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How to Set Up a NAS to Securely Share Files

NAS drives are able to run their own applications too, so you could have a NAS that's connected to your Dropbox account, or one that runs a custom VPN (Virtual Private Network) for you. Another popular option for NAS drives is Plex , which lets you store audio, video, and images on your storage and stream them to wherever they're needed. (It's a bit like having your own private Spotify or Netflix service.)

If you've been convinced that a NAS drive is for you—whether to back up key files, stream movies around the home, or anything else—then you've got plenty of different models to choose from, at all kinds of price points. While this kind of network storage management can seem daunting to the beginner, modern NAS drives aren't at all difficult to configure or use, and you can be up and running in just a few minutes.

Setting Up A NAS Drive

We can't give you detailed instructions for configuring every NAS drive on the market, but we can give you an example of how to set up one NAS to give you an idea of what's involved—specifically the Synology DiskStation DS220+. The two-bay unit is ideal for users who need an affordable, straightforward NAS with plenty of versatility. Other NAS drives will have similar setup processes— especially other Synology models, of course.

Depending on where you buy your NAS, it may already come with hard drives installed, but if not, this is your first job: The NAS specifications should tell you which hard drives are compatible, and then you can go out and buy as much storage as you need. Most modern NAS units have hard drive bays that are simple to get at and operate, and in most cases you won't even need a screwdriver to slot your disks in.

Setting up a NAS drive on your network doesn't take long.

Screenshot: David Nield via Synology
With that done, it's time to initialize the NAS: This is typically done through a web interface on a desktop or laptop computer connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your NAS. In the case of the Synology DS220+, once the drive is detected you'll need to download and install the DiskStation Manager software, which handles formatting, file transfers, and other disk operations on Synology NAS drives.Before you can start transferring files between the NAS and your other devices, you'll need to pick a disk configuration—this is where you get options like RAID. Do your research beforehand to make sure you're picking the right configuration for you (though in the case of Synology drives, each option is fully explained for you through the interface). You'll also need to provide a username and password for restricting access to the key settings on the NAS drive.