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Evaluating NAS Gear for Mac Environments

Evaluating NAS Gear for Mac Environments

Mac users are increasingly turning to NAS for storage. Here are some important things to consider when evaluating network attached storage options for Mac environments.

Many businesses as well as individual users have found the advantage of using network attached storage (NAS) for backing up large files, maintaining network integrity and even as a key component of disaster recovery. Most NAS devices are made up of a series of traditional disks housed in either a desktop or rack-mounted configuration. They are tied together with some type of intelligent management program, normally with a simple graphical user interface, that allows for plug and play functionality for the home or individual user as well as tools for the network administrator to manage multiple clients.

Because NAS technology was originally designed to be deployed enterprise-wide at large businesses, it tended to favor those types of environments, which generally meant Windows-based computers and servers. Only relatively recently have individual consumers embraced NAS as a storage medium, which brings other operating systems to the NAS table, such as Mac and Linux. Of course Mac-based computers are also finding their way into enterprise environments these days, but few businesses actually deploy Mac-based computers enterprise wide. Likely, specific divisions or groups within a larger company may deploy Macs based on their user's job responsibilities, which muddies the waters a bit when it comes to choosing a NAS.

So within the Mac sphere of users, you have some individual people who need to back up large files from their desktop and who could make good use of a NAS. Then you have small to medium sized businesses that may be all-Mac, or which may have Macs deployed within a larger enterprise environment of Windows PCs -- a sort of SMB oasis within the larger network. Those groups could certainly make use of NAS technology, and it would be a real cost advantage if they could share the same NAS devices as the Windows clients.

Some large organizations may deploy all Mac clients, but because those are rarer, this guide will mostly focus on the other two cases, SMB or SMB hybrid type deployments and the needs of individuals who want to use NAS with their Mac. That said, many of the concerns and buying tips found at that level could still be helpful for larger groups. They would simply be purchasing a larger NAS device with a faster processor and more storage capacity.  

Going All Mac

In the category of nice extra features, a few companies have gone beyond the normal route of supplying access permissions for Macs and assumed that any office deploying NAS for Mac laptops and desktops is probably going to also be using mobile products like iPhones and iPads.

Seagate Technology produces a line of robust enterprise-focused NAS products while its subsidiary LaCie makes lines of easy to use NAS devices for the SMB market and individual users. Many of the NAS products offered by both companies allow for setup and monitoring through iOS devices. This is done through the Seagate Global Access and Seagate MyNAS apps, which can be downloaded and configured from the iTunes store. Once installed, it allows administrators who work with iPads and iPhones complete control over NAS equipment on their network, whether they are troubleshooting a problem, configuring a new user, providing technical support or simply checking to make sure that everything is running in the green.

It may not be a critical feature, but might make administering NAS equipment in a very heavy iOS environment that much easier.

Mac Users Embracing NAS

After speaking with a number of NAS companies that specialize in Mac support, everyone interviewed agreed that Mac users were increasingly turning to NAS for storage. File sizes aren't getting any smaller, and that is especially true for graphics and video files, things that Macs generally handle. That means that everyone from freelance graphic designers to entire marketing departments are looking for ways to securely store their files.

And although NAS technology has not always been totally Mac friendly, today there are many good choices for Mac users looking to make use of large capacity storage NAS devices that keep their data safely in-house and out of the cloud.

Let's look at three important considerations you should take when evaluating your NAS for Mac options.