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Everything You Need to Know about NAS (Network Attached Storage)

Network-attached storage (NAS) is one of the preferred data storage options for business enterprises and homeowners alike.This method of storing data is popular due to its low cost compared to other data storage systems. Furthermore, a NAS unit can connect to a wide variety of smart devices, including digital cameras and tablets.
There are plenty of pre-built NAS units available in the market, tailored to suit different data storage needs. You can, therefore, easily acquire a suitable NAS unit regardless of your budget and desired capacity.
If you have some experience in building a PC, you can also save money by developing your own NAS unit. However, you need to have an excellent working knowledge of how these storage systems work.

This post will explore what network-attached storage is, how it works, its main features, and some of its benefits. Without further ado, let us jump right into it.

What is NAS?

A NAS is essentially a type of mini-PC that runs on an OS and whose function is to store and manage data files. NAS units typically vary in capacity, depending on the hard drive used. However, NAS systems tend to have much larger storage space than most commonly used digital storage devices such as hard disk drives (HDD), USB flash drives, and solid-state drives (SSD). That is why most small and medium businesses prefer to use them.
Notably, there are plenty of NAS options to choose from, depending on what you would like your unit to offer. For instance, if you intend to use your device to store and share Microsoft Word files with your employees, you probably do not need a high powered network-attached storage.
However, there are numerous other ways you can use a NAS unit apart from storing and sharing data. For example, you can incorporate Wi-Fi cameras in your NAS unit for surveillance purposes or connect it with Plex to build your own media server.

As already mentioned, NAS systems vary according to price, features, and performance. Expensive high-end NAS file servers are suited for large businesses and organizations that desire a large networked storage capacity. Cheaper NAS file-servers, on the other hand, which include brands such as QNAP and Synology, mainly serve domestic users and small businesses.
Regardless of the storage capacity on a particular unit, all NAS systems feature enhanced storage support, easy-to-use virtual remote access, versatile storage clustering, and other useful features.

QNAP TS-832X 8-Bay NAS Enclosure

How to set up a NAS unit?

When shopping for the right NAS unit, you need to decide how you intend to use your system. If you are only looking for a home NAS to store files and perhaps play music, you should go for a simple and inexpensive unit such as the Synology DS218. However, if you would like a NAS unit for business, you need a product that offers you enhanced features and a larger capacity. As a result, you may have to spend extra to find a suitable NAS unit that can perform significant tasks and processes. In general, however, an Intel-powered CPU with a RAM of 1 GB or more should be sufficient for most jobs.

After you have made up your mind on your preferred pre-built NAS unit, you need to find a hard drive (if the system you have does not come with one). Once your hard drive is delivered, you will have to plug your NAS unit into a power outlet and then connect it to your router, after which you can configure your OS by following the steps outlined on your device.

After setting up your NAS, you can modify its storage capabilities by installing additional HDD or SSD drives.
Fortunately, installing extra storage drives on the NAS file-server is no different than adding a drive to an ordinary desktop computer. DIY HDD/SSD drive installation encompasses the following steps:

  • Open the unit, locate the free drive connectors, attach the additional drive(s) and insert the drive in a free slot in your device’s drive bay
  • Plug the NAS server into a power outlet, connect a LAN outlet to the unit, and power it. The NAS file server then automatically connects to the LAN network.
  • Using any computer on your LAN network, open a browser window, and input the NAS server’s IP address. The browser window then opens a user-friendly interface that displays available storage on your NAS drive.
  • To set up the new drive, follow the prompts indicating an unconfigured drive on your NAS file-server.

You can then begin using your NAS file-server to store common files from all networked computers in your LAN network.

What if I want to build my Own NAS system?

If you are particularly tech-savvy and prefer building your own NAS unit, you can create one and save money instead of purchasing a pre-built device.
Making a DIY NAS unit is similar to building a regular PC with a motherboard, hard drives, RAM, and processor. The only significant difference is that it will run on a dedicated NAS OS such as FreeNAS instead of Windows.
There are several benefits that you will enjoy by building your own NAS. These include:

  • Freedom and room to upgrade in the future
  • You will get to enjoy personalized features and specifications
  • You will spend less creating a powerful NAS unit than buying a pre-built one

It is worth noting that building a network-attached storage unit can be quite a technical process, so you should only do so if you are well versed in the workings of PC hardware and know what you are doing. Otherwise, you are better off purchasing a pre-built unit.

What are the Pros and Cons of Network Attached Storage?

Pros:

  • Connects through a wireless router rather than a computer, thus allowing multiple devices to access the same files at the same time
  • More customization options compared to other digital data storage options such as HDD and SSD
  • They can connect to other devices such as digital cameras, printers, and tablets
  • Allows for the pairing of multiple devices, thus increasing efficiency and performance
  • Files can be accessed remotely, thus improving flexibility

Cons:

  • They are highly dependent on available bandwidth and can be slow under certain circumstances
  • Consumes a lot of bandwidth and can, therefore, hinder the performance of computers and other devices connected to it

A Final Word

The growing demand for remotely accessible data and the increased acceptance of remote work has propelled NAS units as an effective and safe option for storing data.

While these systems typically rely on network connectivity just like cloud storage, they are more cost-effective and provide plenty of customizable features to suit different data storage needs.

Therefore, if you are looking for a versatile and inexpensive way to store your data, setting up your own NAS system might be the best decision you can make today.

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