Network-attached storage boxes have never been the types of products to spawn legions of fanboys or that appear on the cover of glossy magazines (well APC’s magazine cover is kind of glossy) but for many households and businesses that doesn’t make the NAS any less important.
Off-the-shelf NAS boxes have changed quite drastically over the last few years going from simple dumb storage to much more powerful appliances complete with their own ranges of apps and plug-ins. More recently they’ve also started to include web-based access to their contents with many brands even going so far as to provide dedicated mobile apps for Android and iOS.
While cloud storage services are now fairly ubiquitous with the likes of Dropbox and SkyDrive household names (though Microsoft is being forced to change the latter after losing a court battle against UK TV broadcaster BSkyB) we’d argue that there are lots of compelling reasons to create and host your own one. Here are five to get started.
The recent revelations of the US National Security Agency’s widespread snooping via programs like PRISM has put the spotlight on just how private our online activities really are. To be fair big tech companies like Microsoft Google Dropbox and others do vary in how willingly they’ll comply with requests for your cloud data – some are more resistant to government pressure than others. Host it yourself however and you don’t have to worry about that aspect at all. You can decide exactly who can access your data.
Many cloud services are free if you only want the basics although if you want to go beyond that you’ll usually have to sign up for a paid subscription. Those ongoing costs can add up quickly especially if you’re using multiple pro-level services. Building your own cloud-connected NAS or small server means you’ll only pay a one-off fee and you might even be able to do it for free if you find you can recycle an old PC and hard drives.
If you do find your storage – and other needs – aren’t being met by your current setup it’s not too tricky to add bigger hard drives or (as we’ve covered under ‘Flexibility’) enhance the features on offer by adding dedicated applications. Many readymade NAS devices now receive regular firmware updates that bring with them new capabilities – and they won’t cost you a cent.
A cloud NAS box doesn’t have to be just about storage either. If you choose to build one from scratch (we’ll show you how in an upcoming article) your options for expansion are really wide open. You can add features such as media transcoding web-based document collaboration (etherpad.org) rsync for automated PC backups or BitTorrent Sync to get Dropbox-like file syncing across all your different devices (even Android and iOS).
The other great advantage of a DIY cloud box is that it can have as much storage as you need (or at least can afford). Dropbox’s US$99 yearly fee nets you 100GB of online storage although for around the same price you can buy a 2TB hard drive. If you want to keep a huge media collection at your fingertips this is the way to do it.
- Reviews of Cloud-connected NAS Boxes
- Reviews of NAS-Ready hard drives
- How to setup and host your own cloud