Best NAS drives 2021: Which network storage appliance is right for you?

The perfect NAS drive for every use case, from a home office all the way to the enterprise

IT Pro Recommended Best NAS Drives logo

Network Attached Storage (NAS) drives have been around for decades, allowing homes and businesses to create their very own storage solution without having to hook up hefty hard drives to their laptops and desktops. They are commonly used for multiple people to access, whether that's an entire organisation or just a few people in a shared residence.

What's so flexible with NAS drives is that the data stored on them can be accessed by anyone at any time, from any place around the world. Commonly though, the power of NAS drives is underestimated. The applications that accompany NAS drives are hugely powerful for helping to manage huge reams of data, whatever their role. For example, they can be used to boost collaboration across an organisation, to make backups of your data, or allowing you to save space on your computer by removing files in an automated fashion from your computer.

NAS drives are similar in concept to cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive. They allow multiple people to add to change or create new shared files that can be accessed in real-time. However, because NAS drives are not hosted on the cloud, but rather on a physical device, you maintain ownership of the information stored on them, you can decide who else has access and you can choose exactly where to store the data.

NAS drives can also boast a huge storage capacity versus similar cloud services - usually terabytes worth of storage against modest upper capacities with the latter - and they tend to be more affordable in the long-term, despite a sizeable initial cost; the subscription fees of cloud services add up when looking at the bigger picture.

We've picked out the latest NAS drives you should consider - regardless of whether you're an SMB, large organisation, or even running a home office - if you're looking to bolster your IT infrastructure with a network storage device.

Synology DiskStation DS418j

For those that want a NAS drive that twins strong storage performance with a host of handy extra capabilities, the Synology DiskStation DS418j is an excellent option. Clocking in at under £250 before tax, this unassuming NAS appliance offers a mammoth 48TB capacity, speedy file transfer and the ability to act as a web or email server.

CPU1.4 GHz Realtek RTD1293 
RAM1GB DDR4
Drive bays4 x SATA
RAID options0, 1, 5, 6, 10, JBOD

Price when reviewed: 244 (ex VAT)

Read our full Synology DiskStation DS418j review for more information.

Synology DiskStation DS1621xs+

Synology DiskStation DS1621xs+ front and rear

Synology’s DiskStation DS1621xs+ targets businesses and remote workers that want plenty of NAS power in a compact desktop form factor. This 6-bay appliance is Synology’s first Intel-powered model to sport an embedded 10GBase-T port and it sweetens the deal further with dual M.2 NVMe SSD slots, support for fast DDR4 memory and a spare PCI-E expansion slot.

CPU2.2GHz quad-core Intel Xeon D-1527
RAM8GB DDR4 (max 32GB)
Drive bays6 x SATA LFF/SFF, 2 x M.2 NVMe SSD
RAID optionsF1, 0, 1, 10, 5, 6, JBOD

Price when reviewed: £1,352 (exc VAT)

Read our full Synology DiskStation DS1621xs+ review for more information.

Asustor Nimbustor AS5304T

Asus Nimbustor AS530T NAS drive

The AS5304T takes its design cues from gaming hardware, with its gloss-black, angled surfaces, red touches and glowing indicator LEDs. This is entirely intentional; one of the applications Asustor trumpets with this NAS is storing 4K gaming live streams to your NAS, while one of the bundled third-party apps, StreamsGood, is designed to play live streams from a range of popular gaming services directly from your NAS.

CPUIntel Celeron J4105
RAM4GB (max 8GB)
Drive bays4 x SATA
RAID optionsJBOD, 0, 1, 5, 6, 10

Price when reviewed: £360 exc VAT

Read our full Asus Nimbustor AS5304T review for more information.

Buffalo Technology TeraStation TS3420RN

Buffalo is a little bit of an outlier in the NAS market, as its NAS units don’t allow for the installation of any third-party apps and don’t come is diskless configurations. However, Buffalo argues this makes them more secure, and the pre-populated drives all come with generous warranties and guarantees. This, combined with the performance and backup features on offer, makes the TeraStation TS3420RN an excellent option for businesses who want solid, no-frills storage.

CPU

Quad-core 1.4GHz Annapurna Labs Alpine AL214

RAM

1GB DDR3 (max 1GB)

Drive bays

6 x SATA LFF/SFF, 2 x M.2 NVMe SSD 

RAID options

RAID 0, 1, 10, 5, 6, JBOD

Price when reviewed: £723 exc VAT (8TB)

Read our full Buffalo Technology TeraStation TS3420RN review for more information.

Synology DiskStation DS1621xs+

Synology DiskStation DS1621xs+ front and rear

Synology’s DiskStation DS1621xs+ targets businesses and remote workers that want plenty of NAS power in a compact desktop form factor. This 6-bay appliance is Synology’s first Intel-powered model to sport an embedded 10GBase-T port and sweetens the deal with dual M.2 NVMe SSD slots, support for fast DDR4 memory and a spare PCI-E expansion slot. There’s no doubt about it - this is one of the fastest SMB desktop NAS appliances we’ve seen. You’ll be paying a premium, but it clearly has the horsepower to handle the demands of 10GbE connections.

CPU

Quad-core 2.2Ghz Intel Xeon D-1527

RAM

8GB DDR4 (max 32GB)

Drive bays

6 x SATA LFF/SFF, 2 x M.2 NVMe SSD 

RAID options

RAID F1, 0, 1, 10, 5, 6, JBOD

Price when reviewed: £1,352 exc VAT 

Read our full Synology DiskStation DS1621xs+ review for more information.

Infortrend EonStor CS 3016G

The front and back of the Infortrend EonStor CS 3016G

Infortrend has a well-established reputation for delivering enterprise storage solutions at more sensible prices than the blue chips, and its CS Series of appliances signals its first foray into the scale-out NAS arena. Ultimately, the EonStor CS 3016G offers a straightforward and easy-to-deploy NAS scale-out system at an affordable price, which makes it a great option for a variety of businesses. Web console monitoring features do need improvement, however, but we were otherwise impressed with how easy the appliance is to configure, as well as its amazing expansion potential.

CPU

Quad-core 2.2Ghz Intel Xeon D-2123IT

RAM

64GB DDR4 (max 256GB)

Drive bays

16 x SAS/SATA LFF/SFF hot-swap drive bays 

RAID options

RAID 5, 5 + hot-spare, 6

Price when reviewed: £11,564 (diskless controller)

Read our full Infortrend EonStor CS 3016G review for more information.

Synology RackStation RS1619xs+

The Synology RackStation RS1619xs+ NAS drive

If you’re looking for an appliance that can handle more than everyday storage duties, the RS1619xs+ might be just the thing. It’s Synology’s flagship 1U rack NAS appliance, and inside its chassis, it features a quad-core 2.2GHz Intel Xeon D-1527 CPU, along with 8GB of server-grade DDR4 ECC memory. Its hardware makes it one of the best-performing 1U rack NAS appliances around, and it offers a superb range of storage and data-protection features to boot.

CPU

Quad-core 2.2Ghz Intel Xeon D-1527

RAM

8GB ECC DDR4 (max 64GB)

Drive bays

4 x hot-swap SATA drive bays, 2 x M.2 NVMe/SATA SSD slots

RAID options

RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, SHR, JBOD

Price when reviewed: £1,623 exc VAT

Read our full Synology RackStation RS1619xs+ review for more information.

Synology DS218+

The Synology DS218+ seen from the front

An evolution of the well-received DS218, this appliance features the same clean design but comes with more powerful hardware. While the previous edition is fitted with a Realtek quad-core CPU, the plus model features a dual-core Intel Celeron J3355, giving it extra oomph. The DS218+ has the horsepower to run applications for a family or a small team, although you might be pushing it if you expect it to cope with a whole office. The hardware improvements, nevertheless, offers improved file transfer performance plus additional capabilities such as on-the-fly 4K transcoding. As far as mainstream, two-bay NAS drives go, the DS218+ is the one to beat.

CPU

Dual-core Intel Celeron J3355

RAM

2GB (max 6GB)

Drive bays

2 x hot-swap SATA 

RAID options

SHR, JBOD, 0, 1

Price when reviewed: £242 exc VAT

Read our full Synology DS218+ review for more information.

Synology DS1019+

The front of the Synology DS1019+ NAS drive

You might think four bays are enough, but a new breed of five-bay NAS drives has arrived to prove you wrong. While the DS1019+ doesn’t have all the connectivity of some Asustor and Qnap rivals, it’s not trying to be a media centre, just a NAS with some server aspirations. It has no HDMI output or inputs for a keyboard and a mouse; there’s just a USB 3 port on the front and another at the rear. This is, however, a hugely versatile NAS. It’s a great choice for basic file-sharing and backup duties, or for providing iSCSI target storage for virtual machines, although it can also take on a range of cloud-like and server-like duties. Luckily, it's also one of the fastest NAS servers we've seen.

CPU

Quad-core Intel Celeron J3455

RAM

8GB ECC DDR4 (max 8GB)

Drive bays

5 (5)

RAID options

SHR, JBOD, 0, 1, 5, 6, 10

Price when reviewed: £514 exc VAT

Read our full Synology DS1019+ review for more information.

Synology SA3200D

The front and back views of the Synology SA3200D NAS drive

Synology’s SA3200D aims to deliver fault-tolerant network storage services at a price that will appeal to SMBs, with the SA3200D following closely on the heels of the IT Pro-approved UC3200 appliance. Ultimately, the SA3200D delivers highly available NAS and IP SAN storage in a self-contained appliance at an affordable price. Storage services will be stopped briefly during failover, but our tests show the switchover from active to passive controllers is fast and the appliance is capable of running everything Synology’s DSM software has to offer.

CPU

Quad-core 2.4Ghz Intel Xeon D-1521

RAM

8GB ECC DDR4 (max 64GB)

Drive bays

12 x hot-swap SAS3 LFF/SFF drive bays

RAID options

RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, F1

Price when reviewed: £5,436 exc VAT (diskless)

Read our full Synology SA320D review for more information.

Qnap Guardian QGD-1600P

The front and rear view of the Qnap Guardian QGD-1600P NAS drive

We've seen lots of innovation over the years, but the Guardian QGD-1600P is something new. This 1U rack-mounter not only delivers all the goodness of Qnap’s QTS NAS software, but it also serves as a 16-port managed PoE switch. This makes it the ideal all-in-one platform for services such as IP surveillance, network security and wireless LAN management. While there are NAS options with greater storage capacity, the QGD-1600P is probably the most versatile appliance we’ve seen. It offers the convenience of a NAS and a managed PoE switch in a single chassis for a much lower price than separate components, while Qnap’s feature-rich QTS software allows it to run a broad range of applications.

CPU

Quad-core 1.8Ghz Intel Celeron J4115

RAM

8GB DDR4 (max 8GB)

Drive bays

2 x internal SATA SFF bays, 2 x PCIe Gen2 x 2

RAID options

n/a

Price when reviewed: £5,436 exc VAT (diskless)

Read our full Synology SA320D review for more information.

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