Fundamentally, any file server could technically act as a NAS device, but in reality it's different. A conventional file server runs an OS with all the extras and "fluff" that provide added functionality, allowing you to run specialized applications (databases, email, etc.). A NAS device runs on a stripped-down OS that is optimized for disk I/O performance. A NAS appliance focuses on serving storage and ensuring data protection through specific software features. System resources are therefore dedicated to I/O for better performance.
Many NAS appliances present storage as a network share. But many will also do so directly, via Fibre Channel or iSCSI, which is way beyond what any plain file server could offer. NAS appliances from companies like NetApp also use special data backup capabilities that do not necessarily require conventional backup software. Backups can be handled using Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP), point-in-time copies or data mirroring.
Dig Deeper on NAS devices
Related Q&A from Pierre Dorion
With some limitations, Federal Continuity Directives 1 and 2 can be used to help conduct a business impact assessment. Continue Reading
Find out what business impact assessment errors you can most easily identify in this Expert Response from Pierre Dorion. Continue Reading
Pierre Dorion highlights some of the business impact analysis tools available to help companies in this Expert Response. Continue Reading