Cloud storage vs. NAS: Which is best for storing files?

You’ve got more files than your PC can hold, but what to do with them? Do you go down the external drive route? Of course not! Cloud storage platforms and network-attached storage (NAS) are far superior solutions and here we’re going to compare the two. Cloud storage vs. NAS: Which is better for you?

Cloud vs. NAS: Which storage is best for you?

Cloud reigns king these days. Almost every device is connected to the internet, including televisions, fridges, and even our vehicles. One would therefore assume that cloud storage would be the best solution for storing backups and files, but the world of NAS has evolved over recent years.

The initial purchase of a server may be higher than a cloud subscription but running the NAS vs. a cloud subscription will work out cheaper in the long run with better scalability and capacity options for individuals or businesses with a lot of data.

Having a company run a web service for you to store files may be a more straightforward solution for those who don’t want the hassle of managing hardware, but NAS provides local management and access that helps alleviate any potential security issues with web connections.

Network-attached storage

Synology DiskStation DS1522+
Synology DiskStation DS1522+. (Source: NAS Master)

NAS enclosures are designed for use on local networks to provide a means for files to be stored and services ran. You can think of them as more advanced external drives, connected via the network and managed using sophisticated operating systems.

We’ve rounded up the best NAS for use with Plex Media Server, storing big data, creators, and more. Let’s check out some reasons that make NAS a better fit over cloud storage services.

More storage capacity

Cloud subscription services have a maximum capacity you can enjoy, depending on the payment plan selected. Here’s just how much you can store with each service:

Microsoft’s service is the most limiting (though most affordable), topping out at 1TB. This may be enough for people and their handful of documents, but for anyone wanting to store photos, videos, and more you will require more space.

Apple isn’t too bad, but it’s not great either. 2TB max for the iCloud subscription service. Google offers the most storage space with up to a whopping 30TB. But the price comes in at $150 per month, which is about the same cost as the best NAS drives.

With a NAS, you can install just about as much storage as you need. With a four-bay enclosure like the excellent budget-friendly TerraMaster F4-423, you can populate it with four 20TB Western Digital Red drives for a total of 80TB before taking into account RAID.

Better scaling capabilities

This brings us to better scaling with the NAS. With cloud platforms, once you’ve reached the upper limit of what’s available, you’ll be unable to increase the capacity of your storage pool. With a NAS enclosure, so long as you have enough available drive bays to spare, more drives can be installed.

Should you find yourself with no more free bays, it may be time to replace the drives with larger counterparts or (if the NAS supports it) an expansion unit, which can offer an additional configuration of drive bays. Moving data locally is also far easier.

Localized management

Having the NAS connected to your network allows for localized management. Instead of relying on. third-party company to handle the hosting and security of your data, you can ensure that every measure is in place. It also removes many of the external issues that may arise.

Fewer security risks

If your NAS is attached to the LAN and without external access to the internet, you’ll be better protected against malicious attacks and other external threats. Cloud subscriptions require you to transfer everything over the internet and you’ve got the hope that the company you choose to host your data to be protected.

Faster local transfer speeds

The local attachment not only allows for better security and easier direct management but also improved data transfer speeds. LAN bandwidth is usually far superior to internet connections and upgrading network equipment is cheaper than upping your broadband plan.

ASUSTOR Lockerstor 2 Gen2 (AS6702T)
ASUSTOR Lockerstor 2 Gen2 (AS6702T). (Source: ASUSTOR)


ASUSTOR made an excellent two-bay NAS in the form of the LOCKERSTOR 2 Gen2. It has almost everything you need for a capable home or office NAS.

Cloud storage

Apple iCloud
Apple iCloud. (Source: Apple)

Cloud storage services have been around for a while, offering an easy way for storing files using web platforms. Instead of having a physical server located on-site, individuals and organizations can make use of websites and apps to offload (and download) files across the internet.

While NAS enclosures are generally supported cross-platform (including mobile devices), cloud storage platforms are usually better on native hardware. Apple device owners typically fare better with iCloud, Microsoft devices with OneDrive, etc.

Lower initial cost

The cost of NAS enclosures can be expensive but it largely depends on the number of drive bays and the power of internal components. As well as the enclosure itself, one also has to include the price of drives to populate the bays with.

Cloud subscriptions are usually monthly or annual payments that are generally lower than the upfront cost of a NAS. This makes it easier to bear for consumers who don’t have hundreds to spare on storage.

Easier deployment

Not everyone has the know-how to set up and manage a NAS enclosure, as well as the network infrastructure that goes with it. That’s where cloud subscriptions may be the easier choice for those who simply want accessible storage from day one.

More resilient to disasters

Disasters can strike anywhere and at anytime. A NAS running at home or in the office may be affected by natural disasters or other situations like power outages. Backup battery packs can help alleviate this, but network equipment would also need to have redundancies.

Cloud storage is usually handled at large data centers with backups of backups that are also backed up by backups. It’s highly unlikely for a cloud platform to go offline altogether.

Why not use both?

Synology DSM 7 Cloud Sync
Setting up Cloud Sync on Synology DSM 7. (Source: NAS Master)

NAS has some advantages over cloud storage and vice versa, but why not utilize the best of both worlds? It’s possible to configure NAS enclosures to automatically upload files to cloud platforms when data is transferred to them from other hardware, creating backup copies in two locations.

Following the 3-2-1 backup strategy, which everyone should consider, we’re already achieving parity, making it possible to take it even further. Three data copies in total, two on-site (NAS and other devices), and one off-site (the cloud).

Because we’re using the cloud, you could use an external drive (or secondary NAS) at a different site. This would result in a 3-2-2 if you remove the second local backup or 4-2-2 if left in place, creating quite the redundancy for any unexpected scenarios.

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