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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 of our useful data (pics, videos, movie collection, and essential docs, you name it) is gone.
For this reason, having a complete backup of your data is very very important, and there are many solutions to this problem.
Best NAS 2019 / 2020 Buying Guide
The first solution can be online storage. There are different companies that you give online storage space in return for a few bucks every month/year.
But if you're a small business owner and want a more robust infrastructure, then you probably won't like to depend on the internet to backup 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 the failure of that hard drive can result in complete data loss, 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 backup storage unsuitable if you have a large number of PCs.
So, the only option now left is NAS.
NAS (Network Attached Storage) is like a mini-server attached to your home network which can access by any device on that network through correct 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 be done with it.
Although NAS units don't come with any keyboard or display, you can be usually customized through a browser-based admin 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.
Best NAS Storage 2019 / 2020 Review Guide
So, without any ado. Let's start this roundup about the best NAS units for 2019.
Synology DS218+: Check Price On Amazon
Best NAS storage 2019 /2020 For Home Users
Unlike in other networking-related equipment, namely routers and mesh WiFi kits, Synology is a BIG player when it comes to the 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 currently have a LAN connection, or whether you have connected a storage drive into the first/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 not only 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, an Intel Celeron J3355 dual-core processor is running @ 2.5 GHz in addition to 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 NAS manufacturers just 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 reading , while writing speed is 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 an 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 the 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 some outstanding 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 as 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 center, 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 backup 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 backup solution for all your important files that stores all of your data on the Synology-guarded servers.
Some other cool features of this app include scheduling backup, one-stop service, maintaining file history, etc.
WD My Cloud Personal: Check Price On Amazon
Best Budget NAS Storage 2019 / 2020
My cloud personal is hybrid storage by WD which gives you best of two different worlds: It's more compact and costs less than most of the other NASes while giving you way more functionality than traditional Externals Hard drives.
Having the dimensions of 4.72" x 5.5" x 6.7", it looks more like a book, instead of a storage device.
On the front side, there's a blue-colored LED that turns solid when/if you turn this device on, and starts blinking while there's some sort of data activity. On the back side, there's an Ethernet port, a USB 3.0 port for file transfers, and a power connection port.
Being a single-drive NAS, it comes with a pre-installed single 3.5" hard drive that can be of 2 GB, 3 GB, 4 GB, 6 GB, and 8 GB space.
Setup wise, this is the most straightforward and beginner-friendly NAS I've ever got my hands on. While WD gives a quick installation guide out of the box, I didn't need to go for it even once.
You just need to turn it on, connect it to your WiFi router through an Ethernet cable and you're done.
Soon after the setup, three main server folders will be available to all the devices on the network by default. These folders are Public, SmartWare, and Time Machine Backup, and they're used to store public data, and take backup of windows/mac machines respectively.
In case you want to customize your sharing network even more (which you will eventually), you'll need to download WD My Cloud Setup software, and the good thing about this software is that it's available for both the Windows and Mac OS.
Once you've installed that software, it'll find this server to ask to create the first account for yourself which will have admin privileges. After this, you can use this admin account to add new users. Every time you'll create a new user, a new private folder will be allocated to that user that no one else can access.
Overall, the software is well-organized with six main tabs: Home, Users, Shares, Cloud Access, Safepoints, and Settings. These sections allow you to further enhance the functionality of this device.
Among them, I've personally liked Cloud Access, which enables to have two very handy features.
First, it allows you to create an online account for each user at WDMyCloud.com. Using this account, you can access a shared folder (and share content) on your server from a remote location around the world. All you need is an internet connection and a web browser.
One thing to be noted here is that in order to have fast transfer between your server and that remote computer, internet connection should be fast enough at both ends.
The second feature Cloud Access gives you is the access codes on its smartphone app. Using this feature, you can have a dedicated folder for your friend/sibling on which they can add or retrieve content, without being on your local home network.
You just need to create an account for that person of your NAS first, create an access code, and give him/her its information. Then, your friend/sibling need to install that app on their smartphone and enter that code.
This is it. Now your friend/sibling can access that folder and add/retrieve files from that server from a remote location.
In terms of performance, this unit did well without doing any groundbreaking stuff. We managed to get 67 MBPS speed for writing and 87 MBPS for reading, not too good but not too bad either.
Obviously, there are some downsides in this server.
First, since it's a single-drive setup, there's no data redundancy of any type, and you can't have any backup of your data. You can do a workaround here by creating safe-points and transferring that data over to your external hard drive or another NAS from time to time, but it kills the whole NAS idea - central network storage where all of your data is safe.
You can also get a dual-drive version of this server but that will cost you more and will be bigger in size too.
Another area where we found this unit limited is streaming. You can only stream video content only if its format is supported in your native device (like a smartphone). Also, this unit also does some buffering and don't display content instantly (even its's some pictures).
But still, though, it costs less than its competitors and performs above average too. This is why it's the best budget NAS you can have in 2019.
Netgear ReadyNAS RN212: Check Price On Amazon
Best NAS Storage 2019 / 2020 For Small Offices
ReadyNAS 212 by Netgear is the new version of ReadyNAS 202 that was released in 2015. RN202 was actually praised by its simple setup and personal cloud-related features.
So let's check out how its successor fares.
On the front side of this unit, there's a USB 3.0 port and a backup button, while the back side features 2 Ethernet ports (with link aggregation support), an eSATA port, and 2 more USB 3.0 ports, which makes their total count to 3.
Thanks to its metal construction, it's quite sturdy and durable.
Since it's a 2-bay disk-less unit, you'll have to put your own disks into it. Speaking of which, you can put as much as 12 TB storage into this unit (6 TB for each drive). Also, it's not necessary for you to buy 2 drives at once. Start with one drive and expand it to two when/if you feel necessary.
These disks are accessible from the front side.
It comes with a 3-year warranty that also covers internal components, like the fans. That being said, you can extend it to 24x7 support by purchasing the additional warranty.
Unlike other NAS units in this roundup that run on Intel Celeron CPU, this one has a quad-core ARM Cortex A15 CPU running at 1.4 GHz frequency, with 2 GB RAM - enough for DLNA streaming and transcoding 1080p videos but not without any glitch.
To configure it for the first time, you just need to connect it with your router, go to www.readycloud.netgear.com and the setup wizard will start to guide you through the rest of the process.
First, you'll have to give this NAS unit a name. Then, you'll have to set admin details, and you're done.
After the setup, you'll be shown the main system tab where you'll see different things like RAID status, drive status, and formatting options, etc.
Speaking of RAID, we have 5 different types (obviously it will depend on the number of drives you currently have installed in this unit): RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6 and RAID 10.
Each of these levels has its respective pros and cons that we'll discuss in the RAID section. Since it's a 2-bay unit, your only options are RAID 0 and RAID 1.
While RAID 0 gives you maximum storage and speed, RAID 1 gives you data redundancy and backup option.
In the system tab, there's a performance section that tells you drives' status, current fan speed, as well as current CPU temperature.
There's Netgear NAS mobile app that lets you access NAS content from anywhere around the world, but one feature I particularly like in this app is that it saves your photos from mobile and tablet in the NAS so that your kids in future can see those morning selfies of your early 20s.
Also, it allows you to not care too much about your smartphone's storage. You just need to keep all of your content in the server and stream it whenever and wherever you want through an internet connection.
Netgear has significantly improved its apps pool - comparable to that of QNAP and Synology. Although most of these apps are business-centric, some of multimedia-related, such as ReadyDLNA and Nero Media Home servers.
Apart from this, there's a surveillance feature with a license to be used for one camera.
In our testing, this unit was impressive and hit a top speed of 117 Mbps for writing, and 97 MBPS for reading operation.
The browser interface doesn't look as good as Synology' OS but is clean. My main gripe is that many advanced features aren't well-explained which makes it not suitable for first-timers.
But still, SOHO owners that have any past experience with NASes will love it.
Here's what Jon Jacobi from TechHive has to say About It:
The ReadyNAS 212 is fast, rugged, ticks all the corporate boxes, and is easy to set up and administer.
Drobo 5N2 - Check Price On Amazon
Best NAS Drive For Mac 2019 / 2020
Although not famous as the likes of Synology, QNAP, and Seagate, Drobo Inc. is in computer data storage business in 2005.
In 2015, we went through an organizational overhaul and since released a number of NAS units for different types of users.
One of them is the Drobo 5N2 - a 5-bay NAS unit aimed towards home users/small offices.
Design wise, it looks similar to Drobo 5C, 5D, and 5N, which is good because these Drobo NASes are known for their sleek design.
At the bottom area of its front side, there's a series of LEDs for different statuses.
The same area on the back side features two Ethernet ports, a power input, as well as the power button.
If you remove the front panel, you will get access to the five drive bays of this unit. Since these bays are tool-less, you just have to slide the drives in, to add them, and then lock 'em up with clips on their left side.
Moreover, the front panel is also magnetic and can easily be removed through bare hands.
Anyways, once you've added the drives, it's time to connect it through an Ethernet cable and power it on.
To configure it for the first time, you'll need the Drobo Dashboard software. It's available for both Windows and Mac OS, but Linux users will have to look somewhere else, unfortunately.
The UI doesn't look modern, to be honest, but gets the job done from the functionality point of view.
There are three main areas: Status, Capacity, and Shares.
Status area is the one where you'll find the overview of what's going on with you Drobo 5N2 right now. Useful information such as IP address, Mac address of the unit, and 'data health' etc.
In case of any disk failure too, you'll be notified on this screen.
Next comes the capacity screen. It helps you data management by showing you how much data you're currently using and how much space is unused.
The last one is the shares screen. Using this feature, you can set up specific access to specific users. While this isn't the first NAS to implement such functionality, it'll help you in taking a quick note on who's accessing what in your network.
Drobo 5N2 also has an app store. While it features fewer apps than its competitors, you'll find many useful ones such as photo backup and remote access, etc. For business users, there's a mail client, WordPress installs, and Git (Linux only).
The area where this unit really takes an edge over its competition is the data protection and recovery. You can lose up to 2 of your drives, and still retain all of your data.
To have this feature, Drobo has implemented a virtual RAID setup called BeyondRAID. Apart from 2-drive redundancy, this unit also features hot swapping (you can take any of the drives out at any time, and the ability to add drives of different sizes (a 4 GB drive with an 8 GB drive).
Then there's DroboDR. Using this feature, you can recover your entire data by pairing up with another Drobo 5N2 (even if it's on a remote location). The obvious downside of this is the added cost of an extra NAS unit.
All in all, the Drobo 5N2 is perfect for demanding home users as well as SMBs. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles found in some other NAS units, it will get the job done for the users mentioned above.
We found its sleek body to be perfect for Apple's ecosystem.
NAS vs. Cloud Storage
Since a NAS storage is quite flexible when it comes to storage capacity, a common argument of going for cloud storage altogether may arise in your 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.
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 NASes is to check whether they come with pre-populated 'Disks' or not.
Many NAS manufacturers 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 has redundant data on each of them, so you don't have any issue if one of them fails.
The primary 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 just 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 connected single disk drive. That single drive will have maximum bandwidth and size, but data redundancy is sacrificed here.
So, if any of your hard drives has an issue, all of the hard drives will be affected. That's why RAID 0 isn't 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 result in these drives being ditto copies of each other.
This way if you ever lose one of your drives, your data will remain unaffected. 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 uses a combination of RAID 0 and RAID 1 (two combined drives being copies of each other), which results in high-performance improvement as well as reliability.
This is one of the most commonly used RAID levels. In RAID 5, the primary data and parity (the extra data for backup) are 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.