Best rackmount NAS 2022: Find the rack storage solution that’s right for you
Get all the storage you need – plus plenty of business-friendly features – in one convenient appliance
A rackmount NAS is the perfect way to add storage to your existing network. Functionally, these devices do the same job as desktop storage boxes, but if you already have a rack set up with servers, UTM gateways and other appliances then a rackmount NAS will slot right in – it doesn’t get any more convenient than that.
There are a lot of rackmount NAS options to choose from though, at a wide spread of prices. Here’s our guide to what to look for in a rackmount NAS, along with our pick of the top contenders for businesses of any size.
Why does my business need a NAS appliance?
The very basic job of a NAS drive is simply to provide storage which users and services can access over the network. You can give each user their own private folder, and also set up shared drives accessible to defined groups, or to the whole company.
Doing it this way is much better than allowing users to keep everything on their own hard disks. It means you can ensure that all important data is backed up, rather than entrusting it to your staff – and if a computer breaks or is stolen, there’s no need to worry about files being lost, or falling into the wrong hands.
NAS also has advantages over cloud storage services. Accessing storage over your local network is many times faster than waiting for files to upload and download, and you have full control over security policies, upgrades and backups. Although the upfront investment is higher, owning your own infrastructure also means you have much more control over ongoing costs.
What benefits does a NAS have?
Most NAS appliances come with advanced backup features, helping to safeguard any documents that remain on local machines. With versioning and snapshots, you can browse the archive and roll back files to how they were yesterday, or a month ago – invaluable for undoing mistakes or tracking the progress of a project.
A NAS may also have useful data-security features. Many can create encrypted volumes that can’t be accessed without the right key, and WORM policies (write once, read many) allow you to set up volumes where files can be saved but never changed or deleted – ideal for compliance with retention requirements.
Look out for space-saving features too. Inline compression can reduce the amount of disk space taken up by your users’ files, so your disks won’t fill up so quickly. High-end appliances also offer deduplication, which detects when two files contain the same data and only stores one copy of it. This is sometimes only offered as a paid-for add-on feature, but it can pay for itself by considerably shrinking your storage requirements.
Do I need a NAS that runs apps?
Many NAS manufacturers offer their own app stores from which you can install extra capabilities to the appliance. For example, you might be able to download a cloud-synchronisation module that automatically replicates your data to an offsite service such as AWS or Google Drive, or one that scans all stored files for known malware.
It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if a NAS offers few or no apps, however. Normally there’s a good spread of standard features built into the platform: you just need to check that your core needs are covered.
Indeed, many apps on offer have very little to do with storage. Rather, they let you do things like run a web server, manage surveillance cameras or even fire up virtual machines on your NAS. Be warned, though: such services can have a heavy impact on performance if your appliance doesn’t have a powerful CPU and plenty of RAM.
How many drive bays should I look for in a NAS appliance?
A typical rackmount NAS might have anywhere from four to 18 front-facing drive bays. The actual capacity depends on the size of the drives you slot into them: with 16TB or 18TB drives, you can fit a huge amount of storage into a small number of bays.
Don’t forget though that it’s vital to use a RAID configuration, to replicate your files across multiple disks as protection against hardware failure. This means you may need more bays (and drives) than you think. Installing four 8TB drives won’t give you 32TB of usable space: you’ll get 16TB if you configure them as a RAID 1 array, or 24TB with RAID 5.
It's good to have plenty of bays anyway; this allows you to easily expand your storage by adding more drives in the future. However, many appliances can be connected to external drive enclosures, so you can connect more disks to your NAS and manage them as if they were internal.
Just keep an eye on the size: some bays only take 2.5in drives – also known as small-form-factor, or SFF – while regular 3.5in drives require large-form-factor (LFF) bays.
What sort of network connection do I need for a NAS appliance?
The most lightweight NAS models have one or two gigabit Ethernet ports; that’s fine if only a few people need access, but if dozens of users want to share and browse files at the same time, they’re liable to run into bandwidth bottlenecks. That’s especially the case if there are backup tasks running in the background, or other services running on the NAS.
Most business-class appliances therefore come with two or more 10GbE connectors. This should be ample for a mid-sized office; larger companies should consider looking for a model that can be upgraded with a 25GbE or 40GbE expansion card. Of course, this isn’t a one-stop upgrade: you’ll need to connect your NAS to a gateway or switch that’s able to take advantage of these huge speeds.
What are the best NAS appliances in 2022?
Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S
Best for businesses needing core storage features with lots of scope for growth
+ Great value
- Limited range of apps
+ Strong 10GbE performance
+ Big expansion capability
This formidable 2U rack can take care of all your storage needs: its 12 front-facing bays can be supplemented with up to eight 24-bay shelves, for an immense total capacity of 7.4 petabytes. Both SATA and SAS3 drives are supported, and expansion options include 16Gbits/sec fibre channel, quad-10GbE or dual-25GbE cards.
The XN8012S also gets the benefits of Qsan’s ZFS-based software, which includes full compression and deduplication capabilities to help make the most of your storage, as well as unlimited snapshots. There’s not a huge range of apps – just ten installable modules – but these cover all the important business functions. Pricing starts at a very reasonable £3,259 for a diskless configuration with 8GB of RAM, making this a superb option for SMBs seeking an affordable storage solution with plenty of space to grow.
Quad-core 2.2GHz Intel Xeon D-1527
8GB ECC DDR4 UDIMM (max 128GB)
12 x SAS3/SATA LFF/SFF
RAID0, 1, 5, 6, Z3,10, 50, 60, JBOD
Price when reviewed: £3,259 exc VAT (diskless)
Read our full Qsan XCubeNAS XN8012S review for more information.
Best for larger organisations seeking the very best data protection
+ Choice of operating systems
- Powerful spec means a high up-front price
+ Versatile connectivity
+ Excellent snapshot and mirroring features
The TS-h1283XU-RP will suit businesses of all types thanks to its choice of two operating systems: those wanting easy administration can install the standard QTS platform, while more demanding sites can opt for the advanced QuTS hero OS. The latter brings a host of advanced features such as native deduplication, transparent self-healing of data corruption and triple-parity arrays for belt-and-braces data protection.
The appliance can also extend well beyond regular storage duties, thanks to a library of more than 100 apps – including virtualisation tools that let you run Linux VMs directly on the TS-h1283XU-RP. To help you take full advantage of all this, the base specification combines a powerful Xeon E-2236 processor with 32GB of DDR4 RAM. As a result, this isn’t the cheapest rackmount NAS around, but it’s certainly one of the most versatile.
Six-core 3.4GHz Intel Xeon E-2236
32GB ECC DDR4 UDIMM (max 128GB)
12 x SATA LFF/SFF
RAID0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, 60, Triple Parity, Triple Mirror
Price when reviewed: £3,783 exc VAT (diskless)
Read our full Qnap TS-h1283XU-RP review for more information.
Best companies wanting a professional NAS platform on a budget
+ Terrific performance
- Requires a RAM upgrade and SSDs to unlock its full potential
+ Plenty of apps
+ Impressive storage density
Qnap’s TS-h1886XU-RP crams a lot of expandability into its 2U chassis: like the TS-h1283XU-RP above, it offers 12 front-facing hot-swap drive bays, but also adds a further six SFF bays at the rear. That means you can install a huge amount of storage without having to rely on external shelves, or accelerate performance by adding an SSD cache of up to 4TB.
The TS-h1886XU-RP also lets you choose whether to use the user-friendly QTS platform or the more powerful – but more demanding – QuTS hero. Each offers a big library of installable apps to take care of data security and other functions, and while the quad-core Xeon D-1622 processor isn’t the most powerful in the range, it’s more than capable of running a whole stack of servers for a very fair price.
Quad-core 2.6GHz Intel Xeon D-1622
32GB ECC DDR4 UDIMM (max 128GB)
12 x SATA LFF/SFF (front); 6 x SATA SFF (rear)
RAID0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, 60, Triple Parity, Triple Mirror
Price when reviewed: £2,756 exc VAT (diskless)
Read our full Qnap TS-h1886XU-RP review for more information.
Qsan XCubeNAS XN7016R
Best for SMEs focused on fast, expandable storage
+ Huge maximum capacity
- Comparatively lightweight hardware
+ Slick cloud integration
+ Speedy performance
An imposing 3U design allows this Qsan NAS to accommodate a generous 16 LFF drives. It’ll take both SATA and SAS3 media, and with external expansion it can serve up an immense eight petabytes. It’s a great performer too, delivering speeds of 9.2Gbits/sec over one of its twin embedded 10GbE ports.
Note that this isn’t a powerhouse like some other appliances: it uses a relatively modest Pentium D1517 CPU, and comes with a base 8GB of RAM. As with the XN8012S (see above) there’s also only a small selection of ten installable apps. Still, the core OS supports unlimited snapshots, deduplication and real-time data tiering – and your data can be easily replicated to a variety of cloud providers for offsite protection.
Quad-core 1.6GHz Intel Pentium D1517
8GB ECC DDR4 (max 128GB)
16 x SAS3/SATA LFF/SFF
RAID0, 1, 5, 6, 10, Z3, JBOD
Price when reviewed: £3,565 exc VAT (diskless)
Read our full Qsan XCubeNAS XN7016R review for more information.
Synology RackStation RS2421RP+
Best for smaller businesses seeking a user-friendly do-it-all NAS
+ Powerful for the price
- No embedded 10GbE
+ Very capable system software
- Restrictive list of supported drives
+ PCI-E expansion slot
If you’re focused on value, the 12-bay RackStation RS2421RP+ demands serious consideration: its AMD Ryzen processor keeps the price low, while supporting all the features of Synology’s excellent DSM software. This means the appliance can happily take care of a whole slew of jobs, from regular file sharing to backup duties, virtualisation and even managing surveillance cameras – although for the best performance consider upgrading from the supplied 4GB of RAM to the maximum 32GB.
Be aware that Synology strongly encourages you to use its branded drives, rather than sourcing your own, but after installing these we had no complaints. The server delivered very competitive speeds for regular read and write operations, and is quick with encrypted storage too. For greater bandwidth, a PCI-E slot allows you to supplement the four integrated gigabit Ethernet ports with 10GbE or even 25GbE connectors.
Quad-core 2.2GHz AMD Ryzen V1500B
4GB ECC DDR4 (max 32GB)
12 x SATA LFF/SFF
RAID0, 1, 5, 6, 10, JBOD, SHR
Price when reviewed: £1,822 exc VAT (diskless)
Read our full Synology RackStation RS2421RP+ review for more information.
Infortrend EonStor CS 3016G
Best for established businesses with an eye on growth
+ Supports clustering for immense scalability
- Management console could be more intuitive
+ Great connectivity options
+ No restrictions on supported drives
The EonStor CS 3016G is a 3U appliance whose front bays can take up to 16 SAS3 or SATA drives – but that’s by no means the limit to your storage options. Up to 144 units can be linked together for easy clustering, data replication and even erasure coding, to protect against large-scale data loss.
This naturally calls for a healthy chunk of connectivity, and the CS 3016G unit comes with four 10GbE SFP+ ports built in, along with twin expansion slots that can be used to add 25GbE or 40GbE connectors. It’s all powered by a trusty quad-core Xeon D-2123IT CPU and 64GB of RAM, which is battery-backed-up for extra stability. The price is high, but the EonStor CS 3016G is a fantastically scalable solution for businesses looking to grow and grow.
Quad-core 2.2GHz Intel Xeon D-2123IT
64GB DDR4 (max 256GB)
16 x SAS3/SATA LFF/SFF
RAID5, 5+hot spare, 6
Price when reviewed: £12,167 exc VAT (diskless)
Read our full Infortrend EonStor CS 3016G review for more information.
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