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NAS Server: Test & Recommendations | 07-21
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TECHNOLOGY

NAS Server: Test & Recommendations | 07-21

NAS servers are easy-to-manage storage systems that you can use at home or in your company to expand your storage capacities or access a file storage location from multiple devices simultaneously. NAS systems can store data of all types and sizes.

Be it your laptop, tablet or smartphone – if you connect your NAS to your internet router, all of your computers can access it via Wi-Fi. With linked cloud services or apps, you can even access your NAS server data while on the go.

NAS solutions are available in a wide variety of variants and for all possible requirements. Whether cloud solution, backup station or media server. In our NAS server test 2021, we explain what a NAS system offers and what advantages it can bring you. We also compare the latest NAS storage systems and show which one can be the best for you.

the essentials in brief

  • NAS servers are network-bound storage systems that you can use as a central storage location for all devices at home, in the office or on the go.
  • NAS systems are available in a wide variety of variants. They are easy to expand, quiet, and require less power than other storage solutions. From a size of two storage hard disks, NAS servers have efficient protection against data loss.
  • Compared to servers, NAS servers are cheaper, more space-saving and require less technical know-how. Most manufacturers have integrated user interfaces into their NAS solutions that guide you through installation, setup and later use. As a beginner, you can save, synchronize and manage data professionally, conveniently and at a low cost.

NAS Server: Reviews and Recommendations

In the following, we like to introduce you to six different NAS systems. We’ll show you what types of storage systems are currently on the market, what advantages they have and which NAS server might be best for you.

The best NAS server without a hard drive

This NAS enclosure from Synology belongs to the NAS category 2 Bay, so it has two storage bays into which hard drives insert. The server is available with different storage capacities, from 2 to 28 TB. Western Digital, Seagate IronWolf or Toshiba hard drives are compatible with this.

From iOS to Linux, it is suitable for every operating system. With a quad-core CPU clocked at 1.4 GHz, this system is in the medium performance class. Raid 1 also protects against data loss.

Its Disk Station Manager, or DSM for short, is user-friendly and lets you manage your data efficiently. The housing has an integrated media server that you can use to stream music or videos. The empty housing gives you flexibility in choosing your equipment. However, this system is not compatible with every hard drive manufacturer and therefore restricts you somewhat.

Editor’s rating: Synology DS220J 2 Bay is suitable for entry-level users and offers expandable storage. Despite its simple essential equipment, this copy is also suitable for multi-media streaming.

The best NAS server for backups

This Synology NAS server has 1-bay storage that is easy to use and compatible with cloud storage. It has roughly the same reading speed as the model just mentioned, but its memory cannot be expanded. It can store up to 512MB of data and transfer simple music or video files to your devices. A hard drive is not included.

This server is good for you if you only want to store smaller amounts of data. It also has a user assistant that helps you as a beginner to manage your data. An app compatible with Android and iOS is also included. You can also access your saved music or picture data from your Smart TV.

Editor’s rating: This NAS server is well suited for beginners and small amounts of data. If you want to know that your data is backed up, you should opt for a model with two slots for hard drives, as RAID is guaranteed from this size.

The best NAS server for the home

Western Digital offers a NAS server with medium performance and storage capacity. This model has eight terabytes of memory and a transmission speed of 1.3 GHz. 

It has two complicated disk slots and has a higher data transfer speed than the previously mentioned model.

The device has its backup software and a media server for multimedia streaming. You also have to buy hard drives here, but you have a large selection of compatible manufacturer brands. The device is also available in versions with up to 36 TB of storage.

Thanks to the two-bay system, i.e. two hard disk slots, this system are compatible with the so-called RAID function: the more hard drives, the more space to mirror. Save your data on multiple hard drives. This NAS server has RAID 1 and thus backs up your data on the other hard drive if one should break.

Due to its higher performance function, this device is well suited to streams more complex file formats, such as videos or music, on your devices.

Editor’s rating: This server is good for you if you want to store and synchronize large amounts of multimedia files. Its high transmission speed and media server enable fast and easy streaming on all your devices, including more complex file formats. The device enables data backup through two hard disk slots.

The best NAS server for professionals

If the previously mentioned NAS servers did not offer enough performance, this model from Synology could do better. This much more expensive device has a storage capacity of 16 TB and comes with two integrated M.2 2280 NVMe SSD slots. The case contains four Seagate hard drives but can also be filled with other manufacturers’ brands. Its storage capacity can expand to up to 9 drives.

Thanks to the SSD function, this device transfers data around 20 times faster than without this function. It is therefore also suitable for more complex data and web PHP applications. If you want to use your NAS server for your home office or to work with music or video programs, this model is ideal for you.

Due to its high number of drives, this model is not only powerful but also backs up your data in multiple slots with less memory loss. It enables you to use your data via several programs simultaneously and can restore lost data while still using it.

Editor’s rating: This NAS server has a high performance and storage function and enables your data to be used in more complex computer programs. It has a quadruple mirrored data backup function with four hard drives and can back up your data in real-time without a high loss of memory. This storage system is therefore suitable for professional use in the home office or your demanding hobby.

The best NAS server for streaming

This NAS solution from Synology has two hard drive slots and is compatible with the popular manufacturers IronWolf, Western Digital and Toshiba. This model has 4 TB of storage and is available for a surcharge with up to 28 TB storage capacities. Internally, two hard drives with 16TB each install. Additional external hard drives connect through 2 USB ports.

With two slots, the device enables automatic data backups as well as data backup using RAID 1. It is also compatible with more complex programs such as Linux. Its 4 TB storage is well suited for multimedia streaming of all kinds – at home on the Smart TV, or they go on the tablet.

The system has a DiskStation Manager and an integrated media server, especially to support you in setting up and streaming multimedia content. The server also allows you to share your music or films with friends and family via the cloud or Bluetooth.

Editor’s rating: This NAS server is well suited for anyone who has many multimedia files, wants to stream on different devices and doesn’t want to spend so much money. It has a medium storage capacity but can transfer data at a comparatively high speed. Its memory is expandable and also compatible with software such as Linux. RAID 1 and automatic backups guarantee secure file management without manual effort.

The best basis for building your own NAS server

If you’d rather put your server together yourself, this Sharkoon case could be the one for you. As a so-called Mini-ITX, it is well suited for beginners and has 2 USB ports for expansion.

It is suitable for graphics cards up to a length of 31.5 cm and CPU coolers up to a height of 15 cm. All types of power supplies connect. A 120 mm fan is already installed, but others replace it. There is space for a 240 mm radiator, and dust filters are already installed.

This QB One housing contains an accessory set and, with a size of approx. 40 cm is space-saving and also suitable for on the go. Due to its basic equipment and accessory set, it is well suited for beginners in self-assembly.

Editor’s rating: If you have not yet found a suitable NAS system for your needs or if you have a little technology expert in you, this PC case is well worthwhile for your first self-build. Its room layout allows you flexible furnishing options, and basic components such as fans and dust filters are already included.

NAS server: purchase and evaluation criteria

In the following, The Tech Turn will show you which aspects can be used to differentiate NAS systems in order to make the best purchase decision for you. 

The criteria by which you can compare the NAS servers with one another include:

  • Intended use
  • Furnishing
  • Software
  • Expandability
  • Power consumption
  • Volume

In the following, putting together the most crucial criteria for buying a NAS system. They should help you figure out what your needs are and help you find the right NAS for you.

Intended use

NAS servers are available for a wide variety of requirements. Which system is right for you depends on many factors. Do you only want to expand your data storage at home slightly, or do you only need a data backup? Then a simple and inexpensive NAS server with only one hard drive slot is suitable for you.

Do you need a little more storage space because you like to stream music and movies? Then you should look for systems that have more storage capacity and performance. So you can play your data faster, share it with friends and family via the cloud and protect it from loss.

On the other hand, if you need a lot of memory and expansion options for your office or gaming sessions, you should be ready to spend more money. Larger servers with four or more hard disk slots and a CPU of at least 1.5 GHz can make data usable in several more complex programs at the same time and automatically back them up in real-time.

Furnishing

Once you have found out what your needs are, you can choose between various equipment options. These start with empty cases with space for only one hard disk and standard CPU performance and end with cases with ten or more integrated hard disk slots and maximum CPU / RAM performance.

From a size of 2 bays, your NAS has the RAID function, so it is protected against data loss.

You can tell from various names what a NAS server can do. For example, NAS 1 Bay stands for enclosures with one hard disk slot, NAS 2 Bay for those with two slots, etc. From a size of 2 Bay, NAS systems for file backup, the so-called RAID function, are compatible.

The more storage spaces, the higher the RAID value and the more data can be backed up in the event of loss without using up a lot of memory on the remaining hard drives. NAS servers are available with RAID 1 to RAID 10 and higher.

software

Depending on which software you use on your laptop or other devices, you should choose a different NAS server. Not every system is compatible with every software manufacturer. This applies to both the software on your devices and your hard drives.

If you already have hard drives at home and would like to integrate them into your NAS enclosure, you should make sure when buying whether your hard drives are compatible with the NAS server.

You should also know that many NAS server manufacturers design their products in such a way that you can only install hard drives from them or certain, most well-known manufacturers. If you want to remain free in your choice here, pay attention to devices that are free for all software manufacturers.

Expandability

As a rule, each NAS server has 2 USB slots and can therefore be expanded with only one bay, i.e. one hard drive slot, with external hard drives. Almost every NAS server can now also be used on the go. There are NAS enclosures with one slot for simple home use, as well as enclosures with over 15 or more slots and various USB slots for professional use.

NAS systems can be flexibly expanded.

If it is clear to you from the start that your NAS server does not have to serve more than a certain purpose or that your data volume will not increase, it is sufficient for you to buy systems that are no longer expandable.

However, if you are unsure about this or if you know exactly that even more data will be increased in the future, we recommend that you buy empty housing and gradually expand it with hard drives. So you do not have to spend a lot of money in one fell swoop.

Power consumption

For many technology users, it is not only equipment and performance that are decisive purchase criteria, but also power consumption. Do you want a powerful NAS server without spending a lot of money? Then it can be worthwhile to look out for energy-saving devices. If you want to use your system professionally or in the office, power consumption is an important purchase criterion.

As a rule, NAS servers nowadays have a low power consumption of up to 40 watts. If you are on the safe side, you can find out about different types of consumption on comparison sites such as Chip.de or Check24.

volume

Do you want to set up your NAS server near you, or do you need a large and powerful NAS system? Then it can be worthwhile to keep an eye out for quiet devices. If you want to use your system professionally, power consumption can be an important purchase criterion.

Through targeted searches on the Internet, you can find quiet servers from manufacturers such as Western Digital. However, NAS servers are generally quieter than classic servers. If you build your server yourself, you should make sure to install fans that are big enough for your requirements.

Dust filters should also be installed. If you have a particularly large NAS system, additional external fans or coolers can be helpful. You can get them for little money on Amazon, eBay or online electronic shops.

NAS Server: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

In the following, we want to answer the most important questions about NAS systems. What is a NAS server?

NAS servers, or network drives, are storage systems that are usually connected to your Internet router by cable and so can send and receive data to all of your computers via WiFi. NAS systems are mostly used as central storage locations for the home. They are available with various storage capacities and expansion options. Further differentiating criteria is the ability to synchronize multimedia applications, for example, to transfer pictures, videos or music, as well as the type and speed of data transfer.

Nowadays, almost any simple NAS system can send media files to your devices, whether you are at home or on the go. However, only certain NAS systems can decode more complex data and media and allow you to stream them directly on your mobile phone or notebook.

NAS servers are particularly suitable for home use if you want to connect multiple devices to a central storage location. 

The type and extent of the file backup is also an important property. From a size of 2 bays, i.e. two hard disk slots, every NAS system contains a data backup, in short: RAID function. The higher your RAID function, the more data can be backed up without losing a lot of memory.

However, you need more hard drives for high RAID functions, and you pay more accordingly. NAS servers are suitable for anyone who wants to expand their storage space at home and want to connect multiple devices to them. NAS enclosures are available for little money with 2 to 10 days or more.

In this way, you can retrofit performance at a later date if there is currently no claim or budget. Compared to cloud storage, NAS systems do not take up any storage space on your computer hard drive and only cost you one-time money when expanding. Cloud storage extensions usually cost monthly.

What types of NAS servers are there?

NAS systems differ based on various properties. Based on their storage capacity, based on the number of their drive bays and their expansion options. We have listed the main types of NAS for you below.

 

Art- NAS system without hard drives advantages- Cheaper because there are no hard drives. For small storage requirements or as a replacement. Storage is flexibly adaptable. NAS housing as a basis for self-construction.

disadvantage- Hard disk has to be bought

Art- Finished NAS systems 

advantages- Already have hard drives and can be expanded by one or more, depending on the price of Software support from the specified software manufacturer.

disadvantage- Good for beginners and if you don’t want to put anything together yourself. Restriction to specified manufacturer software

Art- with one bay: NAS 1 bay 

advantages- For back-ups. Alternative to cloud storage, e.g. for sensitive data. 

disadvantage- Risk of memory leak

Art- with more bays: NAS 2 bay – 15 bay 

advantages- The more slots a NAS system has, the more hard drives and thus storage capacity are possible. In addition, the RAID function is supported from a size of 3 bays. This protects your data from loss through parallel storage. 

disadvantage- The higher the data protection requirement, the more expensive it is

Art- A homemade NAS server

advantages- Can be flexibly adapted to your requirements. Big output possible even with little money. Hardware can be procured cheaply by reusing old PC components. Any software and housing manufacturer possible. 

disadvantage- High demands on know-how, since you have to take care of the software and the manufacturer yourself.

 

As you can see, there is a storage system on the market for every requirement. If you have special requirements that cannot be bought, we recommend building them yourself. There are all kinds of blogs and instructions on the Internet for this, as well as ready-made construction kits, including instructions from certain manufacturers. From mini-ITX servers to clever rack stations, there are guides for beginners as well as experts.

Nas vs Server: What are the advantages of a NAS server?

In contrast to normal servers, NAS servers are linked to a network. If a server is too much for you and a cloud solution or external hard drives too little, you should consider a NAS solution. Furthermore, NAS systems are cheaper storage options than cloud solutions if you need more storage space. Because cloud systems are usually associated with monthly costs when space is expanded.

NAS systems are comparatively easy to set up.

NAS systems are easier to set up compared to standard servers, as they are usually equipped with suitable operating programs that guide you as a user through the set-up and use process. Compared to normal file servers, they are more space-saving, quieter and use less power. If your NAS has a RAID system, your data is backed up.

If you want to keep safe yourself against data loss, make sure that your NAS server has at least two hard drives. Most standard NAS nowadays also perform regular data backups automatically and do not have to be set manually, as is the case with servers.

You can also access your NAS while on the go, which is not the case with servers. In addition, NAS systems are available for little money.

If you need space for complex website programs, special software or other special requirements and you have enough time and know-how, you should use the classic server. Otherwise, a NAS server is better for you.

What software do I need for my NAS server?

NAS systems are available for any software. Most systems are compatible with Windows or Mac. If you own Linux or other, more complex software, you should pay particular attention to this when buying it. Not every NAS manufacturer offers compatible systems here. Furthermore, not every NAS server is suitable for every hard drive manufacturer, and some NAS systems are only compatible with hard drives from their own manufacturer.

So if you have your own hard drives that you want to install or you want to be free in your expansion options, make sure you buy a system that is suitable for all types of hard drives.

What do NAS servers cost?

In the following, we want to share with you the different price ranges of NAS servers. With NAS, however, expensive doesn’t have to mean better. You can get powerful models even for small budgets.

Type- NAS self-made basis

Price range- approx. 50 to 250 euros

Type- NAS empty housing 

Price range- approx. 149 to 300 euros

Type- NAS case with CPU and RAM 

Price range- approx. 250 to 850 euros

Type- NAS 1 Bay – 4 Bay (for home)

Price range- approx. 250 to 2,900 euros

Type- NAS 5 Bay and more (Professional)

Price range-  approx. 600 to 6,500 euros

 

The more your NAS should be able to do, the more expensive it will be. Nevertheless, there are also powerful servers for comparatively little money.

What alternatives are there to a NAS server?

NAS systems are available with all conceivable performance features. From small RAM and Basic CPU to small supercomputers. If a NAS server is not worthwhile for you due to too little data or if you want to save costs, one of the alternatives mentioned above may be more suitable for you.

alternative- Cloud storage on the Internet.

description– It is worthwhile with smaller amounts of data and non-sensitive data. Additional monthly costs are incurred when expanding.

alternative- Rent NAS

description- Inexpensive for short-term needs, otherwise additional costs.

alternative- external hard drives

description- With smaller storage requirements, low-performance requirements such as saving images, data backup

alternative- Fritz Box with NAS functions

description- Many Fritz boxes with integrated NAS functions on the market. To do this, attach the hard drive to the Fritz Box. Access possible while on the move, e.g. by mobile phone, thanks to the app. Memory in some cases only up to 400 MB

alternative- Standard server

description- Suitable if the NAS system is not sufficient and suitable hardware is available

 

The alternatives mentioned above are not only suitable for less complex data, lower storage requirements or savers. Even with larger amounts of data or multimedia files, cloud services or Fritz boxes can be of great service. If, on the other hand, no system has promised you in our test so far or if you do not want a network unbound storage system, the good old server could be the right one for you.

Installation and DIY: How do I set up my NAS server?

The best way to set up your NAS system depends on the manufacturer and the components already included. As a rule, each scope of delivery includes instructions on how to assemble the supplied parts. There are numerous pieces of advice on the Internet on how to configure your particular NAS server best. If you haven’t just decided to build it yourself, every NAS system usually comes with a manufacturer-integrated user interface that guides you through the installation and setup.

How you configure and operate your server is usually explained to you by a user interface pre-installed by the manufacturer. If you’d rather get to work yourself, you can find instructions on how to build it yourself on the Internet. 

Manufacturers such as Synology or Western Digital even offer additional user interfaces that support you during use and explain how, for example, you can create a backup automatically or how you can manage your multimedia data. If you do not want to research such things yourself, we recommend that you pay attention to such additional programs when buying.

If there is nothing on the market for your needs or if you just prefer to go to work yourself, building it yourself can be worthwhile for you. You can find out how to best assemble your NAS server yourself in various instructions on the Internet. There are already simple instructions for beginners and practical PC cases with the most important basic components such as ventilation or dust filters.

{BEST ON OTHER GADGETS}

Where can I buy a NAS server?

  • NAS servers are available from every electronics retailer or specialist store, such as Media Markt or Saturn. There are also dozens of manufacturer websites or retailers on the Internet, such as Amazon, who provide you with all types of information about their products. Here is a list of the most popular online shops:amazon.de
  • ebay.de
  • notebooksbilliger.de
  • idealo.de
  • mediamarkt.de
  • saturn.de
  • expert.de

If you want to save some money, pages like Notebooksbilliger or Ideal can be suitable for you. If you want to build your NAS yourself, you can find cheap hardware, used or new, on eBay.

Conclusion

NAS servers are practical storage solutions when you need a central storage location for multiple devices. They are suitable if you need more memory, work in the home office, or need a professional solution for which a server would not yet be necessary.

A classic server is only worthwhile if you want to synchronize correspondingly complex programs with it, have a certain amount of know-how and have enough space and money for the purchase. NAS servers are available for every need – from a simple data backup to home storage with nine hard drives for more complex data, programs or website solutions.

The NAS market also offers comparatively powerful servers for little money and, compared to cloud services, NAS servers are more cost-effective when it comes to storage expansion.

NAS systems are usually equipped with suitable user interfaces that guide you through setup and operation. So you can save and manage data professionally even without much technical knowledge. Furthermore, NAS servers are compatible with common software programs and can also be used on the go, thanks to integrated apps.

So if you are seeking a high-performance, expandable and cost-effective storage option for your data or multimedia streaming, a NAS server may be just the thing for you.

Visit The Tech Turn.

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