October 19, 2011, 6:22 AM — The entry-level NAS market is red hot. With prices dipping below $2,000 for a versatile storage server packing 10TB of disk, there's no wonder this market segment is witnessing extremely fast growth. Unfortunately for the business customer, it's also experiencing a lot of confusion.
The reasons for both the success and the confusion are easy to see. There are at least three different user bases for these products and a seemingly endless number of use cases. A larger business might use a low-cost NAS box to offload stagnant, rarely used data from more expensive, high-performance storage. Or it might place one alongside a virtual server farm to store virtual machine images or ship one to a satellite office to serve as low-cost file storage.
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For a small to medium-size business, one of these NAS boxes would serve the needs for daily file storage, with the bonus that nontechnical staff could set it up and start using it without professional IT help. Finally, the home market is starting to feel the need for network storage, not only for backing up multiple PCs and laptops, but also for hosting music, photos, and video, and making that media accessible even from outside the home.
With so many use cases and potential buyers, the vendors too often try to be everything to everyone. The result is a class of products that suffers from an identity crisis -- so-called business storage solutions that are overloaded with consumer features and missing the ease and simplicity that business users require.