Network-attached storage provides a dedicated and centralized repository for all of your digital files. Home users with multiple computers in the household can take advantage of such a device to synchronize their personal files, while large businesses and corporations rely on NAS servers to distribute shared files throughout their workforce.
The most important feature of any NAS is the amount of available storage space it has to offer. Because the NAS is meant to store all of your files, you'll need to make sure you have an adequate amount of hard drive space. Typical consumer NAS devices might have as much as 12 terabytes of storage space, where NAS servers meant for commercial, business or industrial use may have even more. The best aspect of NAS devices is the fact that they are highly configurable, which lets you set the exact amount of free space simply by adding or removing hard drives.
Redundant storage is another key feature of any NAS. The use of multiple hard drives allows you to easily backup and restore files, which ultimately maintains the integrity and performance of your stored data. The exact level of RAID used in your NAS will vary depending on your needs, but anything above RAID 0 is efficient enough for most home and small business networks.
Connectivity is also important, as this will determine how you are able to access the files and information stored on your NAS. Gigabit Ethernet, wireless and Bluetooth are all common interfaces seen in NAS servers of today, so you will want to take the time to make sure the level of connectivity offered through the NAS matches up with the architecture of your network.
Another crucial feature of NAS servers is the amount of internal RAM. The amount of RAM ultimately determines how many simultaneous users will be able to access files from your NAS at any given time, so you'll want to make sure enough RAM is available at all times. One gigabyte of RAM is sufficient for nearly all home networks, but large corporations and institutions will require much more.
While the CPU of your home computer ultimately determines its speed and performance, the same is not necessarily true with a NAS server. Since the only thing a NAS has to do is store and share files over a network, one can get away with using a slower, inexpensive processor. You will still be able to take full advantage of your NAS device as long as you have an adequate amount of RAM and storage space.
NAS servers do not usually use a keyboard, mouse or even a monitor of any kind. Configurable and accessible completely over your network, using a NAS to its full extent does not even require physical access to the machine itself. To this extent, peripheral devices are not commonly used in a NAS setup, though peripheral hard drives can be connected via USB or FireWire to increase the amount of free storage space.
Tech Specs for NAS Devices
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