If there’s one thing you need to remember when dealing with high-tech devices, such as laptops and desktops, is that you should always have a recent backup on hand. While it’s true that Macs are as dependable as computers go, no one is protected from their processor overheating, battery dying, files being corrupted by malware, or just a spilled cup of coffee.
External hard drives have been around for decades. First they connected to your computer through USB-A ports and could hold just a few dozen gigabytes. Eventually, they learned to transfer files over WiFi and grew up in size to a few terabytes — becoming de facto the best personal cloud storage available to most people.
But with the explosion of smartphones and streaming services, the amount of media data being saved on our devices has greatly exceeded what regular hard drives can offer. Today, most of us need a robust and expendable home cloud storage solution that’s able to protect our data seamlessly in the background.
What Is A NAS Hard Drive?
NAS (or network attached storage) in many ways is just the right answer for those who want to upgrade from outdated external hard drives and beginner My Cloud app look-alikes.
A network attached storage device is not only capable of wirelessly storing everything you’ve ever created (they generally start at about 2 TB) but also divide its capacity between a few people (so every family member could have their own drive, for example), stream media to Apple TV or Bluetooth speakers directly, and act as a central hub for all storage, with all your other hard drives connected to it.
So let’s look at the best NAS for Mac on the market in 2021, covering every target audience segment.
Simple: Western Digital My Cloud Home
When you just want to graduate from an external hard drive to a network attached storage for Mac, there’s no better candidate than WD My Cloud Home.
Western Digital doesn’t even call this network storage a NAS drive but rather addresses it as a personal cloud storage device. Still, My Cloud Home encompasses all the attributes of grownup NAS drives without the price tag. It goes from 2 to 8 TB in storage capacity, can save all your information via WiFi automatically, allows remote access through a My Cloud app, features shared folders as well as individual volumes, and is capable of streaming to Sonos, Google Chromecast, and more — all starting at just $159.99.
Powerful: Western Digital My Cloud Expert Series EX2 Ultra
If you want to combine the ease of use we’ve all come to expect from WD devices with a power of true NAS storage, take a look at the WD My Cloud Expert series.
The EX2 Ultra is a real NAS drive that could come unpopulated (without hard drives) so you can install your own storage or take up to 28 TB right from the manufacturer. Unlike My Cloud Home, EX2 Ultra introduces RAID (redundant array of independent disks) options that let its two hard drives clone each other and carry the same information for maximum protection.
In addition, WD My Cloud Expert EX2 Ultra is powered by a dual-core processor for ultra-fast streaming and encrypts your hard drive volumes by default.
Affordable: Buffalo LinkStation 220D
In some cases, you might care less about how intuitive your NAS storage is, what you’re really after is a cheap NAS with good security built in. That’s where you should try Buffalo LinkStation 220D.
While LinkStation 220D might not win any awards for its user-friendliness, it’s a straightforward unpopulated NAS for Mac that starts at $119.99 and includes RAID support (with an additional USB-A on the back) as well as drag-and-drop backups.
You could set up a shared folder through Buffalo’s Navigator app, but it would be more difficult than you think. Same with getting your iTunes streaming server to work. Overall, good enough for straightforward tasks.
Advanced: Synology DiskStation DS218
Stepping into high-end but still consumer-oriented NAS storage solutions, we can find Synology DiskStation DS218. It comes unpopulated to let you combine your own storage devices and features a Gigabit Ethernet port for connecting to your router as well as three USB-As for any other storage volumes you might be using.
DiskStation DS218 is RAID-enabled and can act as a media server with real-time 4K video transcoding to Apple TV or any other player — all running on a quad-core 1.4 GHz processor. Some would say DiskStation might simply be too much for a casual user, and they will be right. But for some, it’s just what they were looking for all along.
Professional: Drobo 5N2
Those who work in the fields of photography, animation, or video production know how much unique data could be worth. From that perspective, Drobo 5N2 is not an expensive device at all, although it starts at about $550 unpopulated.
Drobo 5N2 features five hard drive slots, some of which can be used for RAID and some for actually expanding the NAS storage capacity. Two Gigabit Ethernet ports can be combined into one to provide astonishing transfer speed for the high-end devices that can handle it. This NAS even features its own internal battery for a complete fail-proof setup.
How to properly back up your Mac
Whether you’re using NAS or a regular external hard drive for your backup plan, you need to know how to approach backups in a comprehensive manner, so you don’t forget any important files.
Get Backup Pro is one of the most versatile backup managers you can find. It instantly connects to your NAS drive and offers incremental backups on a set schedule or cloning options that allow you to reboot your Mac from an external drive should it break. Get Backup Pro’s speed and reliability are unparalleled, far exceeding those of Time Machine, for example.
How to recover lost files from an external drive
Mistakes happen and regardless how robust your backup solution is, there would be a moment when you’d accidentally delete a file not backed up anywhere else, be it from your Mac or an external drive. What do you do now?
Disk Drill is master data recovery software that’s able to get into the deepest corners of your data volumes and retrieve information that you thought was forever gone. Your best friend here is to act quickly and launch Disk Drill right after you saw a much-needed file disappear — that’s why keeping this app in your toolkit at all times is a true secret lifesaver.
How to make the most out of home cloud storage
Nowadays, most of us have already signed up for all the free tiers at all the most popular cloud storage providers: DropBox, Box, OneDrive, Google One, and so on. Some of us even have paid plans. The problem is all of them being scattered in various places and easy to forget.
CloudMounter offers a genius solution to gathering your cloud network storage solutions (from Amazon S3 to Backblaze) in one place by mounting them on your Mac as real hard drives, essentially folders like any other. This provides you with a new world of possibilities when it comes to searching through your files, ensuring proper encryption, and effectively transferring data.
As you can see, picking the best NAS hard drive has a wealth of advantages over using a regular external hard drive. What’s better, you can enhance this experience even further by mounting all cloud network storage as local drives with CloudMounter, backing up files securely with Get Backup Pro, and recovering anything that’s lost with Disk Drill.
Best of all, CloudMounter, Get Backup Pro, and Disk Drill are available to you absolutely free for seven days through Setapp, a platform of more than 170 outstanding apps for your Mac. And you can try them all today at no cost to see how else you can improve your daily life without any effort on your part.