Channel takeaway: Installing NAS hardware for a customer is only the beginning of the VARs job. Picking the proper software to install and ensuring it is capable of running the applications and performing the required tasks is an important part of managing a customer's storage. Software also presents the opportunity for a VAR to add value to the contract by automating some of the work and reduce some of the associated overhead costs.

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Network attached storage (NAS) management software allows administrators to deploy, configure, allocate and maintain NAS appliances and gateways within the data center -- and often across the entire enterprise. For example, typical NAS management software might automatically discover a vendor's storage resources in a network, manage and adjust RAID configurations, back up NAS contents to standard backup software, track storage utilization and offer capacity growth predictions, and even monitor other storage systems that it cannot directly control. While NAS management software is increasingly versatile, it is also more complex, so the selection process requires careful consideration.

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

NAS services you should be offering

Evaluate the software's suite of features. NAS management software products can vary dramatically in their features, so it's important to determine the features that are needed initially, anticipate the features that may be useful into the future and then select a product that can support those features. Features may include snapshots, local and remote mirroring, NDMP support, virtual servers, clustered and enterprise namespace support, transparent data movement and migration, transparent failover, performance and activity monitoring and alerts, WORM drive compatibility, support for large file systems and lots of small files, NFS and CIFS support, along with file virtualization (e.g., aggregation, data movement and replication). Keep in mind that features and capabilities vary with the software platform

Consider the system requirements. NAS management software typically must be installed on a server. This demands an available server that meets the software's requirements for operating system, CPU, memory and other computing resources.

Evaluate the tool's hardware interoperability. It's often cumbersome and impractical to use a different management tool for each NAS device, so companies must select software that can support numerous NAS devices across the organization.

Consider the management skill set. Effective storage management requires a working familiarity with the tools in use. New management tools, or tools from different vendors, demand training and practice for proficiency. Be sure to implement adequate training for administrators and other key IT staff. In some cases, training is included as part of the acquisition cost. If not, the training costs should be included in the product's TCO.

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

This was first published in April 2007

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