Your files are important, and so is accessing them from your network and the web. There’s no better way to keep that access intact than with a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. Here are the best.
The selections below have been chosen specifically for home office users: those who have quite a bit of digital detritus they need to move around quickly, and occasionally access from the web. That being the case, our primary and upgrade picks are both from Synology, which stands above the pack thanks to its rock-solid hardware and industry-leading suite of apps that are hosted on the devices and accessible from remote PCs and mobile devices. We’ve also included a pick for those who stream media on a regular basis, either around their own home entertainment centers or to friends and family on the web via PLEX. Check them out below.
It’s important to note, none of our selections here (or NAS units in general) include the drives you need to actually host files. It’s up to you to decide how much storage you need and to fill the bays appropriately.
The Best Basic NAS: Synology DiskStation DS218j ($170)
With two full-sized 3.5-inch bays and support for up to 24 terabytes of storage between them, Synology’s DS218j entry model should be more than enough for most users. The enclosure uses a dual-core 1.3GHz processor and 512MB of local RAM in order to efficiently read and write across the network, and a single gigabit Ethernet port will keep things speedy.
The DS218 design isn’t new, but the upgraded J variant adds USB 3.0 ports on the back for easy expansion. Most importantly, the NAS includes free access to Synology’s impressive suite of cloud connection apps, allowing you and other users to access storage, sync files, and stream audio, video, and photos as fast as your network connection will allow. In addition to a low price—only about $20 more expensive than budget dual-bay hard drive enclosures—this smaller NAS is easy on your power bill. It sips electricity like a fancy-pants bar patron who accidentally ordered a Jack and Coke but is too embarrassed to send it back.
This model lacks some advanced features like built-in media transcoding, super-fast read and write times, and hot-swappable drives, but for a user who simply needs a lot of storage that’s easy to get to from anywhere, it’s an excellent and economical choice.
The Best Premium NAS: Synology DiskStation DS1517 ($560)
If your specific business needs a massive amount of always-on storage and super-fast access to it, Synology’s mid-range DiskStation DS1517 is the upgrade you’re looking for. In addition to three extra drive bays versus the DS218j above, the bays are hot-swappable, so you can remove and insert new drives without restarting the machine. With a maximum of 10TB in each bay, this enclosure can handle up to 60TB of data all on its own, with up to ten more drives via Synology expansion units bringing the maximum total space up to an amazing 180TB.
You can access all that storage at up to 436 megabytes per second thanks to a beefy quad-core 1.7GHz processor and 2GB of built-in RAM, and the enclosure supports a variety of RAID setups and network layouts with four (count ’em, four!) gigabit Ethernet ports. Like the more consumer-oriented model above, the DS1517 supports all of Synology’s local and cloud software, with added capability for local security camera footage recording.
At $540 this is a significant investment, and we don’t think the extra RAM capacity and M.2 drive support on the $700 DS1517+ model will be necessary for anyone using a NAS enclosure in a home office environment—which puts the base model DS1517 solidly at the top of our list as the best premium NAS for home users.
The Best NAS For Media Streaming: QNAP TS-451+ ($451)
Those who want a NAS custom-made for serving up HD video on the local network or over the popular PLEX platform should check out this model from QNAP. While it doesn’t have the same branded software support as the Synology picks, its Intel Celeron quad-core processor and 2GB of memory (user expandable to 8GB with laptop DDR3 modules) is much better at on-the-fly streaming and transcoding.
The package supports four hot-swappable drives with a maximum of 48TB of storage, with expansion options via USB 3.0. Dual Ethernet ports connect to your local network, but the real highlight is a built-in HDMI port that can host up videos directly from the NAS itself, with control provided by the included infrared remote. Slap this NAS in your entertainment center and plug it into the network, and you’re ready to watch a thousand hours of local video and host it throughout your home or the web at the same time. It even includes a Bluetooth connection for easy local audio playback. Thanks to the media-centric features and lower price, it’s a better choice for PLEX addicts than the comparable Synology models.