Network Attached Storage (NAS)

Diagram of network attached storage (NAS) system.

What is Network Attached Storage?

Network Attached Storage (NAS) system is a storage device connected to a network that allows storage and retrieval of data from a centralized location for authorized network users and heterogeneous clients. These devices generally consist of an engine that implements the file services (NAS device), and one or more devices on which data is stored (NAS drives).

The purpose of a NAS system is to provide a local area network (LAN) with file-based, shared storage in the form of an appliance optimized for quick data storage and retrieval. NAS is a relatively expensive storage option, so it should only be used for hot data that is accessed the most frequently.

NAS Storage Benefits

Network attached storage devices are used to remove the responsibility of file serving from other servers on a network and allows for a convenient way to share files among multiple computers. Benefits of dedicated network attached storage include:

  • Faster data access
  • Easy to scale up and expand upon
  • Remote data accessibility
  • Easier administration
  • OS-agnostic compatibility (works with Windows and Apple-based devices)
  • Built-in data security with compatibility for redundant storage arrays
  • Simple configuration and management (typically does not require an IT pro to operate)

NAS File Access Protocols

Network attached storage devices are often capable of communicating in a number of different file access protocols, such as:

  • Network File System (NFS)
  • Server Message Block (SMB)
  • Apple Filing Protocol (AFP)
  • Common Internet File System (CIFS)

Most NAS devices have a flexible range of data storage systems that they’re compatible with, but you should always ensure that your intended device will work with your specific data storage system.

Enterprise NAS Storage Applications

In an enterprise, a NAS array can be used as primary storage for storing unstructured data and as backup for archiving or disaster recovery. It can also function as an email, media database or print server for a small business. Higher-end NAS devices can hold enough disks to support RAID, a storage technology that allows multiple hard disks into one unit to provide better performance times, redundancy, and high availability.

Data on NAS systems is often mirrored (replicated) to another NAS system, and backups or snapshots of the footprint are kept on the NAS for weeks or months. This leads to at least three or more copies of the data being kept on expensive NAS storage.  NAS storage does not need to be used for disaster recovery and backup copies as this can be very costly.   By finding and archiving cold data from NAS, you can eliminate the extra copies of cold data and cut cold data costs by over 70%. Check out our video on NAS storage savings to get a more detailed explanation of how this concept works in practice.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) Data Tiering and Data Archiving

Since NAS storage is typically designed for higher performance and can be expensive, data on NAS is often tiered and moved to less expensive storage classes.  NAS vendors offer some basic data tiering at the block-level to provide limited savings on storage costs, but not on backup and DR costs.  Unlike the proprietary block-level tiering, file-level tiering or archiving provides a standards-based, non-proprietary solution to maximize savings by moving cold data to cheaper storage solutions. This can be done transparently so users and applications do not see any difference when cold files are archived.  Read this white paper to learn more about the differences between file tiering and block tiering.

Network Attached Storage FAQ

These are some of the most commonly asked questions we get about network attached storage systems.

How are NAS drives different than typical data storage hardware?

NAS drives are specifically designed for constant 24×7 use with high reliability, built-in vibration mitigation, and optimized for use in RAID setups. Network attached storage systems also benefit from an abundance of health management systems designed to keep them running smoothly for longer than a standard hard drive would.

Which features are the most important ones to have in a NAS device?

The ideal NAS devices have multiple (2+) drive bays, should have hardware-level encryption acceleration, offer support for widely used platforms such as AWS glacier and S3, and have moderately powerful multicore CPU’s with at least 2GB of ram to pair with it. If you’re looking for these types of features, Seagate and Western Digital are some of the most reputable brands in the NAS industry.

Are there any downsides to using NAS storage?

NAS storage systems can be quite expensive when they’re not optimized to contain the right data, but this can be remedied with an analytics-driven NAS data management software, like Komprise Intelligent Data Management.

Using NAS Data Management Tools to Substantially Reduce Storage Costs

One of the biggest issues organizations are facing with NAS systems is trouble understanding which data they should be storing on their NAS drives and which should be offloaded to more affordable types of storage. To keep storage costs lower, an analytics-based NAS data management system can be implemented to give your organization more insight into your NAS data and where it should be optimally stored.

For the thousands of data-centric companies we’ve worked with, most of them needed less than 20% of their total data stored on high-performance NAS drives. With a more thorough understanding of their NAS data, organizations are able to realize that their NAS storage needs may be much lower than they originally thought, leading to substantial storage savings, often greater than 50%, in the long run.

Komprise makes it possible for customers to know their NAS and S3 data usage and growth before buying more storage. Explore your storage scenarios to get a forecast of how much could be saved with the right data management tools. This is what Komprise Dynamic Data Analytics provides
Network-attached storage (NAS) is a type of file computer storage device that provides a local-area network with file-based shared storage. This typically comes in the form of a manufactured computer appliance specialized for this purpose, containing one or more storage devices.

Network attached storage devices are used to remove the responsibility of file serving from other servers on a network, and allows for a convenient way to share files among multiple computers. Benefits of dedicated network attached storage include faster data access, easier administration, and simple configuration.
In an enterprise, a network attached storage array can be used as primary storage for storing unstructured data, and as backup for archiving or disaster recovery. It can also function as an email, media database or print server for a small business. Higher end network attached storage devices can hold enough disks to support RAID, a storage technology that allows multiple hard disks into one unit to provide better performance times, redundancy, and high availability.

Data on NAS systems is often mirrored (replicated) to another NAS system, and backups or snapshots of the footprint are kept on the NAS for weeks or months. This leads to at least three or more copies of the data being kept on expensive NAS storage.

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