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Sunday, August 14, 2011

What is Network Attached Storage (NAS) server


Network-attached storage (NAS) is file-level computer data storage connected to a computer network providing data access to heterogeneous clients.”  If that sounds too technical then in layman’s language a NAS is simply a  server that is dedicated to nothing more than file sharing.
Simply speaking  using a traditional LAN protocol such as TCP/IP over Ethernet, the NAS enables additional storage to be quickly added by plugging it into a network hub or switch.
NAS does not provide any of the activities that a server in a server-centric system typically provides, such as e-mail,authentication or file management,however these services maybe later added as a add-on.

So why do we need a NAS:

Well just consider a business that has more than one employee and that has tonnes of data in its server,if that business decides to move from one location to other,then it has to take all its data with it. It would be really great option if all this data was centralized and could be accessed from anywhere but for a small business that option is not a practical one considering the cost of a file server, or an additional license  of Windows server 2003,or a support license of Linux for that matter. Now this is where the NAS steps in to provide a reliable and cheap solution to your data-storage needs.They often include built-in features such as disk space quotas, secure authentication, or the automatic sending of email alerts should an error be detected.

So how does a NAS work:

Well traditionally like a  file servers, NAS follows a client-server design. A single hardware device, often called the NAS box or NAS head, acts as the interface between the NAS and network clients.These devices run on an embedded OS . Single or multiple hard drives can be connected to a NAS . A client usually connects to the NAS head and not directly to the storage device, a client often connects using Ethernet connection,and thus a NAS  appears as a single ‘node’ in the network often the IP address of the NAS device.With a NAS device, storage is not an integral part of the server. Instead, in this storage-centric design, the server still handles all of the processing of data but a NAS device delivers the data to the user. A NAS device does not need to be located within the server but can exist anywhere in a LAN.

Network Attached Storage Network Attached Storage

Communication with the NAS head occurs with TCP/IP . The two file-based protocols most commonly associated with NAS are Sun Network File System (NFS) and Common Internet File System (CIFS).
NFS was developed for UNIX based systems to transfer files over LAN.
The CIFS was formerly known as Server Message Block (SMB). SMB was developed by IBM and Microsoft to support file sharing in DOS.
Many NAS systems today support HTTP as a protocol to enable you to browse content using the browser.
Other Network protocols used to serve NAS:

Why is NAS cheaper :

Well a NAS is cheaper because of various factors like  it runs a stripped-down operating system,often FreeNAS. And  at the same time it offers very limited services when compared to a full-fledged file-server.
If you are considering to buy a NAS for yourself you may consider paying a visit to following reviews of NAS by PC magazine and CNET.

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