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NAS server test: the best network offices own cloud server


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The data is safe in your own cloud server. Even in times of streaming and cloud services, network hard drives remain attractive for many users. That makes sense: Sensitive data such as videos, holiday pictures or documents do not have to be downloaded onto the Internet, but remain in your own four walls and are available to the entire family at the same time. The tests NAS storage for the home. You can find our recommendations from us.

 

NAS server test 2021: the best network hard drives
Network Attached Storage, or NAS for short, may sound complicated at first, but it is actually quite simple: It is a hard drive housing with a network connection, its own processor and special server functions. As soon as you insert a hard drive there for continuous operation, you not only save your data centrally and automatically (backup), but you can also access it while on the move via the Internet (web server) or distribute the multimedia files in your home (UPnP-AV server and / or DLNA). NAS servers, alias network hard drives, are available either as empty enclosures with space for several hard drives or as an all-in-one solution including the drives. So if you don't want to worry about equipping your NAS server, you can go straight to preconfigured systems. 

In the following, we have selected our recommendations for network hard drives and, in addition to our test winner, we also present cheaper alternatives with great value for money. After detailed explanations of the devices, we will also give you a few useful buying tips on the way.


QNAP TS-253B-4G Cloud Server
The current leader on our list of the best scores with the most extensive equipment and a very good performance. However, buyers have to be able to cope with the high power consumption and the high price.

Advantage:

  • Very strong performance
  • Extensive functionality
  • Lush equipment with many interfaces

Disadvantage

  • High power consumption
  • Relative expensive

The current front runner, the  QNAP TS-253B-4G, impressed with its extensive equipment, diverse functionality and very strong performance. In the test it achieved very good transfer rates of 110.8 Mbyte / s when reading and still 98.0 Mbyte / s when writing. But the lavish features of the network hard drive are particularly impressive: An Intel Celeron J3455 quad-core processor with up to 2.3 GHz works in the device together with the up to eight GB DDR3L main memory. This also enables the playback of 4K @ 30Hz videos and real-time transcoding. 

In addition, the visually appealing housing offers an OLED panel to display system information such as temperature, ventilation speed or capacities. The two touch control buttons are used to adjust the network IP, the host password or simply to restart or shut down the system.

On the front there is a fast USB-C port, a USB 3.2 Gen1 port and an SD slot. Further connections such as HDMI or additional USB interfaces are located on the back, which greatly simplifies the sharing of data without a network.

The insertion of hard disks is also easy, which can be done without any tools. If you want to improve or expand your system in certain respects, the PCIe connection is also suitable for connecting additional components. In addition to a wireless network card, this also includes a QNAP QM2 card for M.2 SSD caching and 10 GbE connectivity. Using “Hybrid Backup Sync”, data can also be backed up to various locations in the local network or in the cloud via the appropriate providers - the clear QTS 4.3 operating system helps here.

In addition to a high price of over 550 euros, the QNAP TS-253B-4G also has a high power consumption of 25.4 watts during operation - one of the worst values in comparison. If you are looking for flexible network storage with a wide range of functions and good performance, you will not go wrong with the purchase.


Asustor AS6302T Cloud Server
Significantly cheaper than our test winner, the AS6302T still offers very good performance and extensive functionality. The power consumption is pleasantly limited here.

Advantages:

  • Extensive functionality
  • Low power consumption
  • Very good performance

Disadvantage:

  • No WLAN

A few places further back you will find the Asustor AS6302T in our best list, a much cheaper model for around 300 euros, which nevertheless comes quite close to the test winner. This NAS also offers very good performance with very similar transfer rates of 112.8 MB / s when reading and 108.4 MB / s when writing in the test. Fortunately, the power consumption of 17.1 watts is significantly more restrained during operation.

Additional energy is also saved by features such as WOW (“Wake on WAN”), whereby the system automatically wakes itself from sleep mode if you are on the same network. Other energy-saving options can be used, for example, to plan rest periods or the performance for a whole week in advance.

But the equipment is also impressive beyond the power-saving functions. You are offered numerous connections such as USB 3.2 Gen 1, USB-C or HDMI 2.0, with the latter even enabling video playback in 4K resolution at 60 Hz. Inside, an Intel Celeron J3355 dual core with a clock rate of 2.0 GHz works together with the approximately 2 GB DDR3L RAM and the integrated Intel HD graphics unit offers support for HEVC and VP9 hardware transcoding. 

For improved data backup, the system also supports various backup options, for example locally, via external USB hard drives or via one of the supported cloud services such as Amazon, OneDrive or Dropbox. Various RAID configurations are also supported, so you can choose the variant that best suits you. With AiMaster, the configuration and setup can also be carried out on the move using smartphones or tablets. 


Synology DS220j Cloud Server
With an extremely low power consumption, our price-performance tip still delivers impressive performance and also works very quietly.

Advantages:

  • Quiet and energy-saving
  • Very easy setup
  • Low price

Disadvantage:

  • Transfer rates only average
  • Missing features

With a very good price-performance ratio, the Synology DS220j for less than 200 euros is aimed at users who want good performance and suitable equipment for less money. With this system you get exactly that and also get low power consumption and a wide range of functions.

As with the previous recommendations, the Synology model offers the option of storing data in a local network and using it as an HTTP web server or FTP server.

Cloud backups are also on the way and RAID technology is also used here to prevent drive failures. With regard to the software, the very user-friendly DSM operating system is used, which can also be used to flexibly control energy consumption. In the test, the DS220j consumed around 12.2 watts in rest and only a very good 13.8 watts in operation with the best values on our list of best. The volume is surprisingly kept within limits, even under full load the NAS is not annoying.

Unlike the previous models, the Synology DS220j uses a Realtek RTD1296 QuadCore with a clock rate of 1.4 GHz in combination with a 512 MB DDR4 RAM instead of Intel. As far as the connections are concerned, the model offers two USB 3.2 Gen1 connections and one for LAN, but dispenses with WLAN, an HDMI port or an external SATA connection.

The content of the NAS can at least be accessed via mobile app while on the move. Even if functionality and features are clearly limited compared to our test winners, the DS220j is particularly suitable for bargain hunters and users with clearly defined requirements.


Zyxel NAS326 Cloud Server
Due to the comparatively very low price, you have to make the most compromises here. In addition to the reduced equipment, this also includes only average performance. The power consumption is okay.

Advantages:

  • Low price
  • Relatively low power consumption

Disadvantage:

  • Less extensive operating system
  • Average performance
  • Less interfaces

If you don't want to throw yourself into expense with your private NAS, you  can get a system for around 115 euros with the NAS326 from Zyxel. In the test, it was only able to convince to a limited extent due to its limited equipment and the fairly average performance, but due to the very low price, the budget NAS is still worth considering.

Despite its limited functionality, the Zyxel NAS326 is well suited as a cloud alternative for online access via smartphone without dubious data protection regulations. Zyxel offers corresponding apps such as Zyxel Drive or zCloud for both iOS and Android. A direct backup of external USB hard drives is also possible via the “One-touch copy / sync button” and, thanks to the “Backup planner”, data backups can also be planned in advance.

Services such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Apple Time Machine are supported for cloud backup. At least according to the manufacturer, only Windows or Mac OS are supported for setup with regard to the operating system of your computer. 

In addition to backups, the NAS can also be used as an FTP server or HTTP web server. You will have to accept clear compromises in terms of performance, but the transfer rates of 97.4 Mbytes / s for reading and 62.3 Mbytes / s for writing are basically okay. Probably due to the reduced performance, the energy consumption is pleasantly low and with 17.2 watts is about the same as the Asustor AS6302T.

The components could also have played their part in this. The Zyxel model is a CPU called Marvell Armada 380 with a 1.3 GHz clock rate and a 512 MB DDR3 RAM. 

The low price is noticeable in the connections: Not only is there an HDMI connection or WLAN missing, but an external SATA connection, USB-C and more than three USB ports (only two of which are USB 3.2 Gen1) waived here. While the Zyxel NAS326 is unlikely to be of interest to professionals, private users in particular will be happy about an inexpensive way to back up their files locally without data protection concerns.

 

What you should consider when buying NAS Server?
Even if NAS servers are far less complicated to use than you might initially think, there are still a few factors that you should consider when purchasing a device. Of course, this primarily includes the targeted use of the network hard drive. If you intend to use the private server only as a cloud alternative for images and videos, you have to invest significantly less than with full-fledged backup NAS with high data protection requirements and additional functions. A mobile app and an internet connection are then particularly important in order to be able to access the digital memories via radio at any time.

With regard to data backupthe market also offers a wide range of possibilities. The most popular is the RAID technology, but there are different security levels in the form of different RAID types. For this you need at least one additional hard drive, which can be accessed in the event of a failure of the other storage media. Another option for data backup is with cloud providers such as Google, Microsoft or Dropbox.

For example, some NAS offer the option of backing up all or certain data packets via the Internet and making these backups at specific time intervals. If you buy the NAS as a cloud alternative for data protection concerns, you can do very little with it, while all other users benefit from further data backup.

Regular backups in particular also lead to increased energy consumption. Since this can become a cost factor that should not be underestimated, especially with continuous use, it is worth taking a look at the assumed energy consumption both in operation and in sleep mode before buying. But there are also some functions that can help save energy.

This also includes, for example, Wake-On-LAN (WOL for short). When not in use, the NAS automatically switches to sleep mode until it is "woken up" again when requested via a network connection. The fact that the server is not in continuous operation 24/7 can save a lot of electricity and is noticeably reflected in the electricity bill. 

The connection options and requirements for your NAS naturally also play an important role. For example, “cheaper” models tend to forego WLAN connectivity. Some models offer faster USB standards, which means that backups and direct transfers are much faster. With an HDMI connection, direct video playback on a television is also possible, with HDMI 2.0 also enabling high 4K resolutions and up to 60 Hertz. As with our test winner, a PCIe connection can also be of interest, via which the NAS can be expanded with functions such as WLAN.

However, there are also aspects to be considered apart from the hardware. So it can be worthwhile to find out about the operating system used in the desired model before buying . Software such as Synology's DSM operating system is particularly user-friendly, which should make using and setting up a NAS child's play, even for inexperienced users. The variety of settings and the additional apps offered for both PC and mobile devices can also be decisive. 

 

How the tests network hard drives
The NAS systems we tested are exclusively 2-bay NAS, i.e. those with two hard drive bays. We consider this form of NAS to be the most practical for home use.

Functionality (45%): In this area we look at which hard drive RAIDs the ANS supports, whether backups to external storage media or to the cloud are possible and what the user management looks like. In addition, the functions of the servers are examined carefully which types of servers are available with which features.

The more, the more points. Is there a multimedia application like Kodi, which security features does the NAS offer? Are IPs blocked that have failed to log in, is there a firewall, and so on? We also examine the power management of the network plate - can you create operational plans, is there a real power saving mode? Last but not least, the operating noise under load and in idle mode is also included in the rating.

Equipment (20%): This counts: which interfaces are in and on the case (LAN, Gigabit-LAN, USB 2.0 and 3.2 Gen 1, eSATA, HDMI, WLAN) and in what number. We will also take a look at the software-based features the NAS offers: is there any backup software, is there a download assistant, and so on? The mobile apps, which you can use to control and monitor the NAS from your tablet or mobile phone, are also considered here.

Performance (20%): Here we measure the transfer rates when reading and writing data, the NAS is accessed via the network. Since most devices are so-called empty cases without hard drives, we always measure the devices with the same two (Seagate Barracuda 1TB (LP 5900.12 ST31000520AS)) or four (WD Red 1 TB (WD10EFRX)) HDDs. This guarantees comparability.

Power consumption (15%): We measure the power consumption of the network hard drive in three operating modes: in idle, in standby and in operation. From this we then calculate an average consumption.

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