shopping for a NAS

So I have this inter­nal 500GB HDD dri­ve that holds the back­up for my per­son­al data and pho­tos and what­not. Not only is it 98 per­cent full, but also very noisy, even when spin­ning idly. Since some Win­dows process always seems to access it reg­u­lar­ly, it also nev­er spins down. To get some peace of mind, I start­ed look­ing at exter­nal dri­ves that I could just switch off when the back­up itself wasn’t run­ning. How­ev­er, while scour­ing the mar­ket I quick­ly real­ized that for a lit­tle more mon­ey I could get a dri­ve that attach­es to the home net­work and – for starters – could also serve as extend­ed stor­age for the lap­top as well as a DLNA media serv­er for the TV. These devices are com­mon­ly called net­work attached stor­age (NAS).

While look­ing for enlight­en­ing reviews I noticed that there were quite a few con­sumer / SOHO devices out there and if I want­ed a device that I’d be hap­py with for the next cou­ple of years I need to go about find­ing it in a more sys­tem­at­ic way. Serendip­i­tous­ly, I remem­bered the con­cept of deci­sion matri­ces from an ear­li­er life, which are per­fect for this kind of thing while at the same time being very straight­for­ward.

Along one dimen­sion of the matrix the poten­tial can­di­dates are lined up:

  • Asus NAS-M25
  • Buf­fa­lo LinkSta­tion Pro Duo
  • D-Link Share­Cen­ter Shad­ow DNS-325
  • D-Link Share­Cen­ter Pulse DNS-320
  • Fan­tec CL-35B2
  • Freecom Sil­ver Store 2
  • Iomega Stor­Center ix2-200
  • LG Elec­tron­ics N2A2
  • Net­gear Rea­dy­NAS Duo v2 RND2000
  • Qnap Tur­bo NAS TS-212
  • Raid­Son­ic Icy Box IB-NAS5520
  • Sea­gate BlackAr­mor NAS 220
  • Syn­ol­o­gy DiskSta­tion DS212+
  • Syn­ol­o­gy DiskSta­tion DS212j
  • The­cus N2200EVO
  • West­ern Dig­i­tal My Book Live Duo
  • Zyx­el NSA325

Along the oth­er dimen­sion prop­er­ties of inter­est are giv­en. Each prop­er­ty gets a weight­ing fac­tor that describes how impor­tant that prop­er­ty is in the cur­rent con­text (in this case my per­son­al pref­er­ence). For a NAS such prop­er­ties could be noise, speed, design, price and so on. Each prop­er­ty must be rat­ed in a way that makes it com­pa­ra­ble. The rat­ing is then mul­ti­plied by the weight for the prop­er­ty and the points for all prop­er­ties are summed. Depend­ing on the type of rat­ing used, the device with the most or fewest points wins. All prop­er­ties must of course be rat­ed with the same type.

part of the NAS deci­sion matrix

For the NAS deci­sion matrix I chose a rat­ing sys­tem where high­er val­ues equal bet­ter. I tried to keep the rat­ing between 0 and 1 for each prop­er­ty in order not to fudge the weights. This is not always pos­si­ble, though, and needs to be tak­en into account when set­ting the weights. For e.g. price I chose a neg­a­tive val­ue direct­ly pro­por­tion­al to the cheap­est price I could find (hence high­er val­ue = bet­ter), but val­ues can be as low as −2.9 for the most expen­sive device in the list. With a weight of 4, that device gets near­ly 12 points deduct­ed for its high price. Oth­er prop­er­ties are eas­i­er to scale, but more dif­fi­cult to quan­ti­fy, such as design or soft­ware.

If you want to know who won, you’ll find the full matrix here:
NAS deci­sion matrix (orig­i­nal) [Google Dri­ve]

You can also down­load the doc­u­ment and edit it local­ly. Just set the val­ues in the blue fields (weights, design rat­ing and bonus points) accord­ing to your own pref­er­ences and once you’re done, check col­umn S to pick the win­ner.
Some cells in the matrix are emp­ty (white). For those I either couldn’t find that par­tic­u­lar infor­ma­tion or I exclud­ed the device pret­ty ear­ly on and was too lazy to find out all the details. Also the ref­er­ences are some­what spot­ty, as I start­ed adding these quite late. Feel free to com­plete.

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