These days we have more than a computer at home, not to mention our mobile devices. So how do you backup these machines? Or do you back them up in the first place?
In the old days, we would use portable USB hard disks. But these disks can also fail. You don’t want to go through what I went through when I lost around 8000 pictures when my portable USB disk died. That broke my heart. I then stopped believing in USB drives and opted for online storage. But with my DSLR pictures, online storage was becoming expensive. As such, I had to find an alternative.
And a home NAS box was the solution. NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. What that means is a device which has more than one hard disk, for redundancy, to back up the data for more than one computer at home.
This is how a home based NAS system would look like. Inside there would be slot for hard disks, typically between 2 to 4 slots. Ideal would be a 4-slot device. Why 4 is better than 2?
A 4-slot device means that at any one time, 1 hard disk can fail and your system still retains all data until you replace the hard disk. Then the system replicates the data onto the new hard disk.
Besides being a storage device, a home based NAS can also act as your multimedia centre (stream your movies from your NAS to your TV), FTP and Email and Web and Email server. Some new NAS systems also comes with BitTorrent software which makes it easy to download your favourite movies and songs.
Does This Means My Files are Saved 4 Times?
No. The way the system acts is that your file is split between 2 to 3 disks with the extra disks keeping track of where the file is. There is not one disk that keeps track of the files – all 4 disks do that at the same time, so that if one fails, your files are still intact and available for use when your replace the spoilt disk.
What Features Should I Be Looking Out For?
First of all, depending if you’re purely a PC or a Mac or a mixed environment user, you will need to source for a system that supports the machines that you have.
Second, look for the amount of storage your need. Typically would be around 4TB of space. Some systems come with 6TB or 8TB disks. These disks are all hot swappable. What’s this? Hot swappable means you don’t need to use a screwdriver to take them out or fix new ones. As you can see from the images below, all you need to use the latch on the disk itself to remove it from the system. Its pretty easy and a standard feature of NAS systems. Here’s the only catch: with a cheaper system, you will need to power down the system before swapping disks. With a more expensive system, you can make the swap while the system is running.
Thirdly, look for a wireless NAS system. What this means is that your devices can wirelessly backup to the NAS or access the contents on the NAS without having to plug-in a network cable like how its done in offices.
Fourth, if you want your system to be quick, ensure that it comes with at least an Intel i5 processor and 8GB of RAM.
Fifth, check the NAS user interface. Typically it will look like something below:
Besides letting you know the status of the system, the user interface also provides security options, and web options (allowing you to access your files at home from the web).
Do You Need Another Computer for the NAS?
No. All NAS are standalone’s. You would connect the NAS to a power source and to the router via a network cable. You need to connect the NAS to the router because it allows all computers on your home system to connect to the NAS.
So how do you access the NAS? Once your NAS is hooked to your router, just open a browser and type in 192.168.1.1 and enter in the given username and password. This will bring you to the NAS admin page as shown in the image above. On the admin page, you can set all the security, backup and web options.
Do I Really Need a NAS?
You would need a NAS if you have multiple computers and/or mobile phones to back up. A home NAS system is much cheaper than online storage and provides you with a peace of mind knowing that your data is backed up with redundancy.
Setting up a home based NAS system is something any layman can do. And I am not joking. The NAS companies have made home setup very easy.