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What to consider when searching for the best NAS

November 5, 2017

Network attached storage or NAS is a technology that functions as a network node in a box. Without implying the same complexity of a file server, this storage system has a greater storage capacity and network administrators (and applications or users, if allowed) are able to access the NAS as they would any other drive.

A NAS box requires maintenance similar to a computer in order to avoid security incidents and function properly. Since the amplitude of this tech varies, and in comes in high-end versions as well as in lower end models, enterprise employees may come in contact with NAS even in individual offices or departments, which makes it a rather common technology that slightly accommodates cloud storage, virtualization and the SSDs. What this technology achieves is the connection of all pre-nodal computer storage systems in one repository of file-level data. Furthermore, clustered data can go into a virtual NAS and so on.

Currently considered a standard technology for mid-range and high-end systems, NAS are common in the enterprise IT landscape, from SMBs to corporations.

Picking up the best NAS for your offices involves a minimal knowledge of what are the best producers and parameters, and of how the enterprise’s needs meet their best match in one of the available models on the market. Large-scale purchases can benefit from the prior consultation of a specialist.

Seen as residing in-between local storage and cloud storage, a cleverly chosen NAS allows keeping your digital data close by, protected and accessible.

Let’s review a few of the specialists’ picks available online.

  1. Tech Radar

    featured last year a top ten selection undifferentiated by company size. Their pick comprised from SMB-destined NAS to surveillance tailored NAS.

  • *QNAP TS-470 was their choice for small businesses, fully capable and well-priced, while by adding an approximately $500, the same small business owners could get the 16TB Western Digital Sentinel DX4200.
  • Synology Embedded DataStation EDS14 would be the massive, rugged option for surveillance, while the same producer entered the top with Synology DiskStation DS115j because of this NAS’s ease of setup and management. In fact, Synology has the most NAS that made this selection.
  • Another rugged NAS option came from ioSafe 1513+, holding resilience records at extreme temperatures and depth (up to 3 meters) – a disaster proof NAS, as TR dubbed it.
  • The speedy, expensive Netgear ReadyNAS 716 proved the fastest during the tests performed.
  1. Another take on picking the best NAS comes from Computer Shopper.

    In their view the Operating System (OS) makes the difference when it comes to choosing the most suited NAS. The other elements that differentiate various available products would be:

  • The number of bays (one bay is not recommended, home users should be fine with two bays, while enterprise NAS can go up to four bays);
  • The hard disks preload (Synology and QNAP, for example, provide diskless NAS since they do not manufacture hard disks as well, while Seagate and Western Digital offer the full set of NAS with disks; the buyers are advised to calculate the costs of the two different options and be aware of the complete final price);
  • Drive compatibility (in the case you already have a bank of hard drives that you would like to install, it is important to check the drive compatibility before making your purchase);
  • The redundancy, a key element in NAS (some drives can be configured to mirror other drives, or the user can decide for reconfiguration in order to gain more data storage capacity);
  • USB ports (type, number, ease of commands);
  • Remote access and other features that mimic the personal cloud role of a NAS;
  • The types of computers your network features and their NAS compatibility;
  • Your media-streaming necessities and the related NAS capabilities.

The Computer Shopper best 2016 NAS lists Seagate NAS 2-Bay as the winner (but pay attention, the 2 bay NAS are recommended for home users), followed by QNAP TS-469L, another 2 products from Seagate and QNAP, and the four-bay Synology DiskStation DS415play. However, keep in mind that their selection is destined for home users and small offices.

  1. CNET comes with a power selection of enterprise NAS devices.

    Two “spectacular”-rated NAS occupy the first and the second place: Synology DiskStation DS1513+ and Synology DiskStation DS412+, whose hyperlinked CNET reviews mention excellent user interfaces, fast performance and a vast array of important features.

  • The “excellent” rated category comprises Western Digital My Cloud EX4 and My Cloud EX2, as well as Synology Disk Station DS214se and LaCie 5big NAS Pro. Their top is fully-detailed once you follow the hyperlinks and is valid for 2016.
  1. A different list, although also synchronized to 2016’s NAS offer on the market, comes from PC Mag.

  • This selection is available for viewing into a table that allows the comparative checking of all the NAS features, such as price, Operating System, HD configuration, wired network speed or connection type.
  • The roundup features QNAP TS-251 (dual-drive, $409.00 or $275.99 at Amazon) and QNAP TVS-463 (speedy and holding PC-like features, at $749.00 or $749.00 at Amazon), Western Digital My Cloud DL4100 (24TB, $1529.99 or $1,529.00 at Dell, which excels in redundancy), as well as the smaller Western Digital My Cloud EX4 (a “good introductory NAS for small offices” at $349.00) – and it is very interesting to browse as it also breaks down the NAS importance and important features to pay attention to when deciding to buy such a device.
  1. From across the ocean PC Advisor strives to provide a list with the best UK NAS for 2016. No point in quoting the prices here, but it might be useful to remark in their top some of the same brands as before.

  • Synology DS1813+, Synology RS814RP+ and Synology DS415play NAS are at the lower end of this top, while Synology DS115j is the absolute winner, followed by Synology DiskStation DS216play and Synology DS414j on the fourth and fifth positions.
  • QNAP entered the top with two small sized NAS devices fit for home users and suitable (one of them) for small-business services: QNAP HS-210 (in second position) and QNAP TS-421.

As you may see, the most recommended brands are those who specialize in NAS manufacturing alone (Synology and QNAP), leaving it to the buyers to populate their product with the compatible disks. The “disk or diskless” discussion is splitting the users in two types, in accordance with their preferences and previous experiences.

What is clear is that preloaded NAS are more cost–effective, buy may prove less durable and sustainable on the long run, due to drive replacing difficulties or to their storage expansion limits. So it would be wise to set your strategy against the future capabilities of the technology you are considering in order to have a realistic image of what your future NAS can and cannot support.