- Network-attached storage (NAS) is a file-level storage system that makes stored data more accessible to networked devices. It makes sharing, managing, and editing files much easier.
- The My Cloud EX2 Ultra NAS drive was voted the best overall NAS for photographers.
- If budget is a concern, the BUFFALO LinkStation 210 may be for you.
NAS drives can be an absolute game changer for photographers storing all their photos on an array of external drives. Network Attached Storage, or NAS for short, allows you to have a massive library of files in one place, either attached to your network or directly plugged into your computer.
Luckily, we have compiled a list of the five best NAS specifically for photographers.
- Best Overall: My Cloud EX2 Ultra NAS drive
- Best Media Server: Synology DiskStation DS218play
- Most Feature Rich: QNAP TS-251+ NAS drive
- Most Storage: Synology DiskStation DS1520+
- Most Budget Friendly: BUFFALO LinkStation 210
Best Overall: My Cloud EX2 Ultra NAS Drive
My Cloud EX2 Ultra NAS drive is the best overall NAS for two because of its easy setup and excellent performance.
Available in various size options, WD preinstalls two hard drives in the NAS for you. We recommend starting with the 4TB one. We also would like to note that you can purchase the NAS with no disks and populate it with your own if you already have two drives you would use instead.
Unless you are trying to hit a tight budget, we typically recommend going with a NAS with at least 2 drive bays so you can set it up in RAID mode. Without diving too deep into what RAID is, it allows one of your drives to fail and not lose any data.
Check out the My Cloud EX2 Ultra NAS drive on Amazon.
Best Media Server: Synology DiskStation DS218play
- 2-bay NAS with optimal multimedia solution for home users
- 4K video transcoding on the fly with 10 bit H.265 codec support. Operating Temperature : 5°C to 40°C (40°F to 104°F), Storage Temperature : -20°C to 60°C (-5°F to 140°F)
- Up to 112 MB/s and 112 MB/s sequential reading and writing throughput, respectively
- Over 112 MB/s encrypted sequential reading throughput and 112 MB/s encrypted sequential writing throughput
- Powered by a 64-bit 1.4 GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB DDR4 RAM
The Synology DiskStation DS218play is a NAS that doubles up as a media hub, allowing you to cast images and videos on mobile devices or Smart TVs.
Synology has earned an amazing reputation in the NAS community, and for a good reason. No matter the price point you are looking at, they probably have a NAS drive that fits your needs and performs exceptionally.
The DiskStation DS218play has a unique party trick over other drives in this lineup. So regardless of what device you have closest to you, you can have access to your whole library of photos. Its enclosure has 2 drive bays, but Synology does not include any drives. So be sure to factor that cost into your total budget when making a decision.
Check out the Synology DiskStation DS218play on Amazon.
Most Feature Rich: QNAP TS-251+ NAS drive
(Please note that as of July 19th, 2023, the Qnap TS-251+ 2-Bay Personal Cloud Tower NAS is currently unavailable on Amazon. Please check back later.)
If you are after a feature-rich NAS, that is not a pain to set up, the QNAP TS-251+ NAS drive is the perfect NAS drive for you.
While not the cheapest item, QNAP TS-251+ offers robust hardware and loads of features that justify its price. You can quickly set up this NAS on a Mac or PC so it can appear as a local drive. With that simple process, it feels like you are getting all the simplicity of an external drive while having all the features of a NAS.
One drawback with this NAS is it does not include any drives with the enclosure. But it is nicer to add your own drives that way for something at this level. You can ensure you get the speed and amount of storage you need.
Check out the QNAP TS-251+ NAS drive on Amazon.
Most Storage: Synology DiskStation DS1520+
If you are a busy professional photographer with an own studio and a team working with you, the Synology DiskStation DS1520+ will meet your storage needs.
With its maximum capacity being 108TB, you will not have to worry about running out of space anytime soon. You can get a DX517 expansion kit to upgrade your NAS to 15 drives if you need more. In addition, the excellent hardware inside allows you to edit off the NAS without transferring the files to your computer first.
DS1520+ is super exciting and powerful and might be a bit overkill for personal use. Anyone running a medium to large-sized studio will benefit from it though, Synology does not include drives with this NAS.
Check out the Synology DiskStation DS1520+ on Amazon.
Please Note: As of July 18, 2023, the Synology DiskStation DS1520+ 5-Bay is currently unavailable on Amazon. If you are unable to locate this product elsewhere, please check back later.
Most Budget Friendly: BUFFALO LinkStation 210
One of the affordable NAS in the market, the BUFFALO LinkStation 210 is perfect for anyone looking to save a buck.
The LinkStation 210 still offers excellent performance and up to 8TB of storage. There is also a simple setup for automatic backups for both Windows and Mac OS. Despite all that sounding wonderful, there is one more feature that makes this NAS worthy of being on this list. It has a built-in BitTorrent client that allows you to upload and download data without stretching your computer resources
Buffalo does include drives in this NAS. To get the best bang for your back, we recommend going for the 6TB option.
Check out the BUFFALO LinkStation 210 on Amazon.
How To Pick The Best NAS: Step By Step
Picking out and purchasing a new NAS can be tricky, especially if you have never used a NAS before. There are three things we typically look at before recommending a NAS.
- Amount of Storage
- Special Features
Amount of Storage
Decide how much storage you need in a NAS. If you all your work won’t into it, the NAS is not worth it. Some NAS drives will come with preinstalled drives. If you already have drives, or are looking to customize your drives, a diskless NAS will be a better choice.
Backup or Working Off It?
The second question you should ask yourself is. Are you using this NAS as a backup system or use it to work off of? By work off, we mean using the files directly from the NAS as your primary storage option for all your photos. If you don’t need to work off it and you are using it as a backup, a lower-performance NAS might be a better fit for you.
The special features of a NAS can be the deciding factor after you have gone through those first two steps. For example, the QNAP TS-251+ is a fantastic NAS, but how feature rich is the main reason it made it onto this list. So, be sure to go through the special features of a NAS before making the purchase. Those creature comforts and special features cannot be overlooked.
What To Know Before Buying a NAS
Unlike an external hard drive, NAS drives are not a simple plug-in a USB cable, and its ready to go. The setup of it can be quite involved. So, if you have never set up a NAS before, we highly recommend looking at an option that has a simplified setup process. The easy setup process is a special feature like we were talking about before, which could be a selling point for a NAS.
Or, if you want a more involved NAS, we recommend watching a how-to video before making the purchase to make sure everything you need to do is something you are comfortable handling.
Using a NAS: What’s It Like?
If you have never used a NAS before, using one that is built and optimized well feels absolutely amazing. Especially for something like photography, where if you have been doing it for a couple of years, the number of files you have can be overwhelming. A NAS puts them all in one place. We highly recommend picking up a NAS, whether you do photography as a hobby or a profession. It will change the way you interact with your files forever. If you are more of a videographer, we also 5 excellent NAS for you here.
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The image featured at the top of this post is ©Lost_in_the_Midwest/Shutterstock.com.