Yes, you read it right. Central storage, like in work networks, it is a must at home.
You might have bought a laptop with SSD. It is fast, but it has 128 or 256 GB of space.
Maybe your desktop is old, and you don’t trust it.
You have a smart phone, and or a tablet.
Most likely you take a ton of picture of your kids, some videos. Most phones come with settings where the default the video is FHD, or QHD (1080, 2K, and even 4k). Soon you will need space in that phone or tablet.
You need to backup that old desktop, and the laptop does not have enough space.
Even if it did, it is a good idea to have it available for all devices.
Enter the central storage for home.
There are many ways to do it. The easiest is the NAS route. You can also use a spare desktop, but it needs to be always on, and you might need drives.
Small Net Builder also ranks and reviews NAS, so that is a good source of information as well if you were reviewing wireless.
The other option is to convert, or add the function to a desktop that is always on. You can just add the drives, and share a folder
A NAS has an advantage that it consumes usually less electricity, and since it will be on 24/7 this is something to have in mind. Also, generally their interface is simpler as well, and they come with several functions that can be turn on with a switch in the setup page.
A computer has the advantage, that you already might have one, it might also be faster (a lot of NAS are mini computers already), but more complicated to setup. Another advantage is that it is possible you already have a computer that is always on. In the end however it will require more technical involvement and setup. It is not difficult though, and there are lots of guides. I personally have an OLD machine, that cannot be used to even browse the web, but has worked great running Linux to store files as a backup.
One thing that people forget, is that you will need 2 central storage.
Don’t think of your central storage as backup, think of it as storage for your photos, videos, documents. This way you can keep storage available in your device, and also access those files from any other device.
The second storage is to backup the first one.
The good news is that the second storage only needs to do backup, and sometimes the main NAS/Computer can work directly with the backup.
This second storage can then simply be a USB drive.
Most NAS devices (and all computers) have USB ports, so you can connect an external drive to run a backup job, and most NAS have a function for the back up. The important part, is that you want this function to be automatic. WD MyCloud drives for example require that you login to the web interface and run the backup manually. Not ideal, because you will forget, and when you need to recover something from backup, it could be several months old.
I haven’t worked with all NAS, so I don’t have a recommendation there.
With a computer this is a bit simpler, because there is ton of software for backup that can run incremental copies (and this saves the most space).
Lets say you get a Synology (which seems to support backup automatically) and you put 2 drives of 2 TB each. Because you will set the drives as RAID 1 most likely (where the content is copied to each drive), your USB drive should be at least 3 TB. You need more space so you can keep extra copies of files (to recover different versions of the same file).
Ideally you don’t fill the drive either, so 3TB will give 4 or 5 times copies of the same data in a USB drive (it depends on how much the NAS is used, and how the backup software works).
You could however setup the drives in RAID 0 and get 4TB (read on RAID function first before making a decision). If you get the external drive and setup the backup from the get go this would be fine, mainly if you are expecting to fill the drive. You just need to be aware that the backup might be needed with a lot more chance (complicated math of risk of failure in process here, the risk is exponential, and not just double). This is a valid deployment, mainly for people who have a lot to storage and plan to replace drives in 2 years or less (drive prices keep getting lower and lower). Just think as backups as an essential part. They are recommended with a RAID 1 (it can still fail, or the NAS could die), but are a necessity with RAID 0.
Bigger systems can get more complicated with 4 drives, and they all have tons of features, from SMB (Windows/Linux and Apple file sharing), AFP (Apple File Sharing), web server (to host photo albums and share with family members for example), streaming protocol (store videos in the central storage and watch them from any device in the network, like the PS4 or Xbox)and even more advanced features (depending on the NAS) like auto posting to Facebook, connect a camera directly to the NAS to import picture, and other things. Most people only use SMB and AFP.
Even if you only had 1 laptop and a phone, the central storage is a great addition, and for small-scale like that there are cheaper, and even 1 drive solutions.
Once you start using central storage you will be wondering why you haven’t used it before, and although it looks like it is more complex than what you require with a little research or help you can get it running in no time at all.