NAS-to-cloud copy: The smart NAS providers realize that cloud storage is the perfect complement to home network storage as an extra layer of data assurance for your most important files. Leading the way in this area is Synology, which now includes server backup between its DiskStation NAS and an Amazon S3 server. While it may be relatively expensive to back up an entire NAS drive to Amazon S3 -- about $150 to upload 1 TB and $150 per month to keep it there -- you can cherry-pick your most important folders for synchronization with online storage. And the Amazon S3 pricing model undermines competing solutions, as with the Netgear ReadyNAS Vault, which charges $5.95 per month for 5 GB, or $199 annually for 50 GB.
Other Applications For NAS
So far, we've just talked about the core applications of storage and backup. But there are many other compelling reasons to deploy a NAS, and you may find that some devices are more suited than others to specific tasks.
UPnP and DLNA: These industry standards govern interoperability between home media devices, including the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Most NAS devices support both standards, but it's worth checking your other audiovisual equipment against the certified product registries of the Digital Living Network Alliance and the UPnP Forum.
Print server: Let your NAS spool printer files by plugging a wired printer directly into an available USB port.
USB device offloading: Stop using your PC as a waystation for family pictures and other files by plugging your digital camera or other USB drive directly into the NAS. This is a common feature in NAS drives, and the more advanced models enable one-touch copying without having turn on the PC.
iTunes server: Many NAS devices permit you to create a "music" partition that can be shared by multiple users on a single network. However, these files are accessible through the shared library capability in iTunes, which does not support playlists. You can listen to whatever songs and albums you like, but you can't sync them to your portable MP3 player or set up your own playlists. For personal use, you're better off mapping the "music" partition as a virtual hard drive for direct indexing by the iTunes application.
Web server: You can set up your NAS as a home-based web server, accessible with a username and password from any computer or mobile device. Just make sure you've double- and triple-checked the security settings, assigned restrictive user privileges, used the more-secure HTTPS protocol if available, and don't blame me if you get hacked. Some approaches may give you greater comfort levels, such as having to login through the NAS provider's website, as with Buffalo Technology's BuffaloNAS.com for web access and native iPhone support for music and video streaming.