Network attached storage. A storage unit that can be accessed over a network. A server that you don’t need an MS in electrical engineering to run. Something that could have saved my pictures when my entire photo library was deleted with my hard drive when upgrading my computer’s system 5 years ago.
NAS are a bit of a mystery to the average user, many of whom have still not even heard of the concept of online storage. This is probably why the industry is growing at an unbelievable 16% annually: there is a lot of NAS-less homes and businesses. To truly understand how underdeveloped this market is, it is best to think of current staples as they were in their infancy: the microwave market in 1970, personal computer market in 1980, and the smartphone market of 2000 for starters. The key to the success of each of these markets was the direct utility that these products brought to the table.
Mass storage, data protection, and universal accessibility are the reasons why NAS have already become a fixture in nerdier tech circles and arenas such as science, engineering, and math, where lost data can mean months of makeup work and easy sharing of data between experts is necessary for real progress.
So what can a NAS do for me? My retort would be: who are you? If you are a high-tech gamer, it can store all of your biggest games in a massive storage space. If you are a downloader, you can tell it to download anything you want from your office, your friends house, or the public library while it sits under your desk at home. If you are a movie watcher, it can stream HD movies to your living room TV. If you are a business owner, it can provide a central hub for all of your employees to share their latest work. It can do web hosting, video surveillance, photo serving, and provide a vital backup for your computers. Bringing it all together is RAID, the protection that keeps your data intact through even disk failure.
So what is NAS? Your omnipotent (well, almost) data hub.