NAS and storage area networks (SANs) are the two main types of networked storage. NAS handles unstructured data, such as audio, video, websites, text files and Microsoft Office documents.
Network-attached storage (NAS) is dedicated file storage that enables multiple users and heterogeneous client devices to retrieve data from centralized disk capacity. Users on a local area network (LAN) access the shared storage via a standard Ethernet connection. NAS devices typically do not have a keyboard or display and are configured and managed with a browser-based utility. Each NAS resides on the LAN as an independent network node, defined by its own unique Internet Protocol (IP) address.
What most characterizes NAS is ease of access, high capacity and fairly low cost. NAS devices provide infrastructure to consolidate storage in one place and to support tasks, such as archiving and backup, and a cloud tier.
NAS and storage area networks (SANs) are the two main types of networked storage. NAS handles unstructured data, such as audio, video, websites, text files and Microsoft Office documents. SANs are designed primarily for block storage inside databases, also known as structured data.
What network-attached storage is used for
NAS enables users to collaborate and share data more effectively, particularly work teams that are remotely located or in different time zones. A NAS connects to a wireless router, making it easy for distributed work environments to access files and folders from any device connected to the network. Organizations commonly deploy a NAS environment as the foundation for a personal or private cloud.
There are NAS products designed for use in large enterprises, as well as those for home offices or small businesses. Devices usually contain at least two drive bays, although single-bay systems are available for noncritical data. Enterprise NAS gear is designed with more high-end data features to aid storage management and usually comes with at least four drive bays.
Prior to NAS, enterprises had to configure and manage hundreds or even thousands of discrete file servers. To expand storage capacity, NAS appliances are outfitted with more or larger disks — known as scale-up NAS — or clustered together for scale-out storage.
While collaboration is a virtue of NAS, it can also be problematic. Network-attached storage relies on hard disk drives (HDDs) to serve data. Input/output (I/O) contention can occur when too many users overwhelm the system with requests at the same time. Newer NAS systems use faster flash storage, either as a tier alongside HDDs or in all-flash configurations.