NAS devices have so many great uses for so many different scenarios. If you’ve never had one, but are considering it (or even if this is your first time hearing about them), keep reading to see the best choices in 2023. NAS drives are excellent for businesses – for example, an IT company we spoke to, known as TechQuarters, said that they were an important tool in their office technology stack. But NAS drives are also for the individual user.
What is NAS?
The term is an acronym of Network-attached Storage. Essentially it is a hard drive (or several hard drives) that can connect to a network, such as your home Wi-Fi network, and provide remote access to storage. They are often used for businesses, to provide remote storage in their offices (and they are also useful in work-from-home scenarios). They are also used recreationally for things like media streaming.
What do you need from a NAS?
A NAS device is actually just a very specific type of computer, and because of that, every model is unique and offers different advantages. If you are looking to buy a NAS device, here are some of the main factors you should look into:
- Number of Bays – the number of hard drives you can use with the device can vary from 1 bay, to as many as 8 bays for a commercial model. The more bays a device has, the more storage it provides. If you’re just looking for a device for streaming purposes, for instance, a single or two bay NAS would suffice. Demanding work, such as video editing will require higher capacities.
- Performance Spec – a NAS device has a CPU, RAM, and maximum Drive spec just like a regular computer. Some NAS devices can support transcoding and editing 4K video directly over your network, while others are just built for lightweight media streaming. Identify what you will use the device for, and pick one with the appropriate horsepower.
- Upgradability – if your NAS is for work, you might anticipate your demands growing in the future. In that case, you’ll want a NAS that you can upgrade. Some NAS devices support upgrading the compute resources (such as the RAM), and purchasing a device that has more bays than you need at the time of purchase may come in handy.
- Application support – there are many different operating systems to use with a NAS, as well as other types of programs you may want to use with them (such as media streaming software, or web servers). A NAS device may support some or all types of NAS applications, so be sure to check the model you’re looking at supports the apps you anticipate using.
Best NAS devices in 2023
Below are some options for NAS devices that are worth looking at in 2023, depending on what your needs are:
1. Best NAS of 2023: Synology 2 Bay NAS
This device is certainly an investment and maybe too much for the casual buyer, but for the price, you get perhaps the best NAS device on the market. The Synology 2 Bay DiskStation DS220+ is a high-performance all-rounder that enables redundant data storage with Dual Gigabit LAN. It has a more-than-capable CPU and upgradable RAM capacity that offers very fast read and write speeds.
2. Best Budget NAS: Synology DS120j 1 Bay NAS
For consumers just looking to test the convenience of a NAS device in their home, but are unsure whether they want to commit to a large investment, this device – also from Synology – is an ideal choice. While its single-bay format does not offer data redundancy, and the CPU and RAM are middling, it is a well-rounded device with decent read and write speeds. The Synology DS120j 1 Bay DiskStation is excellent value for money for the beginner NAS user.
3. Best for Business: Synology 4 Bay NAS
The Synology 4 Bay DiskStation DS920+ will provide businesses a superb long-term solution. The 4-bay format means organizations will have plenty of storage for the foreseeable future, and not only is the RAM upgradable, but it supports M.2 SSD cache drives for accelerated read/write speeds. It also supports hardware encryption for added security (a huge plus for business). While on the pricey end of the spectrum, it is well worth the investment.
4. Best for Home: WD 4TB My Cloud
If you’re ready to spend a bit more money, and are fully satisfied that you will reap all the benefits of a NAS drive in your home, then a solid choice is the WD 4TB My Cloud EX2 Ultra. This pre-populated model works out of the box, and for the price has a very respectable CPU and RAM. It supports use with the media portal application, Plex, and even offers a 3-month free trial of it. This device is very user-friendly. There are some limits on the apps you can use with it, but for the average home user, it’s software capabilities should more than suffice.
5. Best for Media Streaming: Asustor AS5202T
If you have a vast library of media that you want to be able to access with convenience, then a NAS drive is the perfect solution for you; and in 2023, the perfect NAS drive for this use is the Asustor AS5202T. This NAS drive is best used in conjunction with the media portal application, Plex. Together with Plex, this NAS device will enable you to stream your media – in 4K HDR, no less – to any smart device in your home.
6. Best for macOS: WD Diskless My Cloud
While it is true that NAS drives are not limited to use with specific operating systems (on the endpoint, that is), it is also true that some will work better with certain computers and operating systems, depending on what they are most commonly used for. In terms of Apple Macs, the most frequent use cases tend to be professional creative work, such as video editing, graphic design, architecture, etc. As such, a NAS drive with high-speed read and write capabilities, and high capacity is essential for professional use with Apple Macs. The WD Diskless My Cloud EX4100 fits the bill perfectly. You will save money with the diskless model and purchase your own drives, and the model supports up to a whopping 56 terabytes of storage.