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Organize Your Family With a Home NAS Device

written by: Matt Conlon•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 8/9/2011

It wasn't always practical to have a network attached storage device in your home, but with the rate at which technology is progressing, it may soon become impractical to not have one. If you're avoiding the idea because you're intimidated by the idea of configuring it, don't be.

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    The Home Network

    So you got yourself a wireless router to share your internet connection betwNAS Device een your desktop, your laptop, your iPad, your droid, etc. You're ready to start browsing on all devices.

    Before long, you begin to find that this convenience you've created for yourself could be a little more so. Sure, you can answer an email from your phone, but what if you need a document you'd saved on your laptop? What if you need some information you archived on your desktop? What if you wanted to cook dinner, but you didn't want to leave the room your desktop is in because your favorite MP3s are playing?

    Wouldn't it be nice to have all this conveniences throughout the house regardless of the device you were connecting with? Centralized storage, such as a Network Attached Storage (or NAS) device may be just the thing.

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    General Configuration For Access

    Each model NAS device is different, and will take different processes to set it up, Be sure to read all the instructions, every one comes with something of a "configure home network storage" guide.

    Some NAS devices may be running Windows-based operating systems, in which case, it functions almost exactly like a Windows server, and would integrate with Active Directory. While this is extremely convenient from a systems administrator's standpoint, Windows-based NAS devices are considerably more expensive than others.

    Windows systems aside, some manufacturers like to create their own operating systems, usually Linux-based or some other open sourced operating system. These NAS devices usually have what's called a web-based graphical user interface, or "web GUI". This means you browse to the IP address of the device, and you'll be prompted for login credentials. Once you're logged into the device's web GUI, there will be many administrative options. You'll be able to do things like change the password, create and manage users and folders, configure the time zone, and upgrade the device's firmware.

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    Create Users

    Once you find your way around the NAS interface, you should create users for all those who are going to be accessing this device. It's a good idea to keep the names the same as the users to which they correspond. In other words, if you log in as "Dave", you should create a "Dave" user on the NAS device. It also helps if you use the same password. Depending on the device, if the user on the device and the user logged into the machine are the same, it won't prompt for credentials. (This is not universally true, but it is common.)

    Make sure you record the user names and password in a safe place, or make sure they're something you and your users will remember.

    It's also good to always create a second account with access to everything, in case you forget the admin password.

    Once you create all the users necessary, you can (usually) create groups as well. This is helpful if you want to give access to multiple like-users at once, to some things, though you may want to manage it in a more strict level for other things.

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    Set Up Shared Folders

    A "share" is simply a folder where files will be shared from. This is how you will organize your data. How you organize your data is strictly up to you, but it's helpful to think about the kinds of data you have, and who will be accessing it.

    I personally like to keep like files together. I create a share for media, but then I create sub-folders to sort them out. For instance, in my media folder I have separate directories for my MP3s, movies, and TV shows. I like to rip them from the DVDs (which I obtain legally) just to have a backup in case the disk gets scratched.

    If you're going to be keeping financial information on your NAS device, or perhaps usernames and passwords for different websites and accounts, give them a folder of their own, too.

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    Assign Permissions

    Now that your shares are created, you can decide who gets what kind of access to them. For example, perhaps you don't mind your kids listening to your MP3s, but you don't trust them to not accidentally (or otherwise) edit or delete them. You can grant them Read-Only access to the folder.

    If you created a group that includes all the kids, you could grant the permissions to the whole group to save time. If you want to give one kid more access, you're better off assigning the permissions on a per-user basis, rather than by group.

    For something like your financial documents, you may consider denying access to everyone but yourself.

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    Helpful Simplicity

    It's easy to get carried away creating different folders, and users, and access policies. If you let it get away from you, you can end up causing yourself more grief looking for important documents. "Gee, did I put that in the '2011 Tax Information' folder, or was it in '2011 Finances'?"

    With the organization of information, I like to stick to one of my favorite personal policies: the K.I.S.S policy. Keep it simple, stupid! Ordinarily, I don't call myself (and I try not to call anyone else) stupid, but it makes the acronym work, so this is an exception to my rule. If it doesn't need to be complicated, then don't complicate it.

    Whether or not you need a NAS device is up to you, but before you dismiss the idea, consider some of the benefits, and watch for a good deal. You may just find it too convenient to live without.

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    • The content of this article is from the author's own experience.
    • The web comic "Stick I.T.!" is written and illustrated by Matt Conlon.

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