When IT professionals discuss remote backup, the issue of wide area file services (or WAFS) will invariably come up. Simply put, WAFS technology allows a remote office to interact with a corporate data center as if it were local -- allowing file access and data transfers in almost real time. As interest in WAFS grows, industry buzz often results in confusion and misinformation. This leads many prospective adopters to question the relationship between WAFS and remote backup.
While this may seem mutually exclusive, Schulz is quick to note that WAFS technology is also exceedingly good at moving data between a data center and remote office, positioning WAFS a powerful complement to remote backup needs. "WAFS can be used to facilitate the backup of remote data," he says. According to Schulz, much of the blame for this confusion is squarely on the shoulders of product vendors. "Some of the WAFS vendors position it as an 'either/or' [proposition]. That is, 'Put WAFS in and eliminate remote backup.' I think they're selling themselves short," he says.
WAFS eases backup demands
WAFS technologies can reduce the overall volume of moving data, resulting in time and bandwidth savings for the enterprise. "WAFS can be used to position more data closer to the data center," Schulz says. Demanding remote backup implementations often require hardware assistance to compress and accelerate data for transfer across the WAN (using WAN acceleration products such as Riverbed Technology Inc.'s Steelhead appliance). "The other approach is: If you don't want to move the data quicker, then reduce the amount of data to be moved. That's where WAFS comes in. " Schulz explains that WAFS reduces the amount of data that needs to be moved, while WAN acceleration moves that data faster. Large enterprises may leverage both technologies. "The two [WAFS and WAN acceleration] often get lumped together," Schulz says.
WAFS complements NAS
Beyond remote backup, it's also important to highlight some confusion between WAFS and network attached storage (or NAS) devices. "There are those that see WAFS as being competitive with NAS appliances," Schulz says. Indeed, WAFS technology makes it possible to reduce the amount of NAS storage that is required at remote locations. "But they're also very complementary in that WAFS doesn't have to totally eliminate the need for NAS." Schulz explains that WAFS brings centralization and management to NAS, which actually helps to address the growing problem of NAS management. NAS devices are easy to deploy and use, but can ultimately result in a hodgepodge of storage devices that each require management. "WAFS allows centralization and management, and facilitates the backup and data protection of all those pockets and islands of NAS data," he says.
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About the author: Stephen Bigelow is a features writer for SearchStorage.com.