A devoted NAS gadget is kind of like a cloud server to your house—it allows you to again up and entry knowledge by means of the web. However NAS gadgets are extra than simply glorified arduous drives. With minimal effort, they unlock a world of performance for laptop nerds, film snobs, music followers, and even small companies.
We aren’t going to cowl the best NAS devices at the moment, although we’ll clarify how they work and a few of the greatest causes to personal one.
What Is a NAS System?
At its most elementary, NAS or “Community Hooked up Storage” is simply file storage that’s linked to your house web. Licensed gadgets inside and out of doors of your house can use this storage to wirelessly again up, obtain, or stream information.
It’s kind of like having a super-fast Dropbox server in your house. Besides a NAS gadget can go a lot additional than Dropbox—you should utilize NAS to create your individual streaming service, experiment with VMs (superior for internet hosting a Minecraft server), backup the whole lot of your laptop (together with settings and preferences), or routinely ship copies of backup knowledge to different storage options.
Corporations like Synology, TerraMaster, QNAP, and ioSafe promote purpose-made NAS gadgets, that are small and energy-efficient computer systems with big slots for arduous drives or SSDs. These devoted NAS gadgets are straightforward to arrange and simple to make use of.
To be clear, the options listed all through this text don’t require a purpose-made NAS gadget. You possibly can allow community file sharing on any PC or Mac, for instance. And you probably have an outdated laptop, Raspberry Pi, or NVIDIA Protect mendacity round, you possibly can turn it into a NAS device.
However I often recommend shopping for a purpose-made NAS from a model like Synology or QNAP. Not solely is setup simpler with a “actual” NAS, however you’ll find yourself utilizing quite a bit much less electrical energy. Goal-made NAS gadgets are energy-efficient, compact, and quiet—three issues you could’t say a few repurposed PC. (That mentioned, I’ll shout out some options all through this text.)
Entry Your Information on Any System, Wherever
You know the way there’s a “Community” tab within the Home windows and macOS file system? When you arrange a NAS, you should utilize that tab to entry its contents from any laptop in your house. Backing up and retrieving information requires nothing greater than a drag and drop, and you may open information from the NAS straight into purposes like Microsoft Phrase or Photoshop.
Different gadgets, resembling smartphones or safety cameras, can even entry these information. And once you wish to maintain issues non-public, you possibly can apply password safety or a firewall to your NAS gadget (or password-protect particular folders).
If you wish to take issues a step additional, you possibly can even allow distant entry in your NAS. This enables you and different approved customers to entry its contents from wherever on this planet. In the event you’re a musician, for instance, you should utilize a NAS to rapidly share or collaborate on tasks with others (and luxuriate in comparatively quick add and obtain speeds).
Now, port forwarding and distant entry include some safety considerations. In the event you determine to allow distant entry in your NAS, I recommend programming some firewalls and organising your NAS device’s VPN functionality to reduce the risk of ransomware and data loss—you cannot eliminate this risk, so please take it seriously. (You should also make backups of your backups, which we’ll get to in the next section.)
Most individuals purchase a NAS gadget to again up knowledge. Not solely is it simpler than lugging round a transportable arduous drive, however NAS gadgets can create a RAID array that ensures knowledge redundancy. Principally, if one drive fails (and all drives fail finally), your knowledge remains to be secure on different drives inside your NAS gadget.
You possibly can even use a NAS to routinely again up your total laptop. Each the Backup and Restore device on Home windows and Time Machine on Mac work with NAS gadgets, which means you could wirelessly safe the contents, preferences, settings, and actions of your laptop in case one thing goes mistaken.
Keep in mind that NAS gadgets aren’t a one-and-done backup answer—you want to have backups of your backups. Catastrophic drive failures can happen even with a stable RAID setup. Home fires and different acts of God aren’t predictable. And should you allow distant entry in your NAS, there’s at all times a small probability of ransomware.
I recommend following the 3-2-1 rule; make three backups of your information utilizing two totally different media codecs, and most significantly, maintain one backup outdoors of your house. That is pretty straightforward with a NAS gadget. I routinely again up my NAS’ vital information to a big exterior drive (which I maintain in a fireproof field), and choose folders in my NAS routinely again as much as Dropbox.
Devoted NAS gadgets are a well-liked possibility for media streaming, and with a service like Plex, you possibly can construct your individual streaming service for films, television exhibits, and music. All you want are media information, which you’ll rip from discs or obtain by means of the web.
Providers like Plex flip your NAS gadget right into a “media server” with deep customization options and computerized metadata retrieval (for film rankings, present descriptions, closed captions, album artwork, and so forth). All gadgets inside your house community, together with good TVs, can entry this media by means of the Plex app or webpage.
And if you wish to take issues to the following stage, you possibly can allow distant entry to your NAS-based media server. Household and pals can stream content material from the server no matter their location—it’s actually such as you made your individual streaming service!
Right here’s the one concern; cheaper NAS gadgets aren’t at all times highly effective sufficient for streaming (particularly 4K streaming or simultaneous streams to many gadgets). In the event you plan to make use of a NAS gadget for media streaming, make sure to take a look at evaluations and see what folks say concerning the efficiency. (Ideally, they need to haven’t any complaints about 4K streaming, even when that appears overkill to your wants.)
To be clear, Plex is simply the most well-liked possibility for house media servers. There are many options, together with Jellyfin, Kodi, and Enby.
I must also point out that, for media streaming, a purpose-made NAS gadget might not be essentially the most cost-effective or highly effective possibility (it’s simply the simplest possibility, particularly you probably have zero expertise). A repurposed PC is nice for media streaming, the NVIDIA Protect TV makes for a very efficient Plex server, and energy customers typically go for an Intel NUC laptop.
Each purpose-made NAS gadget helps VPN performance, which you need to completely allow should you plan to entry the NAS from outdoors your house. Organising the VPN server in your NAS gadget provides an additional layer of safety, serving to you keep away from ransomware assaults and different nastiness.
However this VPN server performance comes with a neat profit—if you need, you should utilize it to remotely entry all gadgets on your house community (LAN over WAN) with a pleasant little layer of safety. You would ship paperwork to your printer by means of this server, as an illustration, and even entry information inside your desktop laptop.
To be clear, exposing your house community to the web is a really dangerous thought. And since NAS gadgets have a tendency to make use of outdated protocols (like outdated variations of OpenVPN), they aren’t precisely the head of safety. Most individuals will probably be effective, however some folks will get screwed.
In the event you select to go down this route, please arrange Docker in your NAS gadget to isolate the VPN server. As I’ll clarify beneath, this Docker can run a VM with extra up-to-date safety protocols, which ought to higher shield you in opposition to hackers—you’ll by no means have 100% safety, although.
Right here’s a fairly area of interest factor; you should utilize Docker to experiment with digital machines in your NAS gadget. Doing so will isolate the VM from different elements of your NAS gadget, and extra importantly, it opens the door to new options and new experiences.
A digital machine or VM is strictly what it seems like—a pc that you simply emulate by means of software program. Let’s say that you simply’re a Mac consumer who needs to play a Home windows XP sport. As an alternative of ruining your Mac with bizarre software program and partitioned drives, you possibly can simply use Docker to run a Home windows XP VM in your NAS System. You possibly can then entry this VM out of your Mac, both by means of your native community or a distant connection.
Builders can even use a NAS System to check purposes for contemporary working methods, like Android or Home windows 11. And if you wish to run one thing like a Minecraft server out of your NAS gadget, Docker can isolate it with the right software program and no matter safety protocols you want to use.
And should you simply wish to enhance safety for distant connections, Docker’s your greatest buddy. Use it to arrange a VPN server with up-to-date safety and different options.
Now, a purpose-built NAS gadget might not be essentially the most cost-effective or highly effective possibility for VMs. You need to use a Raspberry Pi to run light-weight VMs, for instance, and a repurposed PC could also be the most suitable choice for extra demanding digital machines.