Back to Basics: Network Attached Storage

What is Network Attached Storage?

Network-attached storage (NAS) is a file-level storage architecture that allows many users to interact with a storage pool. Having data-sharing capabilities is vital in today’s organizations as it allows networked users to collaborate. NAS devices reside within local area networks (LANs) as individual network nodes and are defined by their own unique Internet Protocol (IP) address. They are often connected to the network via a wireless router and allow dispersed work environments to access the stored data.

How is it Used?

On arrival, a NAS system is ready to use and pre-configured. NAS device set-up is as simple as connecting it to the network and interacting with it via a browser-based utility. This device configuration specializes in unstructured data such as audio, video, website, and text-based files. The focus on unstructured data is one of the differentiating qualities that separate NAS systems from storage area networks (SANs). 

Anyone with access to the network can access the NAS device and its data. This feature is especially helpful for remote employees as it provides access to the same data that would otherwise be available on-site.

Advantages:

  • Quick and easy set-up. 
  • Affordable backup and storage solution with no license purchase necessary.
  • Utilizes RAID technology for data redundancy in case of hard drive failure. 
  • Remote access to data anywhere and anytime. This advantage increases employee collaboration and productivity.  
  • Scalable capacity allows for additional disks to be installed without shutting down the entire network (except for when RAID is in use).

Who is NAS Best for?

Any organization can use NAS regardless of size. Usually, most organizations ranging from small to midsize find NAS especially effective at meeting their needs. The choice of whether or not NAS is right for your organization comes down to your specific IT infrastructure needs. If one or more of the advantages helps increase the efficiency of operations, then NAS may be the right choice for your IT environment and organization. 

Cost Cutting Option:

Despite the attractive price of NAS devices, IT managers are constantly searching for the best deal. Many managers find their hardware needs answered with thomastech’s in-house inventory of enterprise hardware, saving them money and stretching their budget. Contact thomastech today to find out how we can reduce your hardware and storage costs by calling (330) 225-3117.

In addition to saving departments on enterprise hardware, thomastech provides world-class enterprise support and maintenance. On average, thomastech cuts costs for organizations by up to 70% on their maintenance when compared to the OEM’s SLAs. thomastech partners with IT managers, perhaps even you, to empower them so they can keep data moving. To learn more about how thomastech can help with your data storage needs, visit www.thomastechllc.com or call (330) 225-3117 to get a free consultation with a thomastech partner specialist. 

Conclusion: 

NAS devices are a proven and effective means for storing large quantities of data.  They are affordable while also providing a few key advantages required by the modern IT industry. These devices connect employees and organizations across the global economy. These are just a few reasons why IT professionals care and why you should care about NAS.

Overview of Enterprise Storage Configurations

Enterprise Storage Overview

Data within the organization is compiled into an enterprise storage system, a centralized repository for information. Enterprise storage provides common data management, data protection, and data sharing capabilities within an organization. The enterprise storage systems should be scalable without needing extensive cabling or the creation of subsystems. When choosing their enterprise storage system configuration, IT departments are especially interested in systems which boast unlimited connectivity and support for multiple platforms. 

Within the category of enterprise storage, there are a few common configurations to choose ranging from storage area network to cloud storage.

Enterprise Storage Overview

Storage area network (SAN):

It is a high-performance dedicated network or subnetwork which is separate from the common user network. Within this network various pools of disk and solid-state storage are joined. Multiple servers access the data as if each server was directly connected to the storage. The advantages for a storage area network include high availability, disaster recovery, data sharing, powerful backup and restoration functions, plus remote support and centralized administration capabilities. One of the biggest drawbacks to the SAN configuration is the cost. One of the bigger differences between SAN and a NAS is that SAN can use both Ethernet and Fibre Channel while NAS is Ethernet based only. As a result, SAN is the better solution for many larger IT infrastructures. If an IT department needs a faster return on investment (ROI) than SAN may not be the best option.

Enterprise Storage Overview

Network-attached storage (NAS):

NAS is a good solution for mid to small companies and allows multiple users to access data from a central pool of disk storage. When accessing the shared storage of NAS, it will appear as a node with its own Internet Protocol (IP) address on the local area network (LAN). A few benefits of NAS include, physical security, simplified architecture, a wider availability of information, higher scalability and lower downtime than DAS, and perhaps one of the most appealing benefit is its affordable price.  Many IT personnel will want to consider their bandwidth before using a NAS configuration. NAS hardware is bandwidth intensive and depends on the amount of bandwidth available at the location. Due to the wider availability of information to system users, IT managers will have additional security concerns than with other network storage configurations.

Enterprise Storage Overview

Direct attached storage (DAS):

DAS is composed of hard disk or solid-state drives which are connected inside or outside the storage enclosure to one computer or server. A DAS cannot be accessed by any other computers or servers that are not directly connected to the storage array. One distinction of DAS versus SAN and NAS is that it is not networked with Ethernet or FC switches which allows DAS better performance for the one device connected. Data in a DAS is contained within the system and cannot be shared between servers which provides greater data security. The scalability of DAS is finite compared to SAN and NAS devices. Whenever additional storage units are added, the system must be shut down reducing uptime. In a business environment that requires strict uptime or escalating data storage, direct attached storage architecture is not the preferred choice.

Enterprise Storage Overview

Cloud Storage:

Cloud storage offers ease of scalability, low costs, disaster recovery backup options, and storage immortality. IT departments will want to consider a few things before using a cloud storage service. The first consideration is bandwidth because of bandwidth bottlenecks. The bandwidth caps can either severely hinder or stop operations. Bandwidth is costly which hinders many larger operations from finding cloud storage a viable option compared to on premise storage. Another consideration is security because storage is handled and controlled by a third-party. If you represent a small company, cloud storage might be a good temporary option.

Getting it right:

Your data is important, thus your decision for which data storage configurations to use is also important. As many industries, departments, and companies are fueled with data, data must be protected and effectively stored so that it can be retrieved later. Is the choice difficult? Yes, it is. Are you busy? Yes, at least we assume you are. Do you want help? We will need to let you answer that yourself, but what we can say is that we are here to help. At thomastech we empower IT professionals by providing them both the enterprise hardware and support needed to keep data moving within their organizations. You can schedule a free consultation with a thomastech partner today to start planning your storage solutions.

What are Your Data Storage Needs?

The problem:
Organizations are gathering and generating data at unprecedented levels, which creates unimaginable headaches for overworked and underfunded IT managers.

The reliance on emails, shared files, application data, digitized records, data-backups, and marketing collateral (like videos and images) are at an all-time high. Not only do these files need to be stored, but they also need to be accessed and deployed at an accelerated rate. A low estimate for data growth is somewhere between 25% and 40% annually, this outpaces IT budgets by 10-fold. Combine this with exponential data growth, it is not surprising that businesses are looking for alternative methods to reduce costs while keeping data secure and protected.

Good News:

Even with the industry’s increase in data storage requirements, technological advances are becoming more cost effective as time progresses. The overall per-gigabyte price is falling for hard disk and associated data storage, backup, and archiving solutions as technology matches demands. This reduction in cost is helping IT departments stretch their budgets further and to purchase more storage. Now, there are multiple options available to purchase used hardware from vendors around the globe. While there are many options for purchasing hardware, IT managers must consider the following: if the used hardware has been inspected by qualified engineers/technicians, properly handled, refurbished with optimized testing, and professionally packaged for shipping.

Between organizations, data needs and data storage requirements vary. Each organization is unique, and solutions that work for one organization may not work for another. As a result, the challenge is to identify the solution and then implement the best option for your IT environment.

Your Data Demands:
Understanding your data demands begins with understanding the value of your organization’s data. Data fuels many companies and industries. The value placed on the data determines how you handle it. In order to better assess the value of your data, here are a few fundamental questions many IT managers and staff consider.
  • How available does the data need to be? Is it accessed often?
  • How easy is the data to recover?
  • How quickly must the data be recovered if lost?
  • How long does the data need to be retained?
  • How secure must the data be?
  • What regulations affect the data, its storage, and its processing?

Once the value based questions are answered, data must be prioritized based on how critical it is to operations to effectively utilize data management resources. Based on how critical the data is, resources must be properly designated. While considering the priority of one’s different data requirements, many IT managers find it helpful to establish their data retention policies to conform to both internal and external forces.

Data within the organization is kept in enterprise storage, a centralized repository for information. Enterprise storage provides common data management, data protection, and data sharing capabilities. To accommodate the extensive mission-critical information within a company, enterprise storage systems should be scalable without needing extensive cabling or the creation of subsystems. Many IT departments also look for features that allow for unlimited connectivity and support for multiple platforms.

Simple Solution:

Protecting, maintaining, processing, and dispersing data are all major concerns of an IT manager. These IT functions can be overwhelming to the modern IT professional. Each of the enterprise storage systems must be maintained, parts sourced, and multiple support contracts managed. thomastech offers a simplified approach with 24/7 multi-vendor support focused on individual needs. Level three engineers are readily accessible at thomastech and enterprise hardware is available from the large in-house inventory. thomastech’s hardware inventory is engineer tested, refurbished, and verified to be in the optimal operating condition. The maintenance service and enterprise hardware from thomastech cuts costs, stretches budgets, and effectively empowers IT professionals so they can keep data moving.To learn more, visit the support or hardware page, call (330) 225-3117, or complete the contact form to request a free consultation.

The facts behind new vs. old enterprise IT models that OEMs don’t want you to know

Is the newest model the best choice? The answer would be yes, right? Unfortunately, the answer is not that simple. There are many factors that influence the answer.

OEMs are constantly releasing new models. With each new model, the OEM proclaims it as an upgrade that it solves many IT problems. Not only are IT managers flooded with this information in OEM ads, they experience additional pressure while attending IT conferences and shows from both the OEM and other attendees. All this pressure pushes for a spontaneous purchasing decision versus a planned transition. When an impromptu purchasing decision is made, many IT managers overlook their multi-year plans and stabilization exercises. Is the offer provided by the OEM along with the outside pressure to buy worth discarding all the careful planning that has been put into place?

With every new piece of equipment released, OEMs advertise upgrades made over the previous model. Yet these changes between models are often minor and have little real-world impact. Most of us have had a similar experience even when purchasing consumer IT products. A feature is promoted as an upgrade, but later it is discovered the change/upgrade did not help in the way expected. In some instances, the changes made between models actually decrease the usability of the product thus increasing user frustration. In order for a model change to be accurately called an upgrade, its features must have a measurable benefit to the organization and IT department rather than some extra “chrome”. They should make a noticeable and valuable contribution to mission critical operations within the system’s environment. If the benefit is not significant enough, the older model currently in use may be the better option.

A general consideration for IT departments is if the inter-model feature change is significant enough to merit the additional work and increased capital expenditures. On release, often a new model has undergone only a few slight alterations since the previous model, sometimes just two or three. If these changed features are not vital for mission-critical operations, it may be wise to wait for one or two models to be released before upgrading. This waiting allows departments to jump over intermediate models and pay the price for one system replacement while accumulating multiple features instead of just two or three. This waiting allows for budget maximization while reducing downtime associated with system migration.


As with many other forms of tech, enterprise system models are not without their defects when first released. Often IT products display a bathtub shaped curve demonstrating the failure rates of systems and hardware. When a model is first launched it experiences soaring failure rates. After a while, the failure rate drops and the issues and bugs are worked out as the innovators and early adopters experience the problems. Often it is better to be a member of the early majority, or even in the late majority, on the product adoption bell curve as many of the problems will be fixed and the systems will be more reliable. Waiting too long, on the other hand, places users in the last 16% along with significant chances of system failure rates spiking due to the age of the systems.

Some IT products do not demonstrate the traditional failure rate curve; instead they demonstrate more of a flat or a steady increase in the failure rate. This unusual behaviour results from the root cause being impractical for the OEM to resolve or additional problems becoming apparent over time. For IT departments without unlimited funding, it is safer to remain in the early or late majority when purchasing and adopting the new model of enterprise hardware. New models are especially risky to innovators and early adopters as they have no previous history to determine whether the systems have a high failure rate and are thus unreliable. On the other hand, those following early adopters will know from their experience whether the model is a wise and safe investment.  

When implementing a system swaps for new models, IT departments must determine their system swap procedure to avoid additional costs. There are usually two options when swapping a drive. The first is to maintain a redundant system for transitioning data and users to during the swap, while the second is to shut down the system and cut access to the data. Both methods for swapping systems generate additional costs either from purchasing and managing another system or costs resulting from downtime.

Choosing option two and shutting the system down results in down time. As many know within the IT field, downtime is costly. Probably the highest cost from downtime associated with a system swap is lost revenue. Following lost revenue, other costs are incurred, including those resulting from reduced productivity, lost opportunities, and decreased customer confidence. To avoid or reduce these costs, a solution must be designed around compatibility with existing infrastructure and employees’ usability to allow for a seamless transition. The lower the frequency of system swaps in an IT infrastructure the lower overall associated costs and downtime.

When considering upgrading to a new system, IT managers should consider the additional man-hours incurred as a result of the transition. Not only is work required to move the entire system that is being swapped, but work is also required to reconnect and troubleshoot potential compatibility issues. Once the system is in place, IT staff and company personnel must be retrained. Not only is this time-intensive for production and office staff, but it also requires a significant time investment from those providing the training. A major cost to organizations and their related IT departments is man-hours. As a result, efficient man-hour use is a major consideration for many IT managers so they can maintain their given IT budgets. Increasing the intervals between system swaps decreases the overall man-hour costs.

Many managers at this point are thinking about their legacy hardware and their related support and maintenance needs. The OEM places additional pressure to upgrade systems so they can sell more and increase their profit margins. They do not consider what is best for IT managers and their budgets as their goal is to increase sales. As a result, support costs skyrocket when it is time to renegotiate the SLAs. Once a system is sunsetted by the OEM, no support is provided by the OEM regardless of the price, leaving departments without support for functioning systems. Thomastech provides a solution.

With Thomastech’s support, many managers receive up to a 70% savings compared to the OEM’s SLAs. Thomastech focuses on streamlining and simplifying the support and maintenance process. Thomastech accomplishes this by providing direct access to level three engineers, extensive internal hardware inventory, support for all your OEMs in one place and a streamlined ticketing and triage process. All of these features ensure a faster resolution, lower costs, and reduced downtime.