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12 Things Business Owners Should Know Before Buying NAS Devices

 12 Things Business Owners Should Know Before Buying NAS Devices

In the last few years, businesses have generated more data than ever and that trend doesn't look to abate any time soon. For small to midsize businesses (SMBs), one of the easiest solutions to this problem is a network-attached storage (NAS) device. These appliances are essentially high-capacity storage buckets in a box designed to connect quickly and easily to not only your local area network (LAN) but often to a variety of cloud storage and application services, too. That way, your fast-growing portfolio of laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices can still connect and share files with your NAS device no matter where they're locat

Unfortunately, choosing the right NAS device can be daunting. That's not only because business-facing NASes are relatively feature-rich when compared to their consumer counterparts; it's also because there are many different scenarios in which businesses need a NAS box, and each has different requirements. For example, you might need a NAS box for simple file serving in a branch office, which means you'll want one with the ability to let users in other offices connect via the internet. Or you might need one in a manufacturing scenario in which ruggedization is a necessity. Or maybe you need one to act as a middle tier for a business cloud backup service, in which case, protocol compatibility and maybe app integration is important. On top of that, each NAS device has its own set of hardware specifications, operating system (OS) features, and security safeguards. To help, we've compiled this list of 12 factors for you to consider when choosing as you shop for your new NAS device. Happy hunting.

1. Capacity

Depending on how many employees you have and how much data you are creating, you will want a NAS array that holds a large amount of data. The number of hard drives you are going to add to your NAS array will ultimately determine how much storage capacity you'll have. For example, if you have a 6-bay NAS device loaded with 8-terabyte (TB) hard drives, then you will be able to store 48 TB of data, which is definitely enough for most small businesses even today.

However, while that kind of solution looks great on paper, you need to balance the money. The standard list prices of most NAS appliances are based on capacities much lower than this, so the cost of that much local storage will probably make that MSRP price jump quite a bit. That means deciding on how much capacity you actually need rather than simply maxing out the box. Leaving some room gives you options for future expansion, and if you have a sudden, immediate need for more space, you can always pad out your local NAS storage with extra space on a business cloud file and storage service, like our Editors' Choice winner in that category, Dropbox Business ($12.50 Per User Per Month at Dropbox Business) .

When you purchase a NAS device, you want to make sure the capacity you are getting is usable, according to Greg Schulz, Senior Advisory Analyst at consulting firm StorageIO. He said a common mistake is to think you are adding more capacity but, after accounting for the Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) or data protection, you find that the drives aren't all usable.

2. Price

Because NAS capacities vary so greatly, there is no set price you should aim for when making a purchase decision. Instead, decide how much storage capacity you will need and then begin pricing your options. For example, NAS devices with 8 TB of included disk storage capacity can cost under $400 and max out at about $20,000 retail for hundreds of TB. However, if you're in the process of buying a NAS device and the cost is creeping about the five-figure mark, then you should call vendors and get custom price quotes. You can also buy NAS devices without preinstalled disks, and then you can go and choose your own hard drives. These arrays can be as cheap as $150, but each hard drive you add to the array will add to the overall cost.

For smaller businesses, you can buy basic devices with at least 2 TB for a couple of hundred dollars. These devices won't offer the expansion, power protection, or security features that you will find on enterprise devices, but they will be enough to help you store and back up files.

"Look beyond price and capacity," Schulz said. "The most common mistake made is not looking at what you get—besides paying less for more space—regarding performance and availability as well as capacity."

Western Digital My Cloud DL4100(Image: Western Digital My Cloud DL4100)

3. Disks

As previously mentioned, you can purchase a NAS device with its hard drive or drives preinstalled or you can buy a diskless NAS device, which has empty bays that you populate with drives yourself. If you decide to purchase your own drive, then there are several important things you will need to consider.

First, you will want to pick a drive that's optimized for a NAS device. All the big-name hard drive manufacturers play in this market, including Western Deigital and Seagate. These drives are typically designed for backing up data, streaming large audio and video files, and simultaneously streaming to multiple external devices. They tend to be more reliable than the drives you put into your desktop, and they feature easier data recovery controls to ensure you can retrieve data after a disaster.

They're also optimized for operating inside a RAID configuration, which is a way of sharing data among multiple drives such that should any one drive fail, no data is lost because everything is stored in multiple locations. All NASes offer some form of RAID, though you'll need to decide which level is right for you if you're setting up your drives yourself. Last, because these disks are more expensive, they typically offer longer warranties than desktop drives do, so you are protected for a longer period of time if things go wrong with your dr

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