Among PC hardware, storage devices play the role of a goalkeeper in football.
Nobody thanks them for a save, but criticize them every time they fail to do so.
The same goes for storage devices. Nobody cares about them as long as they're running, but if they're not anyhow, all out our useful data (pics, videos, movie collection, important docs, you name it) is gone. Forever.
For this reason, having a complete back-up of your data is very very important, and there are some solutions for this problem.
The first solution can be online storage. There are different companies you give online storage space in return for a few bucks every month/year.
But if you're a small business owner and want more robust infrastructure, then you probably won't to depend on the internet to back-up or recover a large amount of data, time and again.
The second solution is attaching an external hard disk drive (EHDD) to your computer network.
EHDD can give you cheap storage but has a couple of flaws like failure of that hard drive can result in complete data lost, and there is a limit to the data you can put in those drives.
On top of that, if you have more than one computers in your home/office, having an EHDD for each of those PCs would make things too complicated. These cons make EHDD as back-up storage unsuitable if you have a large number of PCs.
So, the only option now left is NAS.
Best NAS Storage 2019 Review Guide
NAS (Network Attached Storage) is like a mini-server attached to your home network which can access by any device on that network through right login credentials (username, password etc).
NAS makes the whole data centralized, and you can take advantage of NAS (or even your EHDD in this regard) if there's a file/folder that needs to be accessed by all the devices in your network at the same time.
Sure, you can share that folder over the network, if it's on your PC/laptop, but then you have to keep that PC/laptop on for 24/7. Instead, you can just put that folder on NAS and you're done.
Although NAS units don't come with any keyboard or display, you can be usually customize through a browser-based panel, just like routers.
Another advantage of these units is that you can access your data remotely through the internet.
In terms of functionality, NAS storage is somewhere between the cloud storage and your external hard drive, leading some companies to label their NAS storage as 'Personal Cloud'.
The main advantage of NAS over EHDD is that NAS is flexible and can be scaled in case your current storage space is full.
NAS vs Cloud Storage
Since a NAS storage is quiet flexible when it comes to storage capacity, a common argue to going for cloud storage altogether may arise in my mind.
Yes, you can have truly unlimited data hosted on a cloud server, but there are some typical downsides too.
First one is the transfer speed.
When transferring data between the cloud server and your network depends on a lot of factors (internet speed, and sever firmware to name a few), doing so between NAS and any other device would only depend on your network's hardware infrastructure.
And if anyhow your network is traffic-heavy at the moment, you can just connect your PC to NAS through a USB cable and transfer the desired data (which, I should mention, will depend on your computer's HDD/SSD's read/write speed.
Second is the cost. Cloud storage comes with a monthly/yearly subscription while for NAS, you just have to make a one-time payment.
Populated vs Disk-less NAS
One popular way to distinguish between different different NASes is to check whether they come with pre-populated 'Disks' or not.
There are many NAS manufacturers that also make Hard Drives and SSDs, so it's natural for them to make a NAS unit with pre-populated and pre-formatted drives with a specific RAID level (more on RAID later).
On the other hand, the manufactures that don't make any HDDs/SSDs (Synology, for example), prefer to ship their NAS units "Disk-less".
Many times, a NAS storage comes with RAID capability.
So what is it?
Although RAID is a different beast altogether, you should know about it while buying a NAS storage for yourself.
In basic terms, RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a technology feature that lets you link-up multiple disk drives (more than two) together and have redundant data on each of them, so you don't have any issue if one of them fails.
Main purpose of RAID is to improve data reliability and performance improvement. Usually drives of same storage capacity are recommended for RAID.
RAID-enabled systems are used at every place where you simply can't afford to lose data. There are different levels of RID, with each having their pros and cons
RAID 0 combines the storage capacity of more than two disk drives to form a combined single disk drive. That single drive will have maximum bandwidth and capacity, but data redundancy is sacrificed here.
So, should any of your hard drive have any issue, all of the hard drives will be effected. That's why RAID 0 isn't any useful for data redundancy.
Like RAID 0, at least two drives are required for RAID 1. Same data is simultaneously written on these drives which results in these drives being ditto copies of each other.
This way if you ever lose one of your drives, your data will remain un-affected. The major downside is that since all of your drives will have identical data, you'll only get the storage capacity of one drive, no matter how many drives you combine.
RAID works with at least 4 internal drives and use a combination of RAID 0 and RAID 1 (two combined drives being copies of each other), which results in above performance improvement as well as reliability.
This is one of the most commonly used RAID levels. In RAID 5, the main data and parity (the extra data for backup) is distributed over all the disks. This way, when/if a disk fails, the data can be re-obtained without any hassle.
Many NAS units and servers featuring RAID 5 even allow you to replace any faulty drive from the array with a new one, without shutting down the NAS. This feature is also called hot-swapping.
Best NAS storage For Home Users
Unlike in other networking-related equipment, namely routers and mesh WiFi kits, Synology is a BIG player when it comes to NAS market, and they make different NAS devices for different sets of consumers.
Right before us is its DiskStation DS218+ , an entry-level, compact, 2-bay NAS device capable of providing enough features for a first-time user while not being too heavy on the pocket at the same time.
On the front side of it, there are different LEDs to indicate different statuses like LAN, DISK 1 and DISK 2).
These indicators will highlight if you're currently having a LAN connection, or whether you have connected a storage drive into the first, or second bay. To keep enough ventilation, there's a 92-mm air fan at the back of this unit.
Being a 2-bay NAS, it can fit 2 SATA-based storage SSDs/HDDs (both 2.5' or 3.5') - one into each of its one bay. Each of this bay can have a maximum storage of 14 Gigs which makes the maximum storage capacity of this NAS up to 28 GB (too much for any home-based user).
These bays are aligned in a vertical position which makes this device compact overall, but also makes your storage devices easily removable.
Another advantage of its low-key nature is that it only weighs 1.3 KG without the storage disks, which is pretty light compared to most of other NAS units out there.
To keep this unit operating, there's an Intel Celeron J3355 dual-core processor running @ 2.5 GHz in addition to a 2 Gigs of DDR3L RAM which can be increased to 4 GB if you want to install a 3rd-party RAM memory in the other slot (something that most unit NAS manufacturers simply don't offer).
All of this is enough for you to have a blazing-fast data transfer rate.
According to Synology, the encrypted transfer speed can reach as high as 113 MB/s for read operations, while write operations are capped at 112 MB/s.
In terms of connectivity, there are three USB 3.0 ports, in addition to a single Gigabit Ethernet port and eSATA port for connecting external hard drive.
There's a copy button which is basically a one-key shortcut that enables you to copy all data from your external HDD over to this unit.
As far as the OS is concerned, this one is powered by DiskStation Manager (DSM). This OS comes with many useful apps and you can also download many more add-ons which makes this whole thing really exciting
Despite being made for entry level users, DS218+ has a some really good features such as AES-NI hardware encryption and Mailplus Server.
There's a feature called File station which is basically a web-management tool that lets you easily organize files in a secured and easy-to-understand manner.
On top of that, DS 218+ supports 10-bit 4K H265 online transcoding which means now you can access 4K content from a remote location, no matter whether your device supports it or not.
To have even more features, there's an app called Package Centre. This app is also found on Synology routers, and you can think of it like an App Store for this unit.
Installing different apps, such as Moments: a photo management app, and Synology’s Drive: A cloud storage service like Google Drive and Dropbox, from package centre will further enhance the abilities of DS218+,
Since this NAS comes with RAID 0 configuration, you'll get maximum storage capability but there's no back-up plan if any of your two disks become dysfunctional.
But before you disappoint, Synology has a solution in the form of Synology C2, a free back-up solution for all your important files that stores all of your files on the Synology-guarded servers.
Some other cool features of this app include scheduling backup, one-stop service, maintaining file history etc.
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