A file server is, in its simplest sense, a computer that stores and manages data on a network. Network-attached storage (NAS) is a piece of hardware created specifically for data storage accessible on a network. It is specialised and built from the ground up for use as a data server, rather than being a general use computer that has been assigned the task. With NAS, you’re usually paying more for the software than the hardware. When it comes to deciding between the two, you’ll find that there are a lot of complexities that factor into both options.
The first distinction to take note of is the hardware that makes up a NAS device versus a dedicated file server. The latter is essentially a desktop PC or server cabinet, which means that you’ll be spending money on a full system to only use it for one function. It also means that you’ll have to have somewhere to store the large case, should that be an issue. With a NAS device, the device will come prebuilt and is much smaller. The software is also all inbuilt and often much easier to operate when compared to a dedicated file server. This is due to the fact that the NAS device has been created solely for the data storage, meaning that there’s a lower learning curve when it comes to understanding the system. When this is compared to a cost that reaches the four figures to buy a Windows Server License, the affordability becomes very clear. Of course, you can always go open source with a program like FreeNAS, but the support is limited for such operating systems.
Something else to consider is the security aspect. A dedicated file server is secure when it comes to protecting other people’s files, usually only allowing users to view and modify their own files. Server administrators also have greater control, with the ability to lock out certain users and create rules when it comes to accessing the device. Although some NAS devices do offer this, not all of them do and it comes down to the software in use. There is often little security when it comes to protecting users from one another, which allows anyone with access to the main computer the ability to access the files stored within.
The storage space offered by each solution is pretty similar and usually without limitations. You’re free to have terabytes of data stored on a dedicated file server. With a NAS device you too can reach that size if you attach multiple devices, but you may find difficulty when it comes to mapping these devices together. Whichever one you decide, be sure to check that the amount of file space you need is compatible with the components.
A dedicated file server has the upper hand when it comes to flexibility and ability to run applications. It is not necessarily true that the NAS device will also offer the amount of customizability and control that a dedicated file server does. However, if you are looking for something that bit more affordable and easy to use then you might find it does the job. It is a decision that ultimately lies in your hands and one that depends on your businesses’ needs.
NAS Device vs. Dedicated File Server
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