NAS stands for Network Attached Storage, and it’s usually compared to DAS, Direct Attached Storage. If you want to share information to a different operating system, transmit by TCP/IP, and hold greater capacity, you’ll want to use a NAS, which will essentially be like a small server.
If you’re a small business, or you’re working for one or more small businesses – you don’t need telling how essential data and data management is to your organization. Information needs to be readily available, both for your own business continuity, and in case your clients have quick questions that need detailed answers. Let’s talk about what a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device is, and what you can use it for in your business.
What’s the difference between NAS and DAS?
NAS and DAS are two types of storage device. While DAS will connect directly to your machine, for example a hard disk or a thumb drive, NAS is a storage device that can be accessed by multiple people, as it is held in a centralized location. A NAS device is a little like owning your own private cloud that anyone with authorization can access, rather than having on-premises storage. DAS devices are usually single user, and will allow small businesses to store data securely without a lot of upfront costs.
Who can I share data with using NAS?
If you have Network Attached Storage set up, you’ll be able to share data to all different users who are attached to the Local Area Network (LAN). The information will be shared by file level, and the NAS won’t be impacted by the operating system of any specific computer. You need to set up a sharing protocol such as NFS, AFP or CIFS which will allow anyone on the network who is authorized to access files that are shared via the NAS.
Is cloud storage the same as a NAS?
In recent years, the growth in cloud storage like Google Drive or iCloud is also a kind of Network Attached Storage, where companies can share and collaborate on files not attached to any specific operating system or machine. However, this will limit your ability to access information to when you have internet access, and it can cause privacy and security issues when information is sensitive or customer-facing. With a NAS, you’re not relying on a third-party, and you can tell clients or users that only you have the access and control over their information and files.
It’s also true that NAS is a faster option than using a cloud provider. On the cloud, your upload and download speeds will depend on your internet connection and host, while your NAS is on your own network and therefore only tied to your own network speed, plus the NAS hardware that you choose. You can also connect your NAS directly if you choose via ethernet to speed up the connection.
What is included in NAS?
NAS has a few different elements to it, starting with storage itself. Usually, a NAS device will have between two and five hard drives, which can increase capacity and help users to access their files faster and improve storage times. It’s usual to see NAS devices use 3.5 inch hard drives, which is a NAS-unique category for the requirements of constant usage.
Next, your NAS device will connect to your network via networking! You can rely on WiFi to connect, or you can use an ethernet cable. Unlike DAS, you don’t directly connect a NAS to your computer via USB, but you can usually back up the NAS device to other forms of storage using a USB.
Other elements of your NAS device will be the CPU itself which is used to read and write operations, process your files, and manage the users who are accessing the information, and the Operating System that runs any applications which will be available on the device.
How do I know which NAS to choose?
If you’re thinking about buying a NAS for your small or medium-sized business, you’ll want to think about a few key criteria:
- Form factor: This is the physical characteristics of the NAS that you choose, and with NAS devices you’re usually choosing between tower type cases, and rack-mount storage. If you’re looking to expand your business quickly – it makes sense to choose the rack type cases.
- Capacity: How many hard drives do you want the NAS to hold? The smallest ones start with just a single disk bay, but on the other side of the scale, you could see NAS devices that hold 16. Remember that your second drive will often be used as a back up for the first most critical drive, and so you might want to jump to 3 or 4 if you need more space.
- Processor: Your processor will dictate how performant your NAS is, and how quickly it runs. Devices vary in terms of how many cores they have, and you’ll need to consider how many users are accessing the NAS and how often. Just as a computer with more RAM will have better performance, so will a NAS. A quick formula you can use is to ensure you have 1GB RAM for each TB of storage.
- Extra features: Ask yourself, will you need WiFi, or do you plan to connect via ethernet cables? Do you need a certain level of security encryption? What are the NAS’ options for disaster recovery and incident response to get you back up and running in case of a disaster? Lastly, check with the provider what expertise and maintenance is necessary, especially if you’re using the NAS for a less tech-savvy client or customer.
That’s NAS! There are tons of options on the market for great Network Attached Storage and Direct Access Storage devices, so make sure to do your research with our handy checklist in tow!
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