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What is a NAS drive?

The most straightforward way to describe a NAS drive is to say that it is a really clever external hard drive. In fact, it is probably more similar to your computer than an external hard drive. The reason for this is that NAS drives come with a full operating system (usually a linux based one like freenas).

NAS Drives

A selection of NAS drives

With an average external hard drive, if you want to back up some of your photographs, or if you want to copy some files you need to be close enough to the drive to plug it into your computer. This can restrict where you can do your work and it becomes even more awkward when you’re sharing a drive with another person!

All of this could be done with an old computer or server but NAS drives are purposely designed to be quieter and easier to set up, less expensive to buy and run (no massive electricity bills from having to leave a power consuming computer running all day and night!). They’re also built to give off less heat so that there is less chance of your hard drives becoming faulty.

A NAS drive (sometimes called a Network-Attached Storage Drive) will connect to your local network and premit you to backup and retrieve your files from wherever as long as you’re connected to the same network. because of this multiple people can access the NAS drive at the same time without having to fight over whose computer the drive will be connected to! It also means you can move around (if you’re connected via Wi-Fi) and do your work wherever you want.

Depending on what NAS drive you go for, NAS drives have heaps of other features. Some will be very useful to you whilst some you might not use at all. Before you buy a NAS drive it is important to make sure you know which features you want and which ones you don’t so that you can be sure you won’t pay too much for features you don’t need and you also won’t waste your money purchasing a NAS drive that doesn’t do everything you want it to.

Because there is so much you should know before buying a NAS drive, it is always a good idea to read plenty of NAS drive reviews before taking the plunge and buying something.

What is the best NAS for home?

Nowadays, in every home there are different multimedia devices like laptops, tablets, smartphones and PCs. There is a great need for reliable external storage devices, so that the data can easily be accessed by all the users in the home.

USB devices were traditionally used to fulfil this need, but the data can be accessed by one device at a time only. If you want to share the data among many devices then it becomes a daunting task. Network Attached Storage (NAS) give you great convenience in this area, which why they now being used as a great alternative for USBs.

How NAS works

NAS can be connected directly to your wireless router, this makes sharing data among different users on the network easier. All the files can be accessed by multiple users and devices from one place. There are many other ways in which you could use your NAS server

  • As a backup for all your files.
  • Share printer among different devices on the network.
  • Aid in setting up surveillance system.

There are many different types of NAS drives available to meet your requirement. You could choose between a device with a single drive or you could opt for a device which has multiple drives which give you the freedom to store more data.

Best NAS drives for your Home

It is easy to make a network if you are already using a wireless router in your home to connect all your multimedia devices. It is better to choose a NAS device which is easy to use and which suits your storage requirements.

NetGear Ready NAS Pro 2

This is a 2 drive model which supports 12 TB storage, which includes externally connected hard drives. By attaching a USB printer, this device also functions as a print server. It has 6 SATA II channels and 3 USB ports along with a dual Gigabit Ethernet.

Synology DS 412

This is a 4 drive model which supports up to 16 TB . It has its own memory for its OS. Additional channels can be added to enable remote access or to host external web applications.

Synology DS 212j

This 2 drive model is aimed to fulfil the requirements of home users who are looking for a safe storage space for their data. This device can also function as a low power downloading system and since it has memory of its own you don’t have to dedicate a disk for it. It supports a maximum of 8 TB.

Uses of NAS

NAS is used not only in offices but also in homes which have many multimedia devices. Photos, songs and videos are the most space consuming data that can be found on any device. They slow down the entire system and take up too much space.

NAS is a wonderful option in such cases. The entire family can share their data whether it be photos, videos or songs along with important files when they use NAS as a external storage system. It not only successfully provides a low cost option to share and access data from one single source, it also protects the data.

What is DNLA?

The acronym DLNA refers to digital living network alliance. It is a collection of guidelines developed by a group of companies to allow sharing of information among various electronic devices within a home network. The aim of these organizations was to come up with a systems whereby computers, cell phones and other electronic devices at home could share media files without much effort.

With electronic devices that have been certified by DLNA, one can watch media that has been stored on phone using his television screen or transfer files that have been kept on a hard disk so that they can be used on phone.
It works on a simple principle; The DLNA set of regulations identifies a group of protocols that enable electronic devices to interconnect using a local network around the home. The protocols allow the electronic devices to recognize one another, communicate and share content.

For users to identify whether their electronic devices are DLNA enabled, they examine the packaging or look at the website of the manufacturer and determine what other devices can be pared with a particular computer, television or cell phone.
For one to make use of DLNA, some basic specifications have to be met. The first condition is availability of a network within the home, be it cabled or wireless that will enable the devices to connect. One must then have multiple devices that support DLNA in order to enjoy variety. Some of the devices that may be enabled include phones and storage devices such as hard disks, desktops,televisions, printers and recorders.

NAS on the other hand is an acronym meaning network attached storage. It is a storage drive that will hold information to be transferred later to the digital living network alliance. For example, one may choose to store favorite music on the network attached storage. Later one ,one may use a device that is DLNA enabled to access the favorites files and then play them on another electronic device. Alternatively, digital information that may be stored on the network attached storage could be sent through wireless networks to a DLNA enabled gadget for watching or playing.

Network attached storage is very important on DLNA enables electronics because it allows mass sharing of
information. Instead of someone switching on a television to access some information, it will be available for transfer from the network attached storage even when someone else is accessing it too. NAS can also stream information to more than one DLNA devices that have been attached to it.NAS can also enable individuals use one printer on various devices. The printer is simply connected to a USB which is in turn connected to the NAS and it will be available to multiple users.

In a nutshell,digital network living alliance provides a means by which one can access information using any electronic device within a large home network. Sharing of important files, information and bits of entertainment is made ABC easy. It gives value to all electronic equipment.

Are all NAS drives the same?

It is a prevalent misunderstanding that all NAS drives are almost all the same, apart from the amount of disk space and how they look. I mean, they’re all just hard drives really, aren’t they?

The statement above couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, all network attached storage drives will have hard drives where they keep the data, but all computers have hard drives too and we all know that two computers can be totally different!

The thing that sets network attached storage drives apart from your average USB hard drive is the fact that they are intelligent. They’re so intelligent that they will allow you to simply connect them to your network and then you can access them from wherever you are. To achieve this intelligence, the makers decided to add an operating system to the NAS drive.

The operating system is initially present to connect the hard drive to the network but operating systems are so expandable that the NAS drive manufacturers have been able to add a whole host of functionality to their drives. I’d say this makes a NAS drive more more similar to your computer than a normal hard drive.

Although most NAS drives will work on a simple Linux based operating system such as FreeNAS, the manufacturers can customize them to add extra functionality to their NAS drives. A good example of this is the BitTorrent clients that are built into a lot of NAS drives, this lets you to download files directly to the NAS drive so once the download has begun, your computer doesn’t even have to be switched on!

There are a whole host of alternative aspects that NAS drives can offer that could prove to be very helpful to you. It is imperative that you learn about these features and what they mean to you so that when you come to buy a NAS drive, you don’t get one that doesn’t do all of the things you want it to and so that you don’t overspend to buy a NAS with loads of extra features that you don’t really require.

What to look for in a NAS drive

There is such a wide variation of features offered by NAS drives that it is a good idea to know exactly what you want from your new drive before you start looking at which one to buy, otherwise you could end up buying an expensive drive that does lots of things you’ll never need and none of the things you would use all of the time. If you’re not sure what a NAS drive is at this point, it might be worth reading through our quick What is a NAS drive? article.

The main reason people decide to buy a NAS drive is because they want to back up their files somewhere and while they could go for a standard external hard drive, a drive that they can back up from anywhere on their network (including over their home WiFi) makes everything much easier. If you do want a NAS drive to back up your files to, then it is a good idea to go for a one that is supplied with some good automated software. If you are a Mac user and would prefer to use Time Machine, then make sure the drive you go for is compatible.

Another common reason people choose to buy a NAS drive is to stream their music or video collection to different devices around their home. If this is the case it will be worth ensuring that the NAS drive you go for is compatible with iTunes (if iTunes is your chosen media library) and that it supports media streaming.

People who download a lot via bitTorrent might want to look at a NAS drive that has a built in bitTorrent client. This will allow you to manage your torrents over your local network via a web interface. Once the torrent is started it will download directly to the NAS drive. This means you can go out or turn your computer off and the NAS drive will handle downloading your files itself.

If you like to post a lot of your photos and videos to social media sites such as Facebook, Flickr or YouTube then there are NAS drives that will automatically post any photos and videos you put in certain folders to your chosen social media sites.

For people who have a lot of data to store, it might be a better idea to go for either a NAS drive enclosure or a drive that allows expansion. A NAS drive enclosure is basically a NAS drive without the hard drives, you buy the enclosure and then you buy the hard drives to go in it yourself. This means if you wanted a very large drive, you wouldn’t have to buy them all at once so there’s no huge initial outlay. A drive that allows expansion will normally have at least one USB port to allow you to connect external hard drives to your NAS drive to easily expand the storage space without having to buy a new NAS drive.

As you can see, there is a huge range of different features to look out for when buying a NAS drive. For this reason I think it’s a good idea to consider which features are ‘must haves’ for you so that you can make sure the drive you choose does everything you need it to.

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