NAS vs Cloud: Which Storage Method Is Better?

Storing files in the cloud is very popular, despite problems with privacy, the limited storage capacity and the sometimes slow speed. If you put all your data on a NAS, you won't have some of these problems, but you'll get others in return. Which is the best choice, cloud or nas?

Tip 01: What is Nas?

Nas stands for Network Attached Storage. It is storage space for files such as documents, photos or videos that are not in or on the PC, but in a separate device on the network. A NAS therefore always has at least one network connection and a hard disk: the first for the network connection, the second for storage. The size of the case varies with the number of hard drives. Multiple drives in a NAS have the advantage of increasing the storage capacity and protecting the data against loss in case one of the drives fails. You can use a NAS simultaneously with several people, you can also easily share files with each other.

Tip 02: What is cloud storage?

With cloud storage you do not store the files on a hard drive in or on the PC or on a storage device within your network, but on a storage space on the internet. You do not own that cloud, but have a subscription with a cloud storage provider such as Google, Microsoft or Strato. Depending on the cloud service you use, you get a first part of the storage for free, you want more than you have to pay. The cloud storage provider, also known as the cloud storage provider, ensures that you can always access your data and also monitors security. Via the web browser you manage the cloud storage and you can also create folders, upload documents and sometimes edit them.

Depending on the cloud service, you get a first part of the storage for free

Tip 03: Storage capacity

An important difference between NAS and cloud is the size of the storage capacity. In other words, how much data can you store? With a NAS this is a fixed fact, because the capacity is determined by the size of the hard disks in the NAS. Even with one disk, that quickly amounts to several TBs, with multiple disks, the total storage capacity quickly increases. If the NAS becomes full, you can replace the disks with ones with more storage capacity, but that is expensive and, depending on the configuration of the NAS, also quite complex.

In theory, the cloud does not have the disadvantage of a limited storage capacity. If you need more, just buy more space. In practice, however, it is somewhat more unruly: cloud storage is expensive. In addition, almost all providers work with subscriptions where you get a certain (and again not unlimited) storage space for a certain monthly amount. So you always pay for more storage than you use and you can only expand here for a fee.

How much storage capacity do you need?

An important factor when choosing between NAS and cloud is the amount of data you want to store. That amount has increased considerably in recent years, on average it quickly amounts to several GBs or even a few TBs. To find out how much storage space you are currently using, press the Windows key and the letter i simultaneously. Then click System / Storage. Now wait a minute: Windows goes through the files and folders you use and calculates the totals. By default, it does this for the files on the system disk. If you use another drive to store your personal documents, click View storage usage on other drives and select the station of your choice. Within the overview you can always click through to other folders to view the storage size used there.

Tip 04: Which is cheaper?

Almost every cloud storage service offers a limited amount of free storage to attract new customers. With Google you get 15 GB, with Microsoft 5 GB and with Dropbox 1 GB. That's nice, but rarely enough. So you are soon tied to a paid subscription and then you discover that cloud storage is quite expensive. Google and Dropbox ask 9.99 per month for 2 TB storage, Microsoft offers 6 TB for 99.99 euros per year.

If you choose a nas, the first costs are much higher. After all, you have to buy a NAS and one or more hard drives. But that's about it, there are no more subscription costs after that. If you know how much storage space you need, you can easily calculate after how many months or years the NAS will be cheaper than the cloud. With a cheap NAS such as a Synology DS218j with two 6TB Western Digital Red NAS drives, this is often after one and a half or two years. You will, however, have to replace the nas after a number of years: if no more software updates are released or the hardware fails. You can count on a NAS to remain usable for a maximum of eight years.

Choosing a nas is quite difficult because of the many brands and models

Tip 05: Purchase

To store files in the cloud, you usually don't have to do more than create an account with a password. If you use Windows 10, a link with your own storage on OneDrive is already included by default. This convenience does not apply to a NAS: you have to buy it first and choosing a NAS is quite difficult due to the many brands and models. Fortunately, there is a lot of information available online about brands and models and here you will find several comparative tests and articles about the use of a NAS. Such information can also be found for cloud providers, for example via this link. However, choosing a cloud provider is still quite difficult, partly because the services are subject to change. With cloud storage, you should also take into account that a cloud service can change its conditions and prices very simply and often unilaterally in between, i.e. without asking permission. That is of course impossible with a NAS.

Tip 06: Local link

Worried that working with files will be much more difficult with a NAS or cloud storage service because the files are stored in a different location? Fortunately, that fear is not necessary: ​​most cloud storage services and most NAS suppliers offer one or even more options for linking the storage to a Windows PC. You can then create, open and edit the files that are on the NAS or in the cloud just like files that are actually on the computer itself. The secret is often that a copy of the files on the NAS or in the cloud is also placed on the PC and continuously synchronized. In addition, with a NAS it is always possible to make a real network connection and work directly on the NAS.

Nas is not a backup, cloud is

An important difference between a NAS and cloud storage is the protection of your data through backup. If you store your data in the cloud, the cloud supplier will provide protection and backup. The chance of losing data is actually zero. And if you accidentally delete one or more files yourself, almost every cloud storage service offers the possibility to restore the data with a few clicks. This does not apply to a NAS, you have to protect the data on the NAS yourself. That is why it is unwise to put all your data on one nas only: if a burglar comes by, you can lose everything. To protect files on a NAS against a failed hard drive, you should at least take a NAS with two disks and opt for protection with RAID1 or higher. However, that costs a large part of the storage capacity. In addition, you always have to provide a copy of the data at a second location. You can copy the files to a second NAS, a backup device such as a Tandberg RDX Quickstor or … to the cloud!

You can also make the files on a NAS accessible via the internet

Tip 07: Access everywhere

An advantage of cloud storage is that you can always access the files, as long as you have an internet connection. You don't need more than a browser, it often works even faster via an app. This is very useful when you are on the road and want to see the latest photos or edit a document. This is also possible with a NAS, but for that you have to configure more and good security of the NAS becomes important. Nas manufacturers know that the cloud has an advantage here and therefore, without exception, a user-friendly way to make the files on the NAS always accessible. Once you've configured it, there's really no difference.

Tip 08: Additional functions

Storing files in the cloud has been made so easy by the cloud suppliers that a NAS is always more difficult. With a NAS you have to think about RAID configuration, security, other users, access from the internet and much more. If you don't want that, it's best to choose the cloud. If you don't mind thinking about these kinds of things and you enjoy the technical possibilities of a NAS, then cloud will always disappoint. In addition, the functionality of a NAS can be stretched much further than just storage, by installing apps or packages. Think of extra functions for presenting photos, independently downloading movies or music, a web server, a cms, a backup function, a mail server and much more. With the cloud this is impossible, there it is almost only storage and a tiny bit of extra functionality.

Tip 09: Editing documents

Everyone uses text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Microsoft therefore emphatically links its cloud storage OneDrive to Office. If you take one, you get the other almost for free. In addition to Windows and macOS, documents on OneDrive can also be edited in a browser and on any tablet or smartphone. Google offers a similar experience with the Google applications in the cloud. These work in the browser and provide sufficient functionality for most users. Moreover, if you save your documents in the Google format, they will not count towards your own storage consumption. Is the nose behind this? That depends on what brand you buy a nas from. With Synology Office, Synology has a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program for the NAS. You create and edit the documents in the browser and have worldwide access via the accompanying app. Other NAS brands do not (yet) offer this or not in the quality that Synology does.

If you want to stream media, the NAS has clear advantages over the cloud

Tip 10: Streaming media

Where a NAS has clear advantages over the cloud, is when using media, especially movies. Storing films in the cloud costs a lot of storage capacity, so you will soon have to buy additional storage capacity. In addition, cloud storage does not offer the functionality that a NAS has when it comes to streaming media. Cloud services often only support movies in lower resolution, HD is currently the maximum with Google and OneDrive, and formats such as h.264, h.265, mov and flv are only partially supported. A NAS can handle any size and any resolution. In addition, the better NAS models can also transcode. A film is then converted while watching to an optimal format for the device on which you watch the film. A NAS also offers options that the cloud does not offer, such as automatically downloading the latest media with a download service, sometimes an HDMI output to connect a television directly to the NAS and the option of specific media servers such as Kodi and Plex on the NAS. to install. This allows you to use media in an optimal way. An attempt by Plex to also use cloud storage was halted last year due to technical issues.

Apps, apps, apps

You also want to always be able to access your files from your smartphone and tablet, regardless of whether they are in the cloud or on a NAS. Good apps are indispensable for this, and fortunately they are available for both NAS and cloud storage. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Strato: all offer apps to easily use their storage from any device. And it is no different with NAS providers such as Synology, QNAP, Asustor and Western Digital. There are often multiple apps for NAS, for the extra functions you can add to a NAS, such as media streaming, video surveillance or an app to control the download server. In terms of mobile use and easy-to-use apps, there is no difference between cloud storage and a native NAS.

Tip 11: Privacy

If we compare the NAS and the cloud on the point of 'privacy', then the NAS clearly has an advantage. Nearly all cloud services are subject to US law, which requires that there is always a backdoor through which the government can request access to the data in the cloud. Also to your data. A NAS does not have this disadvantage: you manage the device yourself and without back doors. In addition, a NAS offers numerous security options, including disk encryption. The cloud lacks that option and you have to take extra measures to enable end-to-end entry. Well-known options are Cryptomator and the very popular and user-friendly Boxcryptor. Both support a large number of cloud storage services and have useful apps, but it remains an extra effort that is not or less necessary with a NAS.

Tip 12: Collaborate

A great convenience of both NAS and cloud is the ability to share documents with others. With the cloud, it is useful that the other person has an account with the same cloud storage, but it is not necessary. You can often also share files in the cloud by generating a unique URL and emailing it to the person who also needs to view or edit the document. It works no different on a NAS: you can give other users their own account on the NAS and inform them about this by email, but it is also possible to share files once or offer them for download. For collaboration in this way, there is no real difference between nas and cloud. It is, however, possible at Google and Microsoft to simultaneously edit the documents that you have in the cloud with several people in their online office packages.

Tip 13: Make a choice

You have to make your own choice based on the above tips. Whether a NAS or cloud storage is more sensible depends on your own preferences. So first determine what you think are the most important considerations. For example, if you prefer no subscription costs, you will quickly end up with a nas. If you are not prepared to put some work into the configuration yourself, it is better to opt for cloud storage.

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