What is NAS: A beginner’s guide to network-attached storage


If you’ve somehow managed to stumble onto this website and aren’t entirely sure what is NAS (network-attached storage), we’ll run you through the basics. As an overview, NAS is file-level computer data storage for local networks, allowing you to store data from different devices at a single location.

Okay, but what is NAS?

Still not sure? A NAS enclosure is essentially a computer that acts as a form of storage and server for hosting various services. It can be used for storing files, backups, or even running a media streaming platform. Think of it as a PC but one you connect to via the network.

NAS is incredibly flexible, allowing you to start small and build your storage capacity out with additional features. It’s like having your very own private cloud storage platform with some advanced functionality. We’ve compared NAS vs. cloud storage if you’d like to learn how much you could save.

While you can go down the DIY route and build your own NAS, some great prebuilt enclosures are available. We’ve rounded up the best NAS available if you’d like to save time and get up and running in no time at all. These prebuilt servers are usually more expensive upfront but work out to be cheaper than cloud services.

NAS vs. cloud storage: What’s the difference?

There are some notable similarities between cloud storage and NAS, the most obvious being the use of a platform to store and access data 24/7. But that’s really where the two storage means start to drift apart. With cloud storage, you’re reliant on a third party to host your data securely.

In most cases, this requires an internet connection and a subscription fee. Should you lose external access or decide to cancel your subscription, you’ll struggle to access your files unless they’re backed up. A NAS alleviates these problems by bringing all your data to the home (or office).

A NAS enclosure can prove to be considerably more expensive than cloud-based storage upfront, but over a few years, you’ll start to see some savings. The most important factor in migrating to NAS is control. You’ll be able to set all the rules on who can access your data and when you can access it.

Best NAS drives to use?

Synology DiskStation DS223j
Synology DiskStation DS223j. (Source: NM)

It’s technically possible to use either a 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drive with most NAS enclosures, so long as they have SATA interfaces. This is the same interface that’s used by your PC for desktop and laptop drives, but not all HDDs are designed the same.

Western Digital and Seagate are two big brands in the storage business and both companies have NAS hard drives. These differ from standard hard drives in that they have special technologies that help make them more reliable for continuous operation.

As well as diskless enclosures, we’ve rounded up the best NAS drives to use with an enclosure, should you be interested in making the right choice here. Diskless prebuilt servers from the likes of Synology, QNAP, and ASUSTOR don’t usually come with drives preinstalled, meaning you need to buy your own.

What can NAS do?

You can do an awful lot with NAS. As aforementioned, they’re essentially servers designed to store data. But you can take it much further by deploying services to run websites, media platforms, surveillance systems, and much more.

We even compiled a list of reasons why you should buy a NAS, which includes various applications.

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