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Network-attached storage, or NAS for short, is a device that allows you to store files on a network drive. There are many great uses for this technology. You can quickly share important documents or other data, but you can also use it for doing backups overnight. NAS devices have great entertainment potential if you want to watch HD movies at home with multiple devices such as TVs or tablets at the same time.
NAS drives act like cloud storage enabling you convenient access to your data wherever you are. This is why a NAS represents a very powerful solution for media playback as you can have a central entertainment station that allows you to access files faster. For example, you don’t need to use the computer when you wish to watch a movie on the TV. You might also be interested in our articles about the best wireless hard drive and the best cable modems.
It does depend on your particular needs how your ideal NAS looks like but there are a few fundamental aspects that you shouldn’t miss when shopping for such a device. These are:
The capacity of your NAS plays a key role in the process of meeting your needs. Here you should aim for covering more than your present needs because you never know how large your movie collection will be in the future. The market offers you two choices here as there are diskless NAS drives and ones that already come packed with disks in various capacities. The first option allows you to customize your setup more but the last option could be more convenient for many.
2. Choosing disks
It’s important to choose NAS disks correctly because not all of them are designed to work well with a NAS. There are certain optimizations embedded into disks for NAS drives. A good example is the sturdier construction, more resistant to vibration which is particularly helpful for a NAS because these devices are supposed to be on continuously.
Redundant array of inexpensive disks, or RAID, represents the way your NAS is set up for providing redundancy in case one of your disks suddenly fails. The level of safety for your data can be translated into various types of RAID such as RAID 1, 5, and 6. The most common type of NAS offers at least two bays so you can have them configured as RAID 1 which is a very basic way to keep your files safe.
Choosing the right NAS can be a challenge and there are many features to consider. This little guide only gives you a rough idea. It’s now time to take a closer look at what the market has to offer. Various NAS drives have been assembled here based on their overall cost-effectiveness. Factors such as performance, ease-of-use, and security have all been taken into account and the result is the following list of individually reviewed products.
Best Buy NAS
The Synology DS1517+ is an incredibly reliable business solution to handle all your centralized storage needs. When paired with some large disks, this NAS will be able to provide a massive capacity to store important data that needs to be quickly accessed in demanding work environments.
This model comes with support for Citrix, Microsoft Hyper-V, and VMware offering a capable storage solution for any virtualization environment. There’s also support for iSCSI, SSD caching, and VAAI integration to make sure that you can easily keep all your files in one place in the most performant manner.
There are lots of security features available so you won’t have to worry about your data getting compromised by an attack. An Intrusion Prevention System and a firewall are used for analyzing the traffic on the network. Anything that poses a threat is detected and swiftly blocked. Other helpful tools are the AES encryption and the SSL certification and there’s also a built-in Security Advisor.
Backing up important data is an essential thing to do with any NAS. This unit can accommodate various backup plans depending on your needs. You can even add an extra layer of protection by duplicating data to an off-site server, public cloud storage server, or simply another DiskStation unit.
It’s actually recommended for a business setting to combine two NAS into a single cluster for making sure that your data is easily accessible on a continuous basis. This helps to maximize uptime because even if one of your servers suddenly goes offline, there’s always the other one.
Considering its abilities, the Synology DS1517+ represents a great investment if you need a performant NAS with many flexible options. The installation process is quite straightforward allowing you to install your preferred disks reasonably fast. When you also take into account the polished interface this is definitely a recommended option at this price.
- Quad-core 5-bay NAS
- Strong reading and writing performance
- Four 1GbE ports
- Optional M2D17 adapter card
- 8GB DDR3 RAM, upgradable to 16 GB
- Comprehensive security features
Best NAS For Home
One of the most interesting options for home users is the QNAP TS-251, a 2-bay NAS that’s powered by an advanced operating system and comes with a powerful virtualization technology. It’s a great solution if you wish to synchronize files, make data backups or if you want to create a home entertainment station.
If you plan on setting up a new entertainment center, this NAS looks like a fitting choice. It’s capable of full HD video transcoding in real-time and you can enjoy your content that plays smoothly on mobile devices and smart TVs. A maximum of 5 devices can view different stored videos at the same time.
Streaming using DLNA, Plex, and AirPlay is also convenient if you own compatible devices. There’s an app provided for iOS devices called Qfile which allows you to browse your media files stored on the NAS and then, using Apple TV, view them on the TV. Thanks to the support for Plex Media Server, your content is better organized so you can easily access it.
With the help of the myQNAPcloud, you can access important files from anywhere. This works basically like your very own personal cloud which acts like an always-connected infrastructure ideal for home and business users alike. To quickly access data you can use any web browser or you can rely on the free app available for mobile devices.
The synchronization process is done through Qsync, a feature which transforms the NAS into a powerful data center. Any linked devices will get immediate access to any file that you upload. It’s a particularly great feature for those who frequently travel but it’s helpful if you need to do team projects that require group file sharing.
Simple to set up and operate, the QNAP TS-251 is a reliable NAS in all regards. You will probably need a RAM upgrade in the near feature depending on your needs. When you consider the wide range of applications you can do with its help, this unit looks like an excellent pick for a NAS.
- Virtualization features
- User-Based Permissions Settings
- Real-Time & Offline HD Video Transcoding
- Stream Media via DLNA, AirPlay, and Plex
- Advanced File Synchronization
- myQNAPcloud service
Synology’s DiskStation DS218j is a very promising NAS drive which can handle different needs. It makes it a breeze to create your own private cloud and provides the storage capacity to keep your entire movie collection and other important files perfectly safe. It’s aided by its DiskStation Manager operating system which has been praised for intuitiveness.
The hassle of setting up difficult network settings can be a thing of the past if you choose this NAS to access files over the Internet. Use the QuickConnect feature for accessing your content using only a simple customizable address. It works with any computer no matter its operating system as well as with mobile devices.
With the help of the powerful DiskStation Manager, you can be more productive than ever. This is Synology’s web-based operating system which gives all the tools you need for managing your digital assets. Some of its core features are file sharing and file syncing as well as safeguarding data through backups.
A very interesting feature is the Surveillance Station package which gives you some comprehensive tools to manage video monitoring surveillance and get remote live viewing. You can rest assured that your home stays protected and there are some great options to help, such as event notifications and various analytics.
Data redundancy is ensured by two drive bays. This NAS is a diskless model so you will need to purchase the hard drives separately. This has some advantages as you can customize the capacity to better suit your needs. The reading performance is 113 Mb/s which is nothing amazing, but decent nonetheless.
All in all, the Synology DS218j provides its users an excellent value per price ratio and it’s a solid choice if you’re eyeing a capable 2-bay diskless NAS. The manufacturer did a solid job with this model when you consider the Cloud Sync package, the DiskStation Manager comprehensive software, and the Surveillance Station package among many others.
- Dual-core CPU
- Access data everywhere with mobile app
- Over 113 MB/s reading
- DiskStation Manager
- 24/7 smart security solution
Best Budget NAS
If your needs are more basic, the TerraMaster F2-220 is a well-built NAS that supports various hard drives and works with different RAID modes. This unit can serve as a reliable home media server, provides a good selection of backup methods, and can also act as a powerful entertainment center for all your multimedia needs.
This NAS drive makes use of a reliable hardware to be able to execute various operations more rapidly. The 2.41 GHz dual-core CPU paired with 2GB of RAM create a good combination for most users. The read and write speeds go over 100 MB/s and overall the machine can handle simultaneous job processing.
There are many backup methods you can use with this NAS if that’s your primary intended use. There’s support for Apple Time Machine and Rsync as well as Cloud Sync Dropbox synchronization. You can also build your own personal cloud with the help of the TerraMaster Cloud Sync which gives you an exclusive space for accessing files anytime from anywhere.
As this model is crafted with an aluminum-alloy shell, it feels quite solid without leaving off a bulky impression. A low-noise fan helps with the overall reliability providing nice heat dissipation while maintaining a quiet level of operation.
Thanks to the Role Based Access Control, which can accept a maximum of 1000 unique users, this NAS gives you some convenient file and user management abilities. To ensure the best security possible, you can also use the advanced file encryption options available. The maximum capacity accepted by this NAS is 12 TB per drive so you can have a total of 24 TB. Drives can be configured in various safety modes including RAID 0, 1, and JBOD.
All things considered, the TerraMaster F2-220 is a solid all-around NAS. Even though it’s inexpensive, it still does a good job for most mainstream needs. The device feels solidly built and even though it lacks the usual app selection of a QNAP or Synology model, it’s still worth a shot if you don’t really need more apps than necessary.
- TOS 3 operating system
- Support for different hard drives and raid modes
- Can act as a multimedia server
- Simple and efficient hot-swapping
- Low noise
Best NAS For Mac
Synology is a very popular brand in the NAS industry and there are some obvious reasons for that. Their products are created with a dedication to match the evolving technologies and one solid example of that is the DS218+ NAS drive. It features a 2.0 GHz dual-core CPU and is ideal for both small business and home users in need of a powerful shared storage solution.
Data protection is taken very seriously by Synology as evidenced by their advanced Btrfs file system which can handle more demanding needs for storing important files. Backing up your files is a breeze with the tools put at your disposal by this NAS. You can rest assured that when disaster strikes, your data is safe.
Among the supported network file sharing protocols we can count FTP, NFS, and AFP, but there are many more. This NAS drive promises a simple way of centralizing all your files which is especially great for offices where it’s critical to collaborate more efficiently on projects. Remote teams can also work together if you synchronize the files across different locations.
When it comes to multimedia playback, this NAS has the capability to become your personal entertainment center. You can transcode 4K videos to 1080p and smoothly stream them to your favorite devices without any noticeable drops in performance. You can watch anything from your media library without going through the hassle of installing third-party players.
Storing essential data and keeping it safe and easy to share is the main job for this NAS but it also has other abilities. It features a wide suite of more than 90 applications you can add through the Synology Package Center. It’s possible to turn the NAS into a cloud syncing host, multimedia hub or an all-in-one server among others.
The Synology DS218+ is a very good NAS when you look back over all of its features. Setting it up is a breeze even for novices thanks to the comprehensive number of guides and the intuitive menus. The design of the unit itself is also quite attractive so this is a nice bonus. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a performant NAS for the cost.
- 2GB DDR3L-1866 memory
- AES-NI hardware encryption engine
- Advanced Btrfs file system
- Over 113 MB/s reading and 112 MB/s writing
- Three USB 3.0 ports
- 4K Ultra HD video transcoding
Best 4 Bay NAS
Packed with lots of great features, the Netgear ReadyNAS RN214 is a solid 4-bay model for anyone who looks for a performant NAS with lots of data protection capabilities. This unit offers a personal cloud with convenient sharing and sync options and your data is protected by 5 security levels.
With the help of its 1.4 GHz quad-core CPU, this NAS will be able to meet your expectations in terms of performance. It’s capable of streaming full HD content in real-time as well as transcoding to any remote device. All your favorite media server platforms are available including Plex, iTunes, and DLNA.
Backing up important data is a must for any NAS and this unit seems to be up to the task. It syncs entire folders between your drive and computers so you will benefit from up-to-date information everywhere you go. There’s no extra software needed for the backup process to either your PC or mobile devices.
If you wish to make backups for your Mac devices, this model offers smooth Time-Machine integration. There’s also on-the-go photos backup using a smartphone. With the help of its multiple data protection levels, you can stay relaxed without worries of losing important files.
Disk failure is one of the most common problems that you can face with a NAS and for this reason you have the automatic RAID configuration at your back. Restoring lost data can be done with the help of the snapshot technology and bitrot protection is provided to maintain data integrity over time. Additional protection is offered by the free real-time antivirus and cloud storage for more backup options.
There are few 4-bay NAS options on the market that can match the power and reliability of the Netgear ReadyNAS RN214. Transferring files works like a charm and so does the simultaneous full HD streaming. Overall, this is an excellent device that’s not very difficult to configure the way you like.
- Quad-core processor
- 2GB of RAM
- Full HD wire speed streaming
- Ready CLOUD portal-based user interface
- Link Aggregation
- 5 levels of data protection
- Wide range of sharing and sync options
Best NAS for Plex
If you’re looking for a NAS that allows you to enjoy quality content in 4K from various applications including the popular Plex Home Theater, the QNAP TS453A is an excellent choice. This NAS provides support for virtualization, supports 4K video transcoding on-the-fly, and boasts a reliable AES-NI encryption.
This is a reliable HD station which you can use to boost the ways you enjoy various types of content. There’s support for the Kodi media player as well as for a multitude of applications including YouTube, Plex, and the Chrome web browser. You can watch 4K videos on an HDTV using the HDMI connection.
There are dual HDMI outputs for those times when you want to switch between two monitors. A mirroring mode can be used to look at the same content on both displays while a convenient extended desktop mode enables increased multitasking as it displays more applications.
When disaster strikes you need to be prepared. This is why this NAS has some powerful data recovery options. One of the is Real-Time Remote Replication which backs up the data to a remote FTP server or another QNAP NAS. It offers support for real-time or scheduled data backup. A web-based snapshot tool found in the QTS Storage Manager can retrieve lost data from any point of time if you need to.
File synchronization is reliably done via the Qsync utility where you can manage all your data from a safe center. Linked devices such as computers or mobile devices can have quick access to the files you upload so that’s extremely convenient especially in a business environment.
Considering the powerful tools that the QNAP TS-453A leaves at your disposal, this NAS is an authentic entertainment center which can also act as a reliable device in an office setting. It’s a particularly great choice if you are a Plex subscriber as this transcodes multiple full HD streams at the same time. When you also add the good looks and the quiet operation, this clearly becomes a winner on the NAS market.
- NAS and iSCSI-SAN unified storage solution
- AES-NI hardware-accelerated encryption
- Real-Time 4K Video Transcoding
- QTS Storage Manager
- File Synchronization for multiple devices and clouds
Synology is definitely one of the leading forces on the NAS market and another model deserving some attention is the DS418, a 4-bay diskless unit with superior throughput performance. Some of the standout features of this NAS are the 4K video transcoding, robust backup solutions, and the ability to turn it into a high-end media server.
As this model is packed with a quad-core 1.4 GHz CPU you can expect some increased performance compared to dual-core units. There’s also 2GB DDR4 RAM which together with the processing power contribute to an impressive 226 MB/s sequential reading and a decent 170 MB/s speed of writing.
This powerful hardware makes a huge difference when transferring data but it also helps when you’re transcoding 4K H.265 videos on-the-fly. The NAS can act as a personal multimedia hub offering wide device support including for smart TVs, Chromecast, and Roku players. You can stream your favorite content via DLNA-certified products.
Thanks to the powerful Cloud Station Suite, you will be able to enjoy real-time data synchronization for every device that you link including other Synology NAS. Multiple data versions are automatically remembered so files can be recovered from an older point-in-time in case of an unexpected disaster.
A very reliable technology offered by this NAS is the Synology Hybrid RAID for simpler storage management. This is an automated system for creating and expanding storage volumes. It allows for 1 to 2-disk redundancy for protecting data. You can also migrate RAID configuration types without the need for details on RAID.
If a good bang for your back is what you’re looking for, the Synology DS418 should be able to meet your demands when it comes to performance and overall ease-of-use. The quality of the hardware is superior to other models out there and the price even though it’s a bit higher is absolutely worth the investment for those who want a more premium unit.
- Over 226 MB/s reading
- Dual 1GbE ports
- 4K 10-bit H.265 video transcoding
- Link Aggregation support
- 2GB DDR4 memory
- Quad-core 1.4 GHz processor
Best NAS For Small Business
Any small business owner should check out the Buffalo TeraStation 1200D, a compact NAS that brings a powerful set of abilities for more professional users. Whether it’s remote access, RAID management or comprehensive network file sharing, this NAS can handle it all. Its cost also doesn’t seem that high.
Thanks to the advanced operating system called TeraStation, this NAS is able to meet the demands of anyone in a business setting. It makes managing data backups and sharing important data a breeze. The 1.2 GHz dual-issue CPU offers some good performance for a business-grade NAS when you also take into account the 512 MB DDR3 RAM.
This NAS drive has a data replication feature that works on a continuous basis synchronizing your files in real-time with another TeraStation NAS. You can be more confident in the protection of your data in this way. Included with this model are 10 licenses of the reliable backup software NovaBACKUP Business Essentials.
Due to the fact that this unit comes with a generous capacity, you can store data with ease and access it using any compatible devices. The shared central storage unit is protected through a customizable RAID configuration besides the real-time share level replication. There’s support for various RAID levels to ensure data reliability.
When it comes to remote access to your files, this NAS provides some services to simplify the task. Buffalo offers its own WebAccess and FTP/SFTP servers so when you’re at work and need to check your files you can securely do that. Collaborating with your coworkers can be done both in the office or on-the-go which can increase the productivity.
While the setup is a little more complicated to do for this NAS, in the end, the Buffalo TeraStation 1200D is a fitting choice for users who need a capable business-grade NAS. It allows for many convenient backup functions and powerful ways to store and share information. Remote access works great too so this is a recommended option.
- 4 TB – 2 Drive Bays
- RAID pre-configured
- Simple to set up and use
- 1.2 GHz dual-issue ARM processor
- Real-time synchronous data replication
- NovaBACKUP Business Essentials licenses
Powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU with 1GB RAM, the Synology DS216play is a very balanced option for a NAS. It comes with a solid list of features including 4K video transcoding, support for various network file sharing protocols, easy backup solutions, and smart video monitoring management.
This NAS offers disk mirroring for redundancy and there are different configurations you can choose from. There’s RAID 0 or 1 as well as JBOD which offer good flexibility to suit different security and storage needs. Synology provides their users with convenient mobile apps designed to quickly access your files from anywhere.
There’s also an intuitive web-based interface that accomplishes the same task of accessing data quickly and efficiently. Your entertainment station is divided into three sections for videos, photos, and music. You can organize all your album and movie collections and then you can easily stream the content to compatible devices.
QuickConnect is a handy feature available for this Synology NAS. Usually, when you wish to access your NAS files over the Internet you might have to set up certain port forwarding rules or deal with other difficult network settings. That’s not the case with this model as it brings a lot more convenience through a secure address that’s fully customizable. Media and work files can be reached immediately with no extra fees.
In terms of entertainment, this NAS seems to get things right. Multimedia enthusiasts will be glad to find out that this model supports 4K H.265 transcoding. While the reading and writing performance aren’t top-notch, this unit still manages to represent a capable video streaming solution.
Taking into account the simple setup, intuitive software, solid Plex Media Server, and overall performance, the final verdict for the Synology DS216play is that it’s worth the cost. The only downside is the blue LED light which can be a little too bright for some people. This is only a minor issue when you consider all the features of this NAS.
- Powerful dual-core CPU
- 4K Ultra HD video transcoding
- Synology Disk Station Manager
- DLNA certified for media streaming
- Over 105 MB/s reading