As a photographer and videographer, I need a lot of fast, redundant, widely accessible storage. Let me show you my setup.
What Is a NAS device?
NAS stands for Network Attached Storage. Unlike your average external hard drive that attaches to a single computer with a USB cable, a NAS attaches to a computer or a network with an Ethernet cable. Most NAS devices have multiple drives set up with a redundant system that can allow one or more drives to fail before data is lost.
By connecting over a network, a NAS device can be accessed by multiple computers or devices at the same time. In an office environment, this allows everyone to be working with the same files on the same projects at the same time. In my home, it allows me to easily access my files from my MacBook Pro or my Windows desktop.
NAS devices are basically little computers that run their own operating systems, and some of them, including my Synology 1621+, allow access to files anywhere in the world via the internet as well.
Why 10 Gb/s Is Important
Most networks, routers, switches, and computers can accept 1-gigabit Ethernet connections (or around 125 megabytes per second). For the internet, 1 Gb/s is plenty fast, but for file transfer, 1 Gb/s is pretty slow compared to the competition.
For example, my SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD transfers files around 8 gigabits per second or 1,000 megabytes per second, which is eight times faster than standard gigabit Ethernet. To make a network drive usable with today's inflated files, you're going to want to upgrade your system to 10GbE.
The Synology DS 1621+
Many of Synology's high-end NAS devices have 10 Gb/s Ethernet ports already installed, but the 1621+ makes it optional. Out of the box, you get four 1 Gb/s Ethernet ports, but to get the full speed out of the NAS, you can install a 10 Gb/s PCI card like the Synology E10G18-T2. This card gives you two 10 Gb/s Ethernet ports that can either run to a switch or directly into a computer.
All Synology NAS devices run their own operating system that can be accessed via a web browser. This allows you to check the health of your drives as well as install apps that can make your NAS even more useful. One invaluable feature is auto cloud backup, which will copy the contents of your NAS to an offsite server.
What Hard Drives Should You Use in a Synology NAS?
Most NAS devices do not come with drives. Although they are capable of holding standard 3.5" hard drives, it's recommended that you purchase drives rated for server applications. These drives are built with higher standards and have extra safety features and longer warranties. For my build, I used Seagate 16 TB IronWolf Drives. These drives are capable of communicating with the NAS about their own health, and if a drive is about to fail, it will warn you before it does. But the beauty of a NAS is that when a drive does inevitably fail, you can hot-swap it without losing any data or dealing with any downtime at all.
How To Get 10 Gb/s Ethernet Speeds to Your Computer
Although some new computers like the new Mac Studio have 10 Gb/s Ethernet ports installed standard, most computers these days don't have an Ethernet port at all, and the few that do are almost all 1Gb/s. If you have a desktop, you can install a 10 Gb/s Ethernet card in an empty PCI slot.
If you have a computer with Thunderbolt, you can buy a Thunderbolt to 10 Gb/s Ethernet adapter. I own one of these for my MacBook Pro, and it works perfectly.
In the video above, I incorrectly insinuated that the four 1Gb/s Ethernet ports could be used as a router/switch or combine internet and the network. After more testing, I found that I was getting access to the NAS via the Ethernet cable and access to the internet via Wi-Fi. For the average home user, this setup would work fine, but because of my complex needs, I have installed a 10 Gb/s switch to get both internet and NAS over Ethernet.
Can You Get 10 Gb/s Network Speeds Over Wi-Fi?
Of course, the dream would be to forget about all cables and transfer files at 10 Gb/s over Wi-Fi, and with Wi-Fi 6, it sounds like you should be able to. They claim that Wi-Fi 6 has a capable "throughput" of 9.6 Gb/s. I've done tests with my Eero Pro Wifi 6 router only a few feet away from my M1 MacBook Pro, and I can transfer files from my NAS at around 50 MB/s (it continually jumps from 30-85 MB/s). In comparison, when I have 10 Gb/s Ethernet plugged in, I can transfer constantly over 800 MB/s.
So, the answer is clearly no. With current wireless technology, Wi-Fi can't come close to 10 Gb/s Ethernet. Let's hope that a new wireless standard is invented soon so that we can finally ditch all of these adapters and cables.