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Basically I would like to know, if it is possible to set up an NAS in my house to be accessed wirelessly, that can reach equivalent real-life data transfer speeds to USB 3.0 or an internal SATA hard drive.

I have been wanting to do this for some time ( a couple of years now). Basically, this is what I want to do:

  • Plug in a number of hard drives in an array, somewhere in my house, to be left plugged in and never have to be monitored. Ideally several terabytes.

  • Whenever I am home, to have my computer and laptop configured to automatically find the NAS, as easy as plugging in an external hard drive - except completely wirelessly.

  • Data transfer needs to be as seamless and quick as having added another internal hard drive in my laptop.

  • Moreover, data should be able to accessed without having to copy it over - I should be able to wirelessly access the NAS and browse files, and open files directly from the NAS. For example, say I wanted to open a video - I should be able to play the video that is located on the NAS, directly from the NAS, completely wirelessly. If I wanted to open a .pdf file, I should be able to open it and read it directly from the NAS, as if it were located on my physical internal hard drive.

Cost is important as well.

Please tell me what equipment I need for this to be possible. I know you geniuses out there who can tell me if this is possible.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Any NAS solution will provide most of your points. The majority support CIFS, which will allow mounting of the NAS disk space as a drive in Windows. You can interact with this drive as if it were local to your machine - but moreso, as it can be accessed by multiple parties simultaneously.

Your issue is one of speed. The fastest domestic wifi protocol is 802.11n which will deliver up to 450Mbps signaling with the 3-stream equipment today (throughput is roughly 60% of that at best), and future 4-stream 802.11n equipment may support a 600mbps theoretical max (again, real throughput will probably max out at 60% of this). Compare this to SATA2, SATA3 or USB 3.0 speeds which are 3-7Gbps. So at its very best, wireless is 10 times slower than the slowest contemporary SATA solution.

New protocols are on the horizon, 802.11ac should provide gigabit transfer speeds, and we might see draft products this year. It is unclear what range this protocol will be able to achieve.

WiGig is further away, and will perhaps offer 7Gbs transfer speeds, though the nature of this protocol and frequencies used means that the range will be dramatically reduced - perhaps to a couple of metres. There may be advances that extend this range, but it is likely only going to be useful over short distances, like bluetooth, only much much quicker.

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Would I be able to, say, stream a movie from my NAS to my laptop? The purpose if primarily one of data storage, but also seamless wireless access of the data. – techaddict Mar 30 '12 at 5:05
I stream 1080p movies across 802.11n 5Ghz without any issues. Bitrates for video tend to top out at the 20Mbps rate, so accounting for overheads it fits. – Paul Mar 30 '12 at 5:25
The highest data rate mentioned in Blu-ray specs is 72 Mbps. If a wireless N network can stream at even a third of it's rated speed, that's more than twice the required rate for any movie. In the real world, 25 Mbps is probably all you need for movie playback. – Dave Becker Mar 30 '12 at 5:28
@DaveBecker Yeah, I was considering rips, which tend to be far more compressed than blu-ray native. – Paul Mar 30 '12 at 5:49

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