What are the features to consider in small business NAS offerings?

Network attached storage appliances meant for Small to Medium sized businesses have become feature rich in recent years and so their adoption rate has increased to many folds. So, for those who are interested in knowing “What are the features to consider in small business NAS offerings, hope the following points help in taking a wise decision.

Solid-State Drive support – SSDs support NAS appliance vendors in many ways. This media can be used for normal data storage or for caching. Some vendors design their NAS appliance primarily for hard disk drives, but include a drive bay specifically designed to accommodate an SSD for caching purposes. The appliance automatically transfers hot data to the SSD so it can be read as quickly as possible. Some vendors also use part of the SSD storage for caching write operations.

Flexible storage support – When shopping for a NAS appliance, one should make sure that the appliance is flexible enough to grow with your business. This means you should be able to use whatever drives you want, assuming they are physically able to connect to the appliance’s storage controller. For example, if an IT department is buying a NAS for a small and medium scale business, they should go for an appliance that can be upgraded to larger capacity drives in future or make them switch to SSD storage.

Scalability – Obviously your enterprise data storage needs grow along with your business growth. So, after keeping in mind the enterprise storage needs of future, the IT head should shop for a NAS which supports the scalability term to a high point. Scale up NAS storage appliance are now past and scale out NAS storage appliances are future. So, go for a NAS appliance which delivers unprecedented performance and scalability. StoneFly Super Scale OUT NAS Storage appliances and StoneFly Twin Scale Out NAS storage appliances will be a good option to consider as they can support up to 1PB storage capacities.

Supported Protocols – Most NAS appliances which are aimed at small and medium scale businesses support CIFS or NFS protocols, while some support Server Message Block (SMB). Some NAS appliances support the Apple Filing Protocol and a few like StoneFly Unified Scale Out (USO™) Storage Appliances support iSCSI block storage. Thus, if the IT head is unsure which protocol will support his/her organizations future storage needs, they can go for a Unified Storage which supports CIFS NFS and iSCSI storage protocols making it to be a file storage and/or a block level storage.

Thin Provisioning – Depending on how you plan to use the NAS appliance, thin provisioning may or may not be an important feature to have. If you plan to configure a NAS appliance as a file server, it probably isn’t necessary to thin provision. But if you plan to create a number of different volumes on the appliance, than thin provisioning will prove as a necessity.

Flexible data protection – Most vendors offer NAS appliances with only few data storage protection abilities. Like RAID 1 or RAID 0 and at the most RAID 5. But go for only such appliance which offers the flexibility to choose storage architecture of your choice. Better to for NAS appliances which support RAID 0, RAID1, three-way mirroring, RAID 5, RAID 6 and RAID 10. Some provide the option of designating a disk as a hot spare that can take over in the event of a disk failure. Remember, the number of drive bays in the appliance plays a major role in the storage architectures supported.

In-built battery backup – Always go for a NAS appliances which has an in-built battery backup. The battery backup cuts down the risk if data is striped across multiple disks. Some vendors build a backup battery into their appliances as a way of preventing data loss during power outages. Note- If you’re NAS does not include a backup battery, you should make sure to budget for an uninterruptible power supply.

Alerting Mechanism – No matter what the purpose was to buy a NAS, it should have the software intelligence to gauge the status of the disks. This will help in providing storage redundancy to prevent data loss in the event of a disk failure. Coming to the reporting of disk health, vendors take a variety of approaches to give their best in this segment. It’s best to look for a product that conveys its health status through colored lights, email messages, or an integrated display. Some vendors offer web consoles which require periodic login to initiate alert mechanisms. But better to go for a vendor which offers an alerting mechanism which does not require admin effort.

So, there are a number of features that must be considered while shopping for a NAS appliance meant for a small business environment. At the same time there are also major differences between various NAS vendor offerings. Hence, it’s important to take time to choose an appliance that will meet your needs on a perfect note.

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