Network Attached Storage (NAS) can best be described as a file based storage service that is supplied to other devices that are connected to the same network. The main function of NAS is to provide file systems, access to files and data storage. However you should be aware that a NAS unit is not intended or designed for general purpose computer tasks. They do not have a display screen or keyboard, although you may be able to run other software from it. NAS can be controlled over the network and it is indeed possible to connect a browser to its network address. You could actually describe a dedicated file server as a NAS unit that also has a display, keyboard and operating system.
You will not require a general purpose operating system on any form of NAS device and therefore operating systems that provide minimum functionality will often run in conjunction with NAS Storage. The majority of systems that use NAS will contain at least one, if not more, hard disks. These will be arranged in logical storage containers or Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive/Independent Disks (RAID). This in turn will completely remove the responsibility of other servers within the network having to complete file serving.
NAS will use various kinds of file based protocols. For example NFS, which is extremely popular in UNIX systems, Server Message Block/Common Internet File System (SMB/CIFS) which has been made popular in MS Window systems. You can also use the protocol AFP which is used in Apple Macintosh systems. The use of NAS Storage can dramatically increase the performance of your computer. This is simply because all file serving will be completed by NAS rather than using the same server that is responsible for doing all the processing. However the speed of any NAS device can be severely hampered by a large amount of traffic on the network.
It must also be said that NAS does have its drawbacks too. If the network is occupied by too many people or if the CPU processing power is rather demanding, this will cause the NAS to reach its limit. You can, of course, upgrade your CPU power by adding one or more servers however a NAS will merely be limited by its own hard drive rendering it impossible to upgrade. A NAS device can also be inefficient and will show certain characteristics that you would not expect of a typical file server. These include the ability to locate and index files in a short time and they cannot compute the disk usage made by separate directories. You could actually call NAS a server in itself. It does have all the required components such as a CPU, RAM, motherboard, etc. They can also be considered extremely reliable due to the fantastic internal design.
NAS offers far more than merely storage solutions. You are able to use many low cost systems such as fault tolerant and load balancing web server systems and even email. This is made possible by the provision of storage services. The huge amount of multi-media data that can be found in the consumer market makes the need for NAS storage almost essential. This is mirrored in how the price of these devices has literally plummeted in more recent years. You can actually purchase a NAS storage device for pretty much the same price as a Firewire external hard disk or even a regular USB.
There are many reasons that you may choose to purchase NAS devices and we are well aware that external hard drives are a fantastic way to create that additional storage that you may need. In actual fact many simpler versions allow you to have additional storage by merely attaching a USB connection to your computer although these other types of device may well be restricted to a specific computer. This is where the use of Network Attached Storage is a godsend. You no longer have to worry about connecting directly to an individual desktop PC or a laptop. You can merely connect a NAS server directly to your wireless router. Therefore in effect, this will allow many different users who are using multiple computers to access and share the numerous files stored within the NAS server storage.
NAS storage provides many solutions, whether you want to store and share your images, music or videos in one convenient and safe location. Furthermore you will also have the ability to stream digital media to certain multi-media devices within your home and this can be done wirelessly.