I use a WiFi router to share files between devices connected to the local network without relying on other systems and devices. The professional or the company should always focus on the use of a NAS server: products such as those presented in these pages not only allow you to satisfy all storage needs (support of various RAID configurations; see the article Avoiding data: how to configure RAID ) but offer the possibility to install, activate and use multiple additional features.
For example, you can use a modern NAS server such as those of Synology to manage centralized backup (even between different offices and branches), create security copies of data stored in the cloud (Office 365 and G Suite), set up a video surveillance system, a platform for team collaboration, document editing, and more.
If your needs are limited and you have a router equipped with a USB port, you can transform it into a sort of NAS server to be used exclusively for data storage. By connecting a large key, a hard disk, or an external SSD to the router’s USB port, it is possible to share the storage possibilities of this device within the local network and access them from any system via Ethernet cable or WiFi.
In the article External hard disk, the parameters to keep in mind when choosing, we presented a rich “roundup” of USB-based external storage devices. All routers can easily power hard disks and SSDs that allow it through the USB port, but, of course, being equipment mainly designed to route data between different subnets, it is reasonable to expect performance far from lightning-fast.
Also, some routers may only support SMBv1 protocol (and not the latest and secure SMBv2 version) for sharing files and folders in LAN. Microsoft presented the SMBv1 protocol in the early 90s. After the spread of the WannaCry worm ransomware, the Redmond company decided to intervene to resolve the security flaws exploited by the malware to spread rapidly.
Still, it also took action to definitively set aside (deactivating it by default in Windows) a thirty-year-old protocol that has shown all its limits and weaknesses. Even if the resources remain shared within the perimeter of the local network, we do not recommend connecting USB storage devices to routers that only allow the use of SMBv1 (in the default configuration, it will not be possible to access them from Windows).
Typing at the PowerShell prompt in Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 the command Get-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName SMB1 Protocol is easy to verify that SMBv1 is disabled (and it is not recommended to re-enable it). On the router side, it is good to ensure that the ports present are at least USB 3.0 (some include eSATA and USB Type-C ports). Also, some routers with USB 3.0 ports transfer data using USB 2.0 specifications at speeds lower than those potentially achievable.
This is a precaution that is used in order not to influence data transfers on the 2.4 GHz band negatively. If the 5 GHz frequencies are primarily used for WiFi, it is possible to activate the USB specifications 3.0 by the wireless router manually.
Among the more powerful routers that offer one or two USB 3.0 ports, there are – for example – Netgear RAX120, TP-Link Archer C5400X, and the Synology MR2200ac mesh router that we presented in the article Synology Mesh WiFi Router: MR2200ac, RT2600ac review and SRM 1.2.
Router Based On DD-WRT Custom Firmware That Can Be Used As A NAS Server
The “custom” DD-WRT firmware needs no introduction (see our articles). It can be used on many routers to extend the device’s functionality, as it came out of the manufacturer’s factories.
On WiFi routers upgraded to DD-WRT, you can follow a few simple steps to enable NAS features.
- Access the DD-WRT administration panel by typing in the browser’s address bar 192.168.1.1, 192.168.0.1, or in any case, the private IP of the router (to find it, use the command ipconfig /all in Windows and read what next to the Default Gateway entry ).
- Click Services, USB tabs, set Core USB Support to Enable, then turn on USB Storage Support and Automatic Drive Mount.
- Click on Save, then on Apply settings and wait for the Disk Info section below to show the characteristics of the USB drive connected to the router.
- Go to the NAS tab, set the Samba option to Enable, then enter a string to identify the USB storage device in the Server String box. Specify the workgroup (for example, WORKGROUP ) in the box below.
- In the File Sharing section just below, click on the Add Share button, select the partition you want to use from the first drop-down menu, assign it a name, and tick the Public box if you want to guarantee access to all connected devices in the local network (otherwise you will have to leave this box deactivated and set the access credentials to be used on the client side just below).
- Finally, click on the Save and Apply settings buttons in the final part of the screen.
- At this point, in the Network window of any Windows system, double-clicking on the icon corresponding to the router’s name based on DD-WRT firmware, you will find the USB device just configured.