Introduction: Next to Internet access, sharing files and printers is a key reason for setting up a local area network in your office. As the floppy disk has fallen out of fashion and file sizes have grown enormously, a central location for sharing files has become important to office efficiency. Rather than e-mailing documents, which consume resources on a mail server, shared storage provides a better way to exchange information. By having files accessible on a network, you can access and collaborate on office projects efficiently even when laptops are taken home or workstations are shut down. This is the promise of a Network Attached Storage, or NAS.
What Is This Solution?
Traditional file servers have been around since the 1990s, running operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Linux, or Apple. However, these servers are full-fledged computers offering a wide range of functions, and their prices reflect that. NAS, in contrast, is focused solely on providing shared disks that can be accessed through the network and deliver a much lower cost per gigabyte of available storage.
What Are the Benefits of This Solution?
NAS is an inexpensive solution that allows small- to medium-size businesses to build a storage system using any standard computer hardware platform they choose.
Business benefits include the following:
- Web-based management of your storage server, which means you can add, remove, and manage users from any workstation within your network. Logging and error reporting are also just a browser-click away.
- Integrated tuning tools are included to enhance performance, and that can provide access to data via the Internet for remote users.
- Businesses can choose their preferred hardware vendor and the specific configuration that’s right for their needs, in terms of number of disks, speed, and cost.
CHECKLIST: When Is This Solution Right for Your Company?
How do you know if a NAS is right for you? Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you frequently e-mail documents internally for collaboration?
- Have you ever lost a USB thumb drive with important files on it?
- Do you have an office network in place to share Internet access?
- Does your workforce use mainly laptop computers?
- Do you typically use USB external hard drives for backup purposes, or maybe have no backup strategy at all?
If you answer yes to at least three of these questions, you should seriously consider a NAS for sharing computer files.