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What is a NAS Device & How Does it Work?

Your Comprehensive Guide to Network Attached Storage Options for Efficient Data Management

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Built around on-site storage hardware connected to the business network, a network-attached storage (NAS) device offers an ideal mix of accessibility, security, and flexibility to support day-to-day operations for small and medium-size business (SMB).

The quality and performance of your company’s NAS system is determined by the NAS device connected to your network. By investing in NAS hard drives—which are specifically designed for NAS systems—your business can realize competitive advantages and elevate business-wide performance at scale. 

What Is Network-Attached Storage?

NAS is an on-site storage configuration that features hard drives, which can only be accessed within your business network. Data storage and retrieval for these drives can be performed by any authorized user with access to your business network, including remote workers and clients.

With the flexibility to accommodate users and access from beyond your physical business location, a NAS unit operates like a private cloud setup, but offers superior performance and cost controls, giving you greater control over your storage setup and more value.

How Does a NAS Device Work?

Authorized network users can choose to read and write data to a NAS device versus another storage location. This storage option is connected to your network via Ethernet and/or WiFi, and features several design elements that improve performance and usefulness.

As an example, today’s NAS hard drives are equipped with built-in computer processing capabilities to support firmware, health monitoring, and other applications running on the device. By having these computing capabilities built into the NAS rather than managed externally, the device requires less IT oversight, making it an easy plug-and-play solution for your business. 

The simple design of this storage solution is one of the biggest reasons behind its popularity.

What Is a NAS Used For?

Small businesses employ NAS servers as an affordable, scalable, and easily accessible storage option that can be used throughout the whole business network, because they’re solely intended for reading and writing data.

Many organizations set up a NAS system because it’s the most cost-effective way to address immediate data storage needs. And given the flexibility and accessibility of data stored on a NAS hard drive, businesses that share a high volume of files may prefer its easy functionality.

Businesses that need to store large volumes of data, such as video files, may also want to set up a NAS device to enjoy low-cost, scalable storage that can easily expand to meet their needs—especially if the data storage is required for compliance reasons.

Key Benefits of Using a NAS for Data Storage

Even if you have cloud-based storage or other storage infrastructure for your business, a NAS unit can expand your capabilities and storage flexibility, which can be crucial as your organization grows.

Lower Cost Options

While NAS hard disk drives don’t match the speed and performance of other storage setups, the major advantage of NAS systems is cost and design simplicity. When you have practical storage needs and want a cost-efficient solution, a NAS device may be the perfect fit.

Ease of Operation

Small businesses with limited IT staff or no dedicated, in-house IT professionals will appreciate the simplicity of a NAS system. Built-in computing, simple setup and configuration, and minimal maintenance requirements means you’ll be investing in quality storage that won’t drain your limited resources.

Ease of Data Backup (And It’s Always Accessible When You Need It)

Data backup is easy to perform on a NAS unit. Plus, you can schedule backups for consistent data protection at a minimal resource investment. Because data is locally stored and available on the network, it’s easy to access whenever it’s needed.

Growth Capability

Need additional storage? NAS systems make it easy to attach another hard disk drive to expand your storage space. Again, this expansion is easy to perform and doesn’t require an IT professional’s assistance, allowing SMBs to create a storage infrastructure that’s fully scalable to meet the company’s evolving needs.

Things to Consider When Choosing a NAS

While you can technically use any hard drive as the storage solution for a NAS system, NAS hard drives—which are specifically designed for NAS devices—offer several key features that can improve the overall performance, management, and value of this system.

Here are the top criteria to evaluate when choosing a NAS device for your business.

Storage Capacity

Identify your immediate storage capacity needs and choose a NAS system that offers this storage space. Depending on your storage needs, this might require purchasing multiple hard disks to connect together in your NAS system.

Keep in mind, NAS systems are easily scalable and additional hard disk drives can always be added if/when you need to increase your available storage.

Form Factor

Form factor relates to the physical space available to your NAS hard disk drive. Different form factors require different sizes of rack space, so if you have an existing data center rack, you should choose a hard drive that fits that form factor.

If you don’t have an existing data center rack, a tower form factor may be the best choice due to its efficient design and limited physical space requirements.

Performance

Will your NAS system be used primarily for data backup, or will it serve as an integral part of file sharing and other day-to-day operations? If you plan to use it regularly for data storage and retrieval, you may want to consider a hard drive that offers faster performance and can accommodate a wide range of users and requests at once.

Connectivity

Connectivity is related to the performance needs and usage of your NAS system. While WiFi connectivity is adequate for low-volume NAS workloads, high workloads may require the high-capacity connectivity enabled by an ethernet connection. Be sure the NAS device you purchase offers connectivity that supports the performance your business needs.

Reliability

NAS system reliability is largely dependent on the health of its storage devices. The best way to support NAS device reliability is by investing in hardware that offers built-in tools, such as health monitoring and health notification, RV sensors to mitigate vibration, and data encryption to minimize the risk of any disruptions that might affect data availability or device integrity.

Steps for Successful Implementation

Network-attached storage devices are a relatively simple solution to set up, but there are steps every business should follow to ensure this hardware is properly connected to your network.

Here are the items you should address in your NAS setup process.

Hardware Requirements and Considerations

Once you’ve identified the right storage hardware for your NAS system, confirm you also have the required rack space or tower needed to properly house the drive or drives.

Network and Security Settings

Network connectivity requires you to log into the NAS device through the vendor’s administrative interface. This is typically done through a web browser accessed through a device on your network...although a client application may also be used.

Log in and set up user names and passwords for each individual or user role that will manage the device. This will allow you to customize security, notifications, and other functions of the NAS system.

Accessing NAS Remotely

While configuring your NAS device, create a unique IP for the device. This will be used to access the system remotely through a browser. Test by having a remote device attempt to access the system.

File Sharing and Access Control

A user with administrative access will need to set up roles and provision users before establishing appropriate access controls for the NAS system.

Backup and Data Protection Strategies

Configure backup protocols for the device. Do you plan to run automatic backups through your NAS set up? Do you want another backup solution to back up the data saved to the NAS system?

Keep in mind certain NAS devices, such as Seagate IronWolf® Pro, come with their own data recovery service.

RAID Configurations and Data Redundancy

If combining NAS storage with a redundant array of independent drive (RAID) strategy, you’ll need to configure the new NAS device(s) to support the set RAID level of your storage infrastructure.

Explore Seagate NAS Solutions for Your Storage Needs

Design your own NAS system using hardware developed with network-attached storage needs in mind. Seagate IronWolf NAS hard drives are loaded with features to optimize the value and performance of your NAS system, including:

  • AgileArray firmware for RAID optimization
  • Built-in rotational vibration (RV) sensors to mitigate movement or shaking in a multi-bay NAS
  • IronWolf Health management to support system monitoring
  • Two-year data recovery service through Seagate Rescue Data Recovery Service, plus a five-year limited warranty

Equip your business with a simple, cost-effective and scalable NAS system today. Talk to a Seagate expert to learn more.