I never knew I needed a NAS but having one changed everything
How many times have you acquired technology or software and wondered how you could live without it? That’s me right now with a Synology NAS. I have used external and cloud storage for years for a variety of purposes, but never really thought about connecting it to my home network.
Enter the NAS. Ho boy. Did I miss something.
Here is the kick. A NAS is many more than just a convenient place to store your files and access them from any device. It’s a server, your own little private cloud. The use cases are so vast that I really wish I had had one sooner. If you are on the fence maybe this can help you decide.
A NAS is more than just storage
My previously uneducated position made a NAS look like a fancy and very expensive hard drive that I could use without having to get up and plug in a cable. In a way, it’s still true, but it’s so much more than that.
Just read some of the guides from our resident NAS expert, Rich Edmond, wrote. Plex server? How about a repository for your home security camera footage? Integration with your cloud storage providers? It doesn’t even scratch the surface.
I’m using a Synology DS218 +, far from the biggest and worst NAS you can get, but even so and with pretty average internals by PC standards, it’s a really powerful little box. I used it to set up a Plex server that offers on-demand media, live TV, and whole-home DVR capabilities, I used it to experiment with Docker, host messaging and yes, as a network storage accessible from any PC.
The extent to which a NAS is used is what surprised me the most and it’s also why I just don’t think I can live without it anymore. It’s built into both my work and my entertainment, and there’s room for a lot more.
The icing on the cake with this Synology unit is the ease of access to my files from outside my home network. I didn’t need to set up VPNs or anything else complicated that I don’t really understand, Synology took care of it. All I have to do is use a web browser and sign in. So it’s not even just network attached storage for one location.
A sandbox to play
One of my big promises at the end of 2021 and the start of the new year is to learn new computer skills. And my NAS is something I can use for that, albeit with limitations. Docker, for example, is one of the most popular platforms on the planet for running containerized apps, and I started playing around with it on my Synology NAS. I could do the same on my PC, but inevitably I’ll end up breaking something at some point, and my NAS is a detached sandbox. I have a bunch of files there, but even if I break something it’s a minor inconvenience.
Likewise, I was able to try not only Plex but also a few alternatives to Plex including Emby and Jellyfin again, all with ease, minimal setup, and no requirement to leave my PC on 24/7 to access it. . The media lives on the NAS, the service that manages it lives on the NAS; it’s the only thing that needs to stay. My hotter, thirstier gaming PC falls asleep at night.
This is one of the things that has changed my workflow the most. I no longer rely on finding that USB drive or external SSD to locate the file I needed on my laptop or leaving my desktop PC on all the time in case I need to connect remotely for something. Everything that is important (so basically the work) that is stored locally is on my NAS, and it is the only device that needs to be left on.
Coming back to Docker for a moment as well, my NAS has been a key part of getting started with self-hosting my own services which are more private and not dependent on someone else’s cloud work. I have since evolved into a full-time online home server running these services, but I could easily have left them running on my NAS. This is where they all started.
I won’t bore you with too many details, but thanks to my NAS and the capabilities it offers, I started hosting my own local podcast server, a no-tracker interface to Reddit, and even a self-hosted version of Google search without all the ads, tracking and general Google garbage everywhere. All running in a Docker container, all based on my Synology NAS.
You don’t have to go too far
Besides what I can now do with a NAS in my life, I have perhaps been most surprised at how even a more basic model like mine is still perfectly capable of going into all of these things. fun. Of course, it’s not much of a powerhouse, but its own operating system is so light it hasn’t struggled yet.
There are good reasons to have a multiple drive NAS setup in a RAID setup, but also, if you just want to start small, there are some drives that take up a single hard drive. The basic idea is the same whether you have a single drive or a full rack.
We have guides to help you buy the best NAS for your home and also to help you if you are specifically looking for a home entertainment solution to get the best NAS for Plex.
I guess the overall thought here is if you’ve been on the fence or aren’t really sure how much value a NAS can add to your life, I’ve been there. And now I wouldn’t be without one.