NAS, what is it?
A NAS is a network connect hard drive. Which means it's a hard drive that can be placed anywhere on your home network. Some have asked me what is a network? And that's a fair question. A home network is simple. It's what a router provides. And most of us have a router in our setups. Take mine for example. I have a Linksys router and a Comcast modem. The modem connects my house to the internet. The router connects everything in my house to the modem and each other. This router couldn't be a lot simpler. The ethernet port on the left connects to the modem so I can access the internet. The four other ethernet ports are where I plug in a computer, or two computers, or a NAS. The two antenna are for WIFI, which is a wireless ethernet port. Imagine that in my home I have my laptop connected to this router via WIFI, and a NAS connected to the router through ethernet–using one of the ports pictured above. The router and NAS are in my office, the laptop is in the living room or the music room. I can easily connect the laptop to anything stored on the NAS. Voila! That is the essence of a NAS. Connect the hard drive inside to any device on your home network. There are two basic styles of external hard drives we can buy: USB and NAS. Above is a USB hard drive. It's a case with a USB cable connecting it to your computer. Inside is a hard drive for storage. Above is the back of a NAS. Same hard drive, different way to connect. See the ethernet connector? Instead of plugging into a computer, it plugs into your home's router. A USB hard drive is restricted. It can only connect to an external computer. A NAS is restricted as well. It can only connect to a router. But a NAS, once connected to the home router, can be accessed from anything else on that network. A USB drive, on the other hand, can only be accessed by the computer it is connected to. What is inside the NAS that allows it to connect over a network is a full blown computer. Yup. So, think about this. A USB drive connects to an external desktop or laptop computer only. A NAS is really no different, only, it has its own built in computer. This makes the NAS an incredible bargain. For nearly the same price as a USB hard drive that can only connect to an external computer, a NAS has its own computer built in - thus eliminating the need for an extra computer in the mix. And for music systems this is a real plus. A NAS, which we now understand is a hard drive and purpose-built computer in one affordable box, need little else to store and stream music. We'll find out how, soon enough. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to the NAS we shall begin covering soon.
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