Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a must-have for a modern multi-dwelling home. If everyone has their own computer and phones, a NAS can back up data so you never run out of space. And it's a great common media server for the whole house. The best pre-built, DIY, and NAS solutions for a Plex server. Best Prebuilt, DIY, and NAS Solutions for a Plex Server Looking for the best Plex server? Here are some of the best ways to run a Plex server on a budget, pre-built, and DIY! Read more.
In fact, NAS is the best backup solution out there. In fact, most NAS boxes will also have a fail-safe second hard drive that keeps a copy of everything on your primary drive, in case the primary drive malfunctions.
In this article, we tell you what to look for in a NAS and recommend some of the best NAS devices to get you started.
For this guide, our main requirement is a NAS that meets your backup needs, but also doubles as a home media server. We still think Plex is the best media center out there, and luckily most NAS devices support Plex. Even if it doesn't come pre-installed, you can easily download it.
Also, we're looking at two-bay NAS boxes. With these, you'll only use one drive, even though there's room for two. The other drive will be a mirror of your first drive, serving as a backup of all your data. This is important as we are trying to make the NAS your primary storage for all your phones, tablets, and computers. And yes, you will have to buy the hard drives yourself as they do not come with the NAS devices.
Finally, think about your NAS manufacturer's interface and applications. If the box interface is too confusing, you won't be able to use it to its fullest, like using a VPN. Synology, QNAP, and Western Digital all have simple and easy interfaces and come with great mobile apps so you can access your data even when you're not at home.
Qnap TS-251A TS-251A Personal Cloud NAS/DAS with USB Direct Access (TS-251A-4G-US) Qnap TS-251A TS-251A Personal Cloud NAS/DAS with USB Direct Access (TS-251A-4G-US) -4G-US) Buy now on Amazon
Why you should buy it: It's almost an HTPC with its built-in HDMI port and media playback remote.
The QNAP TS-251A is the best NAS media server for normal households today. No other NAS offers this combination of features, as you get a capable processor and up to 4GB of RAM while connecting the box directly to your TV via HDMI. And this is the only NAS box that has a remote for media playback.
With a recent update from Plex, the QNAP TS-251A also supports hardware transcoding for Plex. You'll have to manually enable it, as shown by Lon.TV. But once you do, you'll get smooth playback. QNAP also allows you to automatically transcode movies in the background, in case you don't want hardware transcoding on the fly.
For added security, the QNAP TS-251A supports full volume encryption. This is a bit overkill for a home user, but you can never be too careful with personal data.
The 4 GB version is not always available, so you may need to purchase the 2 GB version. You can also connect a microphone to the TS-251A and turn it into a karaoke machine. How's that for a media box?
Synology 2 Bay NAS DiskStation DS218 + (Diskless) Synology 2 Bay NAS DiskStation DS218 + (Diskless) Buy Now On Amazon $298.00
Why you should buy it: Best for transcoding high-resolution media files, giving you smoother playback.
If even half a second of stutter or lag slows down your cinematic experience, Synology Diskstation 218+ is a better choice for you than TS-251A.
The big upgrade on the DS218+ is the J3355 processor, which supports hardware decoding of h.264 AVC and h.265 HEVC, which are crucial for smooth playback of high-resolution videos. If you are using the NAS as a home media server with Plex, this processor makes the biggest difference.
The Diskstation 218+ is also the only NAS we've seen in this price range that comes with an eSATA port. It's not a crucial feature, but it's nice to have if you want to quickly plug in a new hard drive to copy data over.
Please note that instead of full volume encryption, Diskstation 218+ offers folder level encryption. Not a deal breaker, especially for home users.
That said, with the new Plex update, transcoding is smooth enough for the undiscerning eye. Combine that with the audio and HDMI ports, as well as remote control, and the QNAP TS-251A is a better choice for the 90 percent of users who want a good media server and backup box. /P>
WD Diskless My Cloud EX2 Ultra Network Attached Storage - NAS - WDBVBZ0000NCH-NESN WD Diskless My Cloud EX2 Ultra Network Attached Storage - NAS - WDBVBZ0000NCH-NESN Buy Now On Amazon $155.99
Why you should buy it: It's cheap!
For half the price of the QNAP TS-251A or the Synology Diskstation 218+, you can still get a decent NAS box. The Western Digital My Cloud EX2 Ultra offers excellent value for money, but be prepared for some compromises.
The biggest problem is that it doesn't support video transcoding for Plex or any other software. The built-in ARM processor is too weak for that, so you'll need to transcode the videos ahead of time. Our guide to preparing videos to play on Roku works just as well for Plex, so follow the same steps.
It's a tedious and annoying job, but hey, if you want something cheap, you'll have to put in some effort.
Synology DS418play NAS Disk Station, 4-Bay, 2GB DDR3L (Diskless) Synology DS418play NAS Disk Station, 4-Bay, 2GB DDR3L (Diskless) Buy Now On Amazon $429.99
Why you should buy it: It's the long-term choice for anyone who wants a NAS box they'll use for years to come.
Home users don't always need a four-bay NAS box. But here's the thing. After you start using a NAS regularly, you may find that two drives are not enough. You'll want to add one more (or two more, since you need a backup of what you add). Instead of buying a new NAS box in the future, if you can spend the extra money right now, get Synology Diskstation 418play.
We've also looked at other NAS boxes for Plex, but the 418play is the best in its price range. You'll have to manually install Plex on it, but that's a small step. Once you've set it up, it offers the smoothest Plex experience possible.
The Diskstation 418play also adds a new file system called BTRFS. In simple terms, BTRFS is better for backup and file copy needs. The performance for regular use is the same, but if your data gets corrupted, there's a better chance of recovering it with BTRFS than with the old EXT4.
Overall, if you can afford the extra dough, get the 418 set. For more information, read our Synology DiskStation 418play review Synology DiskStation 418play:The best 4-bay NAS for everyone, with full Plex support Synology DiskStation 418play:The best 4-Bay NAS for Everyone, Fully Supported by Plex Synology DS418play is a fantastic choice for a beginner NAS, and even better, it's also the perfect media server, streaming your movies anywhere in your home. Read more.
If these NAS devices are a bit too expensive, you could always build your own. All you need is an old PC, or you can even buy cheap hardware for a server. Do you need network storage? Here's How To Build Your Own NAS Box Need Network Storage? Here's how to build your own NAS Box NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. As Windows became easier to use with network-connected devices, and hardware prices fell, this term came into use in the consumer market. Today there is a wide variety ... Read more. Then use our guide to setting up your own NAS with FreeNAS How to set up your FreeNAS server to access your files from anywhere How to set up your FreeNAS server to access your files from anywhere FreeNAS is a free, open source BSD-based operating system that can turn any PC into a rock-solid file server. Today I'm going to walk you through a basic installation, setting up a simple file sharing,… Read More