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For personal use, the Western Digital My Cloud EX2 ultra network attached storage is the king of the hill. Available in a slew of storage options, the high-performance dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM combine to provide outstanding performance for both media streaming and file transfers. The two-bay unit creates a mirrored backup of all your personal computer files and folders utilizing RAID configuration. For a consumer box, the inclusion of RAID technology is both notable and welcomed and, when combined with Western Digital’s user-friendly operating system, it’s an overall enjoyable experience. Backups can be scheduled or synchronized across computers and My Cloud devices mean that even if you miss a manual backup, you’re still covered.
Additionally, the My Cloud makes it easy to share files publicly by creating a private link that can be user-limited or can allow full-access to anyone with the link. Streaming media fans will love the inclusion of Plex Media Server, which allows quick and easy support for sharing files directly to a PC, smartphone or gaming console in its original uploaded quality. Add in extras such as Mac and Windows compatibility and 256-AES encryption and you’ll find plenty of reasons to grab this backup device for all the peace of mind you need.
If you’re running on a lean budget, the Synology DS115j offers both sharp looks and good performance at a welcoming price tag. The DS115j provides both an easy way to automate simple tasks or backup your multimedia files for later playback all while accessing everything from Synology’s smartphone apps. Options such as Cloud Stations and Cloud Sync provide quick and easy access to files across multiple devices, including cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. Fortunately, once these files are loaded onto the NAS, Synology provides a simple backup solution with file protection to back up everything to another NAS, a cloud service or a separate external device for redundancy across the board. With capacity up to eight terabytes of space (hard drives sold separately), there’s still plenty of room on this budget all-star for added services such as 24/7 home surveillance with Surveillance Station, which allows an owner to view and monitor live streams on both desktop and mobile devices.
With up to nine drives of storage available for data, the Synology DiskStation DS918+ is a smart option for NAS shoppers looking for a single solution to hold all their data. Whether it’s 4K video or thousands of photos or documents, external hard drives can only hold so much — a NAS can go well beyond for homes or small offices. Two large 120mm fans on the rear keep everything cool, and there are dual RJ-45 ethernet points with support for link aggregation. A rear eSATA port adds to the storage potential in the event the drive bays are used up. Inside the DS918+, the hot-swappable and easily removed trays can be removed to make room for even more RAM. Capable of supporting up to 48 TB in total, each drive bay can hold up to a 12TB drive which, when paired with the eSATA port, enables the DS918+ to support up to 108TB max on a single volume. Write speeds are handled at 225 MB/s for reading system files and 221 MB/s for writing files.
The Qnap TS-251A is a dual-bay (front-accessible) box that features an Intel Celeron dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM, twin Ethernet inputs, a slew of USB ports and an SD card slot for quickly copying files directly to the box. It also has HDMI support on the rear of the box, which allows 1080p videos to play directly from the NAS to an HDTV. There’s added support for HD video transcoding, plus DLNA and AirPlay (iTunes) streaming.
Popular services such as XBMC and Plex’s media server provide third-party support to help move media directly from the NAS to a media-playing device, including a smartphone or tablet. Additionally, the TS-251A supports the Roon streaming service (priced separately), which upscales nearly any type of audio file to near studio-quality. You can even attach a USB TV tuner and record cable shows or decode and transcode 4K H.264 videos. Beyond multimedia, the Qnap performs exceptionally well as a traditional NAS with good RAID recovery, remote access and powerful virtualization capabilities.
While this is a standout two-bay device, there’s no included storage out of the box on the Synology D216II+, allowing you to choose your own drive capacity and speed. The swappable drive tray design offers easy installation and care while allowing terabytes of data to fit neatly in your pocket over the cloud with Synology’s mobile app. With built-in 4K Ultra HD video transcoding, the DS216II+ is as much a multimedia machine as it is a 24/7 security solution with intelligent monitoring and video management tools. Extras include advanced file management between the NAS and your computer, Cloud Sync for connecting to a slew of popular cloud providers, as well as a well-designed software interface for managing all the above. The lack of Ethernet and HDMI ports is notable, but is easily overshadowed by its integration into a business environment with admin support for monitoring and controlling access to files and folders.
Western Digital’s My Cloud EX4100 and its eight terabytes of storage space offers up a wide set of possibilities for home storage options. With plenty of room for photos, videos, music and files, the EX4100 helps protect your content with multiple RAID options all the way from RAID 0 to RAID 10. Powered by a Marvell Armada dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, transfer speeds are excellent at a maximum of 114 MB/s upload and 108 MB/s download. The speedy performance will come in extra handy with Plex’s Media Server, which allows EX4100 owners to stream videos, photos and music directly to a PC, smartphone, game console or other capable media player. Families can make use of collaborative sharing, where everyone can access all their most important files and folders in one place. In addition, the EX4100 is also ready to help protect the home with Milestone Arcus surveillance software that provides live feeds and records video with separately purchased cameras.
Featuring unrivaled data protection, state-of-the-art backup recovery and the ability to support up to 120 users, the Netgear ReadyNAS 626X00 is the best NAS money can buy. With a maximum of six available bays for storage, the ReadyNAS can handle up to 60TBs of storage that can process at up to 20 gigabits per second for both business and media applications. It's powered by an Intel Xeon 2.2GHz Quad-core processor (the latest in 64-bit technology) and 8GB of RAM so the 626X00 can handle 4K streaming with ease and create virtualization desktops for secure office environments.
Safeguarded by five levels of data protection, business owners should feel secure against the loss of company files, databases or virtual images. The backup and recovery system is rock solid, allowing users to quickly restore from the latest backup and get back to work. With 10GbE Ethernet ports on the back of the hardware, there's support for a multitude of users all at once without any impact to data speeds.
Our reviewers spent 10 hours testing one of the most popular NAS devices on the market. To really get the full experience, they set it up in their home offices, connected various devices, and analyzed its performance. We asked them to consider the most important features when using this NAS server, from its design to special features like encryption and additional drive bays. We've outlined the key points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Additional drive bays - Basic NAS devices come with a single built-in hard drive. If you want your NAS to last a long time — and to be as flexible and redundant as possible — look for one that has multiple drive bays. This allows you to store more data, add an additional backup, and even hot-swap out defective drives in some models.
Media streaming capabilities - Most NAS devices can be used to stream media, but some are better at it than others. Some NAS devices even include an HDMI port and a remote, so you can plug right into a television without using a media center PC or streaming device as a middleman.
Encryption - NAS devices that include hardware-level encryption are much faster than devices that rely on software. Encryption is mostly important if you use your NAS to back up sensitive data that you don’t want anyone to access. Even if you only access your NAS through your home network, encryption will protect you if the device is stolen.
Lots of configuration options
Instructions could be more detailed for different use cases
One of our testers was quick to sum up the benefits of this NAS server: “It's nice to have a network device that's easily accessible, simple to set up, and works as backup/extra HD space,” he noted. “I have a couple external hard drives for backup, and it's very nice to have something that I don't have to plug in, works across all my devices, and has a substantial amount of storage — and backup for that storage!” Although our testers loved that this device had many configuration options, they wished it had more detailed instructions for different use cases: “Basically, I wish that it came with ‘NAS for Dummies,’” one reviewer said.