A NAS is a Network Attached Storage device; a computer with a hard drive. Most computers have hard drives, so what makes this different? It is dedicated to the task of finding, storing and retrieving files on its hard drive. In addition a NAS is able to announce its presence over a home network and communicate with others sharing that same connection. While its function is simple to explain, its inner working aren't.
If we break down the major tasks NAS perform into two broad categories: file and network management, we discover each takes a tremendous amount of programming to work. It may sound simple for a computer to search a hard drive, locate files, send them somewhere or rewrite new over old, but it takes an entire operating system to do so. In fact, one of the original operating systems, Windows, was based on DOS (Disk Operating System) and its primary function was the very tasks described. Of course today's operating systems like, Windows, Apple's IOS, and Linux are huge compared to Bill Gates original wonder toy, but at their core that's what they do: find, store, retrieve, access files on memory drives, both hard and soft.
Any computer can be configured as a NAS, because any computer is a NAS, and then some. But all NAS cannot be configured as more than what they are designed to do, because their programming instructions are limited. Still, they are based on a very robust operating system, typically Linux.
Linux is a free operating system and, used increasingly in consumer electronics, and it is no less robust than paid version like Windows and Mac. Tomorrow I want to spend some time talking of Linux, one of the most important operating systems in the world, one few know much about, yet this system controls much of our lives.