What is Network Attached Storage?

Information, files and data are increasingly becoming the pillars our lives are built on, at home and in business: reports, spreadsheets, presentations, letters, emails, digital photos, videos, MP3 songs, ebooks etc. In this digital age data is valuable, precious or in some cases, even priceless. We rely on it so much, but is it handled with the care and attention it deserves and needs?

Network Attached Storage solutions have become quite popular over the last as they solve the problem of centrally storing and sharing digital content.

A Network Attached Storage, commonly known as NAS, is a centralised device dedicated to storing data that is shared over a network on a local network, or even over the internet. This dedicated storage device uses its own operating system to provide a central place for data storage, media serving and file sharing over a computer network. Although serving up your files files and data is the main purpose of a NAS server, it can be used for other tasks as well, e.g. bittorrent downloading, print server, web server etc.

The beauty of a central file server is that all data, documents, music, photos etc are all located on one server, easily accessible to everybody with access privileges within your home, (small) office or enterprise. Having one data server, makes it easy to maintain and manage it all. Setting up access privileges, scheduling backups, data encryption and securing a server from unauthorised access is less time consuming on one system than on multiple PCs.

Network Attached Storage devices contain one or more hard drives and are networked with other appliances. NAS units are configured for file sharing between multiple computers. If they contain more than one hard disk they can be configured as a JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks), or in RAID to facilitate data backup and fast file access.

There are many NAS operating systems available.  Some are commercial and proprietary products, whereas others are free and open-source.  Paid-for-products are not necessarily better than free software downloads. Software licenses come with dedicated support, whereas free and open software users will have to find answers and solutions to their problems online, but this doesn’t say anything about superiority/inferiority of the products.

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