What are NAS devices?NAS devices are a form of dedicated file storage that communicates over a network permitting for data storage and its retrieval from a centralized location to be accessed by authorized clients. NAS devices can technically be categorized as a type of file server. They have quickly become a convenient option for small and enterprise businesses alike because of their efficiency, low cost, and scalability for expansion or growth. While external hard drives are convenient and easily implemented and utilized as reliable storage, the majority of them are restricted to access via a direct USB connection. This limitation is not feasible for multi-client applications or enterprise level IT architectures where a high volume of users requires simultaneous file access or data storage, hence the popularity of their NAS device counterparts that are better suited for these environments. NAS devices also include their own manufacturer integrated operating system aiding in various backup and recovery services and even offering specialized functions such as operating as an email server using their branded software suites. Available in multiple form factors, capacities, and storage configurations, NAS devices also require less power than actual storage servers, promoting energy saving costs. With some models providing their own cloud-based service access, there are options for remote file accessibility as well. Some variations capable of hosting application services, but there are often limitations as to the types of programs and processes they are able to operate, thereby limiting software options. NAS devices often employ one or more storage drives that can be configured into redundant arrays of independent disks or RAID, a form of data virtualization that provides a redundant data storage option and improved fault tolerance. These devices also support a multitude of file protocols such as CIFS/SMB, FTP, NFS, AFS, HTTP, and SFTP making them versatile in their storage and accessibility.
What are the main differences between NAS devices and servers?Outside of the basic storage function both NAS devices and servers provide along with specialized functions NAS device manufacturers offer with their products that servers will easily be able to perform, there are few similarities between the two. A server is generally a high powered computer that is controlled by an operating system, most commonly a variation of Windows or Linux, serving as a centralized storage site for management of data files for clients over a network, much like a NAS device. However, NAS devices are dedicated to executing tasks of data management, accessibility, and backup redundancy while servers are able to handle the same responsibilities, and also perform other roles required within an organization as well. For an infrastructure that requires additional functionality such as centralized shared applications (e.g. shared desktops), website hosting, or creation of image backups to a local server, NAS devices are not able to handle these workloads while an actual server fits the bill quite well. Since servers do not have the same software limitations as their NAS storage counterparts, they provide much more flexibility for businesses to customize and develop a solution best suited for their needs. Because these are true servers, they are available with the full gamut of modern computing features such as:
- improved processing power
- lighting fast transfer rates
- large storage capacities and flash storage options
- expansion compatibility for growth or increased performance
- integrated RAID controllers for redundancy all with industry standardized server parts or add-ons