Many home users and professionals in Tanzania have not heard about NAS devices and are still using external hard drives to backup their important data or storing photos and videos to the clouds with Google Drive or Dropbox.
This is not a great solution for users who have a huge workflow of different projects whether you are a photographer, cinematographer, video producer or even a graphic designer. Imagine till today professionals in Dar-Es-Salaam Tanzania still carry around their external hard drives to meetings to show their work due to less storage capacity on their laptops or tablets.
The solution to this madness is a NAS – Network Attached Storage, that is a storage device for users who want to store and access files and media from multiple computers, mobile phones and tablets without the need of plugging External HDD’s to your computer via a USB cable.
What is a NAS ?
NAS storage devices are systems that are connected to a network that allows storing of data and accessed from a central location for network users or clients. You can store all types of files including photos and videos. NAS devices are flexible and scale out, meaning you can continue adding more storage (HDD) to the system.
A NAS system is like having private cloud in the home or office, It’s fast, less expensive and provides full control of the system.
NAS systems caters all types of consumers whether you are an individual, creative professional, small business or large. NAS systems are easy to set up and most affordable option for shared storage and accessible wherever you are in the world via the internet.
Multiple Users via multiple computers, mobile devices on a network can wirelessly share and access files, stream audio and video and at the same time backup computers and mobile devices from one central storage device.
NAS systems are perfect for SMBs:
- Low cost
- Simple to operate,
- A dedicated IT professional is often not required
- Easy data backup, always accessible when you need it
Difference between a Hard Drive & NAS ?
External hard drives come in different shapes and sizes, they are typically fast, affordable and they are very convenient for storing your data and backing up on the go. Additionally they connect directly to your computer vs connecting to the network like a NAS.
However the disadvantages of external hard drives is that you can’t share your work, so in case your workflow becomes more complex or even if you just work on your laptop or PC, you have to unplug your external hard drive from one computer and plug it in on another computer to get access to the data vs getting to access from multiple different computers with something like a NAS.
Furthermore the other disadvantage of external hard drives is that you can sometimes misplace it, or drop it or even get robbed, which places your data in a vulnerable state. Most users have been in such situations where they have dropped their external hard disk and which stopped working and lost all the data which could not have been recovered.
External hard drive has one drive in the enclosure, so if the drive stops working then you can loose all your data compared to a NAS, where it has multiple hard drives and you can create redundancy, so that your data is much safer and in case of one hard drive fail.
A NAS comes in different shapes and sizes some have 6 hard drive bay and some brands have more or less, they start with a 2-drive bay and continues further up depending on your needs.
Example you have multiple computers in your house or office whether it’s a laptop, desktop, gaming system or even CCTV and you want all those data stored in one storage device that’s accessible from anywhere compared to an external hard drive that is plugged directly to a computer via a USB cable, while a NAS will be plugged into your router via an Internet cable. So any computer that is plugged in to the router or even via Wi-Fi can access all data on that NAS.
Advantages of a NAS solution:
A NAS is your own personal cloud compared to using Dropbox or Google Drive, where you are uploading your data on the cloud and can access them from anywhere via an internet connection. Well a NAS is like creating your own personal Dropbox cloud, but in this case, you have all the data stored yourself and so no company like Dropbox or OneDrive have access to it.
NAS’s other advantage is it has scale-ability so if you buy a 6-bay NAS and start only with two hard drives, later you can add more compared to paying more fees on your dropbox cloud storage. Ultimately a NAS is like a computer which has one or more hard drives housed in an enclosure with a processor, RAM and an OS (operating system) that provides access to the device via the network.
A huge benefit of a NAS is that you can access it remotely where you transfer files to it or download files from the device or you can directly watch video files in real time compared to an external hard drive where you wouldn’t be able to access your files in case you left it at home.
So in case you forgot about something and you are on the go and you need something from the NAS, you can login on any device with an internet connection and access the files.
Another advantage of a NAS is a cross platform access, so if you are using a PC and a MAC and so if you have an external hard drive pre-formatted for MAC, you will have trouble accessing data from a PC without installing special software or vice versa. What’s great about a NAS is whatever device is accessing the data, every device can collaborate no matter what their work flow is.
A NAS becomes the ultimate solution for making everything work for everybody. The biggest advantage of investing in a NAS solution is that you can backup and have redundancy of your data. In this case you have multiple hard drive bays in the NAS solution and what you can do is setup different RAID solution (which will be discussed deeply in another article).
RAID comes in many types, RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and 10. An example of “RAID 1” is most often implemented with two hard drives, 1TB each or more, the NAS mirrors the data of the 1st hard drive to the second hard drive, so in case, one hard drive fails, you will still have the same data on the other hard drive.
So if one hard drive fails, the NAS system will notify you to remove the failed hard drive and insert a new hard drive and the system will automatically mirror the same data to the new drive, it’s that easy. Ultimately having different RAID solutions is a another whole level of protection which will be discussed later.
Disadvantages of a NAS solution:
The first disadvantage of a NAS is price, where if you invest in a solution like a NAS, they are a number of things to consider, first thing you pay for is just the housing of the device that includes; a processor, RAM and an OS (operating system) without any hard drives installed, you need to invest extra in hard drives and the cool thing is that you can start with two drives and expand as you go ahead.
Think of this like insurance, you pay for you car insurance and if your car gets knocked, you can recover every time it happens, even though the insurances continues to become expensive, you will be very thankful that you have insurance to cover you, same goes with a NAS, if a hard drive fails, your data is still protected.
Other disadvantage is that it’s not easy to setup compared to an external hard drive where it’s plug and play and boom it’s done, while a NAS, you need to do a one time setup to configure the system before you start using the NAS system similar to a smartphone when you first purchase it, you have to go through a setup screen.
Video: How a NAS can help you Backup & Protect your Files ?