There are pots that change your life (a little bit). The potato peeler or the rear proximity sensor of the cars, without going any further. Of all those who have come into my life, there is one that sweeps them all off the map.
This is the NAS that I bought in 2012 and that it has become a fundamental part of all work and leisure in our home. If you don’t know them, pay attention, because these networked hard drives are an absolute prodigy that will make you wonder about “how could I have lived without it?”. Or almost.
Your private cloud
I was telling it then on my other blog: I had been experimenting with a Raspberry Pi as a download server but that did not finish fine.
By now I had read and written quite a bit about those network hard drives known as NAS (Network Attached Storage), but never had a chance to test any of them, so I went on an adventure and bought one.
The truth is that the product seemed almost made with me in mind. I don’t like relying on third-party cloud services And I wanted to have a product that was always available and always connected so that I could copy data to and from it with any of my PCs and laptops.
A NAS is just that: a device that is always there for you, whether you are at home or away from it – although that, as I will comment later, has its that.
A NAS is your particular cloud, and in fact the name of this type of product is unfortunate: they are much more than network disks, because in addition to storing all kinds of content they can act as download, development, mail, multimedia, VPN servers, web servers, chat, etc.
This is not just about saving files
I chose at that time for a Synology DS212j 2-bay —The option today would be the DS220j—, in each of which I connected a 3.5-inch, 2TB SATA hard drive. Having 4 TB of network storage was wonderful then, and today those disks are still holding the pull although yes, I usually have more than 90% of the NAS capacity occupied.
Synology offers a lot of official packages to take advantage of the NAS in various ways. There are also other alternatives for installing software that are not directly offered via Synology.
You can ride your own alternative to Gmail, Dropbox, Google Photos, Netflix, or create and host there websites that you can later make public and that can be based on platforms such as Magento, WordPress or Drupal.
Most NAS manufacturers offer their own app stores for these devices so that you can install those packages and use them to provide the services that best suit your needs.
In my case, the use has been relatively discreet: I use my NAS as a storage center for the whole house, not just for data backups that we already have on other computers, but as a destination for a lot of data with which I work daily. I use services like Dropbox or Google Drive for specific issues and to work with Google Docs documents, for example, but the NAS is the absolute protagonist in that workflow.
Of course the other great section in which the NAS is the protagonist it’s in entertainment: the movies that I had on DVD and the music that I had on CD and that I have acquired in digital format have ended up on that network hard disk.
It is a somewhat heavy task at first, but of course the comfort it brings afterwards is spectacular: the NAS, I insist, is always available so that we can access these contents for example from the small miniPC connected to the TV with Kodi that we have in the living room.
Google Photos and iCloud? Nahhh
The same goes for photos: although I recognize that services like Google Photos for Android mobiles or iCloud for iPhones have many advantages and that has made them the norm for users, I prefer not to use these services.
I use multiple backups on local and external hard drives (which I have at relatives’ houses, for example), and of course I have everything centralized on the NAS, where the photos of the mobile are synchronized with an official application called DS Photo Station, which includes a backup system that I can control in detail and that frees space on the mobile if I need it.
Obviously Google or Apple services (there are other alternatives, of course) they do extra work of organizing photos in a simple way, they create automatic videos from the photos of a trip or an event and allow access to advanced searches.
We do not have that by default on the NAS, but it is possible to access some of those features if the user is willing to spend some time on the topic. Various photo managers allow, for example, to apply facial recognition to search for photos of a person, although the organization of places or events is usually carried out by the user.
For example, I create folders that group the photos of those trips or events, mark as favorites or tag those that I want to have more localized. It is a subject that takes time, but allow me to revisit those photos —Something that otherwise wouldn’t do so much — and re-enjoy those memories and then have them even more within reach.
Synology Photos offers an interface and functions that try to emulate those proposed by Google Photos, and although there are some differences, the result is more than decent.
Several NAS manufacturers have made strides in this regard., and for example both QNAP (with QuMagie) and Synology (with Synology Photos) offer their alternatives to Google Photos. The recent change in the Google service has made that option of creating your own alternative with a NAS more than interesting. It is not exactly the same, but it is certainly an interesting idea.
Accessing the NAS from outside the home (with caution)
In my case the NAS is limited to our home network: we can access it from any device as long as that device is connected by cable or Wifi to the home network. If not, the access does not exist.
That was the idea from the beginning: I prefer not to expose the NAS to the outside although it is something perfectly possible and in fact in this case it is especially simple with another of the native options of the device called “QuickConnect”. There are a few more, of course, but this one is especially accessible for users who don’t want to complicate their lives.
That makes you can create an ID for the device and access the NAS from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Just use the browser and a URL like “http://quickconnect.to/tuID” to access the NAS interface as if you were at home.
The recommendation of some users is to not expose a NAS to the outside: This is nothing more than a small PC with its own operating system – usually some variant of a Linux distribution – but manufacturers do not update their platforms as quickly as those who develop the Linux distributions on which they are based .
That makes except a clear need maybe it is better not to take advantage of that function that would force us to be very attentive to the administration and updating tasks of the NAS to prevent external attackers from gaining access to the NAS and, with it, the rest of the home network to which this device is connected.
You can buy it or assemble it yourself
There are many good reasons to get a NAS: they are very easy to use, make us very calm with the security of our backups (and if we use RAID configurations, more) and allow us to have access to local services that are very convenient to use.
This user 3D printed a box in which he connected a Raspberry Pi to two hard drives. The external appearance is certainly convincing: this is a handmade NAS but with a special charm.
The normal thing is that when looking for one of these solutions one goes to products already prepared for this function. There are many very good manufacturer options like Synology, QNAP, Seagate, Western Digital or Buffalo, for example, and each offers certain features that try to differentiate it from the rest.
The other option, of course, is to build your own NAS. The best known option without a doubt is FreeNAS, although there are especially notable alternatives such as Unraid.
Basically what is done here is mount a normal PC In which, yes, the processor or memory are of the entry range because not much more is needed and special attention is paid to connectivity (Gigabit Ethernet is recommended) and of course to storage, in which we can use units of traditional disk or SSD drives.
Precisely due to these low hardware requirements, mounting a NAS is a great idea for reuse that old PC that one can have abandoned in the storage room. It’s also a great way to take advantage of a Raspberry Pi to which we would simply connect an external drive through the USB port.
Whichever option you choose —if you choose one— I am convinced that this NAS will surprise you as it did and continues to do so in my case. I have tried and bought many technology products in recent years, but my NAS has become by far one of my favorites, hasn’t the same thing happened to you?