The 7 best NAS of 2022: Top network-attached storage


If you work for a large company, you undoubtedly have access to a corporate file server. But if you work for a small business or you’re working from home, your file server is likely to be in the cloud, probably something offered by Dropbox, AWS, Google, or Microsoft. Cloud-based servers are good (here I talk about how one saved my bacon), but for full-time work-at-home folks, cloud-based servers don’t always cut the mustard.

Cloud-based servers are terrible for video editing, as it takes forever to upload and download video to the cloud (even if you have a fast pipe). If you’re doing anything with video (or other large files), you’re unlikely to find cloud storage practical except, maybe, for backup. Second, cloud servers can get kind of expensive. Sure, if you’re equipping a NAS, you’re paying for drives, but once you pay out the expense for the NAS and drives, you’re done. You don’t have to pay for it month after month after month.

Don’t get me wrong. I strongly recommend cloud storage as one leg in a 3-2-1 backup strategy, but for home and small office use, a NAS can be invaluable. It’s fast, it’s easy to get to, you can segment shares for family members or workgroups, and many NASes offer a wide range of additional applications that turn your box into a local, private, on-premises general-purpose business server.

Let’s dive in. I’m showing you seven machines that I am sure will serve you well over the years.

Synology DiskStation DS1522+ review | Best NAS

Specs:

  • Price per bay: $150
  • Drive bays: 5
  • Max capacity: 90TB
  • Max w/expansion units: 270TB
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 (32GB max)
  • 1GB Ethernet ports: 4
  • 10GB Upgrade: with Gen3 x2 upgrade
  • USB 3.2 ports: 2
  • eSATA ports: 2
  • M.2 slots: 2

By far, the standout feature of any Synology NAS is the company’s exceptional DiskStation Manager (DSM) software. While the Synology hardware is on-par with many other NAS offerings, it’s when that hardware is combined with the DSM software that Synology’s offerings become best-in-class.

Also: We test the Synology DiskStation DS1817+ RAID

Synology’s DS1522+ ships with built-in enterprise-grade data software and support for dozens of applications, OS and SaaS services. Featuring five hard drive bays by default and expandable up to 15 bays total, the DS1522+ is a compact and economical NAS solution with plenty of room to expand as the user’s data storage needs grow.

Running DiskStation Manager 7.1, DS1522+ comes complete with Synology’s suite of enterprise backup solutions. This includes Active Backup for Business which allows users to backup Windows PCs, VMs, SaaS applications like Microsoft 365 and more. All licenses and subscriptions are free. Active Backup for Business has a number of useful features baked in, including the ability to restore accidentally deleted instantly or destroyed data.

Also included is Synology’s Hyper Backup software which allows you to backup your entire NAS or specific files and folders to most major cloud service providers. This flexible and free backup software gives the user enterprise-grade tools in an easy-to-understand format. This makes setting up a proper 3-2-1 backup environment a breeze, no matter what devices or how many you are responsible for.

The DS1522+ is also a certified storage devices for VMware and is compatible with most major virtualization platforms, including Windows Server, Microsoft’s Hyper-V and Citrix. In addition to being ideal for standard iSCSI storage, DS1621+ also comes with Synology’s Snapshot Replication software which gives users the ability to Snapshot specific LUNs or shared folders and replicate them to an offsite Synology device.

Pros:

  • The excellent DSM UI
  • Good price per bay
  • Excellent apps

Cons:

  • No native 2.5GB Ethernet ports
  • No HDMI ports
  • No SSD-only models

QNAP TS-453D-4G review | Best NAS

Specs:

  • Price per bay: $137
  • Drive bays: 4
  • Max capacity: 72TB
  • RAM: 4GB (up to 8GB)
  • 2.5GB Ethernet ports: 2
  • USB 3.2 ports: 2
  • HDMI: HDMI 2.0, real-time transcoding
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 600 processors
  • PCIe Gen 3 x4 slots: 1x PCle Gen 2 x 2 slot
  • M.2 slots: Optional via a PCle adapter

Don’t think of this box as just a NAS. Instead, think of it as a server with RAID and NAS capabilities. This is not just a file server. It could very well be equipped as a small departmental bare-metal VM or container server. And if you use it at home, it can be the hub of your media center.

Also: We test the QNAP TVS-473 RAID

The selection of applications QNAP offers is nothing short of ridonculous. Not only can you install the usual NAS suspects, but you can run a Chrome browser or even install a full Ubuntu on top of the NAS capabilities. 

QNAP QTS environment keeps getting better and better. Plus, this NAS continues a relatively unique QNAP tradition of offering NAS boxes that can serve as complete media center machines, complete with HDMI output. But this can also perform as a pro machine, with the availability of PCIe extensibility

So where does this fit in our overall pantheon of recommendations? Put simply, it’s an appliance server. But not just a file or web server. This can serve up containers and VMs, making it quite possibly the core of a small business or department.

Pros:

  • HDMI opens lots of media center doors
  • Very fast Ethernet
  • Enormous app selection

Cons:

  • Some other QNAP machines can be configured with a LOT more RAM
  • No M.2 slot

ASUSTOR Lockerstor 6 Gen 2 review | Best NAS

Specs:

  • Price per bay: $134
  • Drive bays: 6
  • M.2 SSD slots: 4
  • Max capacity: 120TB + M.2 capacity
  • RAM: 8GB
  • 2.5G Ethernet ports: 2
  • USB 3.0 ports: Dual 3.2Gen 2×1
  • PCIe Gen 3 x4 slots: Support PCIe 3.0 on M.2 SSD
  • HDMI: HDMI 2.0b

ASUSTOR was founded in 2011 by an investment from ASUS, the world’s 5th largest PC vendor by unit sales, according to Gartner. 

This Lockerstor model bridges worlds in a number of ways. First, by providing six hard drive bays as well as support for four M.2 sticks, it’s possible to do some very interesting performance tiering work, both automatically and manually. Second, like the QNAP, the Lockerstor has HDMI output, possibly moving this from the server closet to the family room.

The internal 8GB RAM is respectable, and we were impressed with the 2.5G Ethernet port. However, be aware that many switches and routers don’t support 2.5GB, so that you might be limited to the performance of a typical 1GB Ethernet feed.

The Lockerstor 6 uses the ADM 4.0 operating system. ADM has more than 200 App Central applications, including various tools, business applications, office applications and digital home entertainment.

Overall, the ASUSTOR Lockerstor 6 is a solid offering with a compelling price-per-bay. We’ve noticed availability fluctuates, especially with current supply chain issues, but at this price, it’s understandable why some resellers are having difficulty keeping it in stock.

Pros:

  • So many M.2 slots
  • Built-in HDMI
  • Reasonable RAM capacity

Cons:

  • ADM software is adequate, but not great
  • Customers report slow tech support
  • No block-level encryption

WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra (CNET) review | Best NAS

Specs:

  • Price per bay: $89
  • Drive bays: 2
  • Max capacity: 36TB
  • RAM: 1GB
  • 1G Ethernet ports: 1
  • USB 3.2 ports: 2

Western Digital has a pretty broad selection of NAS devices, but we realized we hadn’t provided you with a lower-cost entry-level unit. At under $200 (without drives), the EX2 can add considerable value to your network, provide you with some fault tolerance, and help protect your data.

App support wasn’t as comprehensive as some of the other vendors we’re spotlighting here, but if this is your first NAS or you’re just getting started sharing and protecting files on your home network, this is a great go-to starting point.

We had some issues five years ago with an early WD RAID device, but all indications are that the company best known for its network drives has overcome any early reliability issues. In fact, the biggest complaint we found among user reviews was that this is not an external hard drive, as the reviewer thought it was, but was instead a full-function NAS. It is, in fact, a very nice full-function NAS and gets our nod as best entry-level NAS for 2022.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive, affordable
  • Solid performance
  • Streams video without glitches

Cons:

  • It’s not an external hard drive (ya think?)
  • Limited app selection
  • No HDMI port (it would make an ideal, low-cost media server)

TerraMaster F4-423 review | Best NAS

Specs:

  • Price per bay: $125
  • Drive bays: 4
  • Max capacity: 80TB
  • RAM: 4GB
  • 2.5G Ethernet ports: 2
  • USB 3.2 ports: 2
  • HDMI port: 1
  • M.2 slots: 2

Our experience with TerraMaster is a solid offering at a budget-friendly price. We found the user interface to be clean and well done and the overall usage experience to be solid. Now, to be clear, this is not a QNAP or Synology, but those devices are considerably more expensive.

This time, TerraMaster is upping its game. Instead of a budget device, this is a performance machine, but at a mid-tier price. It’s got two high-speed Ethernet ports, an HDMI port that lets you turn this into a media center server, and TerraMaster’s clean UI. Overall, a very solid offering for higher-stress loads at an approachable price.

Pros:

Cons:

  • A bit more expensive that TerraMasters earlier offerings
  • Fewer apps than Synology and QNAP
  • Some users report reliability issues

Drobo 5N2 review | Best NAS

Specs:

  • Price per bay: $125
  • Drive bays: 5
  • Max capacity: 50TB
  • RAM: 2GB DDR3
  • 1GB Ethernet ports: 2
  • Internal mSATA slots: 1

It’s kind of odd that Drobo hasn’t updated its one NAS storage array since 2017, but that goes to Drobo’s main focus as a direct-attached storage solution. Even though it’s been around for a while, the Drobo 5N2 has to go into our list of the best NAS devices, chiefly because its RAID functionality is just so good.

Also: We test the Drobo 5N2 RAID

Let’s clarify where this device fits: If you want a server with lots of apps and features, the Drobo is absolutely not for you. But if you want brain-dead easy RAID that keeps your drives safe and available on your LAN, and you don’t really care about much else, the 5N2 is a win. The Drobo justifiably won my best-in-show award for RAID performance, which was flawless in my testing. It also landed at the very bottom for network features, so you win some, and you lose some. Go ahead and read and watch my full review for the in-depth details.

One more thing: this device appears to be really hard to find. We’re leaving it in our guide because it’s totally unique among NAS devices in terms of ease of management, but it’s not clear whether or when you’ll be able to get ahold of one. It could be the last of a breed, which means you might want to think about whether you really want to invest a little in complexity or just have a truly appliance NAS.

Pros:

  • The blinkenlights (seriously)
  • Drobo’s super-easy RAID management
  • If you like Drobo, you like Drobo

Cons:

  • Very few apps
  • Old, so very old
  • Seriously, Drobo, this deserves an update

ioSafe 220+ review | Best NAS

Specs:

  • Price per bay: $465
  • Drive bays: 2
  • Max capacity: 32TB
  • RAM: 2GB DDR4 (expandable to 6GB)
  • 1GB Ethernet ports: 2
  • USB 3.2 ports: 1
  • USB 2.0 ports: 1 (for peripheral device connections)

Face it. No matter where you work or what you do, one day, the #&@! is going to hit the fan. It doesn’t matter if it’s earthquakes or hurricanes (two things my home office had to live through) or some other form of disaster; it’s likely that your drives will be at risk, at least part of the time.

Now, let’s be clear: We never recommend you store all your data in one place. In fact, the 3-2-1 backup strategy we recommend involves storing three copies of your data, using at least two different types of storage mechanisms and at least one copy of which is stored off-site. But restoring from off-site can be difficult and time-consuming, and cloud backups get very expensive as your data usage goes up. It’s not a bad idea to have a robust storage solution in-house.

Also: We test the ioSafe 1515+ battle-hardened RAID

That’s where ioSafe comes in. ioSafe builds NAS boxes inside boxes that are, essentially, safes. They’re fire and water-proof. They also weigh a ton and are rock solid, so (especially if you attach them to a floor or closet with an available bracket), you can prevent them from walking away. As a bonus, the ioSafe machines use Synology’s DSM software, making them very easy to use.

I use an ioSafe machine as a second backup to my main Synology box. It comes on once a week, accepts a backup, and then shuts off. That way, even if my network is breached, the ioSafe is powered down except for a few hours each week. My drives are protected physically and (mostly) air-gapped from the internet. You can implement this strategy, as well.

I have a five-bay model, but I’ve recommended a two-bay model here simply because they are quite expensive due to the added protection. Also, expect to pay $50 to $100 for shipping because these machines are very, very heavy.

Pros:

  • Could survive hurricane or fire
  • Probably would survive a nuke
  • Might survive a 2-year-old
  • Uses Synology’s great UI

Cons:

  • Pretty expensive by comparison
  • Somewhat sluggish
  • Very heavy, but that’s understandable

We still have to give it up to Synology’s NAS offerings. At a competitive price, they offer the very best UI in the business, a wide range of apps, and great features. All the offerings we’re presenting are good, but Synology does it all right.

NAS

Price/bay

Bays

Max Capacity

Ethernet

Synology DS1522+

$150

5

90TB

4 1GB ports

QNAP TS-453D-4G

$137

4

72TB

2 2.5GB ports

ASUSTOR Lockerstor 6

$134

6

120TB

2 2.5GB ports

WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra

$89

2

36TB

1 1GB port

TerraMaster F4-423

$125

4

80TB

2 2.5GB ports

Drobo 5N2

$125

5

50TB

2 1GB ports

ioSafe 220+

$465

2

32TB

2 1GB ports

So, how should you choose? In this case, the decision tree is pretty straightforward. You need, of course, to determine your budget and storage needs. Almost all vendors offer models in two bays (room for two drives) and up. If you need a ton of storage, get more bays. I’m running two eight-bay units, one four-bay unit, and one five-bay unit here at Camp David, but I produce a lot of video and need a lot of media asset storage.

From there, here’s a good decision tree:

If you want a high-performance computer that can run VMs with ease: Get the QNAP. It can be expanded to 64GB RAM and has the power to host VMs and containers. The Synology can do this as well, with a slightly nicer interface, but it can only be expanded up to 32GB RAM.

If you’re concerned about surviving the apocalypse or you work in Congress: Get the ioSafe. It’s an armored fortress of a NAS.

If you don’t care about apps and just want to share files with easy-peasy RAID: Get the Drobo. It makes RAID (even on the bad days when a drive fails) about as easy and reliable as it gets.

If you have any other NAS needs, get the Synology options: Synology is by far the brand I recommend when people come to me for NAS recommendations, as borne out in my lab testing and experience.

As with many of my other “best of” lists, this one comes out of my experience. I’ve been running NAS boxes since sometime in the 1980s. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to bring boxes in from seven vendors and stress test them in the lab. From those tests, come my top recommendations. 

While the devices here aren’t the identical ones tested in the lab (with one exception), these all reflect the technology from each vendor. In addition, I’m using devices from three of the four vendors recommended here on a daily or weekly basis, so I have a lot of experience with how well they work.

I wouldn’t be allowed to get out of this article alive if I didn’t mention the option of building your own NAS box. There is no law that says you need to buy a pre-built box from a vendor. You can repurpose an old PC or even build a very custom NAS solution to meet your exact needs.

For years and years, I always built my own NAS boxes, including some that were very customized. But as the NAS offerings from vendors like Synology, QNAP, and Drobo got better, the need to build my own diminished. I also had a ton of other projects to work on, and delegating NAS building to others saved me some time.

If you’re super-comfortable with specing PC parts and building PCs, you’ll probably want to go it on your own. But if you’re new to PC building, buying an appliance NAS is probably the way to go. I’m not going to go into too much more detail, because this article covers it in some depth. Not everyone agrees with my assessment, so if you want to really see what folks think, visit my YouTube video of the same name and dig through the hundreds of comments. There are good conversations there.

Most NAS devices (and all the ones we’re recommending here) support RAID. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (and a bunch of variations of that). RAID technology takes advantage of the fact that you have multiple hard disks with multiple spinning platters. One form of RAID allows you to write on one, then the other to increase speed. 

But the RAID we’re most concerned with here is mirroring. A well implemented RAID array will allow one drive to completely fail without losing any data. I’ve personally been running RAID devices for more than a decade, have had a bunch of drive failures, and lost not a single byte. RAID is good.

NAS is network-attached storage. That’s storage that’s on your network. DAS is directly-attached storage, and that’s storage plugged right into your computer. If you have more than one computer on your network, work with a group, or otherwise need to share files, a NAS is the way to go. If you’re doing high-performance video production on a single machine, you might want to connect a DAS device right to your machine so there’s no delay.

The following products are all good. We wouldn’t call the very best (those are above), but they provide options you might want to consider, especially at different price points and bay counts.

So, there you go. Let us know what you’re doing for file sharing, local storage, and NAS options in the comments below.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.





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