Working through an article produced by the WireCutter that compared 13 two-bay network-attached storage (NAS) devices, where they concluded that the QNAP TS-251 was over all the best choice as a NAS. The findings present that for the modern home at least, selecting a NAS only for backup and file management is really short changing its full potential. If your outlaying that kind of expenditure you may as well look at the other things the new breed of smart NAS can do and make certain you make the best choice for your circumstances.
What is important for home users
The article presented a series of comparisons that were based on a typical real life use of a NAS in the home and began by explaining:
- Ease of set up and operation
- The number of free apps to install/download
- Ability to synchronize the files in external cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud with the NAS at home so there is always two copies of your information (which is a wise choice )
- The benefits of a NAS over that of using a simple USB connected drive (often called a DAS or Direct Access storage) device.
- The benefits of a NAS over that of using an old PC you have handing around the house and connecting it up as shared storage. (e.g. A PC produces extra noise, heat, requires management for software updates, reboots, backup of the backup, sync, setting up remote connections, and above all else its designed as a desktop device, so everything you decide to add will not be a few clicks to add, it will be a few hours of searching, technical setup and debugging)
- Storage protection (RAID) backup and redundancy capabilities
- The new breed of #smartNAS devices (QNAP/Synology) handle high resolution better, include on-the-fly-transcoding and (at present) the QNAP is a little ahead of the game with some models supporting 4K .
- The devices to be tested would need to support computer backups via Windows’s File History or system image tools, Time Machine, and rsync; music streaming via DLNA and iTunes; VPN and FTP access; and cloud backup. We also looked for NAS devices with good mobile apps and remote access (via port forwarding or a cloud service). Compatibility with popular third-party apps such as BitTorrent, CrashPlan, and Plex Media Server was a bonus.
- Nice-to-have features included email servers, website hosting, and video surveillance; folder or hardware-level encryption; the capability to use a USB Wi-Fi dongle; USB support for an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), printers, and other devices; solid-state drive support; and SSL certificate uploading for extra security.
The comparisons of devices were based on:
- Ease of set up and use
- Specifications of CPU, max size of memory
- Performance as a NAS
- Performance as a media server
- Ability to recover from disk failure
- Power consumption and noise
- Support and waranty
- Available ports, USB, HDMI and facilities for 1 touch backup, remote control
- Ease of use of the NAS software interface
One important aspect of both devices is software updates. The underlying Linux operating system lends itself to be easy and safe to upgrade auto-magically. So you purchase a NAS today, and in 3 years you still running the latest version of the NAS operatng software.
PLUS: As seen above when there are new versions of the software applications, you also receive the notice to update them.
MUST I upgrade?
No, its not mandatory, but as a user of NAS for over 10 years, the updating process is pretty well tested nowadays, and its more likely that you will get problems if you DONT keep your NAS updated than if you do.
Both devices provide an integrated Applications store interface to install free software.
For those who are familiar with Apples and Googles Application store the operations will be straight forward. What is important to note is that these applications have been tested by Synology/QNAP and work with all models of their devices (all models is important if you ever need to upgrade).
Secondly it means that when the software or the NAS and it's firmware is updated, it is retested by the manufacturer with all these software products to ensure continued operation. Plus anything that is missed is also picked up by the user communities (because ever customer uses the same products) and fixed promptly.
So if our not technically inclined, or just don't have the time to become the household technician, then using the products from the NAS application store is an easier solution.
NAS Technical services providers
For those who want to exploit all the features of the NAS but are not technically inclined, purchasing a NAS from an re seller e.g. http://smikbox.com and not from an online store or eBay, you might pay a few hundred dollars more, but the box arrives all set up with software configured.
Comments from readers of the post
In the blog comments below a number of people voiced their frustrations with both QNAP and Synology. In some cases reading between the lines it is possible that some of the frustrations could be as a result of bypassing the standard Linux tools provided with the NAS to install new software components.
These NAS devices are fully functional Linux servers and if you wish to bypass the graphical user interface and install using shell commands, you can. But,if you do this you must also be prepared to fix up anything that you accidentally undo in the process.
Personally I would not attempt this on my main NAS, and when I have added additional packages in the past I have always used a spare (test) NAS to check the steps first. When I can see it working on the test NAS and allowed that TEST NAS to go through at least one major software upgrade, then I would be confident enough to repeat these steps on my Main NAS device.
Considering buying a smartNAS?
As an after though I think the other important consideration is the NAS suitability for future upgrades.
Why? Firstly, many people are price conscious when buying a NAS and tend to scale down their needs to fit into a perceived budget. Consequently people often buy slightly under-powered units and eventually need to upgrade.
The upgrade options could be:
- Swap over for larger discs (Can be time consuming and you don't improve memory or CPU power)
- Add an external extension storage device (QNAP is slightly more scope in their range, but you still don't get more power)
As a consequence its more frequent for people to just get another more powerful unit because:
- The disk drive technology improves all the time and gets larger faster
- Since 2012 we have moved from 1080 to 1080p to 4K video standards with an average file size of 500MB, then 2GB and now 100GB for 4K movies.
- In 2012 the retail stores sold 2TB as the top end external storage device, and the larger Western Digital/Seagate drives were 3TB. These you can purchase 12TB drives for the equivalent price
- People realize they also need a faster process and more memory to handle 1080p + 4K video + transcoding + home automation and virtualization (more about their use in the home, see my blogs)
- Download speeds from internet have improved, but people still prefer to download and re-use files. As a consequence faster internet only increases the amount of local storage needed in your NAS
The good news is getting another larger NAS is OK. Nothing is ever wasted with NAS devices, you can always add some larger disks to the older NAS and use it as secondary backup for your newer/faster unit.
NAS devices have a feature called wake up on LAN, so when the NAs is needed for backup it will turn itself on and off when backup complete.
In this was the NAS before won't use much power and the equipment will last longer. Perfect !
Question: So if your requirements are likely to change and you would potentially get a larger, does that effect your choices now?
Answer : Definitely Yes.
This is where the QNAP excels. Firstly, QNAP already produces a wide range of larger NAS devices with greater capacity and performance capabilities. They tend to be faster and have more memory (which is very important). So when you upgrade getting another QNAP device makes backup, synchronization, remote access, network performance all run much smoother, and linking two QNAP devices together is much easier.