Few months ago, a client of ours asked us whether to use a NAS or a File Server and what are the pros and cons of each solution. I thought this question could be very relevant for many small businesses looking for a shared storage solution that is cost effective. Which one would provide the best solution, depends entirely on the client budget, environment and his or her needs in terms of performance, security and control.
With that in mind, we also need to think about features and functions that should address other needs not outlined by the client yet but will come to surface in near future.
While a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device provides a low cost, easier to manage, centralized data storage and some level of access control features, a File Server provides a broader flexibility, customization of various types of policies and more advanced control over data access and network access. For instance with a Windows Server Active Directory you can configure series of policies that define who could access or share which network resources (not only data storage devices) on your network and with which privileges. Other important feature is the availability of vast number of different client-server applications and software such as ERP, CRM, print server, backup server etc. available for a server. In comparison, for a NAS device there will be only few specific applications usually provided by the NAS manufacturer or few third party providers.
Nevertheless, for a small business with low budget and few users, NAS provides an excellent solution that requires less management and maintenance and at a same time requires less time and technical knowledge to setup. Access to storage from outside is another feature that requires less configuration on a NAS device compare to an in-house File Server.
There are variety of NAS devices available in market that can range from few hundred dollars and up with redundant disks that provide a higher availability and less risk of losing data.
Another solution that would make sense to a small business is a Cloud Solution that provides servers and storage on a cloud at a fraction of what it would cost to have a file server in-house.
Senior IT Consultant
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