The 7 Best NAS (Network Attached Storage) to Buy in 2017

Storing all your secure files and data is easy

Qnap TS-251A 2-bay TS-251A
Photo from Amazon

If you’re not familiar with a NAS or Network Attached Storage, think of it as a type of computer that skips out on the mouse, keyboard and display. A NAS is essentially a place where a user in a home or an office can store large amounts of files in hard drives connected to an existing computer. More general users might recognize a NAS as a personal, local or cloud storage device that allows you to save files while connected to your home/office network. If you’re not technically savvy, evaluating all the available options on the NAS market can be overwhelming. Fortunately, we’re here to help you navigate through the sea of NAS servers and find the best one for you.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

The Qnap TS-831X NAS is an eight-bay, quad-core storage solution for holding all the data you’ll ever need. Protected by various levels of 256-AES encryption and RAID 0, 1, 5 or 10, the TS-831X is a fantastic combination of both protection and performance. The included 16GB of storage might not sound like much, but when you allow for scaling up to 24 drives using Qnap’s expansion enclosures, you can create more than 400TB of total storage overall. Powered by an ARM Cortex-A15 processor and 16GB of RAM, the Qnap excels at writing data at up to 1900 MB/s read and 770 MB/s write speeds. Even when active with AES-256 volume encryption, read and write speeds still shine at 436 MB/s and 334 MB/s, respectively. Beyond performance, the TS-831X includes two built-in Gigabit Ethernet ports alongside two 10Gbe SFP+ to support faster high-speed networks that offer higher bandwidth for virtualization software. With built-in disaster recovery and a slew of business-ready features for deployment across multiple types of business functionalities, the TS-831X is truly the storage king.

If you're not on a budget, the Synology DiskStation 5-Bay NAS device is your go-to choice for all the security and power you’ll need. With a max disk space of 30 terabytes split among five drive bays, it’s unlikely you’ll ever need another NAS. And with an Intel Atom quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, it’s more than powerful enough to keep up with demand. The “tool-free” design keeps each drive bay firmly in place without the need for screws while still securing each drive well enough to avoid accidental pull-outs. The NAS includes four USB 3.0 ports and two eSATA ports to connect external storage devices for even more drive space. With five drive bays working in tandem, heat can be an issue, but Synology helps mitigate any increase in temperature with two standard ventilation fans similar to models found in desktop computers. Like the rest of Synology’s NAS products, the Web interface is both robust and capable of working with both Mac and Windows hardware.

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