NAS roundup: Best network attached storage options for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users
A Network Attached Storage device can provide shared storage, a Time Machine backup target, and additional useful features for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users on a local area network — and beyond. Here are the best Apple-friendly NAS units to meet and exceed the now discontinued Time Capsule's features.
Network Attached Storage, or NAS, devices are very handy for a variety of reasons. Beyond just acting as shared file storage for multiple users locally, most can be configured to provide that access to you while on-the-go. Additionally, hosting some form of media server, storing images, mirroring to another unit, and more are all other reasons to get one.
Many also natively support Apple's Time Machine backup tool for Macs. Using Time Machine, if a file is ever deleted, you can browse back through different states of your computer through time to recover the file, or even grab a previous version. If a Mac starts acting up, you can completely restore from any point in the past as well.
Apple's Time Capsule was a great option as both a destination for Time Machine backups and as a wireless router. Now that Apple has officially discontinued them, many are on the market for a new NAS device, so we rounded up the best consumer-grade options for anyone with a Mac or iOS device.
WD My Cloud
There are a variety of My Cloud variants out there, but the most basic and widely appealing option is the My Cloud Home model.
Time Machine support is included as well as media streaming with DLNA, remote file access, and even an iTunes server. We particularly liked the ability to right-click a folder on our Mac and choose sync to copy all the files to the My Cloud.
Mobile apps for iOS and Android make it easy to access on the go, though they aren't the best-designed ones out there. There is also a web interface available if you don't happen to have one of your devices around.
Using the USB port on the back, you can attach USB flash drives or hard drives to import files easily.
Aside from the My Cloud Home, My Cloud Home Duo ups the storage capacity up to 16TB in total. If you need additional RAID options, the My Cloud Expert or My Cloud Pro models are a better bet..
You can pick up the basic My Cloud Home 2TB model on Amazon or at B&H for $139.00. B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey (Colorado and Vermont residents, see here).
Seagate Personal Cloud
Alongside Western Digital, Seagate is another common brand when it comes to storage solutions. Seagate Personal Cloud is an excellent NAS device with 4 TB of storage.
It has a modern design, with a sleek black body and a horizontal layout, compared to the vertical orientation of the My Cloud. Family and friends can be invited to join with secure file sharing through private emails.
It also supports Time Machine, with it working as a local drive when connected through USB or across the network with Ethernet.
Using the Seagate Media app, files can be accessed remotely on an iOS or Android device. Alternatively, media can be streamed to a variety of devices, including Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. Many TVs from LG and Samsung also work via DLNA. Not to mention Playstation and Xbox.
The Seagate Personal Cloud with 4TB of storage can be found on Amazon for $179.00.
Promise Apollo Cloud 2
The Apollo Cloud 2 from Promise has one of the easiest setups around, all of which can be done from your iPhone. As a bonus, the device supports Apple's Files app on the iPhone and iPad directly, allowing for easy file migration to and from your mobile device.
Connectivity wise, this NAS device has a USB 3.0 port for backups and file transfers, and an Ethernet port for connecting to the router. The unit is powered by a dual-core processor and dual 4TB "surveillance-class" drives which can be configured as RAID 0 or 1.
We took a look at it in February, and found it to be a great "set and forget" device with Time Machine compatibility, but lacking niceties found in other devices like media library streaming.
Synology Diskstation DS218j
Synology is known for their high-end network storage solutions. The DS218j is an upgraded version of their popular DS216 model from a couple years ago.
Unlike some of the others, the DS218j is sold diskless, and it is up to you insert your own pair of drives. Those drives can be set up in Synology Hybrid RAID, Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, and RAID 1 configurations.
Synology offers myriad applications to add capabilities to the unit. Apps like DS File, DS Photo, DS Video, DS Cloud, and others really offer a ton of features for the Diskstation.
Like the others, it supports Time Machine, but so much more. To connect, there is an Ethernet port along the back, with three USB ports available for one-time transfers or expanding the unit with external drives.
Given the app-centric nature of the device, streaming options are effectively endless with the Diskstation. After software expansion, the device is able to send audio and video to Samsung TVs, Roku players, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, DLNA devices, and more.
TerraMaster makes some great devices, and the aptly named F2-220 is no different. It has an aluminum alloy body with easily swappable drives. Like others, it comes empty, relying on the user to install any set of drives they'd like.
This device also has an Intel Celeron 2.41GHz dual-core CPU and 2GB of RAM inside to help power it, which is great if you have many users or using it as a streaming media server.
There is also support out-of-the-box for Time Machine, plus a wide array of apps including a file server, mail server, web server, media server, Rsync remote server, FTP server, MySQL server and others
It also supports DLNA streaming, and can act as an iTunes media server.
Buffalo TeraStation 1200D
Buffalo makes one of the best looking NAS devices on our list, fitting well within any home or office. It has two internal drive bays, with configurations ranging from 2TB to 8TB of storage.
Time Machine is supported, as well as multiple user access with remote support.
It is DLNA-certified in addition to iTunes support for media server duties, although reviews suggest it may not be as robust from a file format support standpoint as some of the others.
Drobo happens to be the most expensive on the list, running nearly $500 without the drives. It is, however, one of the most lauded NAS devices out there, perfect for offices as well as personal use.
This is capable of handling up to 64TB of storage when the drives are installed — which is a fairly easy task. It has enough internal slots for five 3.5-inch drives.
One of the best features is the internal battery. Should power ever fail, the internal battery will keep your data safe until you can get it going again.
Dual Ethernet ports also make it easy to connect. One can connect to the router, the other to your Mac or the rest of the network, possibly offering increased performance, depending on network architecture.
Beyond file sharing, and Time Machine support, a variety of apps are available that work with Drobo, similar to the Synology NAS. Some allow the setup of a Plex media server, others enable remote access or cloud backup, and one is even available to automatically and securely backup all photos from your iOS device.
A deep rabbit hole
Some of these devices are extremely easy to set up, like the Promise Apollo Cloud 2. Others need a bit more configuration and maintenance. It's also very easy for a network attached storage project to get very expensive, very fast.
Our list is just of the ones we've used and like, with a limitation we've applied on initial setup ease and a reasonable budget. Many of them have super in-depth options, with large app stores hosting services that can be added that we've only alluded to. Many more can take a pile of drives for truly epic amounts of storage and a similarly profound cost — but for this, we've eliminated those as well.
Take a look at the tech specs of each unit before you buy.
And, don't be caught without a backup
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: backups are key. While a single NAS in your own home isn't the only source of backup you should rely on, it is a crucial start to a good backup regimen. Instead of relying on yourself to consistently connect a wired hard drive and manually backup, a NAS can offer convenience and automation, as well as a variety of other features.
You can extend this with off-site backup options, which is basically installing a compatible NAS in another location such as a trusted friend's house, and automatically syncing the two — but this is a topic for another day.
Be sure to check out AppleInsider's recommendations for alternatives to Apple's discontinued AirPort routers.