Five Best NAS Enclosures

There are plenty of NAS (network-attached storage) enclosures which you can load with hard drives to create effective centralised storage for your home network. All promise to keep your data accessible and backed up for redundancy on multiple drives, but which ones do the best job? Here are five top picks based on your nominations.

Title photo by Sinchen.Lin.

Whatever NAS system you choose, some features are common across the board in this roundup: all systems have internal memory to run an operating system, so the drives you choose to add can be used purely for storage. Where systems vary is in how many drives they can handle and the number of connectivity options they offer.

Synology DS212j ($210)

The Synology DS212j is a two-drive bay model aimed squarely at home users and small groups looking for a budget NAS solution. It can also function as a low-powered 24/7 downloading system. It is also DLNA-certified, which makes for easy media streaming to connected devices on your home network. The DS212J supports a maximum capacity of 8TB (using two 4TB drives), and includes a pair of USB 2.0 ports and 1 Gigabit Ethernet port on the back. The device comes with backup software for Windows, is Time Machine compatible, and can be configured for remote access to your files. The Synology app for iOS and Android also lets you retrieve files on your smartphone or tablet.

Synology DS1512+ ($790)

If you need a large amount of capacity in your NAS, the DS1512 is a five-bay model that supports a maximum of 20TB (five lots of 4TB). It sports a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports on the rear, and has two USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports for external connectivity along with an eSATA port. If you need to extend the device's storage capabilities, it can easily be daisy chained via iSCSI or eSATA to other models using a Synology DX expansion unit. The larger model is a little less energy-efficient than its smaller cousins, but the device can support whatever operating system you choose to throw on it thanks to its internal (and expandable) memory.

Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 2 ($500)

Netgear's ReadyNAS line of appliances offer some high-end features at a relatively low price. The ReadyNAS Pro 2 is a two-drive bay model that supports a maximum of 12TB of storage including externally connected hard drives via its six SATA II channels and three USB 2.0 ports. It offers dual Gigabit Ethernet ports. In addition to operating as a file server, the ReadyNAS Pro 2 functions as a print server if you attach a USB printer to it, and is streaming compatible with Windows Media Center, PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. The ReadyNAS Pro 2 isn't a desktop model, so no backup software is included, but it does function with network-compatible Windows backup clients and Time Machine on Macs.

Synology DS412+ ($660)

Synology's DS412+ is a prosumer NAS model targeted at small business users. The DS412+ is a four drive bay model that supports up to 16TB (for lots of 4TB) and features dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port and one eSATA port on the rear of the device. Like the other pro models, the 412+ can be daisy chained via eSATA or iSCSI to additional units for added storage, and can be configured for remote access or even to host external web sites or business applications that need to be accessible from multiple locations.

Build It Yourself

Many Lifehacker readers opt for a "built it yourself" approach to NAS systems. Some opt to use an existing older computer stuffed with larger drives; others will build a new dedicated machine for the purpose. The choice is a largely matter of convenience, easy setup and support versus choice and expandability. If you decide to assemble your own DIY NAS, check out our guides to building a home file server or useful constructing a streaming and torrenting machine. Photo by Justin Ruckman.

We were tempted to group the many nominees into models so we didn't have so many Synology boxes in the roundup, but we did set out to find the best NAS enclosures, not who makes the best NAS systems. Still, we're betting you have some alternatives to suggest, so let's hear them below.


Comments

    HP N40L

      +1 for the Hewlett Packard N40L.
      I can connect 6 hard drives and install freenas. Excluding the cost of the drives, I got mine for $240 (inc 8 gigs of RAM). I'm now running about 10TB of disks :)
      IMHO, one of the best DIY options for those who don't mind a little adventure.

      +1
      N40L + FreeNAS. Heaps cheaper and more flexible.

      This. Although I have an N34L. Have been using it for the past year and half on LimeWire. 5x 2TB Samsung Black drives in RAID5 with 1 drive doing parity. LimeWire running on USB. Thing has NEVER failed, has NEVER dropped a disk, is ultra reliable, and it's been on for the entire time. I run XBMC on my windows media center PC and access movies/tv shows over network with no issues. Sickbeard, Couchpotato and SABnzb all pointing at the device. Also, netgear anything? bitch please.

      Last edited 18/12/12 7:34 pm

    How about the WD My Book Live Duo drives? They happen to run debian, enabling ssh on them is just a few clicks away.

    Synology DS212j+couchpotato+sabnzbd+sickbeard.

    AND you can run a wordpress website on it if you so like.

    Can't praise it enough, been the best investment in the last couple of years. Never faulted on me either.

      Have to agree the Synolgy is bloody Orsm . I love that my Sickbreard and Sabnzb can be accessed anywhere. Talk about easy to setup the built in packages for these products. How hard is it to do updates. Click update and ........done

    Synology products are good. At the time, their 2 bay products were just out-pipped by the QNAS products in terms of 3rd party software that could be installed on it. Everything else was pretty much equal. I think Synology have since caught up.

    OMG the prices they're charging for this hardware is absolutely outrageous! Which components in them warrant such expense???
    I have a 1TB WD NAS disk (not enclosure) that I bought for under $100 at JB hifi before the Thailand floods a year or two ago.

    Wrong Picture for 1512+ Synology NAS

    I have had a Synology DS-207+ for many years now and it is a pleasure to own. I have never had issues with it and the continuous firmware updates over the years without hitch make me have a lot of confidence in it.
    Therefore Synology as a manufacturer has my vote, pick your model relevant to your use case.

    OK, you are talking about the enclosures, not the NAS inside. I still fail to see why you didn't talk about an important enclosure feature: Drive Swapping.
    Do they all have hot swap drives? If not, how much disassembly is required to replace a dead disk? Can the cases be opened in situ, or do you risk losing a bunch of fiddly screws?
    Hey, is that memory expandable? (I suppose this becomes a feature of the motherboard, not the case). Does it have a mains power supply built in, or does it use a power brick?

    No QNAP boxes listed? I know they're expensive, but they've got fscking cool features.

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