Can NAS (network-attached storage) hold up to the needs of a Web server?

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The simple answer is yes, there is no reason why NAS cannot be used to provide storage to a Web server. First VARs need to take into account the kind of traffic a Web server generates. Typically these will be random profile requests for Web pages, which will vary from a few bytes to a few kilobytes in size. As pages are requested they will be loaded by the Web server with multiple threads. Depending on the configuration of the Web server, it is likely that the more common pages will be served directly from the Web server cache. For those sites that aren't, the NAS appliance will cache access to those pages itself using the NAS read cache. Other file requests will be served on demand on a random basis.

There are some other issues to conside. If the Web server is to be used to provide access for large file downloads, it may be sensible to consider placing those files on higher performing disk devices under the NAS appliance. This applies equally for areas to be used for FTP upload and download (assuming that is a permitted operation).

Using NAS as the storage for Web servers can also provide some additional benefits. Most NAS products provide snapshot or cloning tools. This can be used to replicate web server data for testing, update distribution or to create additional servers for load balancing. Finally, NAS provided storage can be accessed by multiple web servers concurrently, allowing simple web server clusters to be implemented.

This was first published in February 2007

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