Today’s business generates a lot more data than in the past. For a small or medium-sized business storing this data, it can get pretty expensive pretty quickly. One way to store and manage all this data is by using Network attached storage (NAS). Today, we will define NAS and explain when it might be a good fit for your business.
What is Network Attached Storage?
It is exactly as the name suggests: a network-attached device that houses removable hard drives for easy data storage. Since the device is part of your network, data that is stored on a NAS-based hard drive will be accessible via the network, and typically can give you offsite access to the data. Your average NAS device is also configured to connect to a variety of cloud applications and storage options, providing your users quick and secure access to company data on nearly any device from anywhere that has an Internet connection.
NAS devices have become increasingly popular for home users and home offices. They are relatively inexpensive, and offer some scalability options to replace traditional external hard drives. For example, you might set up a NAS device to store all of your media, so you can access it from all of your different devices at home. We’re going to talk more about the business-related functions, but it’s important to understand that most consumer NAS devices fall short of what a business needs.
How to Choose the Right NAS Device?
Choosing the right NAS device can be difficult. Consumer-grade devices typically don’t come with all the bells and whistles that are integrated into commercial-grade ones. Often, NAS devices are built with specific functionality in mind–some might be designed for capturing surveillance, while others are designed for storing and dishing out documents.
Businesses can use NAS devices for many different functions, but typically it is to store important information and to give people who work with that information, access to it. Therefore NAS devices that have strong networking features written into their OS are targeted by small businesses for their relative ease of use and their cost effectiveness.
Additionally, when it comes to NAS, size and scalability matter. Most models are defined by the number of hard drive bays they support, which is pretty straightforward. Then it’s up to you to stock it with hard drives.
Since most NAS devices come with several storage bays, this means getting one that can store multiple terabytes of data, and even store it redundantly within the device itself is possible.
Here are some other considerations you are going to want to make when choosing a NAS device:
- Connectivity: Most NAS devices connect to a business’ network via ethernet. There are some devices that feature wireless connections, but that’s going to slow down access to your data, so you really need it wired to the network.
- Hard Drives: Unless the device comes bundled with hard drives already, you’ll want to make sure you get drives that are compatible with the device, and are also designed for NAS usage. Keep in mind, if this is the first place you are storing your data, you’ll want redundancy on the device. This means getting twice the storage you need and RAIDing the drives together.
- Software: The OS on a NAS device is typically some type of scaled-down Linux or Unix and may or may not need to be configured. Most top-of-the line units take users through the setup process pretty simply and have pre-set designations depending how your organization plans to use the device (file server, backup, cloud storage, etc.)
- Security: You will want to ensure that any NAS device you choose will be able to implement the necessary safeguards. You will want a unit that is capable of system-level encryption, access controls and monitoring, as well as some type of third-party security support. If your business needs to meet any specific types of compliance, you’ll need to account for that too.
- Uninterruptible Power Supply: Like any crucial piece of equipment on your network, don’t just plug your NAS device into the wall. You will want to get a UPS that is designed for NAS devices. Usually a NAS device will have a list of compatible UPS devices that will allow the NAS device to safely shut down if an outage were to occur.
When (And When Not) to Use a NAS Device
NAS devices are great. As we mentioned earlier, the home and home office can find great utility in them, and businesses can too. However, there are a lot of cases where adding another device on your network is impractical, when you already have servers that could be doing the same job.
Most office networks should already have a centralized server that dishes out network policies, hosts line of business applications, and more. In fact, many businesses might have several servers performing different tasks. Storing files is a relatively low-resource task for a server. All you need is the hard drive space. A NAS device might be a good bandage for when your current servers are maxed out, and you aren’t quite ready to upgrade them. Otherwise, it’s suggested to use your existing server hardware to store and dish out files.
That said, a NAS device might be the perfect fit for very specific cases. They are great for storing a lot of data relatively safely and reliably. That works great for camera systems that are constantly recording. If you have a project that requires some users to have local access to a large amount of shared data, a NAS device might be the right option before deploying a full server for it. It really depends on the specific situation.
To find out which option is right for your needs, call the IT professionals at CTN Solutions today at (610) 828- 5500.