A devoted NAS machine is form of like a cloud server on your residence—it allows you to again up and entry knowledge by way of the web. However NAS gadgets are extra than simply glorified onerous drives. With minimal effort, they unlock a world of performance for pc nerds, film snobs, music followers, and even small companies.
We aren’t going to cowl the very best NAS gadgets at this time, although we are going to clarify how they work and among the greatest causes to personal one.
What Is a NAS Gadget?
At its most elementary, NAS or “Community Connected Storage” is simply file storage that’s linked to your house web. Approved gadgets inside and out of doors of your house can use this storage to wirelessly again up, obtain, or stream recordsdata.
It’s form of like having a super-fast Dropbox server in your house. Besides a NAS machine can go a lot additional than Dropbox—you need to use NAS to create your individual streaming service, experiment with VMs (superior for internet hosting a Minecraft server), backup the whole thing of your pc (together with settings and preferences), or routinely ship copies of backup knowledge to different storage options.
Firms like Synology, TerraMaster, QNAP, and ioSafe promote purpose-made NAS gadgets, that are small and energy-efficient computer systems with enormous slots for onerous drives or SSDs. These devoted NAS gadgets are simple to arrange and simple to make use of.
To be clear, the options listed all through this text don’t require a purpose-made NAS machine. You may allow community file sharing on any PC or Mac, for instance. And when you have an previous pc, Raspberry Pi, or NVIDIA Defend mendacity round, you’ll be able to flip it right into a NAS machine.
However I often counsel shopping for a purpose-made NAS from a model like Synology or QNAP. Not solely is setup simpler with a “actual” NAS, however you’ll find yourself utilizing rather a lot much less electrical energy. Function-made NAS gadgets are energy-efficient, compact, and quiet—three issues that you may’t say a couple of repurposed PC. (That mentioned, I’ll shout out some options all through this text.)
Entry Your Recordsdata on Any Gadget, Wherever
You know the way there’s a “Community” tab within the Home windows and macOS file system? When you arrange a NAS, you need to use that tab to entry its contents from any pc in your house. Backing up and retrieving recordsdata requires nothing greater than a drag and drop, and you’ll open recordsdata from the NAS straight into purposes like Microsoft Phrase or Photoshop.
Different gadgets, similar to smartphones or safety cameras, may entry these recordsdata. And while you need to preserve issues non-public, you’ll be able to apply password safety or a firewall to your NAS machine (or password-protect particular folders).
If you wish to take issues a step additional, you’ll be able to even allow distant entry in your NAS. This permits you and different approved customers to entry its contents from wherever on this planet. When you’re a musician, for instance, you need to use a NAS to shortly share or collaborate on initiatives with others (and luxuriate in comparatively quick add and obtain speeds).
Now, port forwarding and distant entry include some safety issues. When you determine to allow distant entry in your NAS, I counsel programming some firewalls and establishing your NAS machine’s VPN performance to cut back the danger of ransomware and knowledge loss—you can’t remove this threat, so please take it significantly. (You also needs to make backups of your backups, which we’ll get to within the subsequent part.)
Backups and Information Redundancy
Most individuals purchase a NAS machine to again up knowledge. Not solely is it simpler than lugging round a conveyable onerous drive, however NAS gadgets can create a RAID array that ensures knowledge redundancy. Principally, if one drive fails (and all drives fail finally), your knowledge remains to be protected on different drives inside your NAS machine.
You may even use a NAS to routinely again up your total pc. Each the Backup and Restore software on Home windows and Time Machine on Mac work with NAS gadgets, that means that you may wirelessly safe the contents, preferences, settings, and actions of your pc in case one thing goes mistaken.
Keep in mind that NAS gadgets aren’t a one-and-done backup resolution—you want to have backups of your backups. Catastrophic drive failures can happen even with a stable RAID setup. Home fires and different acts of God aren’t predictable. And should you allow distant entry in your NAS, there’s all the time a small likelihood of ransomware.
I counsel following the 3-2-1 rule; make three backups of your recordsdata utilizing two totally different media codecs, and most significantly, preserve one backup exterior of your house. That is pretty simple with a NAS machine. I routinely again up my NAS’ necessary recordsdata to a big exterior drive (which I preserve in a fireproof field), and choose folders in my NAS routinely again as much as Dropbox.
Construct Your Personal Streaming Service
Devoted NAS gadgets are a preferred possibility for media streaming, and with a service like Plex, you’ll be able to construct your individual streaming service for motion pictures, television reveals, and music. All you want are media recordsdata, which you’ll be able to rip from discs or obtain by way of the web.
Providers like Plex flip your NAS machine right into a “media server” with deep customization options and automated metadata retrieval (for film scores, present descriptions, closed captions, album artwork, and so forth). All gadgets inside your house community, together with sensible TVs, can entry this media by way of the Plex app or webpage.
And if you wish to take issues to the subsequent stage, you’ll be able to allow distant entry on your NAS-based media server. Household and mates can stream content material from the server no matter their location—it’s actually such as you made your individual streaming service!
Right here’s the one concern; cheaper NAS gadgets aren’t all the time highly effective sufficient for streaming (particularly 4K streaming or simultaneous streams to many gadgets). When you plan to make use of a NAS machine for media streaming, be sure you have a look at evaluations and see what folks say concerning the efficiency. (Ideally, they need to don’t have any complaints about 4K streaming, even when that appears overkill on your wants.)
To be clear, Plex is simply the preferred possibility for residence media servers. There are many options, together with Jellyfin, Kodi, and Enby.
I also needs to point out that, for media streaming, a purpose-made NAS machine might not be essentially the most cost-effective or highly effective possibility (it’s simply the simplest possibility, particularly when you have zero expertise). A repurposed PC is nice for media streaming, the NVIDIA Defend TV makes for a very efficient Plex server, and energy customers generally go for an Intel NUC pc.
Entry Units On Your Dwelling Community from Wherever
Each purpose-made NAS machine helps VPN performance, which it is best to completely allow should you plan to entry the NAS from exterior your house. Establishing the VPN server in your NAS machine provides an additional layer of safety, serving to you keep away from ransomware assaults and different nastiness.
However this VPN server performance comes with a neat profit—in order for you, you need to use it to remotely entry all gadgets on your house community (LAN over WAN) with a pleasant little layer of safety. You may ship paperwork to your printer by way of this server, for example, and even entry recordsdata inside your desktop pc.
To be clear, exposing your house community to the web is a really dangerous thought. And since NAS gadgets have a tendency to make use of outdated protocols (like previous variations of OpenVPN), they aren’t precisely the top of safety. Most individuals might be high-quality, however some folks will get screwed.
When you select to go down this route, please arrange Docker in your NAS machine to isolate the VPN server. As I’ll clarify beneath, this Docker can run a VM with extra up-to-date safety protocols, which ought to higher shield you in opposition to hackers—you’ll by no means have 100% safety, although.
Experiment with Digital Machines
Right here’s a reasonably area of interest factor; you need to use Docker to experiment with digital machines in your NAS machine. Doing so will isolate the VM from different elements of your NAS machine, and extra importantly, it opens the door to new options and new experiences.
A digital machine or VM is precisely what it feels like—a pc that you simply emulate by way of software program. Let’s say that you simply’re a Mac person who needs to play a Home windows XP sport. As a substitute of ruining your Mac with bizarre software program and partitioned drives, you’ll be able to simply use Docker to run a Home windows XP VM in your NAS Gadget. You may then entry this VM out of your Mac, both by way of your native community or a distant connection.
Builders may use a NAS Gadget to check purposes for contemporary working techniques, like Android or Home windows 11. And if you wish to run one thing like a Minecraft server out of your NAS machine, Docker can isolate it with the proper software program and no matter safety protocols you want to use.
And should you simply need to improve safety for distant connections, Docker’s your greatest buddy. Use it to arrange a VPN server with up-to-date safety and different options.
Now, a purpose-built NAS machine might not be essentially the most cost-effective or highly effective possibility for VMs. You need to use a Raspberry Pi to run light-weight VMs, for instance, and a repurposed PC could also be the best choice for extra demanding digital machines.