Using Network Storage to Stream Your Video Collection

A Network attached storage device makes an ideal centralized storage hub for your huge video files. Even cooler, these wonder boxes can stream high-def video and audio to any compatible networked device within your home. You can download movies from the Internet and play them through a networked media player or directly to a wireless HDTV.

Setting up a network storage device to stream video is straightforward. In the case of D-Link’s ShareCenter 2-Bay Network Storage for Media Streaming, or DNS-325, all you have to do is fire up the device’s Web configuration screen, click on over to its “Advanced” tab, and enable the built-in UPnP AV server. That’s it. Any folders or files within the specified folder on the device show up as shared items within devices like Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s PlayStation 3, the Boxee Box by D-Link, and many more.

That’s the beauty of UPnP, a.k.a. Universal Plug and Play. This standard makes it super-easy to get devices on your network to see each other, a process you might already be familiar with if you’ve spent any time within Windows 7’s Network and Sharing Center. “Network Discovery”, Microsoft’s name for the process by which computers can find other devices on your network to talk to (and vice versa), uses UPnP to forge the connections.

You may have heard of another streaming standard called DLNA, short for the Digital Living Network Alliance. Nomenclature aside, DLNA can be thought of as a more specific version of UPnP. The latest specifications require that each of these standards be compatible with the other, but there’s still a chance that older DLNA-based devices won’t work with UPnP devices on your network.

Why should you care about DLNA? Yes, it’s super-easy to set up a UPnP server to get other networked devices to see your NAS device, but that doesn’t mean videos will play properly on all devices: the files may be there, but they might be unwatchable. Once again, standards — in this case video codecs — rear their ugly head. I’ll explain the issues in my next post.

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