GUIDE

NAS Comparison

NAS Comparison

NAS at a glance

Thinking about investing in network attached storage to protect your files, but not sure where to begin? With dozens of commercial NAS devices on the market and multiple different ways to make your own, getting started can be a challenge. But never fear! We’ve picked out all of the most important points and put them into this handy NAS comparison guide, so that you can figure out where to get started with the minimum of stress.

Take a glance at the table below to find out the basics, keep reading for a more detailed analysis, or head back to our NAS Hub to find out more about your chosen approach.

NAS comparison

Commercial

DD-WRT

Build your own

Price

High

Low

Variable

Storage capacity

1 - 24TB

Up to approx. 4TB

As much as you like

Data redundancy

RAID available

Very limited

RAID available

Features

Download free apps from company store

Limited - DD-WRT processes only

Dependent on chosen OS - plenty of choice

Knowledge required

None

Basic DD-WRT knowledge

Confidence with hardware

Ideal for

Home & SMB

Home

Home & SMB

Support

Tutorials & forums

Tutorials & forums

Tutorials & forums

Commercial NAS devices

Overview

Buying a commercial device is the simplest way to set up NAS, as pretty much everything is done for you. Manufacturers including QNAP, Synology and Netgear all offer pre-made NAS boxes that you simply need to plug into your router - and you can find out everything you need to know about each device’s spec and capabilities before you buy.

Processes are all run from (free) downloadable apps, which cover things as diverse as disaster recovery and playing games.

Price:

Expensive. Diskless models start at around $110 (of course, you’ll need to buy your own HDDs for this too), while home devices with integrated disk drives will cost you upwards of about $200. Larger business devices, including multiple storage bays and over 10TB of data will set you back more than $1,000.

Ease of use:

Simple - just plug into your router, setup an account, and get to work.

Storage capacity:

Take your pick. Home devices contain 1 - 6 HDDs, while businesses can purchase boxes with as much as 24TB of storage space.

Data redundancy options:

Incorporated into all models with two or more bays - choose your preferred RAID array during setup, & use disk management settings/apps to make subsequent changes.

Extra features:

There’s an app for everything. Online backups, remote access, creating media centers, editing files, viewing photos, managing home surveillance, playing games, torrenting, and much more.

Ideal for:

Both. Convenient for home users not too keen on taking on a big project, but large-capacity devices also created with business and enterprise users in mind.

Prior knowledge required?

Minimal. Confidence always helps, but there are plenty of step-by-step guides for newbies to follow.

Support:

Most companies offer support in the form of tutorials and videos, and many can be reached directly via email or live chat. There are also useful community resources, such as forums, easily accessible for users of all major brands.


DD-WRT NAS

Overview

Creating a DD-WRT NAS is the cheapest way to set up network attached storage in your home, although storage space and data redundancy options are limited. Free and open-source router firmware DD-WRT will help you to turn a WiFi router and an external storage device into a functioning NAS, with space for all members of your local network to store, share and retrieve files.

Price:

Cheap. For starters, you can use hardware that you’ve got already- if you’re using a DD-WRT-compatible router and have an external hard drive sitting in the back of a cupboard, you won’t need to spend a thing.

Even if you don’t already have everything, making your own DD-WRT NAS won’t break the bank - you can get a suitable router for around $60, or less if you’re happy to shop around, 1TB hard drives start at around $50, and DD-WRT is free to use.

Ease of use:

Setting up and using a DD-WRT router is fairly simple. The hardware side of things certainly is, as you won’t need to do much more than plug your external storage device(s) into your router and press the on button. Once this is done, things get a bit more complicated, as you’ll need to start using DD-WRT.

Although this can be intimidating to start with, there are dozens of DD-WRT tutorials available online, with many of them available on the company’s own website. From personal experience, the vast majority of these guides are up-to-date, accurate, and easy to follow.

Storage capacity:

Limited, as you’ll be restricted by your router when it comes to storage space. In most cases, this means that you’ll be restricted to plugging in one or two USB external storage devices at most, making it best suited to users not looking for more than 4TB of storage space.

Data redundancy options:

Basically none. Not being able to use more than a couple of storage devices makes it very difficult to set up any kind of RAID array. You could always use your second storage drive to keep a second copy of your files, but as you’d need to keep it manually updated, this solution is far from ideal.

Extra features:

Any processes you want to carry out using your NAS will have to be initiated using DD-WRT. While this gives a fair range of options (setting up a VPN server, FTP access etc) some extras like media streaming are much easier to achieve by using a dedicated NAS OS or a commercial device.

Ideal for:

Personal users. Business users will find themselves a little short on storage space.

Prior knowledge required?
A little. Tutorials make things much easier, but if you’re not comfortable with going behind the scenes of your router, you might want to do a little prior research.  

Support:

DD-WRT’s website is full of useful resources, including forums and step-by-step guides.


Build your own NAS

Overview

Building your own NAS from scratch using reclaimed hardware certainly isn’t the quickest way of setting up network attached storage, but it does allow you to control exactly what goes into your device, as you can assemble it from the hardware of your choice. Operations are then performed using a free NAS operating system such as Amahi, FreeNAS or Nas4Free.

Price:

Expensive for smaller home setups, but cheap if you want lots of storage space. The main advantage here is that you can add as many storage devices as you like to your NAS if you’re building it from scratch - and as the parts themselves are relatively cheap, you won’t pay anything like the premium charged by commercial manufacturers for larger-capacity devices.

Ease of use:

There’s no denying that building your own NAS is time consuming, and will require you to get pretty hands on - but the process itself isn’t too tricky, and there are some excellent tutorials available online. Some confidence will get you a long way here, too!

Storage capacity:

Up to you. One major advantage of building your own NAS is that you can add as many storage devices as you have ports to plug them into - and as you’re choosing your parts by hand, you can have as many ports as you like. Obviously you will be restricted by budget and space, but if you want an awful lot of storage space, this is a very good way to get it.

Data redundancy options:

Lots of drives means lots of data redundancy options, as you’ll have everything you need to create an extensive RAID array. Once again, the specifics are up to you, but the pieces are there - and most DIY NAS operating systems have a disk management feature to help you manage your setup.

Extra features:

The features you have access to depend a lot on which OS you choose. Some, like Amahi, are more focused on media-based services, while others like Nas4Free focus on more advanced customization settings. If you know what you want your NAS to do, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to do it - just make sure you do your research before choosing an OS.

Ideal for:

Both, although it’s likely to be best suited to individuals and small businesses interested in a very personalized setup. Financially speaking, it’s an excellent choice for anyone looks for large quantities of storage space, although it might be a little too much extra work for larger, more streamlined organisations.

Prior knowledge required?

A little. As always, it’s really not too hard to learn this stuff, but we know that it can be pretty intimidating if you’re new to the jargon. Enough knowledge to feel comfortable playing around with motherboards and navigating an unfamiliar OS will certainly help.

Support:

There are dozens of excellent build guides online, and FreeNAS, Amahi etc. have extensive support resources available too.

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Published on: May 2,2016.
Miranda Overett Miranda has been chasing the writing dream for several years from London, Thailand and now Budapest. She loves to travel, and is a self-confessed film buff.

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