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How to choose the best NAS enclosure

Struggling to choose the right NAS? Here’s all your need to know.

Choosing the best network-attached storage (NAS) is important since no one wants to spend more than they should and enclosures can get really expensive. Whether you want a server to store files locally or to host media for streaming everywhere in the world, no two NAS are the same.

I’ve rounded up some of the more important factors to bear in mind to choose the best NAS.

How many drive bays do you need?

The number of drives equates to just how much data you’re going to be able to store on the enclosure. Each drive bay can hold a 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch storage drive, depending on the NAS. I’ve recommended some of the best NAS drives and best SSDs for NAS, depending on your preference.

What processor is best?

The central processing unit is what processes all calculations for software on the NAS. The more powerful the processor, the more you can do on the enclosure. This also makes the price balloon with Intel Core CPUs costing the most, but are very similar to what you’d find on a PC.

More affordable NAS will have Intel Celeron processors, which are still really good for a home server. These are great for file storage, running a media server, surveillance center, and more. Then you’ve got ARM processors that don’t have much power but are affordable.

Do you need more RAM?

RAM is important but just how much do you need? 512MB is about the bare minimum for NAS enclosures and is more than enough for a few users accessing stored data with a few services running. 1GB or 2GB is more than enough for most scenarios.

Any more than 2GB could be considered a luxury. Some enclosures even support the expansion of RAM, allowing you to install additional modules and save money in the process.

How much should you spend?

TerraMaster F4-210

How much you should pay depends on what budget you need to stick to. It’s possible to find an enclosure for less than $200, but you will be restricted to little more than storing files. Moving into the mid to late hundreds will unlock more powerful enclosures.

The same applies to NAS as other products; the more you spend the better the NAS.

1Gb vs. 2.5Gb vs. 10Gb: Which is best?

The faster the LAN port, the more data can be moved to and from the NAS enclosure. Ethernet ports start at 1Gb, which caps out at just above 100MB/s. Then there’s 2.5Gb that can hit 250MB/s and finally 10Gb for those who need speeds of up to 1GB/s.

Like other specifications, the faster the LAN port the more pricey the NAS will be.

Other NAS features to consider

There are plenty of other NAS features to consider when looking at purchasing a NAS. You’ve got an operating system that differs from each brand. Then there are apps like Plex that require specific system specifications for tasks like 4K transcoding.

Think about what you want to do on your NAS and you’ll be able to determine precisely what you need from the server (and save some money).

By Richard Edmonds

I've been covering the tech industry for more than a decade and have tinkered with NAS for just as long. Follow my ramblings and more right here on NAS Master!

To help keep the lights on, I may earn a commission for purchases using links to buy recommended products.