I would like:
* a secondary NAS backup solution which handles versioning, and RAID
* a way to access my photos from anywhere, even when not near my laptop
* a way to show my videos via smart tv or chromecast in hotels etc.
** I’m guessing this means plex. As for transcoding, no idea if needed. Most is downloaded, so probably a hodgepodge of encodings.
* I’m a programmer, and thinking of developing a web and/or smartphone based product. I’m curious about ways that a NAS might be useful, such as a webserver, test server, GIT repository, virtual machines?
* You often mention that QNAP and Synology have more apps, but how do I find out if any of them are actually useful for me?
* I’d like some kind of RAID for failure protection.
** What is your comment on this argument against RAID 5? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2OxG2UjiV4)
For simplest drive redundancy you need to look at the 2-bay solution which will protect your data in case of one drive failure. Better value for money would be with a 4 bay NAS which will let you use RAID5 protection. RAID5 is the most popular RAID option for NAS under 6 bays. Anything above that should be setup with RAID6 .
For streaming video outside your network, you need NAS with a transcoding engine built in. For streaming in your local network to a casting device like chromecast or TV or need DLNA or Plex support. NAS will give you the option to set it up as a web server for your projects.
When using NAS for virtual machines, make sure there is enough RAM and CPU power to dedicate these resources to a virtual machine. It is becoming very popular to use virtual machines for remote work.
What would I recommend:
DS718+ as a 2-bay option or DS918+ as a 4-bay option. If you expect serious traffic to your web server then NVMe sticks in a DS918+ will give a little bit of a boost and let users be server much quicker.
Find regulary updated NAS offers here
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What can I connect to a NAS?
Wireless Speaker SonosThe great thing about Sonos is that you don't need to pay for music subscription service. With the cheapest NAS at home like DS115j or any other, you can have your backups done for all of your devices and still use your network drive as a Sonos music library. Sonos will connect to your NAS via your network and let access your provided music library. If you have little more of IT knowledge, you can even set up your Alexa or Sonos with Alexa built in to play music on your voice commands ("Alexa! Ask DS Audio to Play Music!").
Casting devicesNowadays it is so cheap to upgrade your old TV and make it smart. All you need is Google Chrome or EZcast alternative plugged into your HDMI port at the back of your TV. Now you have great functionality added to your TV to send a video file directly from your NAS to a TV. No need for wires and chargers and other mess. You can use your phone as a remote to go to your movies or family videos and cast that content on your TV during family or friend gatherings.
Amazon Fire TVYou may not have a smartphone, or you just simply prefer to control your content with a remote in that case Amazon Fire TV will be a great addon to get to your TV. It also plugs into your HDMI port and will play content from your NAS to a TV. No wires no mess.
nVidia Shield TVIt gets even better! If you want some more entertainment and all previously mentioned functions - nVidia TV is a great thing to get. You can use it for playing games and watching movies from your NAS. The greatest thing is - shield TV does video transcoding. So even if you have a cheap NAS with a weak CPU, in a combination of shield TV you can now automatically on the fly change video file size and format for a destination device. It is a great way to reduce network load and let older devices to play video content which normally was not supported on the device.