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Network-Attached Storage User's Guide

Features on the latest NAS devices transform them into full-featured, multi-purpose computing devices which can act as media, print, and file servers, surveillance devices, and Web hosts.

Network Attached Storage Users Guide
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Seagate BlackArmor NAS440
File downloading: Apparently, there's an application out there called BitTorrent that provides some 50 million users with access to perfectly legal downloaded content with perhaps a small smattering of copyrighted material inadvertently distributed. Many NAS software providers have thoughtfully provided ways for people to, for example, download the latest CD image of the Debian distro using Bittorrent. Other providers, such as QNAP, Synology, and Thecus, support scheduled downloads as well, which is useful for those times when the Debian distro is just too popular to download.

Surveillance cameras: You may be able to use your NAS to monitor wireless or IP-networked surveillance cameras. As an example, QNAP NAS devices support both audio and video feeds, with motion-detection and scheduling capabilities.

General Recommendations

In the past, maintaining storage hygiene has been a dull chore. It's clearly a good idea to keep your files backed up, and now it's not only feasible to do so economically, but it can also form the core of a much more usable, functional, and capable network.

Here are some hard-earned words of wisdom that may help you on your search for the perfect NAS:

  • Take a hard look at your data to come up with tiers of storage, ranging from "essential files that I'd want to take out of a burning house," to "I spent some money on this, but I wouldn't pay to replace it," to "why am I carrying these files around?" Your storage needs may vary significantly based on how you answer.
  • On a NAS, 4.7 GB costs about $1.50 on an allocated basis. You can fit the same amount of data on a DVD-ROM costing $0.50. Don't buy a NAS for files that just need to be offloaded onto disk and put in a drawer somewhere.
  • Estimate how much media you consume on a monthly or annual basis, and then adjust that figure upwards based on how excited you are about 3-D video and related innovations coming down the pike.
  • Your budget should also take into account the potential for extending the useful life and functional capacity of your over-stuffed PCs.
  • Come up with a "short list" of NAS devices based on compatibility with existing hardware and audiovisual equipment, cost, storage capacity, and those extra features most important to you.
  • Once you've narrowed down the list based on your purchase criteria, read the manual (almost always available online). You'll be able to see what comes with the device, how easy it is to install and configure, and whether the features that look good on a checklist actually have the functionality you need.
  • Tom's Hardware and offer some pretty comprehensive hands-on reviews.
  • Glance at the vendor-provided message boards to see how people are using the devices, what problems people generally have, and whether the support staff is on the job.
  • Things can get tricky when you move NAS devices from one network to another. Keep good notes on network settings and the like.
  • You don't really have a fully working backup until you've tried to restore your data.

For Further Reading

Online Storage Buyer's Guide

Iomega Launches New Storage Array

4 Keys To Storage Management

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