NAS roundup: Best network attached storage options for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users

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in macOS edited May 10
A Network Attached Storage device can provide shared storage, a Time Machine backup target, and additional useful features for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users on a local area network -- and beyond. Here are the best Apple-friendly NAS units to meet and exceed the now discontinued Time Capsule's features.

Apple Time Capsule


Network Attached Storage, or NAS, devices are very handy for a variety of reasons. Beyond just acting as shared file storage for multiple users locally, most can be configured to provide that access to you while on-the-go. Additionally, hosting some form of media server, storing images, mirroring to another unit, and more are all other reasons to get one.

Many also natively support Apple's Time Machine backup tool for Macs. Using Time Machine, if a file is ever deleted, you can browse back through different states of your computer through time to recover the file, or even grab a previous version. If a Mac starts acting up, you can completely restore from any point in the past as well.

Apple's Time Capsule was a great option as both a destination for Time Machine backups and as a wireless router. Now that Apple has officially discontinued them, many are on the market for a new NAS device, so we rounded up the best consumer-grade options for anyone with a Mac or iOS device.

WD My Cloud

Western Digital My Cloud NAS


There are a variety of My Cloud variants out there, but the most basic and widely appealing option is the My Cloud Home model.

Time Machine support is included as well as media streaming with DLNA, remote file access, and even an iTunes server. We particularly liked the ability to right-click a folder on our Mac and choose sync to copy all the files to the My Cloud.

Mobile apps for iOS and Android make it easy to access on the go, though they aren't the best-designed ones out there. There is also a web interface available if you don't happen to have one of your devices around.

Using the USB port on the back, you can attach USB flash drives or hard drives to import files easily.

Aside from the My Cloud Home, My Cloud Home Duo ups the storage capacity up to 16TB in total. If you need additional RAID options, the My Cloud Expert or My Cloud Pro models are a better bet..

You can pick up the basic My Cloud Home 2TB model on Amazon or at B&H for $139.00. B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey (Colorado and Vermont residents, see here).

Seagate Personal Cloud

Seagate Personal Cloud NAS


Alongside Western Digital, Seagate is another common brand when it comes to storage solutions. Seagate Personal Cloud is an excellent NAS device with 4 TB of storage.

It has a modern design, with a sleek black body and a horizontal layout, compared to the vertical orientation of the My Cloud. Family and friends can be invited to join with secure file sharing through private emails.

It also supports Time Machine, with it working as a local drive when connected through USB or across the network with Ethernet.

Using the Seagate Media app, files can be accessed remotely on an iOS or Android device. Alternatively, media can be streamed to a variety of devices, including Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. Many TVs from LG and Samsung also work via DLNA. Not to mention Playstation and Xbox.

The Seagate Personal Cloud with 4TB of storage can be found on Amazon for $179.00.

Promise Apollo Cloud 2

Promise Apollo Cloud 2 NAS


The Apollo Cloud 2 from Promise has one of the easiest setups around, all of which can be done from your iPhone. As a bonus, the device supports Apple's Files app on the iPhone and iPad directly, allowing for easy file migration to and from your mobile device.

Connectivity wise, this NAS device has a USB 3.0 port for backups and file transfers, and an Ethernet port for connecting to the router. The unit is powered by a dual-core processor and dual 4TB "surveillance-class" drives which can be configured as RAID 0 or 1.

We took a look at it in February, and found it to be a great "set and forget" device with Time Machine compatibility, but lacking niceties found in other devices like media library streaming.

The Promise Apollo Cloud 2 is available on Amazon and B&H for $379.00.

Synology Diskstation DS218j

Synology DS218j Disk station


Synology is known for their high-end network storage solutions. The DS218j is an upgraded version of their popular DS216 model from a couple years ago.

Unlike some of the others, the DS218j is sold diskless, and it is up to you insert your own pair of drives. Those drives can be set up in Synology Hybrid RAID, Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, and RAID 1 configurations.

Synology offers myriad applications to add capabilities to the unit. Apps like DS File, DS Photo, DS Video, DS Cloud, and others really offer a ton of features for the Diskstation.

Like the others, it supports Time Machine, but so much more. To connect, there is an Ethernet port along the back, with three USB ports available for one-time transfers or expanding the unit with external drives.

Given the app-centric nature of the device, streaming options are effectively endless with the Diskstation. After software expansion, the device is able to send audio and video to Samsung TVs, Roku players, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, DLNA devices, and more.

You can find the Synology DS218j Diskstation on Amazon or B&H for $169.99.

TerraMaster F2-220

TerraMaster F2-220 NAS


TerraMaster makes some great devices, and the aptly named F2-220 is no different. It has an aluminum alloy body with easily swappable drives. Like others, it comes empty, relying on the user to install any set of drives they'd like.

This device also has an Intel Celeron 2.41GHz dual-core CPU and 2GB of RAM inside to help power it, which is great if you have many users or using it as a streaming media server.

There is also support out-of-the-box for Time Machine, plus a wide array of apps including a file server, mail server, web server, media server, Rsync remote server, FTP server, MySQL server and others

It also supports DLNA streaming, and can act as an iTunes media server.

The TerraMaster F2-220, without drives, can be found on Amazon and Newegg for $199.99.

Buffalo TeraStation 1200D

Buffalo TeraStation 1200D


Buffalo makes one of the best looking NAS devices on our list, fitting well within any home or office. It has two internal drive bays, with configurations ranging from 2TB to 8TB of storage.

Time Machine is supported, as well as multiple user access with remote support.

It is DLNA-certified in addition to iTunes support for media server duties, although reviews suggest it may not be as robust from a file format support standpoint as some of the others.

The Buffalo TeraStation 1200D starts at $227.99 at both B&H Photo and Amazon.com.

Drobo 5N2

Drobo 5N2 NAS


Drobo happens to be the most expensive on the list, running nearly $500 without the drives. It is, however, one of the most lauded NAS devices out there, perfect for offices as well as personal use.

This is capable of handling up to 64TB of storage when the drives are installed -- which is a fairly easy task. It has enough internal slots for five 3.5-inch drives.

One of the best features is the internal battery. Should power ever fail, the internal battery will keep your data safe until you can get it going again.

Dual Ethernet ports also make it easy to connect. One can connect to the router, the other to your Mac or the rest of the network, possibly offering increased performance, depending on network architecture.

Beyond file sharing, and Time Machine support, a variety of apps are available that work with Drobo, similar to the Synology NAS. Some allow the setup of a Plex media server, others enable remote access or cloud backup, and one is even available to automatically and securely backup all photos from your iOS device.

You can find the Drobo 5N2 on Amazon or B&H for $499.99.

A deep rabbit hole

Some of these devices are extremely easy to set up, like the Promise Apollo Cloud 2. Others need a bit more configuration and maintenance. It's also very easy for a network attached storage project to get very expensive, very fast.

Our list is just of the ones we've used and like, with a limitation we've applied on initial setup ease and a reasonable budget. Many of them have super in-depth options, with large app stores hosting services that can be added that we've only alluded to. Many more can take a pile of drives for truly epic amounts of storage and a similarly profound cost -- but for this, we've eliminated those as well.

Take a look at the tech specs of each unit before you buy.

And, don't be caught without a backup

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: backups are key. While a single NAS in your own home isn't the only source of backup you should rely on, it is a crucial start to a good backup regimen. Instead of relying on yourself to consistently connect a wired hard drive and manually backup, a NAS can offer convenience and automation, as well as a variety of other features.

You can extend this with off-site backup options, which is basically installing a compatible NAS in another location such as a trusted friend's house, and automatically syncing the two -- but this is a topic for another day.

Be sure to check out AppleInsider's recommendations for alternatives to Apple's discontinued AirPort routers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 81
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,372member
    My preference:  Resilio Sync software
    https://www.resilio.com

    For Time Machine: macOS Server
    edited May 10 sirozha
  • Reply 2 of 81
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,197member
    Nice write up.

    Did you test the Drobo 5N2's Time Machine support? It's the only one in the list that doesn't mention TM. The Amazon page says it supports TM, but I don't want to completely trust that. Oddly, it's a 5-bay system and Apple only sells configurations with up to 4 drives.
  • Reply 3 of 81
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,224administrator
    Soli said:
    Nice write up.

    Did you test the Drobo 5N2's Time Machine support? It's the only one in the list that doesn't mention TM. The Amazon page says it supports TM, but I don't want to completely trust that. Oddly, it's a 5-bay system and Apple only sells configurations with up to 4 drives.
    We have, and it does. The specific mention must have gotten lost in one edit or other.
  • Reply 4 of 81
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,197member
    cpsro said:
    My preference:  Resilio Sync software
    https://www.resilio.com

    For Time Machine: macOS Server
    I thought TM was removed from macOS Server some time ago and made part of macOS. Are there additional features for TM in macOS Server?
  • Reply 5 of 81
    seneca72seneca72 Posts: 27member
    How many, if any, of these support file metadata? In particular Finder tags and custom folder icons. The latter may not matter but if you use Finder tags to keep project stuff together, their loss can leave you with major problems.  

    I know Synology don’t support them and outside an HFS+ or APFS formatted drive, I doubt anything else does. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 81
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,224administrator
    seneca72 said:
    How many, if any, of these support file metadata? In particular Finder tags and custom folder icons. The latter may not matter but if you use Finder tags to keep project stuff together, their loss can leave you with major problems.  

    I know Synology don’t support them and outside an HFS+ or APFS formatted drive, I doubt anything else does. 
    I'm not certain that any do, anymore, as regardless of drive support, I think that the data is stripped out during a SMB transfer from them.

    I'll delve over the weekend.
    edited May 10 watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 81
    Actually forget TimeMachine on WD drives that fail with click of parking heads. Seagate Backup Plus beats all of them for TimeMachine (running business on them). Not a NAS however. As far as NAS (WiFi or Ethernet attached), Synology NAS with Hitachi UltraStar (HGST) is specialized for servers and outlast many WD drive based configurations due to MTBF and optimization on parking heads.Synology has outstanding reliability and updates. No issues for many years. Going SSD is still expensive.

    Synology is for specialized file storage servers - it is Linux based file system so please do not bring to discussion if it supports HFS or APFS - it is not for that as it is different OS that manges storage. You can format USB attached Seagate Backup Plus for that (and TimeMachine), but it is not NAS. Synology has many apps including media connectivity (It is DNLA as article says). You can use all popular apps to get your music and movies from Synology. It has also IP cameras connectivity and app for survailence and recording. It is really a Linux computer that you can manage via browser access. Outstanding quality.
    edited May 10 dick applebaumchiaAlex1N
  • Reply 8 of 81
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,208member
    QNAP TS-251+ would the equivalent of the synology listed here. In some ways works better.  
  • Reply 9 of 81
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,197member
    entropys said:
    QNAP TS-251+ would the equivalent of the synology listed here. In some ways works better.  
    I went with a QNAP. There's a crazy amount of features. I'm not sure if this is the correct word, but I wish it was more user friendly as its not something I'd recommend to those that aren't tech savvy or willing to put some effort into learning how to use the UI or properly securing the device.

    Even now I still can't figure out how to get rid of certain folders or keep an AFP drive from appearing alongside the TM drive, even through they're the same thing.

    They do seem to have frequent firmware updates, which I appreciate.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 10 of 81
    libertyforalllibertyforall Posts: 1,231member
    It’s truly sad that Apple couldn’t give us a going away gift with time capsule inegration to the Files app for iOS! 
    applesnorangesAlex1N
  • Reply 11 of 81
    camccamc Posts: 10member
    I found that an encrypted backup is even better, in case you have to deal with ransomware attacks.
    Maybe it is worth taking in consideration units that offer snapshot duplications with complex encryption keys.

    I had to face a ransomware attack a couple of years ago: both the file server and the backup unit, which was a standard NAS, were completely defeated – no hope to retrieve anything from either unit. The Syneto unit that was sitting on the same network got under fire too - but only the last snapshot was accessible via the network, so it was the only one that got corrupted. 
    I've successfully restored the previous snapshot in less than 15 minutes (I keep 24 daily snapshots on this machine) and got everything back.... it was really a life saver.

    Since then I rely on a three-level backup: a standard Time Machine on a thunderbolt drive, an encrypted backup via Carbon Copy on the Syneto unit and the icloud stuff on another level. Of course the management of the above is not the simplest, but it seems a fine cover...
    chiaAlex1N
  • Reply 12 of 81
    adybadyb Posts: 179member
    Soli said:
    entropys said:
    QNAP TS-251+ would the equivalent of the synology listed here. In some ways works better.  
    I'm not sure if this is the correct word, but I wish it was more user friendly as its not something I'd recommend to those that aren't tech savvy or willing to put some effort into learning how to use the UI or properly securing the device.
    Having done some research I went Synology (218 Play) rather than QNAP because the consensus appeared to be that although the hardware wasn’t as powerful, the apps were more ‘polished’ and easier for a first timer to use. I’m still learning what it can do!
    edited May 10 chiaAlex1N
  • Reply 13 of 81
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,197member
    adyb said:
    Soli said:
    entropys said:
    QNAP TS-251+ would the equivalent of the synology listed here. In some ways works better.  
    I'm not sure if this is the correct word, but I wish it was more user friendly as its not something I'd recommend to those that aren't tech savvy or willing to put some effort into learning how to use the UI or properly securing the device.
    Having done some research I went Synology (218 Play) rather than QNAP because the consensus appeared to be that although the hardware wasn’t as powerful, the apps were more ‘polished’ and easier for a first timer to use. I’m still learning what it can do!
    Yeah, I went with it for its low cost at the time, and it's been great, but I also only use it for Time Machine backups. I gave Plex a try but didn't care for it (but I also didn't care for it on my Mac mini server, which I felt was much nicer and inarguably faster). It has an iTunes Server and countless other options, which I've never tried.

    I think it took me a few months before I found out how to enable SSL for their local web portal, which is pretty pathetic on my part.


    PS: If this NAS breaks I probably won't go with another NAS, but instead just get a TB3 drive for the RAID connected to my Mac mini and use the older RAID for my TM backups, unless there are some major breakthroughs in what a NAS can offer. Even though my RAID is using USB 3.0/USB-A and my Mac mini is connected to my AirPort Extreme via GigE which is connected to my NAS via GigE it's still much slower than I'd like when having to do a full backup after upgrading to larger drives.
    edited May 10
  • Reply 14 of 81
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,197member
    If you need more drives, this just got posted to AnandTech. No word on pricing yet.


    Alex1N
  • Reply 15 of 81
    VentureHVentureH Posts: 1member
    Actually forget TimeMachine on WD drives that fail with click of parking heads. Seagate Backup Plus beats all of them for TimeMachine (running business on them). Not a NAS however. As far as NAS (WiFi or Ethernet attached), Synology NAS with Hitachi UltraStar (HGST) is specialized for servers and outlast many WD drive based configurations due to MTBF and optimization on parking heads.Synology has outstanding reliability and updates. No issues for many years. Going SSD is still expensive.
    I agree that Synology NAS has outstanding quality; I've had two over the past 6 years, and my only complaint was the really slow CPU in my initial 211j. My current DiskStation, a 214play, handles multiple services, including Plex Server and Time Machine backups, like a champ.

    To clarify on the WD drives, however, the issues you list are primarily a problem with the Green line (and maybe Blue). The Red line is designed for NAS applications: they're quiet, (relatively) cool, and don't park. I've used the same pair of 2TB WD Red drives almost continuously since I bought them nearly 6 years ago, and they're still plugging along.
    edited May 10 leehamm
  • Reply 16 of 81
    sirozhasirozha Posts: 348member
    No QNAP? Comprehensive. 
  • Reply 17 of 81
    leehammleehamm Posts: 18member
    Lenovo are still in this space. I have a 4 drive Raid 5 array in their IX4-300 box. Quirky but it works.
    I would never buy another Drobo after a bad experience with their software and lack of support.
  • Reply 18 of 81
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,224administrator
    sirozha said:
    No QNAP? Comprehensive. 
    FTA: "Our list is just of the ones we've used and like, with a limitation we've applied on initial setup ease and a reasonable budget."

    We haven't used a current QNAP, so, it is not on the list.
  • Reply 19 of 81
    sirozhasirozha Posts: 348member
    sirozha said:
    No QNAP? Comprehensive. 
    FTA: "Our list is just of the ones we've used and like, with a limitation we've applied on initial setup ease and a reasonable budget."

    We haven't used a current QNAP, so, it is not on the list.
    Not including QNAP in a NAS review is akin not including Apple or Dell in a laptop review. The most obscure NAS vendors were included, whereas one of the major two NAS manufacturers was omitted. 

    It’s your blog so you can publish whatever you like. 
  • Reply 20 of 81
    ivanhivanh Posts: 193member
    None of the mentioned NAS is also a router/wireless-router as an Airport Time Capsule (ATC) does. Most of the NAS processors are too slow for Time Machine sparse files structure.
    ATC, being a router/wireless router, provide internal storage (2TB/3TB) giving SATA read-write speed of reliability to the Time Machine backup sparse files.  NAS mentioned can’t do that. None of them can. Sooner or later, NAS users will hit the verification error and TM backup will be scrapped and needs to be rebuilt.
    Conclusion: don’t use NAS to do TM backup. Use USB external drive, if ATC is no more available, or USB-C/Thunderbolt-x external drives are not affordable.
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