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Network-attached storage (NAS) backup basics for VARs

Network-attached storage (NAS) is an easy to install, plug and play data storage management system. Once the NAS hardware and software are working together, SATA drives can be installed to help eliminate downtime.

Tape has long been a traditional backup medium, but changing business needs are placing pressure on tape systems. Backup windows, recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) are all shrinking. Today's business can scarcely afford hours of disruptive backup time, nor the 12-24 hours (or longer) needed to restore from a disaster. Disk storage offers attractive cost and fast performance, so disk-based storage systems are increasingly being pressed into service for backup tasks. Network-attached storage (NAS) systems are particularly interesting as backup targets because of their "plug-and-play" simplicity.

Network-attached storage disks typically operate behind a filer head that interoperates with common file systems like NFS or CIFS.

Although any NAS servers can be used for backups, there are several NAS appliances dedicated to backup tasks that you should consider when addressing customer storage networking needs.

One example is the NearStore system from Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp), designed for nearline storage from 8 TB to 96 TB using inexpensive SATA disks. When employing a NAS system as a backup target, be sure that your backup software supports the network data management protocol (NDMP). Backup software should also be compatible with the version of NDMP in use.

While NAS may provide an attractive backup target for some applications, NAS generally does not replace tape backups completely. Disk space is finite, and NAS systems will eventually fill with backup data, forcing older backups to be deleted or offloaded to tape. Disk storage also remains on site, so organizations relying on tape for off-site disaster protection may need to continue periodic tape backups.

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