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NAS purchasing: Getting the right applications

VARs need to consider the future of a customer's NAS in addition to the out of the box requirements. By building in data protection, considering RAID and how traffic will affect the network in the future, customers will be pleased with the value add received from their VAR.

Channel takeaway: By building network attached storage properly the first time, VARs won't be forced to address additional problems after the NAS has been installed. This may mean VARs have to offer a more expensive price on a NAS than one that comes without the protocols necessary ensure smooth operation, but by explaining the return on investment and stressing the value that is being added, customers should be willing to spend the money.

Network attached storage (NAS) appliances are frequently touted for bringing convenience and simplicity to network storage. Appliances include their own dedicated disks for storage and RAID, and most NAS appliances can be upgraded with more or larger disks for additional storage space. If even more storage is required, another NAS appliance can be added to the network. NAS devices typically run their own proprietary operating system (OS) and are managed and configured using integrated software utilities that run across any standard Web browser. This allows storage administrators to check NAS status, diagnose issues and make changes to the NAS configuration from any workstation on the local area network (LAN).

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Round up: NAS purchasing

NAS services you should be offering

Watch for additional or hidden fees. Not all of the features listed for a NAS appliance are standard -- some features and functionality may carry additional costs for upgrades or software licensing. When comparing product costs, be sure to compare costs with all necessary features enabled, and factor in any upgrade or licensing costs involved in future scalability.

Consider the capacity and connectivity. Select a NAS appliance that will offer adequate storage capacity in the near term and suitable expandability into the future. An undersized NAS appliance will typically force users to purchase additional appliances -- resulting in additional capital expense and management overhead.

Consider any necessary infrastructure changes. Heavy data transfers can easily overwhelm a LAN. Understand the implications of traffic changes on the intended network segment, and plan to accommodate upgrades or infrastructure changes that might be needed to achieve best performance.

Consider the platform implications. The choice of platform can have a profound impact on the scalability, performance and manageability of NAS devices.

Evaluate the support for RAID. Most NAS appliances offer data protection through internal RAID, so consider the RAID levels that will be most beneficial for your appliance. Support for RAID-0 (striping), RAID-1 (mirroring) and RAID-5 (parity) is common. RAID-6 (double parity) is appearing in appliances that rely on high-density SATA disk -- though support for RAID-6 is not yet universal.

Consider other forms of NAS data protection. Beyond local RAID features, a NAS appliance may offer support for snapshots, replication and backup. Be sure to identify the suitable snapshot or replication targets; a NAS appliance that can replicate to any storage platform may be preferable to an appliance that can only replicate to a duplicate appliance. Industry experts emphasize the importance of backup and recovery compatibility -- the NAS appliance should be compatible with your existing backup/recovery software and should not impose any special requirements on backup or recovery processes.

Consider support for tiered storage. Some NAS appliances can provide internal support for multiple disk types, and this can be a notable feature for organizations that practice tiered storage.

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

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