Media streaming capabilities for cloud storage services have come a long way. We’ve detailed some of the best cloud storage for video as well as the best cloud storage for music before, but in this article we’re going to be talking about a more convenient — and much cooler — approach you can take: invest in a personal cloud storage device
Personal cloud storage devices are ideal for home media because they offer more scalability and much better speeds than storing your data in a remote server farm. Additionally, if you have certain — ahem — borrowed movies in your media collection, it might be wiser to keep those away from the prying eyes of Hollywood and its minions.
Personal cloud storage means you don’t need to worry about cloud storage services scanning your file metadata. Having such devices on hand also means never losing access to your film collection in the event of a zombie apocalypse, and we all know that’s coming.
Picking the right device, however, takes time. There are many NAS devices to choose from and potentially quite a bit of money at stake. During this overview, we’ll try and spare you some of the trouble by listing our top picks for personal cloud storage devices that will help you create a kickass home media system or would be part of a comprehensive backup strategy.
Before we move on, though, we do want to point out that this approach isn’t for everyone: if you’d rather subscribe to a service that does the work for you, make sure to compare cloud storage costs with our chart first.
Seagate Personal Cloud Home Media Storage Device
The Seagate Personal Cloud Home Media Storage Device is more than just a mouthful: it’s a great budget option for those who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars building their personal cloud storage network.
We don’t particularly like the fact that it doesn’t support removable and replaceable hard drives, but the price point is pretty much on the nose, and you can opt for a 3TB, 4TB or 6TB option at the time of writing, however, the 6TB model was unavailable on Amazon).
If that isn’t enough, you can use USB port connections to expand to additional external storage. Seagate’s device supports sync for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, all of which can be used to watch video, listen to music or access stored photos.
It also lets you stream 4k video and music to your TV. Support is available for Samsung and LG smart TVs, Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox One, Apple TV and Android TV. Plex Media Server is also supported, which will help you organize and stream your media, plus record live TV (see our best VPN for Plex piece if you want unrestricted access). Bittorrent Sync, WordPress, Elephant Drive and OwnCloud are also supported.
Seagate claims it’s personal cloud storage devices are currently the only ones available that supports IFTTT, which will let you set up automated processes in conjunction with other apps and IoT devices. We weren’t able to disprove that claim.
We do have some advice for Seagate: come up with a catchier nickname.
QNAP TS-251 & TS-451
If you’re looking for a great home media storage device with removable storage — and don’t mind spending a little more — the QNAP TS-251A and TS-451 are both power user picks. The TS models aren’t exactly pretty, but front-loading bays make them easy to upgrade. Plus, you get a remote. With a max capacity of 48TB for the 451, you won’t have to get off your couch for the foreseeable future.
As you might have guessed, the TS-251A is a two-bay device while the TS-451 features four bays. Both models can be bought on Amazon with 1GB, 2GB or 4GB of RAM. You can upgrade the RAM later, too, all the way up to 8GB according to the specs. Some users have reported being able to add 16GB if you really want to get crazy.
|TS-251, 1GB RAM||$249.00|
|TS-251, 2GB RAM||$318.90|
|TS-251, 4GB RAM||$350.35|
|TS-451, 1GB RAM||$396.20|
|TS-451, 2GB RAM||$445.21|
|TS-451, 4GB RAM||$509.00|
Keep in mind that those costs don’t include hard drives, which you’ll need to buy separately.
The QNAP TS-251 and TS-451 both transcode 4K video and include an HDMI port to connect directly to your television. Even online and with encryption enabled, however, QNAP reports download speeds of around 200Mbps.
Packaged Ocean KTV software also lets you turn the either device into a karaoke center. Other software packages, including Plex Media Server, file sharing and sync apps, can be added via QNAP’s QTS operating system.
Western Digital My Cloud Personal Network
WD’s personal cloud storage devices are best sellers on Amazon, with thousands of customer reviews to attest to their capability. Like Seagate’s entry above, My Cloud doesn’t let you swap out the hard drives to upgrade. However, more storage options, including an 8TB entry, are available.
WD also makes a My Cloud “Mirror” edition that utilizes two drives instead of one. The advantage is that two-drive setups are capable of RAID storage, which provides data redundancy to safeguard against drive failure. Also, the disc drives can be removed and replaced if needed.
Both single and dual bay My Cloud devices also have USB 3.0 ports to expand your storage to external drives if needed. WD includes sync software for Windows, Mac and mobile devices so that you can access your media content from anywhere.
Web access is available, too. Mobile apps also support automatic video and photo backup so you don’t have to worry about saving them to the cloud yourself.
Synology DiskStation DS216play & DS416play
There are several models of DiskStation (DS) available covering a wide range of price points, storage capacities and capabilities. We’d recommend going with the DS216play or DS416play versus the standard (play-less) DS216 and DS416 models because they support video transcoding.
That means you can watch 4K Ultra videos on devices that don’t support 4K Ultra. Of course, if you’re streaming to a device that supports the video in its native format, transcoding isn’t required.
You’ll need to buy your hard drives separately. The DS216 features two bays, for a max capacity of 16TB, while the DS416 features four bays, for a max capacity of 32TB. Both support RAID. Both models support Samsung Smart TVs, Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV and any DLNA-certified device.
Plex Media Server is also supported. Other features we like include easy file sharing, including sharing via QR code, file versioning, selective sync, offline editing and AES encryption. Both models support RAID, too. You can even supplement your disk space by syncing to traditional cloud storage options like Dropbox and Google Drive.
Investing in the right personal cloud storage system means turning your home into a self-contained system capable of delivering music and movies to all of your Internet-capable devices. The advantages of speed, privacy and more consistent access are all great reasons to opt for such solutions over traditional cloud storage services, even those particularly geared towards media like pCloud (pCloud review).
With browser-based access and mobile apps, you can even access your collection on the road so long as your system is online.
That said, we’d caution you against relying entirely on such systems. Like home computers and mobile devices, NAS devices can be stolen or more easily damaged than servers stored in climate-controlled, secure data center facilities (read up on NAS security in our handy guide).
While you might get away with ditching Dropbox, at least considering adding an online backup plan to your setup. If you’re looking for recommendations, we have a few best online backup for NAS devices that will help ensure your media collection isn’t lost in the event of a system failure or other mishap.
We’d love to hear about your own personal cloud storage setup and welcome any questions you might have about approach. Feel free to let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.