Network attached storage is a great way to get all your media into one centralised location. Secure and organised, you can take advantage of the great streaming solutions available to owners of a NAS system, and view your NAS-homed content wherever and whenever you choose.
First however, there are a number of things you need to consider.
Choose the right NAS
Before you can start enjoying all that streamable media, you need a NAS. Choosing the right NAS brings its own set of decisions. Central to which is capacity.
So, how much media do you have that you wish to store? As well as the original size of your data, how likely is it to grow year on year? If you create your own video content, you’ll likely want to leave a sizeable chunk of capacity left. Consider how likely you are to use higher quality equipment such as 4K video capturing, and account for the acceleration in data growth that will inevitably bring. Carefully consider your required capacity and if in doubt, grab a little extra. Replacing NAS drives with larger ones is an avoidable expense if you do the maths beforehand.
Another point to consider is the primary use intended for your NAS. If you’re purely concerned with centralising a body of data, the capacity questions above are even more pertinent. But for those who plan to invest in a NAS for flexible streaming purposes, a couple more points need to be made.
When selecting a NAS specifically for streaming, transcoding plays a major role in the buying decision. Essentially, a transcoder will translate any files you wish to stream into a format that device can understand. So with desktop PCs and laptops, this isn’t as much of an issue. A high-speed processor can deal with greater resolutions, and a broad range of media encodings are compatible. With portable devices such as smartphones or tablets, this isn’t always the case. A smaller processor lessens the ability to deal with high resolutions, and usually restricts the choice on available media encodings.
So, if you plan to do a lot of streaming from your NAS, will it be from multiple devices from multiple locations? If so, give your NAS the best chance to deal with the CPU intensive process of transcoding. Ensure it is both compatible with hardware transcoding, and harnesses the most powerful CPU your budget can afford.
Load up your NAS
Once you’ve got your NAS, it’s time to get all your media on board. For that, you have a number of options available. You could invest in a sizeable external hard drive, and transfer your data via USB. If that might become a little time consuming, you could transfer your files via network connection. For faster rates of transfer and faster connectivity on your network, you’re better off with a gigabit switch.
For any device you want to hook up to your NAS, ensure that it’s compatible first. Many NAS solutions will come with a bundled app allowing you to upload/download data from one to the other with ease.
Finally, if you’ve been forking out on a subscription-based cloud solution, be sure to purge your online storage of all its files. Shift them across to your NAS, and free yourself of any unnecessary monthly outgoings.
Get your Media in Order
You’ve got your NAS, and you’ve got your media. Now to bring it all together. For that, you need one thing- good old-fashioned organisation. Just like you would for your PC or laptop, a series of labelled and arranged files will ensure you can access your photos, videos and music without being lost in a sea of holiday snaps and 70s albums.
It’s also worth considering that some media streamers require files to be named in a certain manner, possibly to deal with handling metadata. Make sure you get your files formatted correctly before you start streaming.
Time to Stream
You’re all set to enjoy your video and audio content, gloriously streamed from your chosen NAS. To make streaming as problem-free as possible, you might want to take advantage of the dedicated streaming apps a number of today’s NAS solutions come available with. One such example is PLEX. Available to download on WD’s NAS systems, PLEX becomes the platform for streaming all your NAS-stored media.
Getting up and running with NAS streaming apps is remarkably simple. Downloadable for free, streaming apps are likely to support a number of different platforms. Examples include Android and iOS smartphone and tablet apps, games consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation, selected Smart TVs, streaming devices powered by Roku and Chromecast, plus of course your desktop operating system.
NAS streaming apps have pretty much all bases covered then, leaving you free to consume your media from whichever device you choose. Remember though, if you plan to stream to different devices via a number of different users, a hardware transcoder and a beefy processor are recommended for services likes PLEX.