There are many reasons why you might want to mount a NAS (Network-Attached Storage) at home or in your office. Whether you need a file server or want to have a multimedia centre, this equipment is very useful. You can even use it as a personal server, as a VPN server (virtual private network server) or as a private cloud.

The popularity of this device is constantly growing, in great part due to the fact that it can be used in more and more ways. That being said, you need to know the technical basics if you want to choose the right NAS server for your needs. We’ve designed the following article to make this decision easier for you.

Key Facts

  • The popularity of NAS servers for home use and businesses is ever growing. Halfway between local storage and a cloud system, these devices offer many advantages.
  • They are mainly used to make backups, serve as multimedia centres and manage network files, which is why they can be linked to any equipment without the need to directly connect the two devices.
  • Certain NAS servers come with built-in storage units. However, most are sold with empty bays to give you freedom of choice. This means that you have access to NAS-specific models that offer better performance and lower power consumption. You can also use a spare hard drive if you have one.

Ranking: The best network-attached storages on the Australian market

In the next section, we’ve chosen the five best NAS available on the market right now. Our selection includes very diverse products, while all are manufactured by reputable brands. We’ve also tried to offer you the best possible value for money depending on the characteristics of each NAS.

No. 1: Synology DS115J DiskStation

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Synology is a Taiwanese company that specialises in network-attached storage products, and a world leader in the industry. Their DiskStation line is tailored for desktop devices, and the DS115J is an incredibly affordable model that also offers top quality. This NAS device is most appropriate for domestic use, and gives you real bang for your buck.

It features a single bay that can hold hard drives with a maximum capacity of 6 TB, which means that space won’t be an issue anytime soon. You have access to DiskStation Manager 5.0, Synology’s web-based operating system, and it’s simply one of the best out there. While it doesn’t have a whole lot of RAM (256 MB), it’s more than enough for a domestic NAS.

No. 2: Netgear ReadyNAS 212 Media Hub

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California-based tech company Netgear sells networking hardware around the world, and they have already setup offices in over 25 countries. In the industry since the 1990s, the brand has built a strong reputation as a quality manufacturer. The RN212 is a fantastic media hub for your home, with a capacity of two bays, with up to 16 TG of storage.

It features a quad-core processor at 1.4 Ghz and 2 GB or RAM memory. Use the Plex media player to stream HD videos in up to 1080 p, making this model a great multimedia centre for your home. Manage it via the app available on Mac, PC, mobile phones and tablets. The RN 212 Media Hub comes with a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty. Note that this model is also available with 4 bays for even more storage space.

No. 3: WD My Cloud PR4100 Pro Series

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Western Digital is an American company that focuses on developing data storage solutions for domestic and professional use, and they have almost 50 years of experience in the business. The quality of their NAS servers need not be proven anymore, and the PR4100 is a fantastic solution for homes and business alike. That being said, its price may be prohibitive for the former.

With four hard drive bays and the ability to hold a maximum capacity of 32 TB, this NAS server is a fantastic storage device. It has a quad-core processor at 1.6 GHz, and a great RAM memory of 4 GB. One great feature of this product is that it supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 types so you can truly tailor your NAS to your needs. With automatic backup and sync capabilities, the PR4100 is a top-of-the-line NAS.

No. 4: TerraMaster F5-420

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TerraMaster is a younger brand than others on this list, but the Chinese company has quickly set itself as a quality manufacturer on the market. The F5-420 offers a whooping 5-bay capacity, the most on our selection of products. With a quad-core processor at 2.0 GHz and 4 GB of RAM, it offers incredible writing and reading speeds to make this model a truly versatile one.

It also offers a 6-layer security protection, meaning that all your data are safe. This is a particularly useful feature if you plan on using this NAS for professional purposes. Each bay supporting hard drives of up to 12 TB, this means that the total capacity of your device can reach an incredible 60 TB. TerraMaster’s FR-420 offers fantastic value for money.

No. 5: QNAP TS451+

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Last but not least, here comes QNAP’s TS451+ NAS server. This Taiwanese company has also built a strong reputation in the field of network storage devices. While it is sold at a high price and may not be suitable for domestic use, this NAS server offers incredible features. This means that it is ideal to use as a storage solution for your own business or office.

With four bays and a maximum capacity of 12 TB (3 TB per hard drive), the TS451+ integrates an Intel quad-core processor at 2.0 GHz. This means that is has great writing and reading speeds, and the QNAP remote control included allows you to manage the NAS from a distance if you want to use it as a media centre. This easy-to-use device will backup, sync, share and play just about anything you want it to.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about network-attached storages

There are a number of key aspects that you should take into account when you’re looking for your new NAS server. Very different models are available out there, each one tailored to a specific type of user. This is why we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions by past users in the section below.

NAS servers are large capacity storage systems that connect to home or professional networks.
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What is a NAS exactly?

A NAS server is a large capacity storage system that connects to your home or professional network. It allows you to access all the files and documents found on any of the devices of the network, without the need to directly connect to the unit in which they are located.

What is a NAS used for?

NAS servers have several different applications. They are most frequently used to manage files on a network, set up your own streaming server or give access to a local network to other users. You can also use your NAS to store recordings from IP video surveillance cameras.

These devices can also be configured as Internet-connected servers, allowing them to perform the same functions as online storage or hosting services. Your NAS could therefore be your mail server or store your website. As we mentioned earlier, you can also transform them into VPN servers.

A RAID is a group of hard disks that has been configured to operate as one.
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What are the advantages and disadvantages of NAS servers?

Having your own NAS offers you a series of great perks. It will help make all office documents and files accessible to your employees. You can use it as a media server. It also gives you the possibility to have your own network cloud without Google being able to access your files.

Advantages Disadvantages
They allow you to have quality shared storage space. Purchasing the NAS and hard drives is a fair investment if you don’t have them.
You can access all your data, files and documents from anywhere in the world through a mobile phone application or through a specific web page.
You can create a media centre to store movies, music or photos. The NAS server will send them to any device from which you can play them.
If you use it as a private cloud, you will have all your documents available on the network without Google or any other company being able to access them.
Installing and configuring a NAS is quite a simple task. Many feature their own configuration wizard to help you.

What are NAS bays?

Located in NAS servers, these spaces are where hard disks are mounted. NAS designed for domestic use generally feature one or two bays. However, you can find anywhere between four and twelve bays for professional users or business environments.

Remember that each bay will have a set storage capacity. This means that you cannot mount a 12 GB hard drive in a 10 GB bay. You also have to take into the power consumption into consideration; more bays naturally means a higher electricity bill. This is why you are not recommended to opt for a NAS server with more bays than you need.

NAS devices don’t work with Windows. Large manufacturers have their own Linux-based operating systems.
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Which RAID configuration best fits a NAS?

A RAID is a group of hard drives that has been configured to operate as one. This means that they can work by joining their storage capacities or duplicating all information, allowing you to always have your data safe in case a hard drive fails. Each type of RAID presents different characteristics that we’ve explained in the table below:

Type Features
RAID 0 All disks work as a single volume. Their total capacity is the sum of the capacities of all drives. Data is written simultaneously to the disks, improving the overall speed. The reading and writing speeds are doubled. You have no protection against failure.
RAID 1 It is one of the most commonly used. The data is duplicated to avoid potential loss. The total capacity of your NAS is half the sum of the hard drives. The writing speed doesn’t improve, unlike the reading speed that doubles. Your data is protected against possible hard drive failures.
RAID 5 The data is distributed over all disks, but the capacity of one of the drives is kept for parity. This is the most frequent type in companies and offices. One of the disks’ capacity is lost. While you gain in reading speed, the writing speed doesn’t change. Your data is protected, but you will lose all your information if two hard drives fail.
RAID 6 Data is distributed to all drives, with the capacity of two drives being reserved for parity. This type is frequently used in companies and offices. You lose the capacity of two hard drives. Reading speed is greatly improved, with the writing speed remaining unchanged. Your data is protected, and up to two disks can fail. If three disks fail, you lose all your information.

What hard drive do I need for my NAS?

While some NAS models come with built-in hard drives, it is most common that they do not. If that’s the case for yours, you’ll naturally have to buy hard drives that offer you the right features. Their capacity is naturally a key aspect, but so are their reading and writing speeds.

American brand Western Digital specialises in NAS-supported hard drives, with their network line of products being developed for this purpose only. As you can imagine, these devices provide incredible performance. That being said, you can also take full advantage of any spare hard drive you might have around by installing it on your network-attached storage.

How should I install my NAS server?

This is actually a fairly straightforward task. First of all, you need to set up all the storage drives you want to use. Once you’ve done this, connect your NAS to the local network. Finally, all you need to do is configure it using the NAS operating system itself.

Shopping Criteria

As you know, there are a number of critical aspects that you have to take into consideration when you’re buying your NAS server. In the following section, we’ve detailed these criteria to help you get it right. We’re confident that they will guide you during your decision process, and that you’ll be fully satisfied with your new purchase.

  • Operating system of the NAS
  • Processor
  • RAM memory
  • Maximum storage capacity supported by the NAS
  • Connections
  • RAID
  • Manufacturer

Operating system of the NAS

NAS devices don’t work with Windows. Large manufacturers have developed their own Linux-based operating systems, such as Synology DiskStation Manager, Qnap QTS, or WD My Cloud. That being said, you also have access to a series of free systems such as FreeNAS, NASlite or Openfiler.

All tend to be quite easy to use. You can even manage some of them – such as QNAP, Asustor or Synology – from your mobile phone. In addition, we strongly encourage you to consider the applications that each system features to handle mail servers, FTP (file transfer protocol) and backups, amongst others.

Remember that each NAS model is designed for a different type of user.
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Processor

A dual-core processor at 1 GHz will be more than enough if your NAS is destined to be used in a family environment. However, you shouldn’t settle for less than a quad-core processor for office use. Nowadays, mid-range products generally feature Intel Celeron processors, while professional models use Intel i3 or Xeon.

RAM memory

Again, the RAM you need will depend on the use you’ll make of your NAS server. In that sense, don’t worry too much about this criterion if you only need it to keep data backups. For home use, 512 MB should be enough. On the other hand, you are advised to have up to 8 BG of RAM memory for your office.

If you want to use your NAS as a multimedia centre to play HD content, you’ll need at least 1 GB of RAM. Finally, a minimum of 2 GB will be necessary if you plan on frequently using your NAS as a media player in HD or 4K quality.

Chris HardwickAmerican Actor & Writer

“We’re not in an information age anymore. We’re in the information management age.”

Maximum storage capacity supported by the NAS

Before you buy your own NAS server, think about the storage capacity you need and what type of hard drives you want to use with it. The simplest devices can only hold one hard drive. The most basic drives will allow you to store between 1 and 2 TB, which won’t be enough for certain tasks.

We encourage you to opt for capacity of at least 6 TB if you’ll be storing large media files on your NAS. If your device will be set up for office work, consider models with a capacity of up to 20 TB. You should also know that some NAS also allow you to install SSDs, although they cannot fully exploit the advantages of these storage devices.

Connections

First of all, you are advised to connect your NAS to your router with a Gigabit Ethernet connection of  1 Gbps or higher. Otherwise, its performance will be considerably affected. In any case, the most current NAS servers already offer 10 Gbps connectors, with many also including a second LAN jack.

If your NAS features USB ports, you will have the ability to expand its storage capacity or connect your printer directly to it. Micro SD card slots may also come in handy. Finally, an HDMI output to connect to your TV will be necessary if you want to use your NAS as a media centre.

While some NAS models come with built-in hard drives, it is most common that they do not.
(Source: Panumas Nikhomkhai: 46086486/ 123rf.com)

RAID

Always check the type of RAID that a NAS server supports before buying it. RAID 0 will be your go-to option if you want to make the most of its storage capacity. On the other hand, you’ll want to opt for RAID 1 if you want to be protected against potential fails and gain speed. However, remember that this type will make you lose half of the storage capacity.

Manufacturer

Whenever you buy a tech product, you should choose a reputable manufacturer, guaranteeing quality and good performance. In that regard, the following brands are well known: Synology, TerraMaster, Netgear and Western Digital. These companies all offer great quality products, and you’ll also benefit from good customer service.

Summary

Due to their many applications, both domestic and professional, the use of NAS has tremendously increased in recent years. One of these devices naturally requires an important investment. That being said, the numerous benefits they offer make it more than worth it.

If you want to choose the right model, it is essential that you have some basic technical knowledge and know exactly what your needs are. To do so, you should start by asking yourself how you want to use your NAS. You can then think about which configuration and manufacturer are best for you.

If you found our guide useful in taking your decision, feel free to share it on your social media. You can also leave us a comment in the section below!

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