Both NAS and Server provide network storage solutions. Some users want to know the difference between NAS and Server and which one to choose. Now, read this post from MiniTool to get the details about NAS vs Server.

There are multiple ways to add accessible data storage to a home or business network, but not all devices are created equal. The most common solutions to choose from include cloud, on-premises servers, and network-attached storage (NAS). Each approach has advantages and disadvantages in scalability, customization, cost, deployment, and ease of use.

In our previous posts, we have discussed NAS vs DAS, NAS vs Cloud, etc. Today, we will discuss NAS vs Server.

Overview of NAS and Server


NAS is a network-connected file-level access storage architecture that enables multiple users and heterogeneous client devices to retrieve data from centralized disk capacity. It connects directly to the Ethernet switch linked to the server. As a result, users on a local area network (LAN) can access shared storage from the NAS via a standard Ethernet connection.

Unlike traditional external hard drives, NAS devices usually have some sort of built-in operating system that adds software features like native media streaming, printer streaming, or remote access.

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A server is a high-performance piece of hardware designed to handle requests and deliver data to other computers over a local network or the Internet. Internet servers are often configured with additional processing memory and storage capacity to handle large numbers of users and requests.

Servers can be classified into different types based on four different criteria: server form factor, instruction set architecture, number of processors, and application type. For example, by server form factor, servers can be classified into rack servers, tower servers, blade servers, and rack servers.

NAS vs Server

NAS vs Server: Pros and Cons

NAS: Pros and Cons

Although NAS can be built, they are often packaged as plug-and-play pre-built devices. Likewise, an entry-level NAS will be cheaper than an entry-level server with the same amount of storage. This comes back to flexibility since NAS is really only built to store and access data.

It's this single-purpose design that makes NAS simple. After purchasing and/or assembling the device, the setup process is easy. They usually just need to be powered up and connected to a network to get started.

However, this is a common trade-off in technology. Ease of setup does mean less ability to configure and customize the NAS, and servicing on these standalone devices is often harder than servicing on a file server.

Server: Pros and Cons

They can range from small benchtop towers suitable for the purpose up to complex equipment racks with a wide range of functions.

A key consideration is that servers are designed to run all the time in a network service, providing things like storage and processing power in a way that is custom configured to meet user needs. They are purpose-built for this role and can be assembled or modified to match the hardware exactly as needed.

This advantage is also the main argument for the Network Attached Server (NAS) alternative. Custom hardware is more expensive and requires more administrative intervention to configure and maintain, while NAS appliances mean a pure plug-and-play solution or provide additional storage beyond what a server can provide in a shared network environment.

That said, you can expect to pay more (in terms of storage capacity) for a file server than a similarly specced NAS. The difference is that more expensive file servers will have faster processors, and more RAM, requires an operating system such as Microsoft Windows Server, and can provide support for client-server applications and Access management tools for host networks.

Processing power comes into play in high-demand use cases, such as media servers that need to transcode media to different formats.

NAS vs Server: Work Principles


NAS provides cost-effective and easy-to-implement options for increasing storage capacity. As the term network-attached storage implies, storage devices are connected to a network—most commonly Ethernet or other TCP/IP-based networks—and can be quickly put into production. Other devices on the network use the NAS storage feature. NAS devices are self-contained devices that typically have at least two bays for inserting storage modules. The more bays, the more storage space you can achieve.

NAS devices typically come with their own operating system and network interface software, so the device can be easily connected to an existing LAN, powered up, and put into use quickly. NAS devices are typically file-based, while server-based devices can be block-based or file-based. This makes them compatible with most operating systems. Capacities can range from a few terabytes to tens of terabytes. NAS is ideal for personal users and SMBs who need easy-to-use storage with flexibility, convenience, and modest investment.


Server-based storage is typically connected to the main file server; uses the server's file processing capabilities and its processing capabilities; and connects directly to the main server or via a network connection, such as Ethernet or designed for high-volume data transfer between users and storage arrays And designed SAN. Other servers, such as application servers, coexist in the infrastructure.

Server storage is the tool of choice for large organizations because capacity can be significantly expanded by adding more capacity to existing servers (called scale-up storage) or by adding more physical storage servers to the infrastructure (called scale-out storage). Server-based storage can support block and file storage formats, making it ideal for large organizations with a variety of storage requirements.

NAS vs Server: Apps and Pricing

NAS devices can also be used to host applications. They provide many of the same services as application servers, but with a more basic setup and less customization. They also offer fewer choices when it comes to the app's users can run. NAS equipment vendors require users to choose one of their own applications rather than any third-party software.

Differences in functionality between file servers and NAS appliances create cost differences. File servers provide more processing power, so they are more expensive. Server operating systems also drive up prices because they often require companies to purchase server licenses and, in some cases, client access licenses, which give users and devices access to servers. In contrast, most NAS software comes with the NAS device and does not require a license.

Which One to Choose

Ease of use: A NAS is more basic than a file server because you don't need a system administrator to handle your hardware or data.

Functionality: Consider the size of your operation and how much you plan to grow in the future. NAS systems are generally considered suitable for small offices where files are shared between two or three devices. Scaling up in the future means more purchases and more drives or devices.

Available space: NAS setups typically don't require a lot of space, while even some lower-tier server setups require a rack the size of a small closet. A desktop-sized server tower doesn't take up more space than a regular PC, and cloud storage takes up no physical space at all.

Data security: Security in a file server or cloud is often better than with a NAS, simply because IT administrators and cloud providers have cybersecurity experts responsible for protecting these assets. NAS devices often limit the security measures you can deploy on their systems.

Shareability: Choose a NAS that allows control of user access, which is important for data security. Being able to grant or revoke rights to users, temporarily or permanently, will help prevent costly data breaches or compliance issues as data moves in and out of the network.

If you're looking for a home media solution and don't want to build a higher-scale redundant network, a NAS is an easy choice. As a small business, choosing between a NAS or a server is more speculative. Redundancy is more important even in non-technical small businesses. If your business grows, so will your network needs.

It also depends on what you are selling. If you're starting a YouTube channel, even on a smaller scale, having access to lots of fast and redundant storage space becomes even more important. On the other hand, Etsy store sales can be tracked via the cloud or kept on a NAS if it's more cost-effective over time.

How to Back up to NAS

If you choose NAS and want to back up your important data to NAS, there is a piece of professional backup software – MiniTool ShadowMaker for you to do that. It is a program that can be used to back up operating systems, disks, partitions, files, and folders. In addition, it is a user-friendly program to protect your computer and data.

MiniTool ShadowMaker supports almost all storage devices that can be recognized by Windows, such as HDD, SSD, USB external disks, Hardware RAID, NAS, Home file servers, workstations, and so on.

Now, let’s see how to back up files to NAS with MiniTool ShadowMaker

Step 1: Download and Install MiniTool ShadowMaker


  1. Download and install MiniTool ShadowMaker.
  2. Launch MiniTool ShadowMaker and click Keep Trial to continue.

Step 2: Select Backup Source

  1. Go to the Backup page after you enter its main interface.
  2. Then click the Source module to choose the backup source.
  3. Choose Folders and Files and choose the files you want to back up and click OK to save your selection.

choose Folders and Files

Step 3: Select the Backup Destination

  1. Click the Destination module to continue.
  2. Now in the main interface of MiniTool ShadowMaker, click DESTINATION to select the destination path. MiniTool ShadowMaker allows you to back up your computer to multiple places.
  3. You can choose anyone based on your own needs like your NAS device. Just go to the Shared tab. Click the Add button. Type the IP address of the NAS, user name, and password. Then, click OK.

type the NAS path

Step 4: Click Back up Now to start the process or click Back up Later to delay the backup. And you can restart the delayed backup task in the Manage window.

backup now or later


  1. To customize the current backup task, go to Options > Backup options.
  2. To set up the backup type or manage disk space occupied by backup files, go to Options > Backup Scheme.
  3. To set a schedule to automatically back up the disk, go to Options > Schedule Settings.

To get more details about MiniTool ShadowMaker settings, refer to Backup Settings.

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Bottom Line

To sum up, this post has introduced information about NAS vs Server. If you do not know the differences between them and do not know which one is better, the above content may help you.

In addition, if you have any different ideas about NAS vs Server, you can share them in the comment zone, or please feel free to contact us via email [email protected] and we will reply to you as soon as possible.

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