It's also possible to combine striping and mirroring across three or more drives for enhanced speed and data security. In such an arrangement, the NAS would copy the data across the drive array in such a way that the failure of one of the drives would allow the NAS to reconstruct the array and thus save your data if you swap in a replacement drive. This is mainly of interest to business users that need to maximize both redundancy and data transfer rates. If you think a NAS drive will let you stream any type of media you have to any device or TV, keep in mind certain devices will only play certain types of files, and you'll need to get software and hardware to work together to make this happen.
It needs to be in MP4 format to be recognized. It can be complicated, though, to guarantee that a specific file or file type will play on a given device, so look at the specs of the NAS closely to determine its capabilities. A late development in NAS circles is special kinds of support for streaming 4K video, and the spec sheet is your friend in these cases. Some NAS with 4K acceleration will convert this high-resolution video on the fly to formats better suited to the bit rates of devices, such as smartphones, that are requesting it.
This is an esoteric need at the moment, but know that some NAS makers will charge a premium for some of these features. It's also possible to get such on-the-fly transcoding for other, lesser resolutions. Once they are plugged in, just like everything else on the NAS, they can be shared with all the connected users. A frequent arrangement: USB 2. Some NAS units also have a "copy" button on the front panel designed to make copying the contents of an external drive, such as a flash drive, to the NAS a one-button-press affair.
You just connect the drive and tap the button, and everything on the external drive is safely copied to the NAS to a predesignated location. NAS drives, by definition, will come with an Ethernet port, possibly two for redundancy or channel-bonding essentially, using two Ethernet connections to enhance speed with very high-end business models. Recent high-end models may also offer the option for gigabit Ethernet, for screaming data transfer rates, though the throughput of platter hard drives makes this moot for most consumer and SOHO usage cases.
That said, a few models come with a PCI slot that may let you install an enhanced network card. In addition to the above sharing features, most NAS drives let you send web links to people to allow them to access remotely certain files or folders located on your NAS. Your NAS can thus serve like your own private Dropbox or Google Drive , but with way more storage capacity—and no monthly bill. Many NAS makers tout this. Look for the much-bandied term "personal cloud" around this kind of feature. With this functionality, you can also access the NAS itself from any internet connection, not just via your local network.
As a result, you can download files you need on the road, or stream a movie or music files resident on your home NAS to your laptop in a hotel across the country or the world, network bandwidth permitting. Most, but not all, NAS drives offer this kind of feature, so be sure to do your research before you pull the trigger if it's a must-have. We wouldn't get a NAS without it. Below are the top NAS devices we've recently tested, ranging from simple home-oriented models to multiple-drive arrays that can serve dozens of users in an office environment.
Whether you want to serve media files to the rest of the house, keep office documents in a single, accessible repository, or simply back up your digital life from your PCs , tablets , and mobile phones, there's a drive here for you. For more storage options, take a look at our lists of the best external hard drives and the top SSDs , as well as our top-rated cloud storage services.
WD My Cloud
Easy setup. Lots of ports. Generous selection of apps. Easy to install. Offers 4K video transcoding.
Seagate Personal Cloud
Supports numerous RAID configurations. Generous port selection. Loads of apps. Does not come with hard drives.
NAS roundup: Best network attached storage options for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users
Easy to configure. Fast performance. Tool-free drive installation. Massive app catalog.
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Drives not included. Slightly noisy. Very easy to install and manage.
Robust apps. Stylish design. Reasonably priced. Middling file-transfer performance in testing. This lets you access the NAS through basically any device you feel like. The best NAS setups will also allow you remote access, so you can access your files from the other side of the globe if you feel so inclined. The best NAS devices will also be platform-agnostic, so you can access them from every device, regardless of OS. When buying the best NAS device for your needs, you need to consider a few things. First of all is storage space. Many of the best NAS devices on this page come with hard drives already installed.
This makes getting them up and running quick and easy, but you'll need to think carefully about how much space you need. Remember you'll want enough space to hold all of your important files, and sometimes even duplicates. There are some NAS devices that come without hard drives, which you'll need to buy yourself. This gives you a bit more flexibility when it comes to the size — and speed — of the NAS device, and if you shop around you could save yourself some money.
You should also consider backup and data redundancy measures for the NAS drive. Some of the best NAS drives can hold multiple hard drives. These can be used to mirror the data held on each drive, which means if one drive fails, you've not lost your data. The best NAS drives will also allow you to easily backup the data onto an external hard drive for extra protection.
USB 3. WD has achieved quite considerable success with its unashamedly consumer-friendly My Cloud products, which can stream to any DLNA-compliant device and can be accessed via mobile apps for iOS and Android. As it's a one-bay unit, it can't back itself up to a drive inside the unit, but it can back up to an external hard drive via a USB port on the back. In day-to-day use for media storing, sharing and streaming, the AirPort Disk works pretty much without a hitch. In both cases, setup took literally 15 seconds after plugging in the drive—there are only a few config options to deal with in the AirPort Utility app to set access controls—and after that, it appeared as a shared volume source on Windows machines and Macs automatically.
Browsing files and loading music in iTunes loaded without any noticeable difference from when my library was connected via USB, and streaming large video files to a PS3 with UPnP was skip-free.
How To Choose the Best Network Storage for a Mac/PC Home
Chances are, you already have a USB drive and maybe even the AirPort, so the cost goes down considerably. I do recommend acquiring a RAID 1 dual-drive, though. Keep in mind, part of this sunk cost includes a solid There are, of course, several other If you've had a good experience with any of these when connecting via both PCs and Macs, let us know in the comments.
Go too cheap, and your box probably won't support the Mac-tastic AFP. And even if it does, its performance may still be under par and its add-on features may not be good enough to warrant the added expense. Above the improved compatibility, it throws in tasty perks like a BitTorrent manager for downloading directly to the NAS, UPnP for streaming to a compatible TV or PS3, and a nice web-based control interface you can access from anywhere. Performance was the sour note here, surprisingly. While a large file transfer took roughly same amount of time as it did on the other configurations, doing things that required many quick reads, like opening my iTunes music folder with thousands of artist subfolders in Finder, took days on either a MacBook Pro via AFP, or a PS3 via UPnP.
Using iTunes to locate the source MP3 file of a song playing hung up the Finder for so long it crashed. Loading a photo library in Aperture or Lightroom was equally painful, with frequent stalls. I shouldn't fully write-off an unseen quirk with my particular network setup. The folks at Synology thought everything sounded kosher, but did point out that the AirPort Extreme router I used for testing does not support jumbo frames a way of optimizing gigabit ethernet traffic so some gains could be reaped there with a different router.
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Also, much of my testing was done over Still, your computer can already handle those just as well. With the drive attached as a network volume, your computer can act as the conduit even if it's got nothing stored locally, serving media via a local UPnP server like Tversity for Windows or MediaLink for OS X and giving remote access to a local drive. A built-in Torrent client is the one I could see being useful, so if you're a heavy Torrenter, consider that. Yes, you can go cheaper especially if you only need a single drive , but you will likely lose the Mac's AFP speed advantage.