April 06, 2006
For more than a decade, network-attached storage systems have housed enterprise applications, acting as primary storage for departmental and remote offices and as dedicated storage pools for disk-to-disk backups. Small businesses also have discovered the benefits of storage consolidation, not only to provide a safe and controllable repository for business data, but to support shared data for network users.
Because of its reasonably low cost and ease of use, NAS is ideal for these storage needs and more. It runs on Ethernet, works seamlessly with every computing platform, and doesn't require years of storage management experience to run. The smallest segment of the NAS market, systems that cost less than $500, has exploded over the past two years, and more than 500,000 such microstorage systems--nearly 90,000 TB of data storage--will be sold in 2006, according to Gartner Dataquest. Although amazingly inexpensive, these commodity NAS appliances are usually single-drive systems that don't offer enough data protection for many business storage needs.
NAS System Features
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For this review, we considered the next tier of affordable NAS: Systems that offer enough capacity, security and storage management to make them a good fit in practically any business environment. We put out a request to vendors for entry-level NAS systems that cost less than $5,000, supply at least 1 TB of raw storage, offer parity-protected RAID 5, and provide native support for both CIFS and NFS file systems. Of the 10 companies we contacted, only five heeded the call: Aberdeen, Adaptec, Hewlett-Packard, Infrant Technologies and Prime Array Systems. Four of the other invitees, Buffalo Technology, Iomega, LaCie and Network Appliance, did not have systems that fit our criteria. And though Dell showed initial interest in our review, the company never responded after receiving our invitation and multiple follow-ups.