Network Attached Storage (NAS). Part 1. Intro.
An Introduction to NAS
This is the first part of an ongoing series that will cover the ins and outs of Network Attached Storage (NAS) with a focus on how to use a NAS device as a music server. I've created a rough outline for the series and it goes something like this:
1. An Introduction to NASThis list may change some as we go along but that's the plan for now.
2. Glossary of Relevant Terms
3. Configurations & Topologies
NAS and You
Network Attached Storage allows you to put your digital music library on one device while providing network access to it via Ethernet or a wireless connection. A NAS device is completely agnostic in terms of music-related technology—it will accept any file format at any resolution so you can consider a NAS device more or less future-proof.
Since you talk to your NAS through a router via Ethernet, the Ethernet standards apply which allow for cable runs of up to 100 meters (330 ft). So you can run an Ethernet cable from your router to most any room in your home unless its truly a castle. And bulk Ethernet cable is relatively inexpensive so you can wire up multiple rooms for less than the cost of a moderately priced interconnect. You can also connect to your NAS wirelessly as long as you have a reliable wireless network (although a wired connection is usually preferable but we'll get into that in Part 3). And perhaps best of all, NAS devices come in all shapes and sizes from single drive units to multi-drive, multi-terabyte RAID-arrayed behemoths.
In order to get your NAS set up and working you need a few other things first. In order of importance you need a router with an available Ethernet port to plug in your NAS device, media server software running on your NAS, and you'll want a broadband Internet connection for many reasons like keeping your software and firmware up-to-date as well as for learning about all the music you need to buy to put on your new NAS. You can think of a NAS device as a network-attached jukebox unless you're wondering what a jukebox is in which case just think of NAS as NAS.
You also need to decide what device(s) you'd like to use to access and play your NAS-resident music. We'll dig into the available options in Part 3 from computers to streamers as well as getting into some step by step setups in Part 4. The main thing to keep in mind is any network-attached computer and any network-ready audio device, essentially any audio component with an Ethernet port or wireless LAN capability can theoretically play music from any Network Attached Storage device running UPnP media server software (UPnP stands for Universal Plug and Play but we'll learn that this does not necessarily mean all UPnP devices are plug and play universally). But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
I should also mention that you can turn most any computer into a NAS device and there are a number of open source (free) software options available for doing so. That said, I'm going to focus on commercial NAS products and plug and play solutions to keep things simple this go around.
In Part 2 we'll define the relevant terms you'll need to know in order to feel comfortable knowing why NAS is so cool (think way cool) and how it may be the answer to your computer audio prayers. And if you have any NAS-specific questions, feel free to send me an email and I'll do my best to cover them.
The NAS Series
Part 1. Introduction
Part 2. Glossary
Part 3. Configurations & Topologies
Part 4. Recommendations