Network-Attached Storage (NAS) allows access to storage drives via a network. While some organizations treat NAS as a form of backup, in reality, this is not what it is intended for.
To ensure your data is protected, and that you can restore it in case of a disaster, it is important to have an adequate backup strategy alongside your NAS system. In the following, we cover the basics of NAS, including the different types of NAS devices, and how it compares to the cloud. We then explain why you need a dedicated backup solution to complement your NAS, and describe the different approaches to achieving it.
In this article:
What Is NAS?
Network-Attached Storage (NAS) is a dedicated file storage system containing one or more storage drives that enable multiple users to collaborate and share data. This shared storage is accessed by users on a Local Area Network (LAN) via an Ethernet connection. NAS is designed primarily for handling unstructured data, such as audio, video, websites, text files, and Microsoft Office documents.
NAS Device Categories
There are three categories of NAS devices, based on drive capacity, drive support and scalability. Each category is suitable for different business sizes:
- Enterprise NAS: This is the high-end category. It is designed for enterprises that need to store large quantities of file data. Enterprise NAS provides rapid access and NAS clustering capabilities.
- Midmarket NAS: The NAS midmarket category is suitable for businesses that require several hundred terabytes (TB) of data. Midmarket NAS devices cannot be clustered.
- Desktop NAS: The low-end NAS device is for small businesses and home users that require local shared storage. This market is shifting toward a cloud NAS model.
NAS vs Cloud
NAS file storage can be extended or replaced by cloud-based file storage. There are three main factors to consider when you have to choose between them. These factors are cost, security and storage limitations:
- Cost: The cost of a NAS for small business varies, from about $500 to $1000 and more, depending on the features and storage space your business needs. When more storage is needed, you’ll have to pay for additional hard drives. On the other hand, cloud file storage solutions are based on a monthly fee. The more storage space you need, the more you’ll pay. 1TB of storage typically costs about $95 per month. The cloud solution avoids the initial investment purchasing a NAS requires and the costs associated with buying more hard drives, but you’ll pay a monthly storage fee.
- Security: When NAS is used, the fact that you host the files on your own hardware, gives you full control over data security. NAS offers data redundancy and protection options, along with data encryption and user access controls. When you use a cloud service, the cloud provider is responsible for your data security. Using the cloud, you relieve yourself of data security, but when giving control of your data security to another party, there’s always a chance your data may be stolen or damaged. Several NAS vendors offer the option of backing up your data to the cloud for added redundancy and protection.
- Storage limitations: NAS devices have storage limitations, which are determined by their architecture. When more storage is needed, the hard drives can be replaced. Using cloud storage, there is no need to worry about running out of storage space. You would upgrade your plan with your cloud provider when more storage space is needed.
Why You Need NAS Backup Solutions
The data NAS devices store is essential to the daily operations of your business. NAS devices need to be protected in order to ensure that the data is safe and can be retrieved in any situation such as device failure, human error, and natural disasters. Here are the 4 reasons why you should use NAS backup solutions:
- You cannot lose critical data━NAS devices hold valuable business assets. Permanent data loss can be very risky for your business. By backing up the data on your NAS device, you’ll be able to recover it quickly and with the least financial impact.
- NAS cannot be your only backup solution━NAS devices are intended as storage devices, but some businesses mistakenly use them as backup solutions. NAS devices should never be the only backup a business relies on. This is because they are vulnerable to threats including flood, fire, device failure, and physical damage. Off-site cloud backup is the most recommended backup solution. By backing up your NAS device to an off-site location that can be accessed via the cloud, you’ll be able to access your data and will allow your staff to minimize downtime due to data loss.
- Bounce back from collaboration & syncing errors━when documents and files are shared company-wide and multiple users have access to them, file changes are bound to get overwritten. NAS backup solution provides unlimited file version histories, and your team will be able to search your backup to find the exact version of any document you need. In the case where your NAS device is infected by a ransomware virus that encrypts all of your data, your work can be restored from the previous file versions held within your backup.
Approaches to NAS Backup
NAS appliances run proprietary operating systems optimized for storage performance. You cannot install and use the usual backup software agents on a NAS device. Here are four common NAS backup strategies:
- Online data backup━some NAS device vendors have combined the performance of the local NAS device with the reliability of online backup using cloud storage services.
- NAS-based data replication━this backup strategy produces a duplicate copy of the data stored on a NAS device at a second NAS device. Vendors use a combination of local and remote replication.
- NDMP backup━the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) is a protocol that was created specifically for NAS device backups. NDMP allows a NAS device to send data directly to a backup server across the network without the need for backup client intervention. In this way the backup server communicates directly with the NAS appliance, indicating which storage device data can be sent to for backup. NDMP backups are best-suited for file data.
- Traditional network-based backup━a traditional network-based backup is based on backup agents installed on all the servers that access storage on a NAS device. The data is sent to a backup server across the network. This is the traditional client-server backup strategy. This approach is not the most effective of the NAS backup strategies. It increases network traffic because data must travel on the network from the NAS devices to the client and again from the client to the backup server. In cases where a NAS device is used as a file server shared by multiple systems, the backup software on each system can create multiple backup copies of the same files.
Data Management with Cloudian
One of the biggest challenges in data storage is unstructured data management. Typically, over 60% of NAS data is “cold” – it hasn’t been accessed in the past year. Cold data consumes expensive capacity and data backup resources.
Cloudian integrates with data lifecycle management solutions that let you immediately reclaim that space by moving cold data to on-premises Cloudian storage. Users see no change in data access. When a migrated file is requested, the data is automatically returned to the appliance for transparent user access.
The Cloudian solution is completely transparent to users. Throughout the data lifecycle, your users see no change in data access. When a migrated file is requested, the data is automatically returned to the NAS device for transparent user access. The Cloudian solution benefits include:
- Immediately free up NAS capacity
- Delay costly capacity expansions
- Reduce NAS costs by 50% or more
- Reduce backup times by 60%
- Transparent to users, both when data is archived and when retrieved
- Fast data retrieval