NAS stands for network-attached storage and provides a connection to a network, allowing you to link multiple computers and share data easily. They have great practicalities in the workplace thanks to their simplicity and functionality. However, a NAS isn’t the only type of device that can achieve some of what it does. It is possible to use a standard internet router. Using the USB ports on the router, you can plug in external hard drives and store your data on that. Users would then be able to connect to the router and then to the files. But is this advisable? Would using NAS be better?
The number one thing that stands out from using a router and an external hard drive is the limited speed. You will be limited by the USB connection from the hard drive. Using a NAS will offer superior speeds that just won’t be reachable with a router. This isn’t a problem if you’re sharing relatively small files, but if you want to do something like stream high definition content then you’ll definitely want the speeds offered from a NAS. A router would be best used for backing up every once in a while (but consider the fact you’ll probably want to be doing it as often as possible) and sharing small files.
However, in saying that, recently there have been routers on the market that have USB 3.0 ports over the current 2.0 ports. This is a standard that implements a 5 GBit/s transfer rate, which would be ample for high file sizes. You may be paying a higher price tag to make use of the USB 3.0 technology, so make sure you get the best bang for your buck. It could be that buying a NAS would be cheaper and would give you similar speeds.
It’s worth noting that the majority of NAS devices come with USB ports which will allow you to connect external drives for backup or further storage. So if storage is a concern then you need not worry with a NAS since it is expandable and is only limited by the size of the drives you attach.
A router and an external hard drive may be useful if you want to unplug the drive at any time and connect it to a computer not on the network. Usually with a NAS you can’t remove the disk and plug it in elsewhere, but with the router set up you’ll be using external hard drives which are designed to do exactly that. Also, with a NAS you often can’t use a disk with any existing data on it.
The two options are there: you can use a router and external hard drive combo or you can just use a NAS device. The latter would probably be the best choice due to the speeds it offers you and the ease of management. However, the former is an entirely acceptable approach; perhaps one to consider if you won’t be transferring big files regularly and already have a router and drives spare.
Using a router and an external hard drive instead of a NAS
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