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SMB NAS – The Bare Necessities

When shopping for a network attached storage (NAS) device for your small- to mid-sized business is an increasingly wise move. With the prices of NAS devices coming down and the costs of data loss rising, integrating a NAS onsite (and perhaps offsite) is a strategic safeguard for your business. In addition to streamlining access to shared data, folders and files, a NAS can also be a keystone in your data backup plan. Read on to learn more about what you should be looking for in a NAS at the bare minimum.

Security
If you are considering a NAS in lieu of cloud storage (such as Box.net, SugarSync or Carbonite), then it’s likely due to security reasons. As a business, you are charged with stewarding confidential business data as well as sensitive customer data. Your NAS must be able to properly protect this data. Look for a NAS that supports SSL in order to protect the web management interface and the security of data in transit. Hardware of software encryption for data at rest may also be beneficial.

User and Access Management
A single NAS may be accessed by dozens of users, each with different required levels of access. Look for a NAS with an intuitive and full-featured user and access level management interface. Also, make sure that the NAS will integrate with your current system. For example, if you use Active Directory, look for a NAS that also supports Active Directory.

Energy Usage
NAS devices, like servers, are “always on” devices. To keep electricity costs down, consider a NAS that has energy-saving features, such as the ability to power down storage drives when idle. Also consider how much heat is generated by the NAS. Higher temps require greater cooling, either by additional equipment (e.g. fan trays) or central air conditioning.
Support for iSCSI
Once considered an advanced feature, NAS devices that can function as an iSCSI target are becoming standard in today’s market. While iSCSI support may not be vital to your networked system now, choosing a NAS that doesn’t support iSCSI may be limiting in the very near future.

Offsite Backup Support
An onsite backup is no good if the entire building gets taken out, due to power outages, natural disasters or other circumstances with site-wide impacts. Look for a NAS that can backup to another NAS, preferably one that is offsite at another branch location or a rented space. For security, this can be accomplished over a VPN Internet connection.

Conclusion
While much of the current buzz is about cloud storage, it’s often more cost-effective to implement a NAS strategy of your own. The investment in your own networked storage infrastructure will give you greater control of your data and more options for business continuity. By choosing the right NAS, you can replicate many, if not all, of the benefits of cloud storage while maintaining complete cognizance of where your data is stored, how it’s backed up and how it can be managed over the long term. Look for the qualities mentioned this article and work closely with your in-house IT team or a data storage consultant to find the best fit for your needs.

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