In "Adopting a NAS Strategy for your SMB," I wrote about the important features that a small and mid-sized business planning to deploy these storage appliances would want. As the list was already long, I mentioned only those that I considered to be the bare minimum.
New NAS models are constantly released by the various vendors though, and many of them come with advanced capabilities not found just a year or two ago. I examined them, and highlighted some of the more pertinent and noteworthy features below.
Once the exclusive domain of SANs, this feature is gradually filtering down in price to the NAS level. Of course, you need to determine whether the premium -- and possible slow-down -- of deduplication is worth any storage efficiency that can be gleaned from anything other than a high-end NAS. Depending on the compression ratio gained and preferred backup regime, this might be invaluable to some SMBs.
Replication Capability for Workstations
While training employees to save work-related documents in folders on the NAS for backup is a good strategy, this is starting to become less viable due to the market penetration of laptops and increase in teleworking. In addition, acquiring the necessary VPN hardware and robust Internet connectivity to remotely access the files on the NAS can be costly, too.
An alternative strategy would be to replicate files stored on local machines to the NAS. Since the file copy is saved locally, it does not matter if the Internet connection to the NAS occasionally fails - the replication can continue once connectivity is reestablished. Not having to cater for high-availability Internet will result in savings in this instance. On this front, at least one NAS model that I saw comes bundled with free real-time replication software that can be used for this purpose.
On-Board, Hardware-Accelerated Encryption
While it is possible to perform data encryption using archival software, this typically makes backups take longer or decreases the performance of the client workstation. Where possible, opt for NAS with on-board encryption support as it can perform encryption at much faster speeds, especially so if the device sports hardware-assisted encryption. Encryption is a robust defense against vendors or business partners simply walking away with one of the HDDs.
Support for Synchronizing with Cloud Storage
Beyond setting up multiple NAS hardware at various locations and configuring them to periodically back up their data to one another, another idea would be to back up the NAS directly to a cloud-based service such as Amazon S3.
This allows SMBs to do away with the hassle of firewall or VPN configurations required for NAS-to-NAS backup. Also, some cloud-based services have extremely high levels of redundancy, which can bolster data survivability as another layer of backup for data that simply cannot be lost.