Expert Kerns answers common NAS questions

Join NAS expert and Evaluator Group partner Randy Kerns as he answers a few common questions about where and when NAS should be deployed. (If you have a question for Randy, go to our site's Ask the Experts area on NAS to send it to him.)

Where have you seen NAS devices deployed most effectively -- in terms of best applications and size of IT environment or company? NAS has been predominantly deployed in departmental or workgroup environments. Probably greater than 90% of NAS devices are in these environments. The size of company isn't the issue - it's the application or work environment that dictates what is deployed. Development (engineering CAD or programming) was...

one of the first big users of NAS. Now we're seeing departments in companies using NAS even if they have a central IT organization. Remote offices such as insurance agents have also been a success story for NAS. Could you expain what NAS heads or gateways are and where they are used? Gateways are the NAS controller function (head) without the storage. All NAS resolves down to block storage and most use direct-attached storage (DAS). A NAS Gateway uses the storage in a SAN rather than direct-attached for the block I/O to be done. Usually they are used with an existing SAN when there is a need for file storage (usually in a sharing environment). The advantage is the flexibility (and cost) in handling the capacity required and the overall storage management is centralized. What are the top 5 questions IT pros should ask when considering deploying a NAS solution over SAN or a NAS/SAN hybrid? Really, the first five are all, "What are your requirements?" If you don't understand them, the rest are irrelevant. After that, here's the next layer: 1. What performance is required for response time (guaranteed) and bandwidth (guaranteed)? 2. What type of data locking is needed? Hard locks? Advisory locks? 3. How will the data be backed up and restored? 4. What security is necessary? 5. What protocols are needed (and which are required for shared data)? CIFS, NFS, NCP, HTTP, FTP, AppleTalk? What are a few of the most common questions you hear about NAS and how do you answer them? The most common is, "How do I know when to use NAS?" That one is always answered with, "What are your requirements?" Like in most things, there are no hard and fast rules -- it depends. Another question that comes up often is about administration of NAS. In general, each NAS box is administered independently which means the costs don't scale very well when we add more. There are some companies trying to address this but it is still very early to say there are ways to solve this. What's your short "watch-list" of NAS vendors you think IT pros should follow? There are different vendors to watch in different market segments. In general, the major vendors would be first because they tend to drive the market. Here's a few in no particular order:

Network Appliance
EMC
HP
SNAP Appliance
Procom
Spinnaker
Microsoft (for all the embedded NAS solutions from vendors such as Dell, etc.)

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