of the best-known manufacturers (such as Western Digital and LaCie) are models of NAS in their catalogs but usually stay pretty short on features. Many of them have no P2P clients, for example. This is why it is necessary to check the complete list of model specifications we are concerned since not all NAS are fully complete.
Tips and advice for buying a NAS
Increasingly available models, so we have to get to know the aspects to consider if we are interested in making us one. Admittedly, it is not a complex task (such as it is if you buy a complete computer), and will be two major variables: number of hard disks and manufacturer.
The gist: capacity and number of disks supported
It is possible, what we have to look more closely. Of the many NAS market there are models of one, two, four, five, six, seven, eight bays … in other words, virtually any disk capacity we want is at our disposal.
Ideally, go for one NAS of at least two hard drives, as this will allow you to configure them in RAID in case we need extra security, plus they also offer a very wide capacity for the average user (up to 4 TB using currently available) discs. We can always keep a hard drive on the NAS, take the other for additional backups and since we can change it hot, there will be no problem if at any time we need a data we have another hard drive that is not connected.
The NAS from a disk drive is fine and are the most affordable, but more than NAS are HDD enclosure. If you are looking for it is to have the functionality of a NAS (such as P2P download the most desired by many users), a NAS a bay will be very interesting to it and more or less affordable price. The downside is that the possibility of lost RAID, although it is not something that many users need.
Another option is to go for a NAS with even greater capacity, six or eight bays. However, the price range of these models is extremely high for a domestic pocket and does not at all deserve it. We will see if in the future become more affordable because everything points to it, but of course, today is not a cheap product.
The manufacturer and the impact it has
We have tested three manufacturers of NAS deserve special mention: Synology, Thecus, and QNAP. In addition, based on our experience, the choice of the manufacturer is very important for several reasons:
- Manufacturer depends on both the rate firmware update as new features to implement.
- The installation process is the same for all models of the same manufacturer, and some share the same file and others require different files for different models.
- There is a big difference between some manufacturers and others, both the finished product and software and of course in the holder.
- The user community depends on the manufacturer itself and is the users themselves who in the era of Internet and now social networks are playing a key role in much of the world of gadgets.
My recommendation to buy a NAS
Of you enter the tests I have done; the manufacturer has given me a better feeling is Synology. Clean, fast, complex and powerful interfaces, and prices in the market average. If you were to buy one would have in mind the Synology.
Behind them, QNAP is the best known, and most history. QNAP is closely Synology, but the big drawback is that are more expensive. It is also true that often incorporate more powerful hardware (more powerful microprocessors and more memory RAM). This is something that is not essential for a home user, but it is true that for a small business can be critical.
Finally, Thecus offers very low prices, but its software is quite poor. Visually is much less attractive than Synology and Thecus solutions, and has certain functions that fail enough. For example, the P2P is noticeably slow, if you get it to work. The positive is that they are very cheap, much more than other manufacturers.
However, the market does not live by these three manufacturers. Western Digital has its My Book World Edition II is the solution known the manufacturer of hard drives, offering a device that already includes the discs themselves (unlike any of the previously mentioned) and the support they can give WD. As disadvantages, the functionalities are much more limited (for example, do not have integrated P2P).
Another solution is the manufacturer LaCie, also well known by all and whose main model available is the Network Space 2. It is the only one we have discussed we have not tried, but I recognize that not sleazy.
In addition, to finalize these recommendations, we will leave aside the manufacturers and we are going to focus on the size of the device: Two or four bays are ideal because they allow different configurations between the discs themselves, along with a stratospheric capacity.
Another option to gain NAS is one of a bay. We will have a “short” capacity (up to 2 TB, which is no small feat) but we can use it as a download server. Make use of P2P without turning on your computer is a delight, and all for a decent price.
The NAS are more or less recent devices in the home and are very interesting now that we need huge storage capacities. They are small, efficient and, above all, have a multitude of functions.
Among the different manufacturers, there are huge differences, not only in features but also in operation and, of course, price. Unlike other fields, the manufacturer is a vital aspect when choosing a NAS.
As mentioned, the NAS is a kind of new product, and that is why so their prices are somewhat higher still. However, their future is very promising, and certainly will be many years talking about them.