Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices allow you to connect hard drive storage to your network. They have become exceedingly common in the consumer market over the past five years, and as a result the prices have also dropped.
NAS devices are available for Windows, OS X, and Linux, and the consumer-grade devices generally accept between one and four disk drives. A NAS gives you much more flexibility than an external USB or Firewire hard drive, and gives you a place to back up your important data from the computers on your network without having to move a hard drive from one device to another.
A NAS device is a good investment, and can save you from having to constantly upgrade the hard drives on your PC.
Electricity, Money, and Space Savings
A NAS is usually a very small device. Most consumer-grade NAS devices have footprints that are slightly larger than that of a Mac Mini. Due to the size and the absence of components like video cards and DVD drives, the average NAS consumes a fraction of the electricity of a desktop PC.
Since they generally only have one or two small fans, they are also much quieter than the average desktop. You also do not have to worry about maintaining another PC on your network.
NAS devices are not particularly cheap, but there are some devices that sell for under $200 which are reliable and easy to use. You will save a lot of money if you buy a NAS that does not have a hard drive, and purchase the hard drives for it separately. Make sure that you find out what types of hard drives your NAS will accept. Some devices have a limit on the hard drive sizes.
Easy to Configure RAID Arrays
RAIDs safeguard your data with redundancy. In a properly configured RAID, if one of the drives goes bad, you will still have a full copy of your data on the remaining drive. You should just be able to pop in another drive, sync the RAID, and continue working.
It sounds simple, but it generally is not for the average consumer, so a multi-drive NAS is the answer. The software included with the NAS does most of the work. After you install the hard drives, all you do is follow the instructions and configure the device.
It does help to have some prior knowledge of RAIDs before you attempt to configure your first NAS, but you can find plenty of information to help you on the web.
Always Available on Your Network
With a NAS connected to your home network, everyone can save their data to one safe place, and minimize data loss if a PC goes down. Everyone can share their data, and access it from any computer on the network.
You can save large files, like movies, somewhere other than your desktop or laptop’s hard drive, so you are not constantly running out of space. You can also have your PC create backups directly to the NAS.
Windows 7 allows you to create backups on a network device, and there are tutorials on how to save Apple’s Time Machine backups to a NAS. Some newer Mac friendly NAS devices support Time Machine out of the box.