Network-attached storage (NAS) stores company files in offices and data centers, pooling file storage, so it’s available from a single location. NAS systems reduce search times required for storage employees to locate data stored on different devices and arrays.
Companies use NAS systems to store large amounts of data; they can hold terabytes of enterprise files. The business storage market needs experienced storage professionals who can configure, use, and secure NAS systems effectively.
Enterprise Storage Forum interviewed Will Davis of NAS and SAN provider Synology, based in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on his insights on the network-attached storage market and advice for storage personnel:
Davis is the director of business development for the Americas at Synology. His career in technology has spanned over 11 years. As a director of the Americas, he works with other leaders across the company to define Synology’s strategic direction.
The NAS market
Enterprise Storage Forum: How did you first start working in the storage networking market, specifically with NAS technology?
Davis: I started my technology career as an IT service intern back in 2011 right after my mother’s company was almost put out of business. Her company that she had built for 20 years was breached and $1 million dollars was embezzled from her. I felt first-hand the need for education around data storage protection in the business space. If she had the right backup infrastructure and security practices, a lot of stress would have been prevented. This incident, although bad, set me on my career path.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is your favorite thing about working at Synology?
Davis: Aside from working with a passionate team each day, I love that Synology is changing what people expect a NAS should be capable of. Ten years ago, NAS only meant storage. Now people know that a Synology NAS is more like an application server that offers full end-to-end disaster recovery (DR) solutions, including software, hardware, and integration with cloud storage. It is exciting to be a part of a company that is leading that charge.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What sets Synology’s NAS approach or solutions apart from the competition?
Davis: Two things: We like to say that Synology is a software company first. With our DiskStation Manager (DSM) operating system and our C2 cloud services, we’re able to provide a full end-to-end disaster recovery solution for businesses. We cover everything from local backups to off-site disaster recovery and cloud archiving all in one ecosystem. It is rare that a product can consolidate several business solutions into one vendor, especially in the storage market. I think that approach to developing our product lines is truly unique in this space.
Second, all of Synology’s software within DSM is included with the hardware and completely license-free. This is a disruptive move in the enterprise backup space, as most vendors charge monthly fees for the use of their software, and in many cases, their solutions require additional training for end users. Just the other day, a university IT admin said they were finally able to back up data from their entire fleet of virtual machines (VMs) — for the first time — as they were no longer constricted by as many licensing fees.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one key NAS technology that particularly interests you?
Davis: Business continuity/disaster recovery solutions are fascinating to me, because each deployment is a different spectrum of protection. Every business has different data utilization needs and requirements around what a disaster recovery solution looks like. Whether a business is planning for a local disaster, like accidentally deleted data, or recovering from a ransomware attack, I know we can help — it just comes down to finding the right mix that meets each business’s recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) goals.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one NAS technique that teams should implement?
Davis: As a part of Synology’s end-to-end disaster recovery solutions, we frequently suggest businesses have off-site NAS redundancy at a second location. Right now, most companies are moving towards the cloud for archiving local data. However, the cloud should be considered only one part of a full disaster recovery solution. If it is your business’ only backup location, pulling large amounts of data from the cloud can make recovery take days or weeks because of bandwidth limitations. Businesses don’t typically have that kind of time to get back up and running, so having the data available locally at a second location allows for much faster data mobility and can drastically reduce business downtime.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one NAS strategy that companies should implement?
Davis: Configuring your NAS to back up cloud data is something I think all hybrid businesses should implement. The pandemic drastically increased use of cloud services, like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, in businesses, and it’s critical to remember that those files need to be backed up too. Over this last year, we’ve seen 34% growth in deployments of our Active Backup suite, a software that focuses largely on backing up enterprise cloud accounts. To date, that software is backing up over six million SaaS user accounts, and we don’t see that slowing down as more businesses move to hybrid cloud configurations. Unfortunately, what many businesses don’t know is that cloud providers aren’t actually responsible for backing up users’ data, and they state as much in their service agreements. Cloud data is far from immutable, so backing it up to a NAS is an excellent technique to protect your business.
Read more about network-attached storage trends.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is the biggest NAS mistake you see enterprises making?
Davis: I think enterprises pay more than they should for storage infrastructure. Storage has become more cost efficient in recent years, but businesses are still used to the old cost structures. My advice to enterprises is to do some additional research outside of the vendors you’re normally familiar with. You might find something that is not only more cost efficient, but also a solution that aligns with your backup and disaster recovery goals more closely.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What are some current trends in the NAS market that are promising?
Davis: In this sector, the question is no longer cloud storage or local storage, but rather what is the right mix of cloud and local storage for your organization? Companies want to transition to a combination of on-site, off-site, and cloud backups without drastically increasing management complexity, and NAS has emerged as the hub for those hybrid cloud environments. This is why we’re taking the end-to-end approach in this market — businesses need something that can tackle every portion of a complete backup strategy in order to make this transition effectively.
The more that technology evolves, the more data storage requirements change and grow. Whether it’s new 3D MRI imaging technology or 8K footage becoming the standard in the filmmaking industry, businesses need more space each year to store, analyze, and access their data. Currently, we see access and transfer needs outgrowing the bandwidth limitations of cloud deployments, and these limitations are causing companies to pull data back down from the cloud and transition to a hybrid environment with NAS at its core.
Read more about the network-attached storage market.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What are the biggest factors that are driving change in the NAS market?
Davis: The biggest driving factors are twofold: the ever-evolving use and growth of data but equally as important are the cybersecurity threats that businesses face today. The prevalence of ransomware attacks continues to increase, and it’s an unfortunate reality that businesses need to prepare for. A great way to protect yourself against attacks is to develop a complete end-to-end disaster recovery plan. That way, when a ransomware attack encrypts your data, you can quickly and easily restore to a previously saved version of your data. This allows businesses to get back up and operational in minutes without ever paying a ransom fee.
Enterprise Storage Forum: How has NAS technology changed during your time in the market?
Davis: In addition to the shift towards hybrid environments, the need for highly available storage infrastructure is growing. Companies of all sizes are now more regularly using data to drive decision making and daily operations. The desire to get as close to 100% storage up time is no longer limited to the enterprise space. This demand has driven us to develop more accessible solutions with high availability as well as continue to develop products that have no single point of failure. We recently announced our plans for our own scale-out storage clusters, and it will be exciting to see how our next-generation NAS changes this part of the industry.
Enterprise Storage Forum: Where do you predict the NAS market will be 5 or 10 years from now?
Davis: I see the NAS market growing dramatically as young technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) become more widely adopted. Emerging tech like this requires massive amounts of storage and fast, large-scale data exchange between end points. At the same time, companies will need flexibility and on-demand expansion as their data requirements rapidly expand. I think this speaks to the potential for hybrid cloud environments and how the demand will grow for more powerful and capable NAS to manage that infrastructure.
Personnel in storage networking
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one technology your team wants NAS professionals to know?
Davis: Active Backup for Business, a Synology backup application, is a product that can accomplish all of a company’s RTO and RPO needs completely license-free. It backs up everything from Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace data to virtual machines and employee PCs. This is a full-featured software package that is disrupting the backup industry and all IT professionals should know about it.
Enterprise Storage Forum: If you could give one piece of advice to a storage networking professional in the beginning of their career, what would it be?
Davis: Learn to sell internally. As an IT admin, you know all the possible threats to your company’s data and part of that is making a compelling business case in order to get the budget to effectively protect the company. Make sure your requests and concerns are visible! I think a healthy thorn in the company’s side is the best and most helpful kind of IT admin.
Enterprise Storage Forum: With the shortage of tech talent, how is your team finding and retaining professionals to work in storage networking, specifically with NAS technology?
Davis: Every person in a company is seeking fulfillment around the mastery of craft, ownership, and/or purpose. Leadership on my team spends time asking questions, listening and identifying what each of our professionals is looking for. Aligning your business goals with the individual’s focus is key to retention and strong performance in the market. From my perspective, developing a good culture and investing time in people creates a loyal team.
Enterprise Storage Forum: For the greatest business impact, what should storage networking professionals be focusing on most in their roles?
Davis: Learn to automate processes, so you can focus on new projects and give yourself time to tackle problems when they arise.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one of your top professional accomplishments?
Davis: Providing consultation on a deployment that directly saved a business from a ransomware attack. An attack is always bad news, but when you hear how we helped keep our customer’s business running, it feels good.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is your favorite part of working in the NAS market?
Davis: I genuinely feel that I am helping people protect what they have built every day. Many companies don’t realize just how fragile their storage infrastructure can be and how much of an impact it has on their business. One single employee clicking on the wrong link can be the end of their business. I enjoy helping make businesses just a little less vulnerable.
Enterprise Storage Forum: What is one of your favorite parts of the work week? How does it encourage or inspire you?
Davis: Two years ago, we launched a continuing education program for our internal Technical Account Management Team. Each week, we all get into a room, post a solution architecture challenge, and break into five teams to solve a build. It’s fun and loud and can get heated, as people have different opinions on what should and shouldn’t be prioritized to solve the challenge. Each week, I am inspired by how invested this team is in providing the perfect build for a customer. We have a passionate team here at Synology, and it’s always exciting to see them in action stuffed into one room.
Enterprise Storage Forum: Do you have a favorite way to recharge during the workday?
Davis: For me, I am mission-driven and staying connected to the customer keeps me energized. In a leadership position, if effort is not made to stay connected, it can feel distant at times. I make time each day to speak with my team one on one about their customer wins. Feeling the impact that we are having on businesses through the excitement of the team helps me recharge.
Learn about network-attached storage security practices next.