To get the best performance from your NAS device, you should
connect it - and your computers - to a Gigabit Ethernet router. Unfortunately,
some budget broadband routers support only slower 10/100Mbit Ethernet, and
Wi-Fi is slower still.
To get the best
performance from your NAS device, you should connect it - and your computers -
to a Gigabit Ethernet router.
The good news, if you’re stuck with a cheap router, is that
you can attach a Gigabit Ethernet switch to it for around $25. Most NAS
devices, PCs and laptops that have been made in the past couple of years have
Gigabit Ethernet ports. If your computer doesn't have one, you can add it by
installing an inexpensive PCI, PCI-E CardBus or ExpressCard adaptor.
All NAS devices can be used as file servers, but most also
have additional features, such as the ability to share a USB printer across
your network and stream video and music to a universal plug and play (UPnP)
network media player or iTunes. Some even let you host your own website,
download files from the web or use BitTorrent independently of a computer.
All NAS devices
can be used as file servers
Remote access features are common in NAS devices. Most can
act as an FTP server, providing access to your files from any
internet-connected PC, and some let you access your data using a web browser.
You typically have to adjust your router’s port-forwarding settings for these
remote access features to work, though. If your router supports UPnP port
forwarding, most NAS devices try to configure it automatically. Otherwise,
you’ll have to do it yourself.
Most NAS devices use a version of the Linux operating
system. These tend to look like a router's HTML interface, but some are fully
fledged multitasking operating systems that run entirely in your web browser.
Synology’s DSM even supports the installation of applications such as
Logitech’s Squeezebox Server, an email server and a backup program. Before you
buy a NAS device, though, consider whether you'll actually use these features.
How we test Network-attached storage devices
To test the read and write speeds of each NAS device, we use
an automated script that copies files and measures the time taken. Files are
copied to the NAS device from our test PC's memory rather than from another
hard disk. As RAM is faster than any hard disk, this ensures that file-transfer
speeds are limited by the NAS device rather than by our test PC.
To test the read
and write speeds of each NAS device, we use an automated script that copies
files and measures the time taken.
In our large-file tests, we copy a 100MB file to and from
each NAS device 30 times. This shows how each device copes with big files such
as videos. In our small-file tests, we repeat the process with a selection of
tiny files totalling 10OMB. This shows how the devices cope with small files,
such as office files or heavily compressed photos.
We also find out how well each device copes as a networked
video library. We store the contents of a DVD movie on each device and try to
watch it using a networked media player. We also test any built-in music, FTP,
disk or print servers. Our reviews tell you if any of these failed to work in
our tests. That doesn't mean it won't work at all; we're simply reporting our
experiences. For printer testing, we connect a Samsung mono laser over USB.