A network drive is an external hard drive that is designed to be used on a computer network. The technical name for it is network attached storage (NAS) device, but many people just call it a file server. Unlike a portable hard drive, it is meant to be placed in one spot and not moved around. It requires a power supply and needs to be placed near a wall socket, but it does not have to be connected to a computer. A network drive is normally placed next to a router or switch and connected with a short Ethernet cable. Just like a modem, it runs continuously so that any computer on the network can access it at any time.
There are many productivity benefits that come from using a network drive at work. It allows files to be stored in one location where they are easier to find, rather than being spread across the network. This is essential for projects where many people work on the same files at different times, such as drafting offices and design studios. It helps avoid problems that often occur when files are shared around, such as new versions being overwritten by older versions. A network drive can also be used as a file archive and as temporary storage space for daily backups. The smaller models can also be used to transfer files to other sites.
A network drive can also be used at home to store music and videos downloaded from the internet, so that every member of the household has access to them. It is also good for storing digitized photos, slides, documents, and home movies. By using a media player connected to the network drive, digital media stored on a network drive can be played on a television without needing to hook it up to a computer. Some models even have their own media server that can stream media directly to a gaming console, which avoids the need to buy an expensive media player.
There are a few essential features to look for when choosing a network drive. Firstly, it should have a large capacity that will provide enough space for many years of service. It is very easy to underestimate the capacity required so it is wise to go with the largest capacity that you can afford. The exterior does not have to be particularly attractive, as most network drives are stored out of sight behind a desk or inside a cupboard. An indicator panel on the front showing the remaining capacity is useful, especially for a small capacity network drive. Another useful feature is an interface that allows the configuration options to be changed with a web browser from any computer on the network.
Another feature to consider is the type of Ethernet port and the performance of the internal hard drive. The speed of the Ethernet port determines how quickly files are transferred. It is not as important for small files, but large files can take a long time to transfer if they have to pass through a slow Ethernet port. Despite its name, Fast Ethernet is much slower than the more recent Gigabit Ethernet. If the computers and network devices have Gigabit Ethernet ports, the network drive should also have one. Anyone looking for the fastest possible model should also compare the read and write speeds of the internal hard drive.
Many computer storage manufacturers have a range of network drives, including Iomega, LaCie, Netgear, Seagate, and Western Digital. One example is the Iomega Home Network Media Drive. It has a compact and stylish exterior that is not much larger than a portable hard drive. It is available in 500GB and 1TB capacities, and both models come with a one year warranty. Another example is the Western Digital My Book World Edition, which is is larger than the Media drive but is still compact enough to place on a desktop. It is available in 1TB and 2TB capacities, and both models come with a three year warranty.