Synology offers a number of apps that provide access to your media. Its free DS Audio app allows you to stream music from the NAS to your iOS device using an interface similar to Apple’s Music app. With Synology’s just-as-free DS File app, you can stream video files directly from the NAS to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad (you must enable WebDAV on the NAS for this to work). Makers of other NAS devices offer similar utilities.
Another option that I found helpful is Stratospherix’s $4 FileBrowser app. It provides complete access to the contents of any networked computer, including Macs, Windows PCs, Linux boxes, and NAS drives. Just navigate to a folder that contains media, tap the file you want to play, and it plays using the iOS device’s media player interface.
Note that in the case of the Synology apps as well as FileBrowser, your iOS device can’t play media protected with Apple’s FairPlay technology. If you want to play or view this content, you must use Home Sharing and have iTunes running on the Mac you’re accessing.
Apple TV 2 This device is trickier because it refuses to recognize the existence of a NAS. However, if you have an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad that supports AirPlay, you’re in business. The trick is to call up the media you want to play—music or video—start it playing, tap the AirPlay icon in the app’s controller (AirPlay appears in all the apps I’ve mentioned), and then select your Apple TV as the destination. Your music or video will stream from the NAS to the iOS device and then to the Apple TV. With all these jumps you’d think there’d be latency issues but it works quite well, though there can be a several second delay before a movie begins playing.
At the end of a long day
I’d achieved my goal—an NAS packed with all my media that was available to all my Macs, iOS devices, and essential media gear. I offer this as a guide to how it can be done, not how it has to be done. There are other ways to organize, cull, and synchronize media; and other perfectly fine NAS devices. If, like me, you have a house full of gear and media scattered from one end of it to the other, I hope this demonstrates that it can be tamed.