NAS servers are one of the star devices in homes, they will not only allow us to share files and folders on the local network, or make backup copies of our computers and smartphones. Thanks to these teams, we can set up a local Netflix with the multimedia content that we want, in addition, we have infinite possibilities thanks to all the software that you will be able to install. Today we are going to explain three hardware characteristics that a NAS must have, and three other software characteristics that the operating system must have so that you can get the most out of it.
Hardware features you must have
There are three fundamental characteristics that a NAS server must have at the hardware level, if they do not have these characteristics, it is very likely that you will miss them in the future. After many years of working with NAS and having several in our home, we think that any of these devices should have:
- Hardware-accelerated processor and integrated GPU . Today there are mainly three processors that have this type of device, Intel, AMD and also those based on ARM. Our recommendation, after having tried many models, is that you opt for a model with an Intel processor. The reasons are that they all incorporate hardware encryption acceleration, to transfer data with AES at maximum speed, but, above all, because they incorporate an integrated GPU to perform hardware video transcoding. This last feature is essential if you are going to use the server for multimedia tasks with Plex Media Server or other software.
- 3 hard drive bays or more . Although at first you buy only 2 disks to mount a RAID 1 (mirrored), if you later want to increase the storage space you can easily do so. If you buy a NAS with only 2 bays and occupy them, if you need more space tomorrow you will have to replace the two disks with others of greater capacity. We believe that buying a NAS with 3 bays to mount a RAID 5, or 4 bays to have more versatility, is the most recommended today.
- 2.5G Multigigabit Ethernet port : currently most of the new mid-range and high-end NAS have this type of connectivity, our recommendation is that you check the speed of the Ethernet port very well, because right now many mid-high-end routers have Multigigabit ports for LAN, so we can get extra read and write speed.
If your future NAS server meets these characteristics at the hardware level, we are sure that you will have valid equipment for many years. Logically, you also have to check that the rest of the features are consistent with the hardware, for example, that it does not have only 1GB of RAM because it will be really short.
Fundamental software features
Commercial NAS servers incorporate a Linux-based operating system, depending on whether it is QNAP, Synology or ASUSTOR, we will have one operating system or another, but they are all quite similar. The most important for us in a NAS operating system are the following functionalities:
- ZFS file system : operating systems such as TrueNAS Scale based on Linux and with ZFS, or QuTS hero from QNAP, have this advanced file system that will allow us perfect data integrity. In addition, it natively supports both compression and deduplication to save a large amount of data on internal storage.
- Operating System Virtualization – If you want to turn your NAS server into a router running operating systems with pfSense or OPNsense, and it is powerful enough, you can do so if the operating system supports this very important functionality. In addition, you will also be able to run a home automation system such as Home Assistant and you will enjoy Snapshots so you do not lose information in case of a bad configuration that you make.
- Building Docker Containers – Lightweight virtualization with Docker is essential today, if you don’t want to use applications natively on the NAS, or there isn’t a certain program or application that you want, having Docker will allow you to install almost any software that doesn’t be in the manufacturer’s software repositories.
As you can see, it is very important to choose well which NAS operating system we are going to use, not only for full virtualization and with Docker, but also to use the ZFS file system. Not all commercial NAS have this last feature, so you should take it into account before choosing.