When NAS Network Attached Storage devices became available many people thought they were just another type of external hard drive; far from it. Network attached storage is is a quantum leap over just an external hard drive and while they both store data someplace other than your local PC, that is about the only similarity.

First lets look, though, at the advantages of network attached storage solutions over just an external hard disk.

1) Network is more than just part of the name. While access to the data on these servers is done by way of network cable, these little linux servers can actually replace a full fledged Microsoft server and run your network.

2) Data reliability and redundancy. High quality NAS devices use enterprise level hard drives instead of the "what's the cheapest we can get today" hard drive you find in most external hard drive offerings. Enterprise drives are a little faster, have longer warranties, and are less likely to fail in the first place.

More than that, RAID technology is usually offered, if not implemented, in any respectable network attached storage product. RAID allows one or perhaps two hard drives to fail without data loss. The server then sends you a message to let you know that you must replace the failed drive as soon as possible to prevent data loss.

3) Gigabit networking is faster than local USB 2.0. Depending on the model, you normally get a gigabit network port to access your data. This is faster than accessing data via a USB port, but in addition, some units like a Netgear ReadyNAS NVX have two network ports for purposes of redundancy or advanced network configurations.

4) Backup options are built in. An external hard drive is just a backup drive for most people, and while a NAS device can perform that purpose, an external drive can be used to backup the data on the network attached storage unit.

Whether you are looking for data storage for home, home office, small office or even certain aspects of an enterprise, NAS devices from companies like Netgear offer varying feature sets in a wide range of prices.

With Netgear ReadyNAS units, not only can you backup to an attached external hard drive, but you can backup to another ReadyNAS unit - possibly at another location - and you can use Netgears "vault" online backup server, for separate cost, but the functionality is built right into the ReadyNAS device.