What Is a NAS (Network Attached Storage) Device?

Is a NAS the best solution for storing your media files?

NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices connect to a network. These devices function as a typical hard drive but service every authenticated device on the local network. Most NAS units ship with several drives to support various RAID configurations and an on-board operating system with a firewall to facilitate remote-network operations.

The Need for NAS Devices

The popularity of NAS units has increased in conjunction with the growth of large personal digital-media libraries. More enthusiasts stream media over home networks to network media players or media streamers, smart TVs, network Blu-ray Disc players, and to other computers.

NETGEAR ReadyNAS

The NAS acts as a media server, facilitating media access to network-connected computers and compatible playback devices. Because it's a server, compatible playback devices access files directly.

Many NAS units are optionally accessible through a web browser when you are away from home. You can view photos and movies and listen to the music saved on the NAS by logging in to the NAS manufacturer's portal.

NAS Device Basics

Some NAS units require loading software onto a computer. The software may be needed for the computer to connect to the NAS. The software often makes it easier to upload files from the computer to the NAS. Most software includes a feature that backs up a computer or specific files automatically to the NAS device.

However, most NAS devices support local sharing through standard protocols like Samba. So, without the special software, Windows, Mac, and Linux computers should connect normally.

The Benefits of Saving Your Media Libraries on a NAS Device

The value of a NAS becomes apparent when several computers connect to the same, protected, local area network:

  • You don't have to leave a computer turned on for compatible playback devices to access your movies, photos, or music.
  • Add to your media library without using storage space on the computer's hard drive. A 1 TB drive can store up to 120 movies, 250,000 songs, 200,000 photos, or any combination of files.
  • Save photos, video, and still image files from several computers to a central storage place.
  • Access files from everyone in your household that saves to the NAS (if they give you permission), even if they left home with their laptops.
  • Many NAS devices allow remote access to media files. When away from home, you can play your stored media on any device that has an internet browser, such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
  • A NAS device that is a DLNA certified media server connects easily to other DLNA certified playback devices.
  • Back up your computer to the NAS, or back up important files if the computer fails—manually or automatically.

Reasons for Not Choosing a NAS Device

NAS drives are exposed to a network and offer some additional risk. However:

  • A NAS device costs more than an external hard drive with the same amount of storage.
  • Older NAS devices may have problems connecting to computers and may not be DLNA certified. These devices may not be visible to some network media players and streamers, smart TVs, or networked Blu-ray Disc players.
  • Misconfigured security on a NAS device may expose some data to the entire LAN or to the internet.