Your Guide to Purchasing a Network Attached Storage

Whether you run a small business or have multiple personal use computers hooked up at home, your data is important. Be it thousands of family photos or crucial company files, your data is essentially priceless. How you choose to back up in case of a hard drive failure or system crash is a decision that requires careful thought. In order to avoid a potentially costly data loss, it is advised that you make multiple fail-safe backups.

There are several options to choose from. An external hard drive is the most inexpensive way to back up data, and conveniently plugs into your desktop computer or laptop via USB port. However, these can break, get lost, and are only limited to whichever device they are plugged into at the moment. Opting for network attached storage, also known as NAS, is another commonly used method for backing up data. Let’s discuss some points you will want to consider when purchasing  an NAS.

Build or buy?

A network attached storage unit is basically a network connected computer that serves a single purpose: storing files and data which multiple devices can share, store, edit, and pull from if, and when connected to the network. It is a self-contained unit solely dedicated to data storage and is connected either wirelessly or via cables.

You can set one up yourself by buying all the components: a case, CPU, motherboard, power supply, RAM, and of course, the storage. While the price will be a great deal less than when opting for a prebuilt NAS, it requires some tweaking and setting up. If you are technically apt enough to build your own PC, for example, then this may be an option for you. Going this route will give you the ability to configure your setup to your exact requirements while getting better value for your money at the same time.

However, if you lack the know-how or the desire to start from scratch, you can opt for a turnkey prebuilt solution. A wide variety of brands, such as Dell, HP, and Synology offer network storage solutions. While they all essentially offer the same service, the right NAS for you depends on your needs, preferences, and usage.

Insurance for your data

To put it simply: the more backups or redundancies of your data you have made, the more secure it is in the case of a crash. If one disk fails, which is inevitable in due time, then you will want to have another one (or more) to fall back on. With various RAID (Rredundant Aarray of Iindependent Ddisks) configurations to choose from in how you set up and store the multiple versions of your data, a network attached storage will provide you with insurance of all your files in case of failure. 

Since the main function of an NAS unit is to contain data, the amount it can hold is the most important component to look at when purchasing one. Typically, a unit purchased for home usage or a small home office has one or two drive bays or slots in which you place the hard drives. Units for a small to medium office, however, require more capacity since the amount of data increases with the number of users.

Other than the amount of data you wish to backup and store, you will also want to consider the speed at which you can transfer files via the NAS. How fast would you like your data to be transmitted? Are you working with large files such as videos? Different units and brands provide different speeds at which your data can be accessed and edited. The software is another point to consider. It will allow you to set up your NAS, grant permission and access to certain files and users, insert and remove drives, offer access to remote iOS or Android devices, and more.  

Network attached storage brands like Synology don’t manufacture their own hard drives and can, therefore, be purchased disk-less, giving you the liberty to choose drives of your choice. You can then fill the trays or bays with specifically compatible and recommended drives from brands such as Western Digital or Seagate, for example. The alternative is to buy a populated unit that is ready to go.

Regardless of which NAS you choose, investing in a solid backup in case of emergency is highly advisable in any situation.