Network attached storage is now so affordable that, if you have a home network, it might make sense to add networked hard drives to facilitate backups from network devices, share files among computers with different operating systems and consolidate multimedia files.
Even though $200 for a terabyte of network attached storage represents considerable value, it is not exactly a disposable price should you not get it right the first time. Attention to the various attributes of networked hard drives will go a long way to reveal which one is right for you.
In order to establish a convenient baseline for comparison of network attached storage options, we analyzed only those networked hard drives that include one terabyte of storage. To put that in context, a terabyte can contain 1,000 hours of standard video, and a terabyte of four-minute songs would play for almost two years. A terabyte, depending on whether it is defined by a storage manufacturer, computer scientist or a certain operating system from Microsoft, can be 1,000, 1,024 or 1,048 gigabytes (GB), respectively. By way of comparison, a DVD with two layers can hold up to 8.5GB.
The knowledge that a terabyte has three different definitions may seem pedantic, but it is necessary information in order to understand why Windows will report that a drive has less capacity than the manufacturer advertised. In other words, the drive manufacturer will market a product that can store one billion bytes and describe it as a terabyte (1,000GB). But Windows reports it as 953GB because it is dividing the available one billion bytes of storage by its own definition of a megabyte: 1,048,576 bytes. Therefore, to understand that the drive manufacturers employ a different definition from Microsoft is to avoid frustration and unnecessary accusations of false advertising when shopping for network attached storage.
Some network storage products are really just the chassis and power supply with vacant drive bays ready to accept the user-supplied hard drives. To preclude any incompatibilities, our reviews include only those products that have the hard drives conveniently preinstalled.
Product compatibility with Windows and Macintosh is the minimum standard. Some drives also work with Linux. All of the network storage products in our review support a Gigabit Ethernet local area network connection. One way in which they differentiate themselves is by the number of USB 2.0 ports: one is standard and more is better. Some have two or three USB ports. By attaching a printer to the storage device via USB port, everyone on the network can easily share a printer.
Network attached storage can make it convenient to back up all computers on the network to a single location. Not only is it easy to configure backups, it is also easy to restore them. If you require that the product incorporate an iTunes server so that multiple computers can access a centralized music library, or that it include Torrent technology or power saving features, it is necessary to look for the features because not all vendors include them.
Help & Support
It is good to be aware of the specific warranty and support policy for any storage product under consideration. Warranties range from one to three years. Some technical support policies expire when the warranty expires. Some support policies last beyond the warranty expiration.
At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To.™ If you are in the market for network storage, read articles about network attached storage and peruse reviews of the winners: Iomega StorCenter ix2-200, Seagate BlackArmor NAS 110 and LaCie d2 Network 2.