Channel takeaway: Before recommending network attached storage to customers, VARs need to consider the goals of the customer. Storage needs, management costs and value in the future are topics VARs should discuss with clients before agreeing to their NAS.

NAS management software tools will need to be selected to identify available storage, handle

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backup and restore tasks, support replication and tackle a variety of other tasks. Most NAS devices include vendor-specific management tools, but there are some generic tools intended to provide heterogeneous NAS platform support. Aside from considering the obvious issues of pricing and support, here are some other important points to keep in mind during any NAS purchase.

Determine the underlying need for NAS. Before selecting a storage platform, consider the applications that will be using the storage -- storage should accommodate the applications, not vice versa.


More on network attached storage purchasing:
Round up: NAS purchasing

NAS services you should be offering

Consider storage needs over the long haul. NAS may be easy to implement and expand, but it can become difficult to manage as deployments proliferate. Before making a NAS investment, consider the changing patterns of storage allocation and use in your enterprise.

Consider different modes of implementation. Generally speaking, there are three ways to implement NAS -- use a dedicated NAS system (appliance) with its own local storage; use a NAS head or gateway to access external storage on an array or SAN; or some combination of both approaches.

Consider product utilization and value. Industry experts note that NAS selection criteria should extend beyond getting the most storage for the minimum cost. The problem is that many NAS features have little tangible value other than differentiating vendors.

Consider the management overhead. NAS appliances and gateways will need to be managed using software tools. Management overhead will typically increase as NAS storage expands and proliferates across multiple devices.

Evaluate the performance of any potential NAS device. LAN connectivity can be a potential bottleneck with NAS devices, and storage performance can suffer with heavy network traffic or storage I/O requests.

Define any new or different skill sets that are required. Although NAS devices offer a lot of similarities, there are also subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences between models and manufacturers.

Read the rest of Stephen J. Bigelow's article at

This was first published in April 2007

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