The best NAS drives 2018: backup, store and access your data from anywhere

Network Attached Storage (NAS) allows you to get your important files from any computer, anywhere

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The best NAS drives (Network Attached Storage) do a lot more than store files like a traditional hard drive – they are a personal cloud service and media server. 

They are backing up your data as well as storing it and allowing you to get hold of it from any computer you’re using, anywhere, on demand. 

NAS can even do this when your computer is switched off, as they connect directly to your router. They cost a bit more than a regular hard drive but are well worth the investment.

NAS make it easy to access your movies, photos, music and documents at any time, no matter where you are. One of the popular reasons they’re purchased is media playback – viewing your personal video library on your TV without having to connect to anything is a cinch!

Basically, having a NAS drive rocks!

How to choose the best NAS drive for you

The first thing you’ll want to consider when buying a NAS is capacity: how much data your drive can hold, set by the number of bays and the maximum drive sizes you can afford. Go for a NAS that offers as much room as you need - some units come with hard drives fitted, some don't, but all will have a maximum capacity.

Also look for RAID configuration – how a NAS allows you to configure the drives you're installing – many offer some kind of data redundancy, so if one disk fails, another can step up. Of course, you’ll also want to go through the plethora of extra features available, like powerful on-board processors that can get your media files into different formats as you stream them.

The 7 best NAS drives you can buy today

Synology DiskStation DS218j best nas drive

1. Synology DiskStation DS218j

Excellent all round performance

Specifications
Bays: 2:
CPU: Marvell Armada 385 88F6820 dual-core 1.3GHz:
RAM: 512MB:
Reasons to buy
+Easy installation and usage+Speedy performance
Reasons to avoid
-Not for advanced users

This entry-level NAS drive from Synology ticks all our boxes – excellent performance, great software and it’s easy to set up too. It’s not massively different to the older DS216j, but we were big fans of the older model too… 

The DiskStation DS218j is a cost-effective, powerful 2- bay NAS designed for home use. It has rapid data transmission and low power consumption – a pleasing combination. It also features real-time incremental backup technology, so your data stored on a PC can be backed up to a Synology NAS instantly, using minimal system resources. It carries out even the most complete backup tasks in real-time, to prevent data loss too.

QNAP TS-332X best nas drive

2. QNAP TS-332X

Feature packed and budget friendly

Specifications
Bays: 3:
CPU: Alpine AL-324 quad-core 1.7GHz processor:
RAM: 4GB:
Reasons to buy
+3 Bays +Fast performance 
Reasons to avoid
-Too many features for beginners 

 

A great offering from QNAP, the TS-332X allows you to optimise storage capacity and protect against one disk failure with RAID 5 arrays and 3 bays. It also features a 10GbE SFP+ port for accelerating enormous file sharing and data transfer. It’s three M.2 SATA 6Gb/s SSD slots to enable higher performance. This nifty NAS supports LXC and Docker containers for rapidly deploying application services across platforms including the cloud, servers, and PCs – making it ideal (and affordable) for small businesses. Nice minimalist design too.

Drobo 5N2 best nas drive

3. Drobo 5N2

An emphasis on ease-of-use

Specifications
Bays: 5:
CPU: quad-core 1.6GHz:
RAM: 2GB:
Reasons to buy
+Straightforward to fit and use+Plenty of built-in features
Reasons to avoid
-Specs could be improved-No external ports

Brand new on the NAS scene is the 5N2 from Drobo, a storage company that's been undergoing a bit of a revamp of late. The firm wants to push out products with an emphasis on simplicity, and that's the case with the streamlined 5N2, with one of the most intuitive user interfaces we've seen.

You get a whopping five bays for all your storage needs, a 1.6GHz CPU and 2GB of RAM, though extra bells and whistles (like an HDMI port) are kept down to a minimum. There is an internal battery though, to protect against data loss if the power gets cut, and some integrated disaster recovery software.

Synology DiskStation DS916+ best nas drive

4. Synology DiskStation DS916+

More power for more money

Specifications
Bays: 4:
CPU: quad-core 1.6GHz (2.56GHz burst):
RAM: 2-8GB:
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of space and power+Smooth and quiet performance
Reasons to avoid
-Overkill for some users-Better value options out there

Our second Synology entry is the more expensive and more powerful DiskStation DS916+ - you get more memory, a faster processor, and twice as many drive bays. In fact there's an official expansion unit available for the DS916+ that takes the number of drive bays up to 9, so you can stuff a lot of hard drives in here.

Obviously that ramps up the price too, but if you're serious about your NAS, then it's worth the extra investment. As usual from Synology, the bundled software is capable and straightforward to use, and drives can be fitted and removed with the minimum of fuss.

My Cloud Expert Series EX2 Ultra best nas drive

5. My Cloud Expert Series EX2 Ultra

Perfect for your first NAS

Specifications
Bays: 2:
CPU: dual-core 1.3GHz:
RAM: 1GB:
Reasons to buy
+Smooth, simple operation+Compact and reliable case
Reasons to avoid
-Not as fast as some competitors-Integrated software is relatively basic

Western Digital has been in the hard drive game a long time, and its NAS drives are polished, reliable, and user-friendly (especially in the case of the EX2 Ultra). In fact, user-friendliness is one of the unit's key strengths, so it's worth a look if you're just getting started with networked storage.

You get two 3.5-inch drive bays, 1GB of RAM, and a dual-core 1.3GHz processor. Around the back are two USB 3.0 ports for plugging in additional drives. Allowing access to different users is a breeze, transfer speeds are quick, and it looks quite nice too, which helps.

QNAP TS-128 best nas drive

6. QNAP TS-128

A one-bay wonder

Specifications
Bays: 1:
CPU: dual-core 1.1GHz:
RAM: 1GB:
Reasons to buy
+Affordable NAS option+Plenty of apps to pick from
Reasons to avoid
-Fits only one hard drive-Relatively slow speeds

It's not always easy trying to find a decent NAS down at the budget end of the scale but the single-bay TS-128 does the job and brings you all the benefits of a QNAP drive that we mentioned above: reliability, remote access, strong app support and a friendly user interface to manage your data.

You're essentially buying an external hard drive with the added bonus of network connectivity - there's no data redundancy so make sure you have copies of your files somewhere else. It's a great 'starter' NAS with plenty of easy-to-use software for synchronising files and streaming media to other devices.

Netgear ReadyNAS 214 best nas drive

7. Netgear ReadyNAS 214

A simple NAS you can trust

Specifications
Bays: 4:
CPU: quad-core 1.4GHz:
RAM: 2GB:
Reasons to buy
+Lots of potential capacity+Solid and reliable performance
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively pricey for the spec-Software might be too limiting for some

Netgear is another hardware maker with a strong track record in consumer NAS drives, and the ReadyNAS 214 is a solid choice if you've looking for extra capacity - it has four drive bays rather than two, and the disks you install can be set up in a variety of ways.

It doesn't have quite the power of some other similarly priced NAS units, so you may not be able to get as many types of media transcoded to as many types of devices, but it does all the basics well (Plex support is particularly good), and we like the look of the sturdy metal finish too.