Updated 18 May, 2013, 5:40 pm IST
8 ways to get the most out of a home NAS drive
| by Jamshed Avari
You don’t need to be a network ninja to get to files from outside your house, though standard tools will work perfectly well. Many companies have built remote access features into their current products. Signing in from a Web browser or mobile app gives you access to all your stored media, though this functionality might require you to pay for a subscription service after some time.
Synology's DS212j two-bay NAS, front and back.
The next big advantage of an NAS is off-device backups. Simply put, you have a cheap, reliable hard drive where your data can stay so it isn’t affected by a hardware failure or software crash on your PC. You can back up every machine in the house, and automate a daily routine using Windows’ built-in Backup and Restore tool, OS X’s Time Machine (if the drive supports it), or your choice of backup software. Your NAS software disc might also include a backup utility. To simply duplicate important files and folders, you can use Microsoft’s SyncToy or SyncBack. You should still have a backup outside the home in case of a fire or other catastrophe. It might also be a good idea to ensure the NAS is plugged into a stable power source.
Think of the NAS as a large storage location that’s always accessible but never in the way. If you’re running out of space on your laptop and don’t want to bother with USB drives, just plug the NAS into your router and forget about it. Getting to the data will be a lot less troublesome than sorting through dozens of DVDs.
D-Link and other companies have started selling simple IP cameras for the home. These use Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet to broadcast live video to your mobile device over the Internet and send you mobile alerts when motion is detected. You can choose to dump a stream of video or a series of images to a storage location on your local network via FTP. This lets you maintain a much larger backlog of footage than you would be able to with limited storage space on-camera.
Windows Backup and Restore lets you define a network location as the backup target.
Many NAS drives also include basic download clients in their onboard software, which eliminates the load on your PC and the need to leave it on overnight. Several models even support Torrent files. You’ll have to follow the instructions specific to the model you buy, but the process generally involves beginning a download as usual via your PC browser, and handing it off to the NAS itself after starting. This makes a whole lot of sense, since storage is what your NAS does best.
At its heart, your NAS device is a small, special-purpose computer with its own processor and RAM, making it flexible and even potentially hackable. If you’re so inclined, you could run your own media transcoding appliance, proxy, Web server, SQL database server, or FTP file server. Buffalo drives in particular are known to be easily hackable, and projects such as FreeNAS exist to promote extremely light Linux distributions that run on the NAS itself.
Click 'Map Network Drive' to mount any network location as a drive in Windows Explorer.
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