What is Network Attached Storage (NAS)?

When you start creating content alone or just a freelancer and want to back up the data.  The simplest solution is to use an external hard drive.  It comes in many different shapes and sizes. They are typically fast, affordable, and very convenient for storing and backing up your data. An HDD directly connects to your computer via USB.

For redundancy, you may use two drives, so that if one is lost you have a backup of your work. But what happens when your work keeps growing and you also adding more professionals to your team?

At this stage, the backup needs multiple discs, but sharing the data with each other is not so easy now. With a Network Attached Storage (NAS), you can get the solution for redundancy, security, and data sharing.  You can think of NAS as your personal cloud, where you need to pay initially for a server and later if you want to scaleup, just need to invest buying more drives.

What is Network Attached Storage(NAS)
What is Network Attached Storage(NAS)

In this tutorial, we will describe what is NAS server, its advantages,  disadvantages, and other technical stuff in simple terms.

What is a NAS Server?

The NAS works on a client-server model. Where centralized storage is a server and the computer or any other device that access data is a client.  You can imagine a NAS like a bunch of connected hard drives with the operating system and ethernet cards. So it is like a computer, not just storage.

NAS Server
NAS Server with multiple HDD slots

The server comes with support for different RAID configurations for backup and uninterrupted work. You can add, remove, or change a hard drive at any time.

There are multiple devices in it, you can set up multiple RAID configurations as per your requirements. A RAID basically links hard drives together, they can work faster by writing together on multiple drives or can mirror the data. Eventually, you can have two copies of the same data at any given time.

What are backup and redundancy? The backup means, same data at two or more places.  Looks like it is redundancy, but not exactly.   A real redundancy is when the backup data and actual data are at two or more distant locations.  So that in case of a natural disaster, you have your data securely.

Advantages of NAS over using external Hard Disks (HDD)?

Accessibility – With a hard disk, the sharing of your work among multiple computing devices is more complex.  Once finish work on your laptop and maybe on a home computer, you have to unplug from one computer and plug into another computer for data sharing. While NAS is accessible from different computers over the network.

Redundancy – The external hard drive can be lost dropped or stolen ultimate your data is vulnerable. Can not recover data if the hard drive stops working. If the drive fails you will lose your data.  If we talk about NAS, it creates redundancy using multiple hard drives,  data is much safer, even if there is a single failure.

Data sharing is much easier with NAS. Suppose you get multiple devices in your office, desktop, laptops maybe you also have a gaming system, a security camera for office safety all the time. You may want to store all your data in one central place and accessible from anywhere that is connected to the network, with NAS it is possible.

Scalability – NAS is scalable, suppose you have bought a NAS server, with six drive capacity, but maybe you start with only two hard drives and add more later.

Up Time – With NAS the drive is still available after you switch off your laptop. While with an external HDD, you need to have a connected and running PC.

Remote Access – You can also access a NAS server from a remote, but not the hard drive. If you have left the office, getting a file from some other location is a big hassle.  With Network Attached Storage, you can access a file with a web client after login with an active Internet connection. Or you can connect to the VPN and access the server

 Cross-platform access- For  – With NAS it is easy to collaborate work with different computing platforms, e.g Windows PC and a MacBook.  If an HDD is formatted with the MAC is difficult to access from a PC or vice versa. The advantage with this is, no matter what device is accessing data everybody can collarbone on it.

Alerts – When any drive starts being faulty, the server starts giving an indication. So that you can replace the faulty drive with a newer one. While with HDD, if there is a problem, you can not know before it stops working.

Advantages of using hard disks over a NAS:

Initial Cost – When someone is starting a job or business.  The initial setup cost matters a lot.  With obvious a NAS server needs much more initial cost as compared to using HDD.  It requires to buy at least two hard disks and a server.  For beginners, the HDD is a better option.

Technical Competency –   Mostly a content developer does not belong to a technical background.  Using an HDD is easier you just need to plug in and plug out. While setting up a NAS server is a little tedious task.  The vendors provide a user manual along with the server, but still, there are technical terms involved.

Access Speed –  The major disadvantage of using Network Attached Storage. The speed is limited by the speed of network cables, routers, switches, etc.  Even if they are at the best speed, still a drive connected to a PC is much faster.  When someone connects the server remotely, speed becomes poorer.

How to configure a NAS server?

The exact configuration depends on the vendor. For example, you can look at the video by Synology, at the end of this section.  But here are a few general steps.

  • Install the Operating system.
  • Add The hard drives.
  • Create a user name and password for the server.
  • Configure the ethernet cards with the IPs in the range of LAN
  • Create Disk space after formatting.
  • Try to connect storage from a PC.

How to access NAS from a computer?

There could be various ways. It may be using a specific client or just by mapping the network storage using the mapped drive to  Windows.  In all, the access will be via the IP network using an IP address.