Posted on February 18, 2019
After several hours of research, I finally made my selection of the best 6 NAS servers among more than thirty models available at the moment. The one I strongly recommend is the Drobo 5N2, which combines great security of your data and ease of use at a reasonable price.
You will also find at the end of this article a shopping guide that will give you some information to help you choose a NAS that suits you.
The best cheap NAS servers
A NAS server is certainly an investment. There are, however, rather successful models for individuals and small businesses. A short overview.
Synology DS216j: the best cheap
We begin our overview of entry-level NAS with Synology DS216j, flagship brand manufacturing these small servers for domestic use that are becoming more numerous in our homes.
This unit, which has a 1 Ghz dual-core processor and 512 MB of DDR3 RAM, can accommodate two hard drives in its 3.5 "bays (compatible 2.5" with the acquisition of two supports sold separately) and consider a configuration in RAID 0 or RAID 1. Note that it is possible to buy the DS216j box without hard drives at a lower price.
From an aesthetic point of view, this white plastic NAS is rather neat and discreet. On the front panel are the power button and LEDs to indicate possible problems of connection or hard disk, and on the rear panel two USB 3.0 ports and an RJ45 port.
Once configured and powered up, the DS216j easily connects to Linux, Mac and Windows computers, as well as any Android or iOS mobile device, where you just need to install the DS File App.
There is also the ability to download additional applications from the brand's "package center," including a DLNA-compliant media server, download management tools (BitTorrent, FTP, etc.), photo libraries, and more. music, a cloud sync service, the recording of IP cameras, an iTunes server, Plex, an antivirus and so on.
There are also more advanced applications for developers, network configuration tools or services for businesses.
Remote access works very well with the integrated QuickConnect service: during initial setup, simply register with Synology to receive a QuickConnect ID that you can use with either the mobile app or the QuickConnect site. You will then be able to access the NAS control panel and all add-ons using a simple graphical interface that looks like a desktop operating system.
Called DiskStation, this OS (found on all models of the brand) is a real argument in favor of NAS. Resembling closely the kind of interface that we are used to find on our PCs, it allows to easily configure the NAS and access all its files without problem.
Synology also offers a comprehensive range of iOS and Android mobile apps. There are apps for not only managing the NAS (DS Finder), downloads (DS download), files (DS File) and synchronization in the cloud (DS Cloud), but also the audio, the video, notes and messaging. It may be a bit too much, since the basic DS File app allows you to view photos and open video and audio files on your mobile.
As far as performance is concerned, this is definitely a unit for home use. Nothing too serious, but it is better not to try to perform too many tasks at the same time at the risk of straining the 512 MB of embedded RAM.
In conclusion, an entry-level NAS quite accessible to the neophyte user who offers a good value for money and small extras à la carte for those who feel the need.
QNAP TS-251A: a special multimedia NAS
QNAP is one of the most recognized NAS brands for home use, and the TS-251A, with its Intel Celeron N3060 1.6 GHz dual core processor, is a solid proposition.
It offers to enjoy its multimedia files from any device, and has an HDMI video output to connect it to his TV.
We have the impression of having to deal with a model that is particularly intended for multimedia use. The white plastic case (with a little cheap appearance) has two bays that can accommodate hard drives, five LED activity indicators, an SD card slot, a button to enable file copying and two USB ports.
At the rear, there are two USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet connectors and HDMI video output, which allows you to connect the NAS directly to a TV or monitor and view content directly from the device.
Namely that if your network is down for any reason, you have the option to connect a mouse and keyboard and use the NAS directly as a computer. A remote control is provided.
The installation of the disks is relatively simple, even if a screwdriver is required to screw these in the supports before inserting them into the device. The NAS allows a RAID 0 or RAID 1 configuration. The hardware installation is completed by connecting the device to the router or to the Internet box with the supplied network cable.
As for the software installation, it is necessary to download the Qfinder application that can detect the NAS on the network and start the installation, a relatively simple procedure. A cloud-based installation is also available.
Once this step is over, we discover the user interface that is reminiscent of the iOS system based on icons and windows. It is fast and intuitive, with a wide range of complementary applications that are added to those available in the App Center: video surveillance, WordPress site management, messaging …
To access files remotely, simply create an account and register the device on the myQNAPcloud site. A wide range of iOS and Android apps is also available.
Performance side, it's pretty good. Know that if you want to take advantage of the 4K video conversion feature, it is better to have the model 4 GB of RAM, otherwise hello galley!
We are dealing with a rather complete NAS with the TS-251A, which is intended especially for multimedia use – the non-support of the MKV format by the native app is a bit too bad, because it requires to install Plex on his mobile devices.
The unit is at the same time quite noisy. We still appreciate the value for money of this NAS, a good option for users looking for versatility and ease of use.
The best midrange NAS servers
These midrange NAS servers offer better performance or even more configuration options.
Drobo 5N2 DRDS5A21: the best midrange
Storage systems for individuals and small businesses are definitely on the rise, and this is far from surprising: did you know that currently 2.5 billion bytes of data are produced? per day ?
All this data, it is necessary to store them somewhere. The Drobo 5N2, five-bay NAS, is primarily aimed at the average user a little more demanding, or even start-up and small structures looking for a quick and easy way to secure and share their files.
Focused on ergonomics, it gives pride of place to data security and ease of configuration. Let's discover all that.
The Drobo is seemingly quite sturdy with a sober metallic finish. With its rather compact dimensions 150.3 x 185.4 x 262.3 mm for about 4 kg, it fits quite easily on a library or a corner of your office. On the chassis there are two Ethernet ports (cables are provided) and a switch button.
Inside are five SATA bays that can accommodate 3.5 "(or 2.5") hard drives with a suitable stand. Small touch that we appreciate: the cache of the berries is magnetic (we forget the screws), all secured by a latch for a simplissime installation.
To know that with a lot of NAS, it is preferable for safety to use discs of the same capacity, but it is not necessary here: one can easily mix as one likes.
The configuration is done through an interface called Drobo Dashboard that operates automatically, rather relaxing for those who are used to servers, and takes about 20 minutes.
This same dashboard allows you to configure the Ethernet links, activate the DDR (to prevent a simultaneous failure of two disks) to set the sharing parameters. Everything is done in a relatively intuitive way and if it gets stuck, a user manual in French (!) Is available online.
The My Drobo service provides access to offsite data and cloud synchronization. At the same time, Drobo offers some thirty apps that make it possible to make your NAS a media center, host a blog or make it a shared storage tool.
The NAS is rather stable for the work with several and allows to transfer files without delay. Reading videos, it is rather pushy.
Generally speaking, it is not a very good NAS, even if the access time remains rather correct. Where we are really impressed, it is at the level of the process of securing data: in case of failure of a hard drive, the lights on the chassis change status and we are quickly notified by notification desktop and / or mail.
Therefore, simply replace the failed disk without interrupting the activity of the NAS. Your data remains accessible during the process, with a longer access time.
A Disaster Recovery mode, based on the pairing of two Drobo 5N2s located in different locations, allows you to synchronize the data permanently and thus to find them even in case of loss or theft of your NAS.
Let's be clear: with this NAS, do not expect foolishness in terms of performance or concept. We are above all on a model that is extremely easy to use and above all, a real guarantee for the security of your data.
Synology DS218j: Synology quality
Good value for money
Performance a little slow
Designed primarily for storage and file sharing in a home environment, the Synology DS218j is a two-bay NAS that, like the other models of the brand, offers many third-party applications and an intuitive management interface.
Despite its relatively affordable price, it is a complete backup solution with several configuration options that can be set up as a cloud server or multimedia or solicit for video surveillance with IP camera.
The DS218j has four status LEDs on the front, which correspond to status, disk status and LAN. Below the LEDs is a power button and on the back, two USB 3.0 ports, a LAN port, and a reset button. Featuring a 1.3 GHz dual-core processor and 512 MB of DDR3 memory, the DS218j can accommodate two 2.5 or 3.5 "drives with a maximum capacity of 16 TB per drive.
To access the racks, remove the two screws on the back of the case. No drawers with this model: simply insert the discs before attaching them with the supplied screws. Note: This model comes with two Seagate IronWolf Pro that can be easily controlled and diagnosed with IronWolf Health Management.
Once again, the DiskStation OS we discovered and highly appreciated with the DS216j. The web interface allows storage volume management, folder sharing, download of additional applications and more.
There are Package Center and File Station icons on the desktop, the control panel and help desk, and a Health System window that tracks CPU usage and RAM. The installation procedure is to connect the NAS to the network jack and go to find.synology.com.
In terms of performance, we are relatively well served. The speeds of reading and writing are respectable, but are of course not worth those high-end models of the brand.
Here, we are on a home or small business use, more for storage and file sharing: do not try to transcoding 4K videos at the risk of seeing the processor fly away. Video playback is still possible, but watch out for resolution. Everything is quite discreet and quiet in normal use thanks to its fan of 92 mm 4 modes.
The acquisition of a NAS is obvious for anyone wishing to ensure the security of its data, and it will do very well for those who do not ask for performance madness.
The ease of use, the friendly and intuitive interface and the wide variety of applications make it a good little device, but more demanding users would do better to turn to the more powerful models of the brand such as the DS918 +.
QNAP TS-231P2: efficient and scalable
Good value for money
The NAS market has grown considerably in recent years. QNAP offers a range of NAS devices for individuals and businesses.
The QNAP TS-231P2 is one of the most affordable devices in this range. With two bays, it is designed to facilitate the storage and sharing of personal files on a small home or business network. It is not however a simple file server or DNLA server: the QNAP TS-231P2 goes much further.
This new NAS from QNAP certainly looks like its predecessor, but offers significant advances in both OS and performance. The TS-231P2 is a redesign of the TS-231P, released at the end of 2016 and which had been sung praises at the time.
From the outside, it is difficult to distinguish the device from its predecessor. It retains the two vertical drawers and the two buttons (power and file copy) at the front as well as the three USB 3.0 ports and two LAN ports. Note: the lack of HDMI port unlike other models from QNAP.
The TS-231P2 is equipped with an Annapurna Labs AL-314 processor with a quad core of 1.7 GHz, unlike the dual core of the TS-231P. The device is available in 1 GB or 4 GB RAM, knowing that it is quite possible to opt for the 1GB model and add RAM later. We can go up to 8GB.
Regarding the insertion of disks, this is relatively easy by sliding the drawers (but we still unfortunately need a screwdriver to fix them). The startup of the NAS goes through Qfinder tool and is rather intuitive.
QNAP makes great efforts to recover Synology for its operating system. QTS, its OS, runs on Linux and is relatively intuitive for Android users with its system of icons for quick access to different applications, its Control Panel and Storage Manager to manage the backup of disks.
Many applications are available for download (a little less than Synology), including twenty developed by the brand itself. It includes Plex, WordPress, iTunes, Joomla, DNLA servers, antivirus, etc …
The cloud offer is not bad at all, with apps that sync Azure, S3, IDrive, Drive, ElephantDrive, Dropbox, OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and hubiC. The TS-231P2 can also be used as a "private" cloud: QNAP provides a myQNAPcloud portal to connect to the device remotely or to share its contents.
To these features are added interesting performance with read speeds and writing quite correct and no slowdowns. Only downside: you can once again forget the 4K video.
In conclusion, a small but powerful NAS box with a plethora of features that demonstrates how seriously QNAP is now taking its NAS product line to the next level. Synology just has to stand!
The best high-end NAS servers
Great performance and versatility are at the rendezvous with this high-end model from Synology.
Synology DS918 +: the best high end
The democratization of 4K televisions, more and more accessible, is rather good news. The concern is that 4K video files are huge and have quickly eat up all the space available on your storage units.
So you're looking for a simple way to mass-store and play them on your TV. A network storage device like the Synology DS918 + allows you to manage file storage, PC backups, ultra-HD media delivery, and more.
We are on a rather high-placed model of the well-known Synology range with the DS918 +, which has four 3.5 "bays with extractable drawers each with its own lock. Operation LEDs indicate the status of the four hard disks as well as the status of the device.
Below, there is a USB port and the power button. At the rear, there are two 1GbE RJ-45 ports, one eSATA connector and a second USB 3.0 port and two two M.2 slots below. Behind the drawers are two memory slots, one occupied (4 GB DDR3L) and the other vacant.
The configuration is not particularly fast, especially the initial creation of multi-disk volume if you decide to opt for Synology's exclusive hybrid RAID system, but still remains relatively simple. Once you've removed the NAS from its packaging and connected it to your network through one of two Gigabit Ethernet ports, simply download Synology Assistant to your PC and transfer the latest version of DiskStation Manager to your computer. your storage units.
We find the OS DiskStation, which we already sang the praises with the DS216j, no need to go back on it. Just know that it allows you to manage directly from your SIN tasks for which it would normally be necessary to solicit his PC, in a simple and intuitive way. In short, we are still a fan.
This NAS is just as successful from a hardware point of view as software. Performance side, we quickly understand that we are no longer on the NAS for home use only.
The rates are excellent and the amount of onboard memory quite sufficient for most cases (we remind you that you have the possibility to increase it via a second vacant location). The whole thing is not particularly greedy in energy.
If you're looking for a powerful media server, you'll be served: the DS918 + is powerful enough to handle two 4K H.265 transcoding streams simultaneously.
In summary, the DS918 + is a powerful and scalable NAS that will be suitable for personal or professional use.
Of course, there are more economical NAS for those who do not need all the features of the Synology Plus series, but in the face of such performance, we say that there is no harm in to have fun from time to time.
The products of my selection on offer at the moment
Gone are the days when there was only one PC in a home: with every family member who has at least one device, it's easy to find files scattered all over the place.
A NAS (or Network Attached Storage) is a network storage unit that allows you to back up, secure and share files from different multimedia devices (computer, smartphone, tablet …) that you can have.
Imagine that parents want to see the photos of their last ride in the mountains on the TV lounge, the elder review her classes on her tablet, and the youngest quietly watch cartoons on his laptop. Thanks to the NAS, the files in question are accessible by the whole family at the same time.
You can even access your documents when you're away from home via an FTP client or smartphone app!
But to choose the one you need, it is better to keep in mind some important points, especially the use that you intend for him.
As a file server
One of the main interests of the SIN, as you will understand, is to centralize the files and make them accessible to the entire family, on all devices in the home … including when you are outside.
All NAS users can drop and view (rights-based) data via protocols such as FTP, NFS or SMB.
An FTP client installed on your computer allows you to connect to the remote NAS interface and view, export or add files.
Depending on the software embedded in the NAS, it is possible to create a list and groups of users and grant them rights of access to files or services, or even to establish limits of use of disk space per person.
As a multimedia platform and DLNA server
This is of course one of his main interests, but the NAS is not just about storing data. DLNA-compatible units also simplify the broadcasting of your multimedia content (video and photo) via devices such as TVs, game consoles, PC and Mac computers, internet boxes, etc.
The drives made available by these devices automatically detect the multimedia contents stored on your NAS for reading, but be careful, do not allow them to be manipulated (delete, copy or move).
Once again, it is possible according to the software to establish access rights, or even limit the number of users allowed to connect at the same time.
Backup and synchronization
Physical security of the data
The NAS typically has several 3.5 "or 2.5" hard drive slots. This has the huge advantage of allowing you to configure the disk volume so you do not lose your data if one of the disks fails.
You can configure its disk volume in the following ways.
In JBOD (just a bunch of disks) in other words, the failure of one of the disks will result in the loss of the data it contains.
In RAID 0, to be avoided because the malfunction of one of the disks will result in the loss of all the data.
In RAID 1, suitable for NAS with two hard disk slots. The unit simultaneously writes the same data on both disks, which allows to recover them in case of failure of one of the two.
In RAID 5, which requires a minimum of three hard drives. In the case of a failure of one of the disks, the other two are able to recreate the lost data.
In RAID 6, requiring a minimum of four hard drives and allowing the simultaneous failure of drives without loss of data.
RAID 1 is the most commonly used system in the home environment.
Physical security does not protect you, of course, from the loss of your data in the event of a burglary: this is why the NAS also allow you to make backups in the cloud, in other words online services.
NAS are compatible with the most popular cloud services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive etc. If your unit is lost, your data is recoverable.
Go further: all you can do with a NAS
Few printers for home use have a network jack. You can connect your printer to your NAS and turn it into a network printer accessible to all NAS users.
Time Machine Backup
Many NAS are compatible with the Time Machine backup utility offered by Mac OS X.
Some NAS are compatible with IP cameras and allow to save their signals at regular intervals, or even notify users in case of motion detection.