Tips for Checking Out NAS Filers for Storage


Tips for Checking Out NAS Filers for Storage

If your network has a mix of clients, servers, and operations, then network-attached storage may be what you need. These tips will help you choose just the right NAS filer.

Network-attached storage (NAS), a concept of shared storage on a network, consists of a standalone storage device (filer) with its own operating system and integrated hardware and software. An NAS filer communicates using Network File System (NFS) for Unix environments, Common Internet File System (CIFS) for Microsoft Windows environments, FTP, HTTP, and other networking protocols.

NAS filers are well suited for networks that have a mix of clients, servers, and operations. NAS filers can handle a variety of tasks, such as Web caching and proxy, firewall, audio-video streaming, tape backup, and data storage with file serving.

NAS filers are simple and relatively easy to buy. However, you need to keep track of a lot of variables to get just the right NAS filer. Following is a guide to what to look for in a NAS filer.

NAS Filer Features to Look For

  • Storage Capacity--NAS filers can range in capacity from a few GB to 10 TB. Small NAS filers are good for setting up quick storage for a project or for a specific application with limited storage requirements. The larger NAS filers are good for an organization's mainstream data storage.

  • Redundancy--If you're going to use an NAS filer for mainstream storage, look for the same redundancy features you would expect from server-attached storage. If you can't find an NAS filer that fits your needs, then consider connecting a high-performance RAID storage system to a thin server and using the protocols (such as NFS and CIFS) that an NAS filer supports

  • Backups--If your NAS filer will be storing critical data, make sure you can connect a backup device such as tape drive or tape library to the NAS filer. Some NAS filers have dedicated SCSI ports just for backups, and other NAS filers have the option to connect to a storage-attached network.

  • Expandability--Many NAS filers come as sealed systems that can't be modified or upgraded. This design feature makes a low-cost NAS filer simple and reliable. However, if you expect your storage needs to grow, look for NAS filers that can be easily expanded and or modified. Keep in mind that large numbers of small NAS filers can make storage management difficult.

  • Network protocols--One of the advantages of an NAS filer is that it fits well into heterogeneous networks. Make sure an NAS filer will support all the networking protocols your organization uses.

  • Management options--Most NAS filers support management via a browser interface. Some NAS filers let you manage storage through a console directly connected to the filer, and others support management via the old telnet protocol. Having these other management options lets you work on the NAS filer even when your network is down. They can also make it easier to install or re-install an NAS filer. //

Elizabeth M. Ferrarini is a free-lance author based in Arlington, Massachusetts.


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