If you have a home office or small office, with a lot of data to backup, at some point you're going to hear about NAS. Here is a basic introduction.
What is NAS?
Network Attached Storage, or NAS, devices are like the external hard drives that you connect using USB but they are directly connected to your network so they can be shared by several people on different computers.
Most NAS gear uses two or more hard drives. They can be either grouped together as one big pool of data, or can protect your data by automatically making copies of your data on each drive so that if one drive fails, your data is safe.
The way of setting up the hard drives in a NAS is called RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks). There are several different types of RAID.
Where you have a NAS with two disks you can use either RAID0 or RAID1.
With RAID0, the two disks look like one big disk. So, two 1TB drives look like one big 2TB drive.
With RAID1, although there are two disks you only have the capacity of one disk, but all your data is automatically written to both drives at the same time so if one disk fails you shouldn't lose any data.
When you have three or more disks, RAID5 comes into play. With RAID5 your data is written to more than one disk but it's done in such a way so that if one disk fails you won't lose any data. In other words, it's a bit of a cross between RAID0 and RAID1. A RAID5 array of four 1TB hard drives will deliver about 3TB of available storage.
What does NAS replace?
NAS hardware replaces a piecemeal storage plan based around lots of portable drives that are connected directly to each computer.
How much does it cost?
A NAS will cost more than a standalone USB hard drive. Costs vary depending on the number of drives that a NAS can hold and how many drives it comes with.
Most computer equipment resellers sell NAS devices. An entry level NAS that can hold two hard drives will set you back about $350 including drives. A 12-drive unit can cost several thousand dollars. Here is an example of a relatively well-featured drive we think is excellent.
Your data is your business's most important asset. It needs to be safe and easily accessible. A NAS can protect your data and make it easy for everyone in your business to access it.
Getting a NAS is not alone going to protect you though. If a disaster happens, how recent would the data you restore need to be? We highly recommend looking at our guide to backup for small business.