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Network Attached Storage (NAS) Disk Solutions

NAS (Network Attached Storage) like SAN has become one of the big buzzwords of the day in the IT world. Many people confuse the two or even think that they are the same. While a NAS can be used to solve many of the same problems a SAN can, it takes a completely different approach and has many other uses as well.

Simply stated a NAS is a disk storage system that comes pre-built with its own processor, memory, operating system, and hard drives. Generally, a NAS will incorporate some type of RAID for data protection of its hard disks and may incorporate a tape backup. The intended use of a NAS disk subsystem is to replace a traditional storage server.

Every business relies on the data and applications on their servers. A NAS will allow you to offload non-application dependant data from your servers and place them on the NAS disk subsystem. This will free up your servers to do what they do best which is run your applications.

The advantage of using a specialized appliance to do this is multifaceted. First, a NAS is far easier to install then a traditional server. Because a NAS appliance will come preloaded with its own network operating system, they can be installed in a matter of minutes. Usually all you will have to do is connect the unit to your network, power it up and assign it an IP address.

In addition to ease of installation, NAS systems offer ease of management over traditional servers. A NAS appliance is generally managed via a web browser. This will allow you to effectively manage your appliance from any machine in your enterprise that has a web browser. Ease of management is one of the big advantages of a NAS.

A NAS disk subsystem is built from the ground up to store data efficiently. Generally even the custom operating systems that they run are stripped of everything unnecessary to serving files. Because of this, they can service your users faster and more efficiently than a traditional server.

A NAS disk appliance will operate well in a heterogeneous environment consisting of Windows, UNIX, Netware and even Apple. They also support most security protocols with the option to use security on the appliance itself or use pass through authentication.

There are many uses of this type of appliance in a business. You can replace multiple costly or inefficient servers with one dedicated inexpensive file-serving appliance. Since many are portable you can use them to move large amounts of data between locations that are not connected via LAN or WAN. They can serve as a temporary location for backup data or even store a copy of your last backup so you can do a faster recovery.

Perhaps you can see a good use for a NAS appliance in your business. Please take some time to educate your self further with some of the educational resources listed below.

Advantages:

  • Many units are scalable without downtime.
  • Free up your server to run applications.
  • Can serve as a onsite repository for backup data.
  • Easy to install and manage.
  • Heterogeneous OS support.
  • Leverages existing network architecture.

Disadvantages:

  • Generally too slow for application data.
  • More challenging to backup.
  • Less flexible than a traditional server.
  • Not a good alternative to a SAN.
  • NAS systems tend to be proprietary.

How can a NAS deliver a good ROI?

  • Easy to install and to manage. Can reduce IT staff management and staff overhead. Frees them for other mission critical tasks.
  • Can eliminate or reduce the need for costly server upgrades.
  • Lower TCO than a traditional storage server.
  • Save wear and tear on your application servers.
  • Improve responsiveness to your users and increase their productivity.

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