A dedicated NAS device is like a cloud server for your home – it allows you to back up and access data over the Internet. But NAS devices are more than just praised hard drives. With minimal effort, they open up a world of functionality for computer enthusiasts, movie snobs, music lovers or even small businesses.
We won’t cover the best NAS devices today, though we’ll explain how they work and the best reasons to own one.
What is a NAS Device?
In the simplest case, the NAS or “Additional Network Memory” is simply a file memory connected to your home Internet. Authorized devices inside and outside your home can use this memory to wirelessly back up, download, or broadcast files.
It’s like having a super fast Dropbox server in your home. With the exception that the NAS device may be more advanced than Dropbox, you can create your own streaming service from the NAS, test it with VMs (great for hosting a Minecraft server), back up your entire computer (including settings and options), or send it automatically. can use to. back up data to other storage solutions.
Companies such as Synology, TerraMaster, QNAP and ioSafe sell targeted NAS devices that are small and energy-saving computers with large slots for hard drives or SSDs. These custom NAS devices are easy to install and use.
To be clear, the features listed in this article do not require a purposeful NAS device. For example, you can enable network file sharing on any PC or Mac. If you have an old computer, Raspberry Pi or NVIDIA Shield, you can convert it to a NAS device.
But I usually suggest buying a purposeful NAS from a brand like Synology or QNAP. Installing with a “real” NAS will not only be easier, but you will use it Many less electricity. Targeted NAS devices are energy efficient, compact and quiet – there are three things you can’t say about a modified computer. (That is, I will voice some alternatives throughout this article.)
Access your files on any device, from anywhere
Do you know what the “Network” tab is like in Windows and macOS file systems? After installing NAS, you can use that icon to access its contents from any computer in your home. Backing up and restoring files requires nothing more than dragging and dropping, and you can open files from the NAS directly to programs like Microsoft Word or Photoshop.
Other devices, such as smartphones or security cameras, can also access these files. And when you want to keep everything secret, you can apply password protection or firewall to your NAS device (or special folders protected by a password).
If you want to go one step further, you can even activate remote access on the NAS. This allows you and other authorized users to access its content from anywhere in the world. If you’re a musician, for example, you can use the NAS to quickly share projects or collaborate with others (and enjoy relatively fast downloads and upload speeds).
Now port routing and remote access come with some security issues. If you decide to enable remote access on your NAS, I suggest programming some firewalls and setting up your NAS device’s VPN functionality to reduce the risk of redemption software and data loss — you can’t eliminate that risk, so take it seriously. (You should also back up your backups, which we’ll learn in the next section.)
Backups and data backup
Most people buy a NAS device to back up their data. Not only is this easier than navigating around a portable hard drive, but NAS devices can create a RAID array that provides data backup. Basically, if one drive fails (and all disks fail as a result), your data is still secure on other disks on your NAS device.
You can even use the NAS to back up your entire computer. Both the Backup and Restore tool on Windows and Time Machine on Mac work with NAS devices, meaning that if something goes wrong, you can wirelessly protect your computer’s content, preferences, settings, and activities.
Keep in mind that NAS devices are not a one-time backup solution – you need to have backup copies of your backups. Catastrophic driver failures can occur even with a robust RAID installation. House fires and other actions of God cannot be predicted. If you enable remote access on the NAS, there is always a small chance for a ransom program.
I suggest following the 3-2-1 rule; make three backups of your files using two different media formats and, most importantly, keep one backup outside your home. This is very easy with a NAS device. I regularly back up important NAS files to a large external drive (in a firebox) and automatically back up the folders on my NAS to Dropbox.
Create Your Own Streaming Service
Custom NAS devices are a popular choice for media streaming, and with a service like Plex, you can create your own streaming service for movies, TV shows, and music. All you need is media files that you can extract from disks or download over the Internet.
Services like Plex turn your NAS device into a “media server” with in-depth personalization features and automatic metadata search (for movie ratings, show descriptions, captions, album descriptions, etc.). All devices in your home network, including smart TVs, can access this media through the Plex app or the website.
And if you want to take things to the next level, you can enable remote access for your NAS-based media server. Family and friends can stream content from the server, no matter where they are located — it’s really up to you to create your own broadcast service!
The only concern here is; cheaper NAS devices are not always powerful enough to stream (especially 4K streaming or streaming to multiple devices at the same time). If you plan to use a NAS device for media streaming, be sure to look at the reviews and see what people have to say about performance. (Ideally, there should be no complaints about 4K broadcasting, even if it looks extreme for your needs.)
To be clear, Plex is the most popular choice for home media servers. There are many alternatives, including Jellyfin, Kodi and Enby.
I should also note that a purposeful NAS device for media streaming may not be the most cost-effective or powerful choice (this is the easiest choice, especially if your experience is zero). The purpose is great for modified computer media streaming, NVIDIA Shield TV is a very efficient Plex server, and powerful users sometimes prefer the Intel NUC computer.
Access Devices on Your Home Network from Anywhere
Every target NAS device supports VPN functionality, you need to do this absolutely If you plan to access the NAS from outside your home, activate it. Setting up a VPN server on your NAS device adds an extra layer of security to help you avoid ransom program attacks and other annoyances.
But this VPN server functionality comes with a neat benefit – if you want, you can use it to remotely access all the devices on your home network (LAN over WAN) with a nice little layer of security. For example, you can use this server to send documents to your printer or even access files on your desktop computer.
To be clear, exposing your home network to the Internet is a very risky idea. Because NAS devices tend to use outdated protocols (like older versions of OpenVPN), they are not exactly the pinnacle of security. Most people will be fine, but some will say goodbye.
If you choose to descend this route, install Docker on your NAS device to isolate the VPN server. As I will explain below, this Docker can run VMs with more modern security protocols that should better protect you from hackers – however, you will never have 100% protection.
Experiment with Virtual Machines
There’s something pretty niche here; You can use Docker to test virtual machines on your NAS device. Doing so will isolate the VM from other parts of your NAS device, and more importantly, it opens the door to new features and new experiences.
A virtual machine or VM is exactly what it sounds like – a computer that you imitate through software. Let’s say you’re a Mac user who wants to play a Windows XP game. Instead of destroying your Mac with weird software and split disks, you can simply use Docker to run Windows XP VM on your NAS Device. You can then access this VM from your Mac via your local network or remote connection.
Developers can also use the NAS Device to test applications for modern operating systems such as Android or Windows 11. Minecraft When a NAS device accesses a server, Docker can isolate it with the right software and any security protocols you want to use.
If you just want to increase the security of your remote connections, Docker is your best friend. Use it to set up a VPN server with the latest security and other features.
Now, a purposefully built NAS device may not be the most cost-effective or powerful choice for VMs. You can, for example, use a Raspberry Pi to run light VMs, and a reassigned computer may be the best choice for more demanding virtual machines.