Make Data Storage and Backup Part of Your Business Strategy
Continuing our theme of Backup and Restore, in this blog we will talk about Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. In our previous blogs we talked about creating a backup strategy for your business, and evaluated cloud backup services; this piece addresses Network Attached Storage thus covering the onsite data storage/backup part of your strategy. As we mentioned in our previous blog, having an onsite backup is an important part of your backup strategy as it helps you recover from a disaster quickly. This is especially handy in case you have lost access to the internet and consequently to your cloud service provider.
If you are familiar with NAS, you can skip directly to our product evaluation below where we list the best NAS devices as of 2018. However, if you are new to them, don’t worry as we will briefly cover the following topics:
What is NAS?
Why do small business owners need NAS?
What to consider when buying a NAS?
Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices provide a convenient way to offload and/or backup your files from your computer while maintaining access to those files from anywhere. Unlike external hard drives that need to be plugged into your drive, network-attached storage (NAS) device is a high capacity storage device that is connected to your network and therefore is accessible to anyone on your network.
With the exponential growth in data, high definition photos, videos, etc. small businesses are in constant need of larger and larger volumes of storage. NAS is invaluable for small and medium businesses as it allows easy scalability by adding storage space at affordable prices instead of expensive server upgrades. The business-grade NAS devices are not simply shared storage devices but offer a range of features that are handy as well as versatile.
What to consider when buying a NAS?
Storage Capacity - This one is straightforward to decide for the present, however you would want to plan for the future and keep sufficient spare capacity. 12 to 20TB is usually sufficient for small businesses.
Wired vs WiFi - A wired gigabit connection to your network is always preferable to WiFi. Even though NAS devices come with inbuilt WiFi you don’t actually need to shell out extra cash to get that. Wired will give you better performance and greater reliability.
With Disks or Diskless - NAS drives are available in both pre-populated (i.e. with disk drives) or diskless (i.e. you will need to purchase hard drives separately). This has more to do with the manufacturers, some of which are hard drive manufacturers that sell NAS devices with disks included (such as Seagate and Western Digital) while some other companies offer diskless devices (such as Synology and QNAP). Cost and sourcing should be the guiding criteria here.
Software - Most NAS appliances use stripped down version of UNIX or LINUX. Some devices run Windows Storage Server, which is ideal for those who feel more comfortable with the Windows interface. Some devices also have the option to virtualize any OS you like. Your choice of software would depend on how you plan to use the NAS - whether you want to run only backup and storage jobs, file sharing and IP SAN services, or web services requiring tough encryptions. Choose a NAS device and OS that can handle your requirements.
Here is a list of our Top 3 NAS drives:
1) Synology NAS (Our Choice)
Synology DiskStation is our top choice for small business NAS requirements. Synology has carved out a reputation as the best NAS manufacturer for small and medium businesses as they offer plenty of options that will definitely fulfill your needs. Even though it is easy to install, it offers a number of advanced features that your IT team will definitely appreciate. The Synology DiskStation supports numerous RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configurations as well as JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks), which treats each drive as a separate drive letter. The only issue you may have is that it doesn’t come pre-populated with hard drives, however, your reseller can include the drives if you are buying your NAS from one.
In addition, the DiskStation offers 4K video transcoding, a generous selection of ports as well as loads of apps. Synology NAS offers robust security through its DiskStation Manager (DSM) that protects against data loss and security breaches. The Synology DiskStation is a feature rich and versatile NAS that delivers reliable performance.
Western Digital My Cloud series offers a variety of NAS devices targeted at home users as well as small businesses. The My Cloud Pro Series is geared more towards business users and offers up to 40 TB of storage. These come with 2-4 bays and hence have the redundancy that adds a layer of data security that businesses require. This Western Digital NAS is easy to set up, offers simple remote access via the My Cloud service. It also has 4K media streaming and transcoding facilities.
Although it is compatible with Mac supports Adobe Creative Cloud, it lacks in that it does not support Google Drive or Microsoft Onedrive and the app support is also limited. The WD My Cloud Pro Series is a great option if your primary requirement is video streaming only. However, the limited number of apps is a big hindrance for most other business requirements.
If your data storage/ backup requirements are small, then Seagate Personal may be right for you. It offers capacities of 3, 4 and 5TB. It comes pre-populated with a hard drive and more importantly it sets itself up on the network automatically. That’s right, it registers itself on your network without any intervention from you. For those with limited IT knowledge, this feature makes it a great NAS. Further, Seagate NAS offers robust media streaming capabilities as well as comprehensive backup apps.
Owing to its single drive mechanism, Seagate Personal Cloud lacks redundancy. This may be a dealbreaker unless a copy of your data resides elsewhere, such as your computer also. Moreover, the drive is not swappable, therefore, you cannot expand the capacity if you need to. All things considered, the Seagate NAS offers great value for money but due to the lack of redundancy poses far greater a risk for us to recommend it to businesses.
So, which NAS is best for your small business?
It may be tempting to save a few dollars by buying a 2 bay NAS instead of a 4 bay device. Spending a few extra dollars now can save you a lot of headaches and cost in the future. So you ought to plan for the present as well as future demands. You can also consider buying a NAS device that offers the possibility of swapping the drives, so expanding the storage capacity will be an option. However, keep in mind compatibility requirements when purchasing hard drives for your NAS.
Don’t forget the cloud. Even if you have redundancy built in your NAS device, it cannot save you from data disaster if your original and backup are in the same location. In case you have offices in multiple locations then having on-site and off-site copies provide you with a safeguard against loss of location due to a disaster. Nevertheless, the cloud backup services provide your business the safety of near 100% uptime.
Finally, your choice of NAS should be guided by your requirements - whether you need storage/backup, remote access, mail or web server, streaming videos, or sharing and collaborating with colleagues. Therefore, choosing the right one requires a decent understanding of the features and options available. If you are not sure which NAS is best for your small business, it is advisable to consult an expert.
If you found this useful, you should also check out our 5 Best Cloud Backup Solutions for Small Business for even more IT tips for your business. Also if you'd like to learn more about backups, call or email Jones IT today!