A NAS, or Network Attached Storage device, is a specialized file server that connects to your local network. NAS devices are, compared to full server installations, running bare bones operating systems that serve to facilitate file sharing using common networked file sharing protocols (such as SMB, CIFS, and NFS).

Although the advent of home servers and storage devices has led to many people referring to these devices (such as the small Windows Home Server machines produced by Hewlett-Packard and other vendors) as NAS units, a true NAS unit is essentially just a network-enabled hard drive (or array of hard drives) and does not include a sophisticated enough operating system to perform server functions such as transcoding files, hosting an email or web server, or running local applications.

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