I recently wrote about a survey by CDW in which the threat of data loss was identified as the key concern of IT managers in small and mid-sized businesses. Obviously, one simple and time-honed method of ensuring the integrity of business critical data would be to make sure it is regularly backed up.
I have suggested the use of cloud-based replication technology such as SugarSync to ensure the continuous protection of important data. SMBs not keen to leave their data in the clouds, though, probably want to employ a NAS device, or network attached storage device.
The prices of NAS have decreased dramatically over the years, in part due to falling costs of storage media. In fact, the last two months alone saw me writing about new NAS hardware launched from the likes of vendors such as HP, Cisco, Quantum and NAS-specialist Synology.
In the quest to acquire a suitable NAS for deployment at various offices or branch outlets, how does one make sense of all the jargon and features to correctly identify pertinent and useful features for your organization? Today, I shall highlight features that I consider to be important to an SMB.
There is no doubt that security has gained increasing importance for businesses around the globe. As your NAS will be storing confidential company data, I consider the use of SSL to protect the Web management interface a bare minimum. Support of protocols such as ssh for encryption of rsync data transfers would be excellent as well.
Ease of management
While a good NAS is definitely about the ability to reliably store data, it is by no means the only measure. SMBs with more than two dozen users will appreciate a proper management console from which users and permissions can be managed. SMBs that have deployed Active Directory will no doubt be looking for a NAS that supports it as well.
Because your NAS is likely to be switched on practically all the time, energy consumption starts becoming more important in terms of environmental impact and the energy bill. Look out for NAS appliances that can power down their storage drives when not in use; more advanced models can often be configured to switch off during non-office hours, bringing about greater savings.
There might be arguments from certain quarters about whether the capability to function as an iSCSI target is a truly necessary feature. While this was considered an advanced feature just a few short years ago, an increasing number of NAS come with such support, making it a de facto feature.
Ability to sync/back up to other NAS
The ability to sync with or back up to another NAS is crucial when it comes to replicating data to an off-site location. The risk of natural disaster, fire or terrorist attacks destroying a single physical device is entirely possible, and all too real. Storing a copy of the data with another NAS at another physical location is invaluable in ensuring data survivability. On this front, SMBs with multiple offices can configure their storage devices to periodically back up to a main unit over a VPN Internet connection.