November 04, 2010, 11:06 AM — Network-attached storage (NAS) can make your business easier to run and more efficient in multiple ways.
NAS boxes started out as simple ethernet-connected file servers for workgroup storage and backup on a local network. The aim was to lessen the burden on the main server by offloading file duties. NAS appliances remain easy to operate, but their roles and capabilities have expanded immensely.
A major factor in the blossoming of NAS is remote access. Even consumer-grade NAS boxes now allow convenient access to files from the Internet. The better boxes come with dedicated graphical Web interfaces that make remote connection, management, and file access a breeze for any user. In addition, network-attached storage can serve images, music, and video to PCs and digital media adapters.
Vendors such as Synology and QNAP even offer perquisites such as Website serving and camera surveillance. Synology's DiskStation Manager 3.0 has a full, Linux-like, windowed interface within a browser. The dumb black box is indeed a thing of the past, as is the "workgroups only" tagline.
Let's take a look at some scenarios for NAS use, scaled to businesses of various sizes.
Small or Single-Person Office
When most people think of a small-office/home-office (SOHO) situation, they think of a couple of PCs, a multifunction printer or two, and perhaps a wireless, peer-to-peer network. While such a setup is certainly viable, it's far from optimal for sharing and accessing files. Data is scattered about, and accessing it from outside the local network requires a VPN or remote control. Backing up is a chore at best.
A NAS box puts all of the important data in one accessible, easy-to-back-up location and saves energy by allowing you to turn off your PCs. Forgot to bring an important presentation with you? No problem: Just log in to the NAS box and grab it.
Conversely, you can back up anything you're working on off-site by logging in and uploading the files to the NAS box, which will automatically back them up with the rest of the data. Most NAS boxes provide onboard backup utilities and USB ports for attaching drives.
If you value the sharing and access more than the storage, consider a hybrid device such as PogoPlug Biz that uses local USB storage you may already own and provides an online portal. The unit can also mirror itself to another PogoPlug Biz anywhere in the world. (Without that feature, I wouldn't recommend it for business use, as it offers no storage redundancy locally.)