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Quality Awards V: EMC and IBM top NAS field

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NetApp, with its 6.70 category average, posted statement ratings mostly in the mid- to high 6.00 range, while Dell was nearly as good, averaging 6.49.

IBM continued its mastery of the midrange with another solid performance across the board and a category score of 7.32. NetApp was well behind but with an outstanding 6.88, which would have been enough to cop top honors for reliability in any of our previous NAS Quality Awards. EMC wasn't far behind NetApp with a very sturdy 6.79.

When help is needed

Crossed fingers, a rabbit's foot or a four-leaf clover might help deter the downtime demons, but a dependable support team is usually a better bet. Inadequate technical support can turn an otherwise good product experience bad in no time, but this crop of NAS vendors seems intent on delivering good products backed by good support.

EMC's enterprise-leading technical support category score of 6.76 was also the highest we've ever seen for enterprise NAS. EMC pulled itself up by its bootstraps in this category, improving on its past middle-of-the-pack finishes in tech support ratings. A user needs to know what to expect, and EMC is apparently doing a good job of delivering on expectations, with a 7.08 for "Vendor supplies support as contractually specified." Once again, NetApp notched an impressive

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average score of 6.57 for the category; Dell also did well, posting a 6.16.

The big news in the midrange NAS group is that IBM didn't score more than 7.00 on every statement, although its two sub-7.00 scores were hardly bumps on its road to a 7.18 technical support score. That's another record for IBM, as it's the highest support score ever achieved by a NAS vendor (midrange or enterprise). NetApp was next with a 6.69, which would have been good enough to lead most of the previous midrange NAS packs, while EMC copped another third-place finish with an excellent 6.57.

Repeat performance?

As usual, we followed up our category statements with a basic question: All things considered, would you buy this product again? The results don't always match up with other scores, but they're still good indicators of loyalty and satisfaction.

Nine out of 10 of our enterprise NAS evaluators who have EMC systems would go the same route again; not surprising considering how happy they appear to be with the products. On the midrange side, IBM backed up its impressive category scores with a 93% "buy again" response.

Over the course of five NAS Quality Awards surveys, we've seen user satisfaction -- as reflected by their product ratings -- rise. With so much focus on file storage growth, it'll be interesting to see how well the vendors can respond to new and more demanding needs.

BIO: Rich Castagna (rcastagna@storagemagazine.com) is editorial director of the Storage Media Group.

This was first published in January 2011

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