Three signs you need a new NAS box

Unless you’re just joining us, you know I’m a huge proponent of network attached storage, or NAS. If you’ve taken my advice or you’re just that smart and already own a NAS box, you make regular use of it to store your files, automate backups, stream media throughout your home, and log into your network remotely.

So why would you need a new one? Not long ago I would have asked myself the same question, but three critical factors persuaded me that it was time for an upgrade.

1. More storage. It’s often said that hard-drive capacity increases roughly 25 to 35 percent per year. But you don’t have to wait for the latest and greatest new drives to reap the benefit of more storage space. The thing that pushed me to upgrade from my older, single-bay NAS box to a dual-bay device is simple: In one quick switch, I instantly doubled my storage capacity.

Switching to a new NAS box also cured my headache — specifically, the throbbing in my skull that came from my annoyance at having to dig out my tools and disassemble my older NAS box whenever I needed to switch the hard drive. Newer models like D-Link’s DNS-320 and DNS-325 use hot-swappable bays to reduce drive installation time to mere seconds. Better still: No tools required!

2. Higher speed. Today’s technological stew has a lot of beefy chunks of data floating around in it. High-definition movies, disc images, and the pictures that come from everyone’s 85-megapixel cameras (OK, not really) take up a lot of space. And if you’re trying to clean up your PC by transferring these files to a NAS box, you’re in for a painful experience if you’re doing it over a fast Ethernet connection.

When I swapped my old NAS box for a brand-new, gigabit Ethernet-friendly one, it was a monumental transformation. No longer did I sit and watch the Windows copy pane for what felt like hours. My files now zipped along, limited only by the speed of my hard drives instead of a sluggish, 12.5-megabyte per second fast Ethernet connection. I used to wait a half-hour to transfer a 20GB Blu-ray movie. Now the same movie zooms through my Gigabit pipe in less than three minutes.

3. Software upgrades. Plants die. Pets die. NAS boxes die — but not because they’re faulty. At some point in every digital product’s lifecycle, the manufacturer terminates software and firmware updates. When that happens, what you have is as good as it’s going to get. If your old router doesn’t support DLNA or UPnP-based streaming, you won’t be able to watch movies using any number of living-room devices (including gaming consoles, set-top boxes, and perhaps your television itself). Don’t expect a software upgrade to come along and save the day!

By the same token, older NAS boxes tend to come with rigid internal software. You can’t usually pack any third-party add-ons into the mix. Not so with D-Link’s DNS-320 and DNS-325. These NAS devices allow you to go out to the Internet and grab additional software utilities that mix right in with the standard setup, including support for Yahoo widgets, software audio streaming, and Logitech’s SqueezeCenter line of network audio devices.

Why should you upgrade your NAS box? Because you’re missing out on great performance that would enhance your home networking experience. From more storage to faster speeds to awesome software that allows you to do even more with your NAS box, the latest generation of network storage can put legacy setups to shame — and make you a happier techie.

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