NAS: Family Data Storage

The meaning of the acronym NAS (Network-Attached Storage) aptly indicates the purpose of this universal and very useful device. Simply put, the NAS acts as a home file server, but unlike a universal server, it is optimized for functionality and power consumption. Centralized storage, which is also used in corporate environments, has many benefits for home users. Family members can use it to store both documents and multimedia files. For documents and files of the personal agenda, or the agenda of a family company, the NAS is a supplement or backup solution rather than an alternative to storage spaces that are part of cloud services. In contrast, storing large multimedia files of high definition video or music in lossless formats in high quality is a disproportionately cheaper way to save to a NAS. In addition, when playing on computers, tablets, smartphones, TVs or music streaming devices, large amounts of data are only transferred within the local home network and do not burden the Internet connection.

Disadvantages of local disks and cloud storage

A few years ago, laptops began using semiconductor disks, which are much faster than mechanical disks, but also significantly more expensive with the same capacity. At the time of writing, the typical capacity of SSDs in mid-priced notebooks is 256-512 GB. Of course, the price of semiconductor disks is falling and models with a capacity of 1 TB are starting to appear in this category as well. Such capacity is sufficient for storing documents, agendas, photographs, or even for the supply of several films and parts of the audio library “on the road”. However, this is not enough to store a collection of movies, music, and home videos in 4K or higher resolution, not to mention that only a computer user has access to the files. In order for the stored content to be available, it would have to be in shared folders and the laptop would still have to be turned on and connected.

Every better smartphone and, of course, SLRs, SLRs and system compacts can handle 4K video recording. However, smartphones, cameras and 8K TVs are already on the market. Vacation shots in 4K resolution take several tens of gigabytes. Amateur photographers who shoot in RAW format, where each shot is at least 30 MB, also need a large storage capacity. To illustrate, in the SLR and system compact that I use to shoot video, I have 256 GB memory cards, and the sum of their capacity is the same as that of the SSD in my laptop. Multiple storage of the same multimedia files is also a problem. The video from the last holiday will be watched in a family circle on a 4K TV in the living room, but one of the juniors will want to show some parts of it to a friend on a smartphone, tablet or laptop in the dormitory, grandparents living hundreds of kilometers and maybe someone from a family living on another continent. Not everything can be put on YouTube or other themed or universal cloud spaces, so there is the problem of how to store and share files as efficiently as possible.

Cloud services such as OneDrive, iCloud, GoogleDrive, Box, Dropbox and many others have many advantages, but two disadvantages. Limited free storage capacity and dependence on high-speed internet. The fact that your files are managed by someone else is an advantage at first glance in this case, because the cloud service provider has qualified employees and has solved backup and security. You can expand the capacity, but you pay around 100 euros a year for 1 TB, while terabyte is woefully small in the age of full HD movies and the coming era of 4K multimedia content. The trend of high-definition music reproduction is also beginning to prevail, with the file size of a single album often reaching 1 GB or more.

By comparison, a 6 TB drive, designed for continuous operation on NAS servers, which currently represents the best capacity / price ratio, costs 150 euros, so the price per terabyte is 25 euros. If you also consider redundant backup, you need two disks and a terabyte will cost you 50 euros, for the entire life of the disks, which is at least 5 years for disks in the NAS.

Secure, high-capacity storage in your home

The indicated disadvantages of local disks and cloud services are solved by NAS network storage. Most products not only offer shared and secure storage, but their operating systems provide a variety of sophisticated services related to managing multimedia files or personal agenda. Devices of this type have a powerful multi-core processor, which ensures not only high speed and smoothness of data transfer or video streaming, but also the operation of the mentioned services for multiple users simultaneously. The NAS allows you to have complete control over your documents and multimedia files, and at the same time they are available to you and the people you designate at any time, no matter where they are. For example, in a hotel on another continent, you can watch a video stored on the NAS in your home and vice versa, save holiday footage or the finished cut video to your home NAS, making it available to other family members and, most importantly, safely backing it up.

Although NAS devices are connected to the Internet, the video stream from the home cloud only goes through the local router, so it does not burden the Internet connection. Also, the upload of files from the computer to the storage device only goes through the local network, so any low upload speed with an ADSL connection will not apply. Of course, with remote access, when you download files from a NAS or personal cloud or play a multimedia file, from the point of view of the device providing the content, it is an upload, so there will be a possible speed limit.

Easy to configure and use

Although a single-bay NAS is enough to store multimedia files, we also recommend dual-bay and multi-bay devices for home use. The reason is scalability, security and, paradoxically, price. A multi-bay NAS is also more advantageous because the price of disks grows steeper, not linearly, depending on capacity. For example, a disk with a capacity of 8 TB costs 230 euros, for a disk with a capacity of 16 TB you pay 650 euros.

You have two options when choosing a NAS. Either you buy a device equipped with disks, or just a NAS with empty shafts and you buy disks separately. The advantage of the second method is that you can purchase disks incrementally to expand the capacity of your home storage solution as needed. Assembling the discs is simple, you can usually do without any tools, so everyone can handle it. However, attention should be paid to the selection of disks in terms of type as well as capacity. You definitely need models designed for continuous operation. It is also easy to install the operating system, where you just follow the instructions of the configuration wizard. The key phase is setting parameters and privileges for both local and remote access.

Multi-disk NASs are essential for freelancers such as photographers, graphic designers and designers. They need high reliability, so they will store data redundantly on multiple disks so that they do not lose their data in the event of a failure. You need to think about what backup capacity and level you need, and also consider the possibility of expansion. Suppose you have a dual-bay NAS and one disk with a capacity of 8 TB. If you want to have data saved with the possibility of disaster recovery of any of the disks, you need to install another 8 TB disk. If you want to use the capacity of both disks, for example to store multimedia, you configure the disk volume without redundancy, so you can use the capacity of 16 TB. Although the data will not be stored redundantly, the reliability of disks for NAS is much higher than for disks for laptops. Most home NAS devices have USB ports to which you can connect an external drive. Once disconnected, you can easily access the data stored on it from any computer.

In most cases, when you configure it, you divide the storage space into the folders that will make up the private and public zones, and you define access rules for which folders are accessible to which users. You can also set up automatic backups of all or selected computers, but you need to install an application that performs the backup. You then map the shared folders so that they are available from applications such as Windows Explorer or Mac OS Finder. You can also access the folders through the web portal. With renowned NAS brands such as Synology, WD or QNAP, shared folders labeled Video, Photo and Audio will be created by default and will be automatically accessible from modern TVs connected to the Internet. Most modern TVs automatically recognize the storage device connected to your home network and can easily play multimedia files, including 4K videos. Some NAS supports real-time streaming video transcoding. In practice, this means that if you have 4K video stored on the disc and watch it on a 4K TV, it will be streamed in native resolution. However, if you watch the video on a device with a lower display resolution, such as a tablet with a full HD display, it will be transcoded and streamed in 1080p in real time. So you can save videos in the highest resolution and stream them regardless of the playback capabilities of the terminal or the limitation of the Internet connection.

Resumé

Home users as well as amateur photographers will appreciate the secure storage of files and the ability to share them securely. Experience shows that anyone who tries the possibilities of NAS will not do without it, even though he did not know before that he needed such a device with access from anywhere and the possibility of sharing for family members or company employees and wanted to buy an external drive. NAS is the most convenient solution not only for storing multimedia entertainment files. More and more homes and apartments are equipped with monitoring security cameras as part of the smart home concept, and the NAS is also the most advantageous solution for storing records from these devices.

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Source: Nextech by www.nextech.sk.

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