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What is a NAS (Network Attached Storage Device)?

Is a NAS the Best Solution for Storing Your Media Files?

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Boxes of NAS devices

Stora by Netgear, GoFlex Home by Seagate, My Book Live by Western Digital and LG's N1T1.

Photo (c) Barb Gonzalez - Licensed to About.com
Netgear's Stora NAS

Stora NAS box by Netgear

Photo (c) NETGEAR
Stora Remote Access

Stora gives you access to your files from a web browser even when you are away from home.

Photo (c) Barb Gonzalez - Licensed to About.com

NAS stands for Network Attached Storage.  Most manufacturers of network devices—routers, hard drives, as well as some home theater manufacturers, offer a NAS unit. 

As the name implies, the NAS unit is connected to your home network and you save files to it.  Typically, a NAS box will have at least a 1 TB hard drive to store the files.  

The popularity of NAS units has increased as the need to store and access large media file libraries has grown. We want to stream media over our home networks to network media players, network TVs, network-enabled Blu-ray Disc players, and to other computers in our home.

The NAS acts as a media “server,” making it easy for your home network connected computers and network media players to access your media files. Because it is a “server,” it is easier for network media players to access the files directly. Many NAS units can also be accessed by a web browser when you are away from home; you can view photos and movies and listen to the music that are saved on the NAS by going to a personal web page. 

Many NAS units require that you load software onto your computer.  The software may be needed for your computer to connect to the NAS, and often makes it easier to upload files from your computer to the NAS device.  Most software includes a feature that automatically backs up your computer or specific files to the NAS device. 

If you want to know more about NAS devices, About.com Guide, Bradley Mitchell has written a more technical explanation.

The Benefits of Saving Your Media Libraries on a NAS Device

  • You don’t have to leave your computer turned on for your network media player to access your movies, photos or music.  
  • You can add to your media library without using up all the memory on your computer’s hard drive—1 TB drive can store up to 120 movies, 250,000 songs or 200,000 photos or any combination of files. 
  • Save photos and media files from all the computers to one central storage place.  Access the files from everyone in your household that saves to the NAS (if they give you permission) even if they have left home with their laptop. 
  • Many NAS devices allow remote access of your media files.  When you are away from home you can play your stored media on any device that has an internet browser -- laptop, ipad or smartphone. 
  • Back up your computer to the NAS, or back up your important files in case your computer fails—manually or automatically back up. Note that LG's NAS devices include either a DVD or Blu-ray Disc burner for further backup and file safekeeping.

Reasons for Not Choosing a NAS Device

  • NAS devices cost more than an external hard drive with the same amount of storage.
  • If you use Windows Home Server, you can access all of your PCs and hard drives remotely. 
     
  • Older NAS devices have problems connecting to computers and may not be DLNA certified.  They may not be visible to the network media player.

As you can see, the benefits of a NAS device outweighs its disadvantages.  If it's in your budget, a NAS device is a good solution for storing your media libraries.

For more on NAS Devices, check out our additional report: What to Look For When Shopping For a NAS (Network Attached Storage) Device.

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