Storing data: server or NAS?
For any London based small business it’s critical to have an effective way to store files and share it among staff. Any company with more than two or three staff members who need to access the same data should be implementing some sort of storage system.
There are three basic choices:
- Keep files locally in the office, with daily cloud backups
- Keep files locally in the office, with no cloud backups
- Keep files in the cloud
It’s quite common to see small businesses who aren’t operating with any of the above setups because they simply don’t realise the pros and cons of each approach. The choice between in office storage and cloud storage often depends on how whether your business functions remotely, hybrid or solely onsite. However, in this article we’ll be focusing on two hardware options available for storing data in the office:
- NAS (Network Attached Storage) device
As a leading London IT support company totality services offer IT solutions designed to support your business needs. Our support begins here by breaking down a fundamental decision personal to your business: server or NAS?
What is a server?
A server is not dramatically different from a regular PC, but it serves a different purpose. The main role of a server is to manage resources on the network. The server will be using a server operating system such as Windows Server or Mac OS X Server. A server can fill a number of different roles, all of which manage resources and clients on the network. Potential server capabilities include:
- Active directory domain controller –> authenticates and authorises all users and computers on the network
- DHCP Server – dynamically assigns IP addresses to devices on the network
- DNS Server – associates IP addresses with domain names
- Printing and Document Services
- File storage, sharing and collaboration tools
- User or Device Specific Permissions
- Applications – applications installed on server can be accessible to clients (accounting software, e-commerce software, etc.)
Evidently, a server can offer more powerful hardware and greater functionality than other office data storage systems. Specialised knowledge is a must in order to manage a server, but this can lead to greater control over access to and security of data stored. Due to its capabilities a server does require a larger physical storage space, so it is better suited for businesses with designated storage.
What is a NAS?
NAS stands for network-attached storage. As you can derive from the name, a NAS is attached to a network and stores data in a centralised manner. A NAS differs to a server in that it is specialised to provide data storage and makes data easily accessible to all users and client devices. Functioning through an ethernet switch, it does not need to be attached to a computer but the network itself. Its centralised location allows synced folders to be accessed and modified by others on the network. It is also useful for backing up data locally.
In addition to file storage and sharing, NAS devices offer many of the same services that an application server can, but with more basic settings and less customisation available. It also requires you to use its own compatible applications, rather than choosing from any third-party software. However, a NAS boasts greater speeds than servers and provides great data sharing capabilities, for example between departments in an office. Its fewer capabilities and smaller size in comparison to a server make a NAS more suitable for small to medium sized businesses with limited office space.
Server or NAS for your small London business?
To decide whether a server or NAS will best suit your business, break down the benefits of each in the following categories:
Functionality and Ease of Use
Servers allow you to install third-party software, meaning you have more choice in applications if desired. With a NAS, you are limited to applications you can download solely from the NAS operating system. Servers are more capable and offer more advanced controls over your network services and applications, but also require more expert knowledge. A NAS offers less advanced functionality but will not require as much maintenance or configuration. Overall, a NAS is lower in terms of the power it can offer, whereas a server can offer you more capabilities but with the necessary expert management and maintenance. totality services clients won’t have to worry about the configuration and maintenance aspect, as support engineers are included with all IT support contracts.
Both servers and NAS provide a great way to share files across devices on the network with the use of shared folders. Both a server and NAS can allow for control over user permissions. User groups can be created that make files only accessible to those who should have access. However, the simplified interface of a NAS can sometimes exclude control over user access which can cause data breaches and other security issues. At closer inspection a server will typically offer more configuration options in terms of access control and security than a NAS will.
With the difference in functionality, comes a difference in cost. A server contains more powerful hardware and offers more functionality. Ultimately, a server will then almost always cost more than a NAS. Purchasing licenses are required for server operating systems, causing an increase in costs. In some cases, your business will need licenses (or CALs) for each user or device connecting to the server. Frequent visits from server engineers or specialists to manage your server will prove more costly too. On the other hand, most NAS software comes with the NAS device and does not require user licensing. In the long run, NAS seems more cost effective if your business does not require extensive capabilities only found with a server.
Choosing the right data storage system is essential for appropriate employee access, organisation of files, and security. Your search should first and foremost set your budget in mind, alongside your business needs. This could include your employees’ data access and permissions to share, as well as security considerations, due to the types and sizes of files which need to be kept safe.
A server setup has the ability to improve efficiency and reliability in small London based businesses. If you are seeking higher functionality and can handle more complicated configuration and maintenance, a server is the best choice. Undoubtedly, choosing a server comes with a higher price and requires a comfortably sized storage space for your equipment. If your small business has less necessity for higher performing hardware and is simply looking for a good file storage, a NAS is the better option. It still offers great sharing solutions and other basic applications through its system, delivering a more affordable storage system.
If your small business is struggling to decide between a NAS and a server, or is seeking help with installation and setup, please contact us for advice.