What is a NAS drive and why do I need one?



NAS (Network-Attached-Storage) drives are a safer way of storing or backing up data, than a conventional External Hard Disk Drive (EHDD). We explain why.

If you are not currently doing any form of backing up of your data (photos, music, documents) we suggest you implement local and/or cloud backup immediately You can start without even leaving your chair simply by using an offsite storage (cloud) storage system such as DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud or something more sophisticated such as CrashPlan.

cloud storage services

However, if you are in Business, you need something more robust than a few files in Dropbox. The above mentioned cloud services are certainly recommended but depending on internet availability, it may take quite some time to backup and/or recover a lot of data. The Prices for Cloud storage vary, as you can see from the following image.

cloud storage

note 1 – Australian iCloud Prices https://support.apple.com/en-au/ht201238 – 2TB Max storage (Files, pictures, Music, Books etc) – Files can be accessed via browser
note 2 – Australian Google Drive Prices – https://www.google.com/drive/pricing/ can expand to 10TB – Files can be accessed via browser
note 3 –OneDrive/Sharepoint – https://products.office.com/en-au/onedrive-for-business/compare-onedrive-for-business-plans – Can expand to 25TB – Files can be accessed via browser
note 4 – Dropbox Plus prices https://www.dropbox.com/buy/plus – Also unlimited Dropbox Business for $33/m x 5 users gives unlimited storage (Dropbox Business) – Files can be accessed via browser
note 5 – IT Guys WA A4 Prices incl GST on a 12 month contract, managed by the IT Guys. (Files only) – Files cannot be accessed via a browser and need to restored. Does not copy programs, only data
note 6 – IT Guys WA A$ Prices incl GST 2TB for $150 on a 12 month contract, manager by the IT Guys Backs Up Files and Disk image for Servers. ) – Files can be accessed via browser
note 7 – USD Prices https://home.elephantdrive.com/home/pricing-and-plans/ unlimited plans available on application (Files only) ) – Files can be accessed via browser
note 8 – https://azure.microsoft.com/en-au/pricing/details/backup/ – real-time replication of your virtual machines (VM) to a backup vault in Azure

The IT Guys recommend using a combination of both local and cloud backup such as the Datto Alto 3

Local Backup

Making a Local backup (to a storage device in your office or home) can be achieved in three ways:

Using an External Hard Disk Drive (EHDD)

external HDD

External hard drives usually consist of a single 2.5″ or 3.5″ conventional Hard Disk Drive or Solid State Drive surrounded by a plastic case which connects to a computer or server with a USB cable.

  • They range in size from 500GB to 6 or 8TB.
  • They don’t like being moved, dropped or shaken (with the exception of Lacie Rugged)
  • When a hard drive fails, the data can be lost forever without recovery.

They are the cheapest form of backup device. EHDD’s are effective for backing up individual computers and laptops, but should be rotated periodically with a second or third drive, in case one becomes faulty, full, corrupt or infected with a virus. When they do fail or become full, it is not always obvious and can lead to a false sense of security. If you are looking for something more reliable, fool-proof or idiot-proof. Choose one of the following two options instead.

2. Using a NAS Drive (Network Attached Storage)

NAS Drive


A NAS Drive is a device that holds multiple 3.5″ drives and is usually static in one place (not very mobile) depending on the number of slots and the type of RAID array, the capacity can be up to 16, 32 or 64TB.

Depending on the setup, each drive can be mirrored 2 or 3 times, ensuring that you data is never lost even if one of the HDD‘s dies. Drives are hot-swappable (meaning they can be added or replaced without stopping or interrupting the workings of the drive.) and can be replaced with larger HDD’s thus allowing the NAS drive to increase capacity as an when you need it. NAS drive chassis (without drives) start around $300 and vary greatly depending on the number of bays, capacity and RAM.

NAS drives are basically mini-servers and offer ….

  • Mirrored drives using RAID
  • Cloud backup, directly from the NAS drive (optional)
  • Email notification when errors or failures occur
  • Built in redundancy
  • Suitable media server for streaming music/video to TV or Computers.

Newer NAS drives are very reliable, but need to be installed and setup correctly to make sure they perform correctly. Special NAS Disk drives such as Western Digital Red Pro’s, offer 3 year warranty and are especially designed for NAS drives. Cheap standard HDD’s will also work but do not offer more than 12 months warranty and are likely to fail prematurely in a NAS environment. NAS drives, 3 years or older tend to be quite slow and should be replaced. Technology has improved greatly in that period and if the drives are 3 years or older, they will need replacing. Although the NAS drive unit may be operational for many years, it would be a prudent measure to replace the actual HDD’s at least every three years.

3. Using a NAS Drive (Network Attached Storage) with Cloud Integration

While NAS drives are ideal in the office or home for sharing and storing data locally, accessing those files remotely (such as when working from home or a 2nd Office) can be an issue especially with slow or congested internet.

QNAP NAS drives, have built in OneDrive/SharePoint integration

QNAP Onedrive Sharepoint

This allows for users to work remotely using OneDrive, with office users accessing files directly on the NAS.

3. Using a second computer or server.

An alternative to a NAS drive could be another computer or server accessible over the network. However, unless the HDD’s are setup in RAID, it will not be as reliable as a NAS drive but could be more convenient and quick way of backing up using EHDD’s due the the increased speed of data access via a wired network rather than by USB cable.