Home Backup The Value of a NAS (Network Attached Storage) or Personal Cloud

The Value of a NAS (Network Attached Storage) or Personal Cloud

by Kerry Dawson

Network attached storage or as some refer to this as the personal cloud has been around for some time. It is very beneficial in the number of things it will allow you to do with your computer. For one, NAS storage isn’t the fastest in the world but on a per gigabyte basis it is quite reasonable. Add to that you are creating your own personal cloud, and your files are portable with you anywhere in the world.

As an example, to replicate the kind of storage available on a NAS for any kind or size of file using Dropbox, for every Terabyte of space you would spend approximately $1200/yr. If you have a 5 Terabyte NAS and wanted the same space on Dropbox, the yearly charge would be 5 x $1200 or $6000/yr which is a lot of money.

Not Simply for Storage Alone

A NAS is at times referred to as a Personal Cloud or Personal Cloud Server. The use of a NAS for mass, remote storage is growing in popclarity due to a reasonable cost of entry and valuable functionality. With a NAS you can access your files anywhere. You could be sitting say in London and showing your friends a set of photos that sit on your NAS in say Toronto. You are providing remote access regardless of location and taking no local storage space to do so.

The latter is of particular interest. Our digital world is exploding exponentially. Although your smartphone can be equipped with amazing storage, if you only had a few videos you wanted to show the storage would be burned up in no time.

Counter Balancing Techniques

The famous French philosopher, sociologist, lay theologian Jacques Ellul theorized that for every technique a counter-balancing technique is often required to bring things back into harmony. As our digital world explodes and it is exploding as everything is going digital, all the local storage devices will not be able to keep up with the explosion of digital information without affecting the form factor of a device dramatically. The web has, in many ways, solved a large part of the problem as we are able to get information on anything using a simple query. That is though anything in the public domain.

However, the personal domain is just as important to us individually as is the public. Yet, this begs the question how do you access all of that information compiled in one’s life. As an example, photography has always been fun and rewarding. Now though with a camera on us where ever we go, we can amass an awful lot of photos in a very short space of time.

The Digital Explosion

In the past, 256 gigs on your phone was consider astonishing. It’s now fully possible but can it store all of your digital (personal) content. It most likely can store your photos and music but once you introduce video that’s it. A short video clip takes a lot of space. People’s Smartphones allows for the taking of video.

With a NAS or NAS’s combined, they could store all of your digital world and that information can be accessed anywhere you are. Referred to as a Personal Cloud it is basically just another cloud purposed for personal content. And you will need it.

The move to paperless often at times seems like a fantasy. It seems as if there is more paper than ever. However, paper documents are being scanned into digital format at an ever increasing speed. People simply do not have the storage space for all of this material.

Products are evolving that make the conversion simpler and faster all the time. One of the best current examples of a very robust scenario is the use of the following:

  • Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 scanner which makes fast and simple work of scanning in all sorts of paper based content
  • Products like Evernote, DEVONthink, Paperless and Keep IT! Provide a sound repository for the converted documents
    • these products also make simple work of retrieving your information

The Journal

Your diary or journal is incredibly well positioned to take advantage of the digital format. Not only can you journal what you did but you can include with your written material all kinds of media, such as photos, to enhance the value of an experience.

The digital journal brings something to the table that can’t be had in an analogue journal. Depending on how well you’ve categorized your journal, access to past info can be a breeze. Finding stuff in your analogue journal can be a nightmare and you may never find what you’re looking for.

You might think of a journal as not requiring much space. However, journals and journalling have become multi-dimensional. You might include with your written word a pile of photographs and a couple of videos. In fact, you can include in your journal pretty well anything and although they are still evolving there is no end to what you might keep in a journal that in the analogue days would be impossible.


Your NAS can be many things but it also might be your entertainment hub. On it you could build a library of movies, videos, music etc that you play back through your wireless network on your TV. In the above scenario, through the course of time, we’re talking huge volumes of information that you would need to be easily able to play back.

As an example, a Plex server, designed for the personal sphere can do exactly that. This is not quite as easy as it sounds but it is fully doable and the results are very rewarding. You can watch you’re selection of content on your terms as you wish. However, since this is a cloud server, you can also share your library with your friends and vice-a-versa.

Numerous Nas’s to Choose From

Just when you think you’re all decked out, another technology is thrown at you. For a NAS environment to function well you will need:

  • a NAS
  • A network connected to the Internet
  • Methods to access the NAS
  • Tools to display the content
    • e.g. If it’s a movie home system you will likely (not necessarily) want a server to display your movies. The best solution at the moment for this is Plex.
      So in the above scenario you’ve got to figure out a number of things. The most major of which will be the NAS you choose and if you have a home movie scenario will you want to just use your NAS, which is doable, or will you want a connected server to the NAS. For those who are extremely bent on the best experience they will want the connected server most likely that being Plex. Each of these things has to figured out. The end result of your work is well worth it but there can be some hair pulling as you push a long.

The NAS’s Themselves

There are a number of NAS devices that you can choose from with varying costs. The devices I prefer in no particular order are:

  • Synology
  • Seagate
  • Qnap
  • Western Digital

However, do not limit yourself to these units. In the linked article, you will see that you have a variety of choices. I have just chosen these for the purposes of talking more specifically about the technology. As an example, the Synology is one which is diskless and you choose your drives whereas the Seagate and Western Digital are all in one. One thing of importance though is the major supplier of disks for all of these devices is Seagate. If say you were on Amazon checking out with a Qnap server you will/should choose disk/s to go along with your purchase. Seagate tends to be the major player in this realm.

Finally. . .

Configuring a NAS solution is no small undertaking. It is not necessarily overly expensive especially for what you end up with but it does involve a mindset shift to figure out how to use the device and thus configure the environment. The end result though is so worth-whiled.

Not only will you be able to enjoy your media at home from your NAS, you can also do full computer backups on the NAS using say Time Machine for the Apple environment to reaching out regardless of where you are to show some of your content off (photos as an example) to obtaining that important document you forgot to bring with you.

You might rightly conclude that this is what you could do with a cloud based solution like Onedrive or Google drive and you can. However, the costs of these solutions would be astronomical if you went to the lengths you can with a NAS. To configure a 12 Terabyte NAS is not that expensive; is one time and can grow with your needs. For those concerned about privacy, a NAS is not something sitting in the public domain except for the volume that you make public.

You’re running your show. There are no other eyes that can peer at your content unless you’ve been hacked but that goes for the major cloud services also. This is a robust technique that deals with the explosion of digital content whether it is personal or not. However, if it is sitting on your NAS, even content pulled from the public domain becomes personal.

Thus, we have a technique that deals effectively with the techniques we have been creating since the 1950’s. In some ways, the only limitation to a NAS is the one you put around it. It’s a highly flexible solution, robust in nature and scaleable.

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