Network Attached Storage (NAS): Introduction and Buyer's Guide

Network Attached Storage (NAS): Introduction and Buyer's Guide
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What most businesses actually require isn't more storage, but more structured storage and a well-managed backup process. For that, Network Attached Storage (NAS) fits the bill.

Offloading data from computers to disks is nothing new. All computers have their own storage capacity in the form of memory, and large hard disk or solid state drives for keeping local files safe. While NAS is technically a removable disk-based system, it actually falls somewhere in-between internal computer memory and portable user storage, and it services functionally as a centralized storage point for a small workgroup or network. 

Housed in desktop form factor cases and designed for SMB, these arrays resemble little desktop computers. NAS devices offer a great way for small and medium sized businesses to automatically backup their files, provide nearly unlimited storage capacity for a group of users, and even have the brains and processing power to address many of today's special needs, such as becoming the heart of a video surveillance system.

Why NAS For Business?

As businesses grow, the data they accumulate grows as well. Most of that data is likely going to be the unstructured type, meaning it's not all going to fit neatly into a database. Instead it will be data such as e-mails, text, photos, spreadsheets and perhaps even files in proprietary formats. If left unmanaged, these can quickly grow into an untenable mess.

From a business standpoint, it makes sense to centralize storage in one place, especially if that includes the ability to enforce policies about what can be saved and how. Businesses that make use of a properly managed NAS will also find that gathering data when needed is a lot easier than having to figure out where on hundreds of desktops and flash drives something might be located. Not being able to reproduce needed information quickly could mean the loss of a customer, or legal trouble for businesses subject to government regulation.

Another reason NAS is finding a home in business is because it offers a relatively easy way to provide for off-site backup. Some devices, such as the Netgear ReadyNAS series, make this backup process a central part of their operating system whereby NAS units at different branch offices can back up each other's data automatically, or send critical files to an even larger storage server at yet another location. So long as the devices are somewhat geographically dispersed, the data they protect should be immune to any disaster that affects a single business location.

NAS also offers an attractive solution for some businesses over a managed or cloud-based environment, because all data is kept in-house and completely under control of the business. It is thus inside corporate firewalls and physical security, and always ready to be accessed, or even erased, as needs arise.

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