Buying the best NAS device for your needs doesn't need to be complicated and confusing, and in this guide we'll show you the very best network attached storage devices money can buy, as well as detail everything you need to consider when looking to buy a new NAS device.
But first, we need to explain what a NAS is. The best NAS devices are network attached storage – these devices are basically external hard drives that connect to your network, rather than your PC. This lets you access the NAS through basically any device you feel like. The best NAS setups will also allow you remote access, so you can access your files from the other side of the globe if you feel so inclined.
The best NAS devices will also be platform-agnostic, so you can access them from every device, regardless of OS. So, now you don’t have an excuse – read on to find the best NAS devices for both the home and office. If you’re looking to increase the storage capacity of your NAS, you can check out our list of the best hard drives.
When buying the best NAS device for your needs, you need to consider a few things. First of all is storage space. Many of the best NAS devices on this page come with hard drives already installed. This makes getting them up and running quick and easy, but you'll need to think carefully about how much space you need. Remember you'll want enough space to hold all of your important files, and sometimes even duplicates.
There are some NAS devices that come without hard drives, which you'll need to buy yourself. This gives you a bit more flexibility when it comes to the size – and speed – of the NAS device, and if you shop around you could save yourself some money.
You should also consider backup and data redundancy measures for the NAS drive. Some of the best NAS drives can hold multiple hard drives. These can be used to mirror the data held on each drive, which means if one drive fails, you've not lost your data. The best NAS drives will also allow you to easily backup the data onto an external hard drive for extra protection.
WD has achieved quite considerable success with its unashamedly consumer-friendly My Cloud products, which can stream to any DLNA-compliant device and can be accessed via mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Labeled as a 'personal cloud,' it's a NAS box by any other measure and starts at 2TB of storage (you can also get it in 3 or 4TB). As it's a one-bay unit, it can't back itself up to a drive inside the unit, but it can back up to an external hard drive via a USB port on the back.
- Read our full WD My Cloud Personal review
Picking up on the 'personal cloud' theme, this unit from Seagate takes its lead from My Cloud, but it offers far larger capacities, along with dual bays for two hard drives. This allows the Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay NAS device to mirror the files on one hard drive to a second one, giving you protection in case one of those drives fails.
We also like the no-fuss appearance of this unit, meaning it can sit nicely under a router or on a shelf. It works with cloud accounts, including Dropbox and Google Drive, and you can also use an app to share content to streamers, including Chromecast and Roku.
The QNAP TS-251A is a fantastic NAS device that has more features than you can shake a stick – or the included remote control – at. It offers dual Ethernet ports, a HDMI out for connecting it up to a TV and respectable hardware including a dual-core 1.6GHz Intel Celeron CPU and 4GB of RAM for hardware transcoding media files.
The QTS OS lets you easily install a variety of apps, from Plex Media Server, file sharing apps and even a karaoke app, as well as run Ubuntu Linux for even more flexibility.
In short – this is a fantastic NAS device, though you'll need to buy the hard drives separately, so factor that in to the overall cost.
This 2TB dual-bay NAS (it's also available in 4, 6, and 8TB capacities) comes from Buffalo, the company that also makes the TeraStation line of advanced NAS units.
The key selling point of this model is that it can integrate directly with BitTorrent, meaning it can download stuff for you even when your PC is turned off. Like many of the other devices here, you can also stream to it via various devices, it's platform agnostic and you can use it as an iTunes server.
- This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay
Once in a while, a product comes around that challenges the conventions of their product category. The DS1817 is one such product. Most NAS devices that occupy the ‘value’ space tend to be underpowered and have little to no room for expansion. The DS1817 flies in the face of those conventions, and allows users to fill the included eight drive bays with whatever they choose, so that you can get as much (or as little) storage as you’d like. Plus, on top of this heaping expandability, the 10GbE LAN and Quad-Core CPU mean that you’ll never be left wanting for performance.
Read the full review: Synology DiskStation DS181
This two-bay unit can create a mirrored backup of your stuff (duplicating your data on both drives), using RAID configuration. That's quite an advanced feature for a consumer box and you do pay quite a lot for that capability and WD's user-friendly presentation, including an easy-to-master, browser-based control screen.
This is a 4TB unit (6, 8, and 16TB units are also available). For extra peace of mind, you can also back the contents up to Dropbox.
Anyone looking at purely technical aspects will instantly fall in love with the Synology DiskStation DS1517. Thanks to its quad-core CPU and up to 8GB of RAM, this NAS can reach sequential speeds of 111.4 MB/s write and 110.3 MB/s read without even breaking a sweat. When you combine that raw performance with the DS1517’s expandability, you have a recipe for a NAS that can stack up against the best NAS devices on the market. However, be aware that the DS1517 isn’t cheap, and unless you’re a creative professional, or you’re looking for a NAS for a small business, it might be overkill.
Read the full review: Synology DiskStation DS1517
As well as the RAID capabilities found in more expensive and complex NAS devices, this box is meant for small business use and supports Microsoft Active Directory. It can also act as a file server, FTP server, backup server and P2P download server.
WD's EX series are also available in diskless variants, though this price is for the 4TB version. 8TB, 12TB and 16TB are also available. If you don't need any of this extra stuff, then get the My Cloud Mirror.
If you're looking for a NAS device to help manage your backup needs, the DL4100 might be worth. taking a look at.
One of the coolest features of this device is its web dashboard that offers users options for backing up to cloud services such as Dropbox and Box. Additionally, we really liked the ability to set up SMS and email alerts in case the system failed for whatever reason.
As far as storage options are concerned, the DL4100 comes with four drive bays in your choice of four configurations. Aside from some annoying issues with wireless transfers, we found that the DL4100's 1.7GHz dual-core Atom processor and 2GB of RAM (configurable up to 6GB) performed admirably. Combine this with an easy setup and cloud connected web apps, and you have an interesting backup offering on your hands.
- This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra
- Read our full Western Digital DL4100 review