Innovative has been engaged in multiple projects with new clients recently where we are finding Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are being leveraged to house production-environment, mission-critical data. NASs were seen as an attractive alternative to an actual Windows file server due to their relatively low cost. However, in large workgroup environments, NASs can difficult to maintain and administer for many reasons, such as:
- Security: Although most new NASs can integrate with a Windows domain environment, file and share permissions can be difficult to maintain and can result in end users gaining access to resources to which they should not have access.
- Migration: If data is to be subsequently moved to an actual Windows file server, maintaining folder shares and permissions becomes difficult and in most cases has to be recreated.
- Backup and Recovery: We’ve seen backup configured to an external hard drive and/or to the cloud, which may work for small amounts of data, up to a few hundred gigabytes. However, we’ve also seen this configuration with NAS devices housing large amounts of data, several terabytes in fact, where backups had been failing repeatedly due to throughput issues.
- Performance: NAS devices cannot present data as efficiently than an actual file server and serve as a bottleneck of information, resulting in users complaining of sluggish performance.
- Failure: When a NAS fails, even with a good backup, recovering can be difficult and time consuming as compared to a file server utilizing our Backup and Recovery Solution, where in a worst case scenario the Windows file server can be virtually booted in a short period of time and users can continue on working. Downtime with a NAS failure is more impactful, and lasts longer.
- Application support: Some applications just won’t support hosting production files on a NAS device. For example, QuickBooks, Sage Accounting products both won’t support it, a fact not discovered or disclosed by the previous vendor when selling the product, only found by Innovative while troubleshooting inherited issues with tech support.
In general, a NAS device can be a great tool to house secondary data, archived information, or other non-essential functions. However, NAS devices should NOT be leveraged to house production environment, especially as a cost-saving measure. Keep in mind… when you buy quality, you only cry once!
— Doug Bunnell