Although NAS has evolved well beyond its beginning, there is still a place in many enterprises for a simple, no-frills NAS filer to take care of storage for workgroups or remote offices. According to Quantum Corp., there are a number of things you can reasonably expect from a NAS filer. Compare filers on these characteristics as you consider which you might need.
Easy installation: This is the classic selling point of NAS. According to Quantum, a standard installation should take no more than fifteen minutes to plug in the filer and get it running.
Ease of storage management: This has always been the classic drawback to NAS. Because the filers are so independent they have the reputation of being hard to integrate into the enterprise's overall storage management architecture. This is one area where filers have gotten a lot better in the last couple of years. Still, it's important to see if the filer you're considering is compatible with your storage management software.
Compatibility with existing enterprise networks: Since a filer is a network device, it has to work on your network.
Cross platform file sharing: If you're a multi-OS environment, it's helpful if your filer can handle files from all the operating systems you use.
Network security: This is an area where the bar has gone way up in the first couple of years. Today we expect the things we connect to our networks to be more inherently secure. Make sure the filer's security features meet your organization's standards.
Compatibility with established backup policy: Ideally your NAS filers should back up at the same time in the same way as your other storage devices. Some filers are backed up over the network while some have the option to attach a separate tape drive or library and do the backup locally. Pick a filer that fits with the way you handle backups.
Quantum has a white paper titled "Selecting the right NAS file server for your workgroup LAN".
Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.