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The best NAS (network attached storage) will benefit from multiple drive bays, media streaming capabilities, and encryption. For ease of use, particularly as a household cloud server/backup, you may also want to look at NAS that have software or an OS included to make file storage and syncing easy. Our top pick with these features is the Western Digital My Cloud EX2 (view on Amazon). It comes in multiple storage options, has a built-in dual core processor and 1GB of RAM, making it fast for media streaming and file transfers. It includes RAID and file syncing and backup is easy.
If your storage needs are less demanding, you should take a look at our list of the best external hard drives. They're a simpler option that requires less setup, but they won't have the same degree of backup features as a dedicated NAS. For all others, read on to see the best NAS to buy.
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.
The Synology DS220j is an affordable NAS with an attractive design. The device has everything you could want in a household server, with up to 32TB of storage capacity, letting you house media files, data, and create backups with a private cloud. The DiskStation Manager (DSM) is Synology's proprietary operating system that makes it easy to manage backups and store multimedia files. Other features include easy setup for connecting IP cameras and saving security footage, file access with QuickConnect, and encryption.
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.
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.
The best NAS to get is the Western Digital My Cloud EX2, it has the best features for streamers, plenty of storage options, and it supports RAID configuration for backup. For a more affordable option, we like the Synology DS220j. It's reasonably priced, has an attractive design, and is loaded with features that allow it to do automatic backups and even function as 24/7 home surveillance.
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.