NAS systems

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Centralise your data with a NAS system.

If your family shares a lot of data and media with each other, you could consider a Network Attached Storage (NAS) system for centralising it all. NAS systems are a hub where all your data is stored in one place and can be accessed from any device on your home network.

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What is NAS?

NAS systems look like a personal computer, but unlike a PC, inside they only contain a number of hard drives (HDD), which can be accessed by any device on the network.

They are typically used for backing up files, multimedia streaming and quick access to shared files. NAS have a large storage capacity that depends on the number of HDD bays and the capacity of the HDDs.

How to use a NAS

Getting your system up and running.

  • Install HDDs. In most systems you simply slide out the bay, screw the HDD in, and then insert it back into the NAS.
  • Connect to your network. Connect the NAS to your router via an ethernet cable or your WiFi network.
  • Connect locally to the NAS. Open network connections on your computer (or any other networked device) and you should see the NAS. Once found, you should be able to then see the individual HDD(s) in the NAS.
  • Access the NAS remotely. Your NAS system should come with instructions on how to achieve this as it differs depending upon manufacturer.
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Local vs remote access

Local access is when you connect your device (such as a computer, portable HDD or smartphone) over your WiFi network or via a cable to the NAS system. This is great for when you’re close to the NAS of your home WiFi.

Remote access is when you connect to the NAS over the internet. This means you can access whatever is stored on your NAS while on the go, as long as you have internet access. This is typically done through a website or an app. A NAS that lets you view, edit and transfer files remotely is good, but one that lets you remotely change NAS settings and permissions is better.

What to look for

Specifications to consider when you're choosing a network attached storage system.

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Feature focused

You should also think about which features will be most useful.

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Glossary

NAS

Network attached storage is a system containing multiple hard drives to be accessed from a network.

Data is stored on more than one HDD, meaning if there's a fault with one HDD, the data is retrievable from another.

Redundant array of independent disks is an architecture for hard drives that are connected. It is a means of storing data across multiple HDDs. There are a number of RAID structures, most of which provide data redundancy.

  • RAID 0 (also known as striped) writes to multiple disks at the same time providing faster data transfer speeds, but there isn’t any data redundancy.
  • RAID 1 (also known as mirrored) stores the same data on multiple HDDs at the same time. There isn’t any gain in data transfer speed and you lose data storage space, but there is data redundancy in case of failure.
  • RAID 5 is a complex structure where if one of the HDDs fails, data parity distribution can be used to rebuild the lost data and recover any salvageable data from the dying HDD. It has slow data transfer speeds and you lose data storage space, but it has the best data redundancy.
  • RAID 10 (also known as 1+0) provides the features of RAID 0 and RAID 1, meaning fast data transfer speeds and data redundancy. It does require a minimum of 3 HDDs in the NAS system though, and you lose data storage space.

Just a Bunch of Disks: another architecture for hard drives that are connected. It is a means of storing data across multiple HDDs, but there isn’t any data redundancy.

High-Definition Multimedia Interface: a connection for files, such as video and music.

HDD

Hard drive: the disk the data is stored on. There are two common sizes - 3.5-inch and the less popular 2.5-inch.

Internet Small Computer System Interface: a standard for attaching devices such as printers, scanners, cameras and other small devices.

TB

Terabytes are a unit of storage capacity. 1 terabyte = 1000 gigabytes.

Secure Digital card is a memory card used in many devices such as cameras and mobile phones.

A type of cable (usually CAT-5) over which a wired network is created. It has faster data transfer speeds compared to most WiFi networks.

Card or USB stick that lets you watch TV on your system. Most TV tuners are now digital but some analogue tuners remain on the market.

The software that runs a hard disk. It is very basic software and designed specifically for that hard drive.