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What is a NAS and what can you do with it?

A Network Attached Storage (NAS) server is a device that only provides data storage to other devices connected to the same network. Think of a NAS as a computer that only provides storage space for files and doesn’t do anything else, like have a web browser, word processor, or email. A NAS server is ideal if you lack hard drive space and want to store files on a device that is accessible to multiple computers on the same network. In a sense, they are like external hard drives that instead of plugging into your computer via a USB cable, you access over a network connection, and are available to anyone on the same network.

NAS servers are ideal for using in a RAID set-up. RAID is a data duplication standard that uses multiple hard drives to securely store information. In a RAID configuration if one hard drive fails no data is lost because it is duplicated. NAS servers that are meant for a RAID configuration usually make it very easy to install and swap hard drives. Often times they will slide in and out without the need for a screwdriver or any other tools.

There is a NAS that will work with most types of computers. Most will work with Windows and Macs, and many have special software or a web interface made specially for them. Apple makes their own of series of NAS servers called AirPort. Currently, the company offers three types: the AirPort express, which is meant for streaming music, the AirPort Extreme, which is a regular NAS, and the AirPort Time Capsule, which is meant for wirelessly backing up files. Apple includes special software to use with all of them for easy set-up and configuration. Also, a printer can be plugged into any of the 3 types of AirPort NAS servers so it is accessible to any device on the same network. Some of the most popular brands of NAS servers include companies like Synology, Asustor, LaCie, and QNAP. High-end NAS servers can hold up to five hard drives, and sometimes even more. With 4 terabyte hard drives, you could get 20 terabytes of additional storage space.

When buying a NAS, you have to be careful that is has all of the features you want. For example, Apple’s cheapest AirPort, the AirPort Express Base Station, only supports music and printers, and is essentially a device to store music on and stream wirelessly to devices. Also, some NAS servers only support certain file formats, so don’t just assume every type of file will work.

High-end NAS servers can be expensive and don’t necessarily include hard drives for storage. They are often ideal for a small businesses or a home with multiple people in it who each have their own devices and want to back up to the same NAS server. If you are want to free up a USB port or want an easy way to save files in a RAID configuration, check out a NAS server. They are more expensive that external hard drives but provide easy access to multiple devices on a network and often times can handle many hard drives for a large amount of space.


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