• What is NAS?

    NAS = Network Attached Storage

    A very easy way to think of NAS is like this: The hard drive in your computer is attached to the motherboard by a SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) cable. NAS is a hard drive attached to the motherboard by an Ethernet cable instead of a SATA cable. SATA cables are limited in length to one meter and Ethernet cables are limited to 100 meters. In addition to using an Ethernet cable NAS devices communicate via IP or Internet Protocol. Thus, a NAS disk storage device can be accessed from anywhere in the world over the Internet or from another room in your house over your LAN (Local Area Network). NAS devices appear on a computer just like the C: drive on Windows but with another letter such as E: or F:. On Mac OS X a NAS drive mounts on the desktop just like the Macintosh HD.
    The advantages of a NAS disk storage device are many. The two important advantages for audiophiles are noise reduction and data redundancy. Hard drive noise is eliminated because a NAS device can be placed outside of the listening room. Data redundancy is even more important in my opinion. A NAS device allows you to store your music files in a RAID array with built-in fault tolerance. RAID is a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks that appear as one disk to the computer. Almost all current NAS devices offer differing types of RAID configurations.

    Note: This explanation has been extremely simplified. Using a NAS device is not as easy and requires some computer skills to configure. More articles will follow about configuring and using NAS devices.

     





     
    Comments 19 Comments
    1. Roseval's Avatar
      Roseval -
      <cite>A very easy way to think of NAS is like this: The hard drive in your computer is attached to the motherboard by a SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) cable. NAS is a hard drive attached to the motherboard by an Ethernet cable instead of a SATA cable</cite><br />
      It is an easy way but unfortunately the wrong way. This is more how iSCSI or USB over IP works than how a NAS works.<br />
      A HD you hook up, a NAS needs a little configuration first (users, shares)<br />
      A NAS is just a (small) computer in your network.<br />
      As it is a computer you can do things you can't do with a external HD like using it for downloading torrents or in this context probably more relevant, use it as a music server.<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Roseval - Thanks for your post, but suggesting this is the wrong way to describe it really does help anyone. It's most likely people reading this have no clue what a NAS is and a simple explanation is what they've all been asking for. I encourage more in depth comments, but again suggestion something is wrong really depends on the audience.
    1. Roseval's Avatar
      Roseval -
      Explaining technical matters in such a way that it becomes clear for a non technical audience is not easy. <br />
      Fortunately your skills as a writer are more then sufficient to do so.<br />
      However, if you oversimplify, you really don't help anyone.<br />
      People buy a NAS, plug it in, see it in pop up in their network environment and then?<br />
      Well they can't connect no matter how hard they try.<br />
      Their problem is they think it is a hard disk over the network and it isn't.<br />
      It is a computer with most of the time it's own user administration.<br />
      If you don't understand the concept, you are as usually lost in case of trouble shooting.<br />
      That's why I think the metaphor you have chosen is a very unlucky one as it supports a very common misconception about how a NAS works.<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      HI Roseval - I think we are talking about two different ideas here. Both are very valid. This particular article discusses on a very basic level what a NAS is, whereas your comments address, <i>"...how a NAS works."</i> I agree with you 100% that addressing how a NAS works with the simplistic approach I have taken would be a disservice to everyone. However, the basic concept of what a NAS is should be covered as easily as possible. That said, more detailed information I will certainly be creating more information covering how a NAS works and what is involved with using a NAS. <br />
      <br />
      Thanks for the followup comments as I think they made it clear we were covering two different pieces of the NAS puzzle.
    1. Opusover21's Avatar
      Opusover21 -
      Chris,<br />
      I agree in some respects to what Roseval is saying. As a newbie for example I assume things like I could attach a USB drive to a Airport express as its got a USB port right? ahemm wrong.....!<br />
      Simplifcation of these things are great but I think additional "what it does" "what it doesn't do" "functionality" would be useful in repect of computer audiophil... for example the NAS can be used as a music server..that may be great its additional functionality thats I personally dont need...it can be used in a seperate room...great but you need cables...it can be set-up wireless..again...great but speed limitations of network equipment etc...<br />
      <br />
      Dare I also say that allowing replies to what is "academy" topics may not be such a great idea...I mean potentially this allows the same level of discussion thats been highlighted on various occasions as too much...I personally think this is just going to add to the potential for confusion...replies and discussion should be housed in the forum....<br />
      <br />
      Just a though!
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Opusover21 - Thank you very much for the input. It is great to see readers like yourself offer constructive input! Here are my thoughts. Based on this feedback I will make a note above in the original article that says something to the effect that this isn't plug n' play etc... There will also be many more articles coming in this section of the site. I'm starting with some of the extreme basics because this is what people have been asking for. <br />
      <br />
      I take your suggestion about replies to the academy posts very seriously. I will be monitoring the comments very closely in an effort to improve the original article and weed out anything that doesn't help. I'm pretty confident in the long run this will work great, but if it doesn't a change will be made. Fortunately this isn't print media. I can make changes in two minutes, even from my iPhone if necessary.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks again Opusover21!
    1. Opusover21's Avatar
      Opusover21 -
      Excellent - as is common with forums..its only as good as those who contribute...its a very healthy place at the minute. I hope it stays that way with quality input, no slagging matches, bad language etc that plagues some sites...maybe theres a certain etiquette on show here which is great to see...including the newbies (which I would say I still am)..theres no such thing as a stupid question imho
    1. PeterSt's Avatar
      PeterSt -
      I am sorry, but Roseval is just right. There is no justification in proposing a NAS as it being a hard disk, while the hard disk as an attached phenomenon exists just the same. Might this be via eSata, Firewire or USB.<br />
      <br />
      A NAS is a computer. Call it a PC. Nothing to do about it, and nothing is simplified here.<br />
      <br />
      <cite>The two important advantages for audiophiles are noise reduction and data redundancy. Hard drive noise is eliminated because a NAS device can be placed outside of the listening room.</cite><br />
      <br />
      As can the Firewire connected disks and the USB disks. eSata if your other room is 2 meters away (basement).<br />
      <br />
      May I attempt a simplification myself ? ... a NAS is not much different from a second PC with a bunch of hard disks connected, that PC being in another room connected via Ethernet or WiFi if you like, and which shares its resources.<br />
      No, this is not a NAS, but a good simplication for explanations.<br />
      <br />
      Peter<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      PS: Yes, you said it is over simplified, but IMHO nobody needs a NAS. Nobody needs that for audio. Just another PC, or the other means I mentioned. I could even use your PC to stream the data from if the Internet (connection, your side, my side) were fast enough. You'd still not be having a NAS.<br />
      :-)
    1. Roseval's Avatar
      Roseval -
      Yes, I know my Getrude Stein.<br />
      Of course a NAS is just another computer in your network.<br />
      But when picked properly it is one very low on power. My QNAP uses 7 watt standby, 12 when the HD is in full operation. Most PC’s are a bit more hungry.<br />
      A NAS is about comfort.<br />
      I have 3 PC’s to backup, having a NAS in the network makes it an easy job.<br />
      Downloading a torrent lasting a week, my NAS take care of it.<br />
      <br />
      <cite>Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks</cite><br />
      This is a bit obsolete. At the time IBM, DEC, HP asked a fortune for a HD, a lucid soul decided to combine a couple of PC HDs. They where less reliable but much cheaper. Add redundancy and you are as save as using the products by the brands mentioned without paying their excessive price. <br />
      For years HDs are very reliable so the name has been changed to Redundant Array of Independent Disks long ago.<br />
      <br />
      RAID sure protects you against HD failure.<br />
      I have the feeling a lot of people think they are save because using RAID. But it won’t protect you against dropping the unit (kids, dog, cat, drunk), theft, fire, water or probably the most common error: the user erroneously changing a couple of tags, deleting a file, etc.<br />
      It won’t help you having your errors mirrored (RAID1).<br />
      I have the feeling a lot of people thinks RAID is a substitute for a backup. It isn’t<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Peter - Please take this in the spirit in which it's intended. Sometimes I think you are in your own world where most people understand computers. You are certainly correct that a NAS is a computer, but people must learn addition and subtraction before multiplication. It's great to see a more technical discussion below my simplified explanation. However, saying that my simplification is wrong doesn't really help here. This NAS article is for people that understand very little about computer and converging their high-end systems with computers. Telling someone they can store their music on another computer rather than a hard drive that connects to the network can be very daunting when the users have no clue another computer can even hold music and share it. <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      Roseval said <i>"Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks<br />
      This is a bit obsolete. At the time IBM, DEC, HP asked a fortune for a HD, a lucid soul decided to combine a couple of PC HDs. They where less reliable but much cheaper. Add redundancy and you are as save as using the products by the brands mentioned without paying their excessive price. For years HDs are very reliable so the name has been changed to Redundant Array of Independent Disks long ago."</i><br />
      <br />
      <br />
      According to Wikipedia - <br />
      <br />
      <i>"More recently, marketers representing industry RAID manufacturers have revised the term, substituting "Independent" for Inexpensive, a convenient (though inaccurate) means of avoiding the negative connotations associated with "inexpensive""</i> - <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redundant_array_of_independent_disks">Wikipedia</a><br />
      <br />
      <br />
      It really seems like you guys are nitpicking the smallest things that don't really matter in a very basic discussion. The Computer Audiophile Academy is to help people and I hope we can all do just that.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. Roseval's Avatar
      Roseval -
      I thought this was an Academy so I expected the information to be accurate and indeed at academic level. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academia
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Roseval - What in your inaccurate statement about the meaning of RAID is at an academic level?
    1. PeterSt's Avatar
      PeterSt -
      <cite>It really seems like you guys are nitpicking the smallest things that don't really matter in a very basic discussion. The Computer Audiophile Academy is to help people and I hope we can all do just that.</cite><br />
      <br />
      Chris, To me it is very clear what you are about here, including the fact that you know your stuff once you express about it. For me, there is one reason only to respond to it : the <cite>way</cite> you express it does not come to people as you intend it. It does not, and it can not when "wrong" phenomena are used.<br />
      <br />
      In no way this is meant to offend, nor is it about making clear what my knowledge is or whatever. It is *only* about that it does not workout like you intend;<br />
      The first responses of Roseval were responded by you the exact same way as you just did to me. If you hadn't done that - and possibly corrected instead - I would not have been in this thread.<br />
      <br />
      It is true that addition and subtraction go before mutiplication. But, being at addition and subtraction, it is wrong (please hear me, WRONG) to call multiplication the same as division, only because it might be too early to discern.<br />
      <br />
      If you wish to appreciate these kind of comments as nitpicking, go ahead.<br />
      If you want people to run to the shops, ask for a NAS and end up home with something they can't manage, ... I just think that is not fair. Please get that message.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks,<br />
      Peter<br />
    1. jtconte's Avatar
      jtconte -
      Chris, I really appreciate your starting this series and can't wait for it to grow. You did end the initial NAS article above with, "Note: This explanation has been extremely simplified. Using a NAS device is not as easy and requires some computer skills to configure. More articles will follow about configuring and using NAS devices." That note makes it clear to me that if you run out to the store and buy a NAS, you're in for trouble unless you already know what you're doing. I am considering a NAS for my home network and am hoping you will continue.<br />
      <br />
      John
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi John - Thanks for the response. I am thinking about using my screen recording software to produce a little video that shows how to configure one type of NAS. This would at least give people an idea what it's like. There are some NAS units that are pretty easy to configure. The Drobo with Droboshare is one of the easiest NAS devices available today. Many of the Computer Audiophile readers use this device and have virtually no computer skills. It comes with its own application to set it up and use it. Don't be discouraged. In fact if you find a NAS you think you might purchase post the model number here on the site and I will take a look at it. That way I can give you an opinion about its ease of use etc... I'm sure many readers will jump in as well. That's what this site is for, helping people out :~)
    1. jtconte's Avatar
      jtconte -
      I am considering the Thecus 5200B Pro unless there is something better at that price range. I like that I can start with smaller drives or even less drives and grow as I go. I have a mix of computers with a Mac Pro in the listening room using built-in AirPort Extreme, a PC (W2K) connected via ethernet to the DSL wireless g router, and a laptop (XPP) using wirless g. My intent is to have all the computers in the house file their documents, photos, etc. on the NAS so it's centralized and can be easily backed-up. One thing I'm a little concerned about is that I plan on putting the NAS in a room next to the listening room and you say it's pretty loud. I have read on the Thecus forums that people have successfully changed out the fan to make it much more quiet though.<br />
      <br />
      John
    1. EarlB's Avatar
      EarlB -
      Chris,<br />
      Thank you for starting this discussion. I am in the planning stages of organizing my music, photo and video collection, so this discussion is very relevant. You indicated there would be further discussion about configuring and using NAS devices. Are any planned for release soon? I prefer an approach that goes from simple to complex.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks,<br />
      Earl
    1. thotdoc's Avatar
      thotdoc -
      Quote Originally Posted by Roseval View Post
      <cite>A very easy way to think of NAS is like this: The hard drive in your computer is attached to the motherboard by a SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) cable. NAS is a hard drive attached to the motherboard by an Ethernet cable instead of a SATA cable</cite><br />
      It is an easy way but unfortunately the wrong way. This is more how iSCSI or USB over IP works than how a NAS works.<br />
      A HD you hook up, a NAS needs a little configuration first (users, shares)<br />
      A NAS is just a (small) computer in your network.<br />
      As it is a computer you can do things you can't do with a external HD like using it for downloading torrents or in this context probably more relevant, use it as a music server.<br />
      see title
    1. thotdoc's Avatar
      thotdoc -
      Quote Originally Posted by Roseval View Post
      <cite>A very easy way to think of NAS is like this: The hard drive in your computer is attached to the motherboard by a SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) cable. NAS is a hard drive attached to the motherboard by an Ethernet cable instead of a SATA cable</cite><br />
      It is an easy way but unfortunately the wrong way. This is more how iSCSI or USB over IP works than how a NAS works.<br />
      A HD you hook up, a NAS needs a little configuration first (users, shares)<br />
      A NAS is just a (small) computer in your network.<br />
      As it is a computer you can do things you can't do with a external HD like using it for downloading torrents or in this context probably more relevant, use it as a music server.<br />
      And an example of how many angels dance on the head of a needle.