Two ways to share files, photos and videos

Staff Writer By Staff Writer - updated November 3rd, 2020
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Today we’re going to look at two great options for setting up your own file sharing system, using a USB device, such as a portable HDD or flash drive, our own PC, or a NAS for storage.

We’ll be connecting these to a WiFi router for the network so we can share access with friends, family or co-workers. In some cases we can make this available as a cloud drive too, making it possible to back up photos while away on holiday, or access important documents while out of the office.

First up, and available on many routers, there is a USB which often lets you plug a storage device in providing access to it via the local network. With the right gear you can access a portable hard drive wirelessly, so you could easily back up files from a PC or Mac, play, listen to, view and share your videos, music and photos, via connected TVs, game consoles, or media players. Some routers can even offer the ability to access this storage when you’re not connected to the local network, accessing through an APP while connected to the internet.

Having your own personal cloud storage is great, be it for your business, or home use. You could also do a similar setup using a cloud service, such as google drive, onedrive or dropbox, all of which have free storage offerings from time to time, it just depends if you want to have a physical drive that the data is also stored on, and if you want to stream it to your TV. Most web based services, especially the free ones, don’t give us the speed we need to enjoy a quality HD stream or large download. It’s generally OK for quick smartphone photos, but should we be using this storage for something big, like graphic designer assets, it’s usually best to be on the local option.

Connecting a portable HDD to a Router via a USB port is by far the easiest option for most, you can often connect an external USB storage device to a router via a USB port. Simply plug the portable HDD or USB flash drive into the router. It’s possible the device will be instantly seen by those on the network, but sometimes it will require a little additional configuration.

Using the popular Asus RT-AC68U as our example, we can see it has the USB 3.0 port we’ll be using to connect our storage is on the back of the device.

This, along with a handy apps named ASUS AiDrive, or even AiCloud, make it possible to access that network attached storage for a quality streaming or file sharing.

The Asus AiCloud supports streaming of most of all media formats, so you can stream from your AiCloud media library straight to your smartphone, tablet, laptop or smart TV. It links the home network and provides additional online web storage services, giving you access to your files using the AiCloud mobile app on your iOS, Android smartphones or even via a custom URL so you can use AiCloud on any web browser to access the USB storage device that’s connected to your ASUS router, and then view, edit, upload or download files.

AiDrive APP to access files

The APP will allow you to view files that are stored using just your connected device, viewing photos, watching videos and streaming music without needing to copy them to your mobile device. It’s easy to find the media you want with AiCloud’s smart filters too, simply click to see only your pictures, or to scroll through just videos.

These smart file sharing features have been around for many years too, so if you’ve got an Asus router already, you should try the AiCloud APP on your smartphone or PC, if you’re running with a Netgear brand router in your home, give ReadySHARE a go and see if it works.

With the new WiFi 6 and MESH being so popular right now, many of us have been thinking about updating the home network and thankfully, there are a lot of routers models that feature the USB port for network attached storage features available.

Shop the full range of Asus Routers today, and be sure to look out for AiCloud features if you’re wanting to share files in this easy way.

If you need more speed, and more storage, a dedicated NAS is the solution, and a company named Asustor, who are a part of the Asus Group, have some great options.

A NAS operates in a similar way to the router connected storage options above, but instead of using USB to connect an external HDD to the router, a NAS more often uses an ethernet cable. With most NAS you will be able to add your own internal storage HDD or SSD within the NAS drive bays, the number of which vary from model to model, this often makes the NAS inexpensive to deploy in a big way. The best NAS also have their own operating system built in, giving access to more features, special software and performance advantages.

The AS202T NAS features Intel's Gemini Lake CPUs, 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, 4k60hz HDMI 2.0a and hardware transcoding. These 2 & 4 bay options are tough to beat performance wise, providing extremely high quality playback options. 

With its gaming-inspired aesthetic and powerful hardware, these NAS will likely appeal to the live-streamer and content creator, enabling seamless storage, archival, playback and protection of created livestreams and content at even lower prices, making these Asustor NAS the ultimate media and content creation centre.

The primary difference between the models below is the number of drive bays available within the NAS, with the 2 having two and the 4 having four - you don't need to full up all the slots right away, installing just one HDD to start you off works perfectly and you're free to continue adding storage as your need increases.

Around back (on both models) we have 2x extremely fast Gigabit Ethernet ports plus 2x USB 3.0 ports for connecting external hard drives or a Wi-Fi adapter.

Picture of Asustor NAS

On the front, you'll find another USB port which, this is perfect for quickly connecting something like a portable HDD or USB flash drive with files you want to make available on your network. There are a few specification differences if you look closely, with the Nimbustor 4 coming with a faster CPU and more RAM too. Continuing down the technical path with more fun jargon, the Nimbustor supports a 10-bit 4K hardware decoding HEVC/VP9 10bit Profile, you can even connect a USB DAC if you're an audio junkie.

You'll also notice a very handy HDMI 2.0a port (4k ready!) output on the AS5202T & AS5304T, this allows for easy connection to a TV that doesn't have an APP store built-in - essentially turning your dumb TV into a Smart TV - and an extremely powerful at that!

Another company named Synology do NAS too, and they also do it well.

Looking at the Synology DiskStation DS920+ specifically we see 4 slots for regular HDD or SSD drives, with two more slots ready for M.2 SSD storage, which can be used to further increase the speed of the large storage array.

Access your NAS from the phone or laptop, or both

Speed to access is important, and with a dedicated processor to boost photo indexing and database response times, you can easily categorise masses of photo memories, smoothly manage files across computers and mobile devices, and enjoy fast web applications. Capable of streaming 4K, the Synology DS920+ provides a remarkable video streaming experience for more advanced users. A range of built-in applications make it all easy, ready to assist you in collaboration, file sharing, data backup and more

With a NAS, the amount of storage you have installed is up to you. So if your collection of family photos, home videos, music recordings and files keeps on growing, so can you. You really will save a lot more too, because a good NAS makes it all so easy.

Shop all the latest Synology NAS options today.

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Staff Writer

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