Table of Contents
- What is a Networkable External Hard Drive?
- Normal Hard Drives versus Networkable External Hard Drives
- Advantages of Networkable External Hard Drives
- The Five Picks for the Best Networkable External Hard Drives
- Things to Consider when Choosing a Networkable External Hard Drive
- Our Favorite Pick
- Final Thoughts
We have all been there: our data files, pictures and video gone in a matter of seconds, and there is no way to retrieve the lost data. Extrapolating this misfortune to companies and people who deal with sensitive information, data loss can be no less than a nightmarish situation.
Whether you work in an office, a company or have a personal computer at home, having a dependable and foolproof data backup system can be invaluable. Large storage, speedy access and ease of replacement make a physical storage space dominant over cloud-based storage spaces. For this purpose, choosing an external hard drive is a great idea.
If you want to go the extra mile and take advantage of both fields of storage tools, you can think of buying networkable external hard drives. They are also called network-attached storage or NAS. Networkable external hard drives are becoming popular for storage especially in enterprises and businesses, many industries, and for personal use.
Over the years, networkable storage has gone down on price range, making it a low-cost storage option. Keep reading as we share the list of top five best networkable external hard drives for the year 2020.
What is a Networkable External Hard Drive?
Networkable external hard drives, as the name suggests, make stored data more accessible across all the networked devices. It is tailor-made storage for all your files, emails, business reports, etc. It even allows expandable features if demands increase.
To get the general idea of a networkable drive, think of a computer that is solely dedicated to storing data. This computer can then communicate and share data when needed, making it accessible to a greater number of locally networked devices. Some modern networkable drives come with built-in RAM and computer processors. They speed up the file transfer process, making the whole ordeal streamlined and efficient.
Normal Hard Drives versus Networkable External Hard Drives
If you have a single laptop on you, and you want to back up your pictures, an average capacity external hard drive will suffice. When it comes to data storage for several computers, or you are working in a group environment where data needs to be shared with a number of people, then networkable drives are your solution.
Normal hard drives:
- Are easy to carry around; have different sizes
- Have wired connections, meaning they connect to their hosts using a USB port
- Are often bus-powered, which means that they draw their power from the host
- Are designed primarily for a single device use
- Are meant for storing purposes only
Networkable external hard drives, on the other hand:
- Have an Ethernet port, which means they can directly connect to a Wi-Fi router
- Can be connected to web browsers
- Can be plugged into a printer
- Can be plugged into a smart TV for data streaming or to other computers for file sharing
- Have automatic backups
- Have RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) for redundant multiple disk storages
- Have Dynamic DNS for remote data accessing
Advantages of Networkable External Hard Drives
Following is a list of benefits of using a networkable external hard drive:
More Storage Space
Networkable drives expand the storage capacity of your computer. This is a great way to take a load off of your personal computers and laptops, which have limited memory spaces. It is also good to have networked drives to make storage available for more than one device.
They work best in a small business environment because they help in work collaboration. The important documents are placed on a central location, and they are available for everyone associated with the business.
Cloud-based storage is a great way to enable data retrieval from a remote computer as long as you have the credentials. With networked hard drives, the notion of the privacy breach on cloud storage is minimized because other associated devices can identify a malicious body trying to snoop.
Automated Data Backup
Networked drives not only provide an option for continuous data backup, but they also give the user-customized configuration on syncing the changes done on a computer to that of the stored copy on the cloud.
Networked hard drives offer redundancy of data saving, using RAID technology. Unlike a normal hard drive, networked drives allow the user to store a file on multiple drives to back up the data in case the prime location malfunctions.
You can connect networked hard drives to a media player, and access movies, videos, pictures or even music, streaming right from the central safe.
The Five Picks for the Best Networkable External Hard Drives
This brings us to our top picks for the most outstanding networkable external hard drives. Following is a reversed numerical list of five networked external hard drives, their description and details, their pros and cons, and finally the winner:
This stylish hard drive is made for home use. Its high-end specifications include a 10 GB Ethernet port, and a speedy memory. This drive offers a multitude of applications to back data up. Despite not having a large number of I/O ports, this is decent enough performer in its own right.
- 2 x GbE LAN
- 1 x 10GbE
- Dual-Core CPU
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen-1
- 2 GB RAM non-expandable
- Easy configuration
- Fast performance for a home-based networkable hard drive
- 10GbE as a LAN port increases network performance drastically
- Major iOS and Android backup applications
- Memory cannot be upgraded
- Does not include additional drives for RAID
- Limited I/O ports
- Noisy when operational
Given there are so few home-use targeted networkable hard drives out there, Asustor is doing a wonderful job with its AS4002T. Its price is better than its peers, and the addition of 10GbE in such a price range is a great positive point. It is relatively easier to install, offers a whole bunch of iOS and Android applications in its app drawer. It is among the fasted dual-drive networkable external hard drives in the market.
WD My Cloud EX4
This NAS has a 106 MB/s read 110 MB/s write speeds on a single GB Ethernet port. Its cloud storage accessibility on WD’s built-in My Cloud OS is one of the very finest. You can access it through any browser, or using the WDSync app.
This drive is great for office use. However, it may not be the ideal choice for a home computer. Windows and Android files and apps are well-supported; iOS users might feel disappointed to note that the drive still does not support iOS files and apps.
- 4 bay, 2 x GbE LAN
- 2 x 1 10GbE LAN
- 1 x USB 3.0
- 1 x 8TB SATA Hard Drive
- Single-Core CPU
- 1.4 GHz Realtek RTD1295PB-CG
- 512 RAM DDR3
- 2 GB RAM
- Good for small business and offices
- Friendly, dashboard-like UI
- Has a built-in torrent downloader
- Has DLNA server support
- Slower at reading/writing files
- No folder syncing options
- No locks on drive trays
The WD My Cloud EX4 networkable external hard drive is cheap, easier to use, with limited performance benchmarks yet possesses excellent features. If you are on a budget, and in need of a remote storage system for your small business, this might be your choice.
NETGEAR ReadyNAS 212
This drive comes with two bays and a maximum memory capacity of 12 TB, i.e. 6 TB on each bay. NETGEAR claims this hard disk has speeds of 200MB/s read and 160MB/s write. This is another excellent choice for home use. Automatic backups and syncing between computers and the drive are seamless and fast. The drive is connected to NETGEAR’s own cloud storage system, with virus scanners for keeping potential harmful files at bay.
- 2 x GbE LAN
- 2 x 1 10GbE LAN
- 3 x USB 3.0
- 1 x eSATA
- Quad-Core CPU
- 1.4 GHz High-Performance ARM Cortex A15
- 2 GB RAM
- Dual LAN ports
- Deep backup and media drives including on-the-fly transcoding
- Seamless access to data from anywhere
- Terrific performance overall
- Lack of features as compared to competitors
- Less secure configuration
After repeated testing for the specifications it boasts about, NETGEAR ReadyNAS 212 comes out on the other end as an extremely well-rounded hard drive. It can even be considered advanced for its specifications in many ways. Its multi-client performance and scalability are some of the positive features that need special mention.
Synology DiskStation DS218
This hard drive combines the best of Synology DiskStation Manager operating system with a two-bay NAS and gives an unparalleled performance to take advantage of. The installation process for those who are unfamiliar with networkable external hard drives will be nothing more than a cinch.
- running on Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM)
- Quad-Core CPU
- 1.4 GHz
- 112 MB/s sequential read
- 2 GB DDR4 RAM
- Flawless media server; 1080p and 4K video streaming support
- Real-time transcoding with Android phones and Windows computers
- No operational noise
- One of the fastest downloading process (even for images)
- User-friendly interface
- Relatively slower read/write speeds with a few minor issues
- No HDMI port
Synology DiskStation DS218 not only gives a great set of features at a relatively lower price, but it is also one of the best drives in terms of safety of data and security. This hard drive is great for use in a small office, where its performance can be yielded to the maximum.
Synology DS1817+ NAS Disk Station
With DS1817+, you get the signature Synology’s DSM operating system, a Linux-based platform for file storing and sharing, and the ability to handle multiple users at the same time. To better use the drive, redundancy on multiple drives creates a multilevel security wall for your personal or official data. The system has a 4 GB RAM in a single socket, which can be increased to 8 GB. With dual LAN ports of 1GbE and 10GbE, network connectivity is flawless. This drive has a USB 3.0 port duo on the back to directly connect to other hosts, printers, and computers.
- 2 x 1 1GbE LAN
- 2 x 1 10GbE LAN
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 2 x eSATA
- Quad-Core CPU
- Compatible with up to 18 devices
- 1,577 MB/s sequential read
- 4 GB RAM
- Easy to configure, deploy and use
- 10GbE ports of LAN that greatly enhance network performance
- A wide level of scalability
- Can get its storage amped up to a whopping 180 TB
- Lack of USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 2; lack of increased available bandwidth
- The slow processing power of CPU if compared with competitors
- High price range
Synology’s DS1817+ hard drive is optimum for small businesses or personal use. Data storage capacity can readily be increased, and with 10 GbE of LAN, network performance is next to ideal. It is ARM-based, whereas many other hard drives are Xeon-based now, which hinders the possibility of even greater capacity. It is also a bit pricier than any other networkable external hard drive. Even then, this drive has some of the greatest mind-blowing performance benchmarks.
Things to Consider when Choosing a Networkable External Hard Drive
So by now, you have a pretty clear image of how and what to consider when choosing a networkable hard drive. Following are some of the most important things to consider when choosing a networkable hard drive:
The more drives that can be fitted to a networkable external hard drive, the better the storage capacity is. It is better to go for four- or five-bay drives that can store up to a terabyte of data.
Because it is a key differential feature for networkable drives, the levels of RAID are a primary feature to spot. You can split the drive into a mirror state, where one drive copies the data as-it-is to the other drive, or create redundancy by making the drive into a single hard disk (called RAID0). Higher levels of RAID, e.g. RAID6 or RAID10 are hybrids of RAID and RAID0 where more than one drive can lose data which is otherwise redundant on other subsequent drives.
The features you want to use are directly related to the way NAS is going to be used. In an office environment, you need to make sure the right file transfer protocol is being used. If outside the LAN access is required, then Secure FTP is the way to go. You can either choose a networkable drive on the ability to perform as a media server. Backup systems, media sharing and downloading are other key features that come with these drives, which are a bonus in nature, but very crucial for deciding which networkable drive is required.
Our Favorite Pick
After judging all the networkable external hard drives based on their features and performance, the top pick comes out to be Synology DS1817+ NAS Disk, followed closely by DS218. When it comes to CrystalDiskMark tests, Synology hard drives scored the highest in terms of storage capacity, expandability, flexibility, user handling, and scalability.
Depending on the nature of use, Synology DS1817+ is greatest when used for corporate environments, partially because of its high-end specifications that come hand-in-hand with a huge price range. If we have to recommend the top pick for networkable external hard drives, then Synology DiskStation DS218 should be a runner-up, honorary mention. This is because its features are pertinent to its relatively low price, and it is good for small business use.
Networkable external hard drives are the answer for businesses and companies which can neither settle for a cloud-based storage system for fears of snooping, nor rely on normal hard drives because of their low functionality. It is also a great device at your disposal if you want your home computer to have a physical backup system. Networkable drives are time-saving devices that can give access to the information needed within seconds, thanks to the internet and specific cloud storage. Once you know what you need, the choices are endless.
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