Best NAS boxes for small business

best nas boxes small business 1
Boatloads of storage

If you're looking for a desktop Network Attached Storage device, the current crop of NAS appliances should make you happy. Every box we tested worked well, provided boatloads of storage, and many cost less today per terabyte than they did just a few years ago. Four of the seven units we tested come with enough software, mostly free open source applications, to run a complete small business and provide Web hosting. The seven products are from QNAP, Thecus, ZyXEL, ioSafe, Buffalo, Netgear and D-Link. ALSO, CHECK OUT OUR REVIEW OF SOFTWARE-BASED NAS.

QNAP TurboNAS TVS-471
QNAP TurboNAS TVS-471

About the size of a four-slice toaster, the QNAP TurboNAS TVS-471 included 4TB drives for a RAID 5 capacity of 10.89TB. There are four 1GB Ethernet ports, five USB ports, even a full-sized HDMI port. User setup offers integration into a Microsoft Active Directory or Open LDAP structure. You can setup multiple users at a time, a handy touch. There are more than 100 applications, full accounting programs, databases, HR, ERP, and even a Fleet Management app. The web server included 28 content management programs. QNAP supports all the major hypervisors as iSCSI storage. You can even backup LUN block storage devices to this little box.

Thecus N5810 PRO
Thecus N5810 PRO

This is another box that can power a complete office, with five disk slots and more available applications free for downloading than any system we've ever seen. This is also the only NAS appliance we've ever seen with a mini-UPS that loads right into the case. The device has five 1GB Ethernet ports, five USB ports and an HDMI port. iSCSI thin provisioning support is included, along with everything necessary to be a storage destination for VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft Hyper-V. Cloud backup? Check. Also, AD and LDAP authentication support, and the snapshot backup support. If you want a general application server that's not from Microsoft, Thecus offers an alternative.

ZyXEL NAS540
ZyXEL NAS540

ZyXEL has launched a new line of Network Attached Storage appliances. Aimed at smaller businesses, the five models support from one drive to four, and are aimed at personal cloud storage or as a Media Server. Toaster sized, the NAS540 has a plastic shell that supports disk installation without tools. All drive capacities are supported, up to 6TB drives for a grand total of 24TB (without RAID disk redundancy). The ZyXEL NAS540 includes painless installation and a friendly administration interface. ZyXEL offers none of the range of business applications included with several of the other products. That said, the NAS540 is a solid option as a media storage, streaming device and print server.

ioSafe 214
ioSafe 214

The heaviest NAS appliance we have ever seen, the ioSafe 2014 could be used as a boat anchor. And since it's waterproof, your files might actually be safe. Add in fireproofing, and you have a box for the customer who needs the safest shared storage possible. As big as this was, it only held two drives. But RAID 1 with mirrored 6TB disks provides some serious storage. The ioSafe 214 includes Web servers, content management systems, mail servers, media servers, Python, Ruby, OpenERP, OrangeHRM, SugarCRM, antivirus, and the Asterisk Internet Phone system. Want to block IP addresses with too many failed login attempts? Done. Wireless network support? Just add a USB wireless adapter.

Buffalo Technologies TS3400D
Buffalo Technologies TS3400D

Buffalo Technologies offers a straightforward NAS box that’s simple to setup and administer and delivers nearly 5.5TBs of disk space when using four 2GB drives with RAID 5 redundancy. Setup and configuration screens may look a bit dated, but the user interface has survived the test of time. There are two 1GB Ethernet ports and four USB ports. External disks can be attached, as can printers. The appliance acts as an iSCSI target. A decent but limited list of other goodies include media servers, Web and MySQL servers, replication, a link to Amazon S3, and a WebAccess feature when routed through a BuffaloNAS.com portal. Flashy? No. Full of disk space for a good price? Yes.

Netgear ReadyNAS 316
Netgear ReadyNAS 316

Netgear's ReadyNAS line covers home and small business, including a rack-mounted model. We tested the 316, which holds six disks that can add up to 24TB with the 4TB drives, and more with an optional expansion chassis.

There are two 1GB Ethernet ports, two USB 2.0 ports in back and one in front, and two USB 3.0 ports on the back. There's an HDMI port, and two SATA connectors. Why? Netgear offers an expansion chassis option if you need up to 96TB of desktop NAS storage. Downloadable apps abound, about 75 or so, including WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Moodle, various ERPs and CRMs, Asterisk for VoIP phones, surveillance server, and more.

D-Link ShareCenter +4 Cloud Network Storage Enclosure (DNS-340L)
D-Link ShareCenter +4 Cloud Network Storage Enclosure (DNS-340L)

The smallest and most stylish box in the group, the D-Link ShareCenter is a fairly new entry in the market. The look is different: disks are inserted from the top down, so there are no trays, which cuts the size down. There’s a good setup Wizard. This box covered the basics with dual 1GB Ethernet ports, two USB 2.0 ports in back and a USB 3.0 in front, and 2.743TB of open space from four 1TB disk drives. On one hand, D-Link ShareCenter is consumer friendly with pretty icons and the Setup Wizard. On the other hand, it includes SNMP support, iSCSI support, NFS, and even assigns users access to the box via FTP. D-Link includes a few applications, but not many. A surveillance server back end, WordPress, Joomla, and a handful of others.

Read the indepth test of these products here.

James E. Gaskin writes books, articles, and jokes about technology, and consults for those who don't read his books and articles. He can be reached at james@gaskin.com.