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What is Network-attached storage (NAS)?

Just what is the world of NAS all about?

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

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.

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.

While you can go down the DIY route and build your own NAS, there are some great prebuilt enclosures available. I’ve rounded up the best NAS available if you’d like to save time and get up and running in no time at all.

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.

What drives to use with NAS?

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 normal hard drives in that they have special technologies that help make them more reliable for continuous operation.

I’ve rounded up the best NAS drives to use with an enclosure, should you be interested in making the right choice here.

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!

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