Network attached storage isn't new -- plenty of devices out there offer solutions for your home network. A couple of things about the Conceptronic CH3MNAS, however, caught our eye. This model is one of three network-storage devices Conceptronic sells -- the others are a simpler NAS and a much more basic network hard drive. It can accept two drives up to 4TB and has a number of different ways to help you protect your data.
The CH3MNAS is a petite machine, which we really like, because space for things like this is always limited, and our other halves don't really like technological things cluttering up the place.
If you're a really hardcore techie, you'll be able to use the 'Fun Plug' system to install apps on your NAS to add functionality. Be warned though, this isn't a beginner feature and requires at least some technical understanding of Linux.
It can also support a number of disc modes that should suit most users. RAID 0, for example, offers no protection against drive failure, and is dangerous because in two drive systems it only takes one of the disks to fail and you lose all your data, but it does offer a performance boost.
With NAS systems being less about speed and more about convenience, we don't think RAID 0 is the best option. RAID 1 on the other hand, takes one drive and mirrors it to another. This means your data is much safer because two drives contain distinct copies of the data. If one fails, you swap the disk and you're back up and running.
If you don't want to worry about RAID and want to get the most storage out of your NAS, you can use JBOD, which stands for 'just a bunch of disks'. JBOD can bundle your two drives together and present them as a single array. This is handy if you just want one drive letter and don't need redundancy, but beware: if one of the drives fail, you will probably lose all your data. If all of those disk modes seem too complicated, the CH3MNAS can also present the drives as distinct network locations, each with their own address. Simple.
A built-in FTP upload facility enables you to automatically backup your data to a machine elsewhere. This could potentially be very helpful if you really want to safeguard your data. You could either upload to the cloud, or send it to another device on your home network. The possibilities are both awesome and numerous.
The Conceptronic costs around £180, and no hard disks are included. At the moment, there don't seem to be all that many UK retailers stocking it, but we've asked the company to tell us where you can get your hands on one, and we'll pop an update here when it does. In the meantime, take a butchers' at our hands-on photos.
At the back of the machine you'll find the usual connections. The Conceptronic will theoretically hit Gigabit Ethernet speeds. The faster the network it's connected to, the more likely you are to hit high transfer speeds.
Inserting a drive couldn't be easier -- you just take a 3.5-inch SATA device and slide it in until it stops. The side panels are removable too, and the drive is secured into place with a set of screws concealed under these panels.