How to Get Speed of NAS and Capacity of Cloud Without Compromises

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How to Get Speed of NAS and Capacity of Cloud Without Compromises

Digital file storage always requires compromises. Network-attached storage offers local area network (LAN) speeds that boost productivity, but capacities are limited. Clouds offer nearly infinite capacity and are cost-effective, but accessing and sharing files across the internet from distant data centers can be slow and tedious. Combining both uses their strengths but also exposes their weaknesses. In this eWEEK slide show, Paul Tien, creator of ReadyNAS and founder of Morro Data (, highlights the core issues of local and cloud storage and shows a better NAS is possible that avoids tradeoffs.

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NAS: The Legacy Repository for Business Data

Network-attached storage (NAS) is the traditional strategy for storing and sharing files, particularly for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that can't afford enterprise solutions like storage-area networks. Employees retrieve files at the fast gigabit speeds of the LAN, avoiding productivity-sapping latency even with large files. But NAS boxes are costly, have finite capacity, and must be deployed and maintained at every site that has a LAN.

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NAS Is Cost-Inefficient

NAS boxes are a significant capital cost, which compels businesses to avoid short-term obsolescence by investing in devices capacious enough to support future growth. They pay for capacity today that they won't use anytime soon. Moreover, when NAS devices approach their storage limits, which is inevitable, businesses must invest further to either scale out their devices, if possible, or replace them with larger, costlier boxes.

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The Cloud May Be Big, but It's Also Slow

More and more organizations address finite NAS capacity by linking their boxes to the cloud. This is a compromised solution, however, because by gaining nearly infinite storage capacity on a cloud, businesses lose the performance of on-LAN access. For businesses in verticals like video, health care, science and engineering where files can be hundreds of gigabytes in size, moving data across the internet between a cloud and offices is a deal breaker because of the time and bandwidth it consumes. Clouds are good for backups, but not for active data.

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Bring the Cloud Closer to the LAN and Employees

To operate at the speed of today’s business, employees need to access files at gigabit LAN speeds rather than the much slower pace of internet connections. Where large enterprises throw money at the problem with high-bandwidth internet pipelines and IT staff to manage cloud stores, SMBs often lack such resources, putting them at a competitive disadvantage. They need solutions that deliver the strengths of both NAS and clouds without any of the weaknesses.

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Time to Reinvent NAS

A practical, cost-effective approach to ensure both LAN performance and cloud scalability is to cache data locally and store data remotely. Rather than maintain traditional NAS boxes at each site, replace them with inexpensive, plug-and-play appliances that locally cache active files and upload them to dedicated cloud stores. Files are kept on-premises and in the cloud, where they are synced and pushed to other sites.

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High-Speed Performance, Cloud Scalability and Global Syncing

Using cache and sync, users retrieve files at LAN speeds from the local appliances, ensuring that all files are quickly available and globally synced. Distributed users no longer wait for the latest draft, nor do they work with older drafts. Inactive files are deleted from the appliances according to policies but remain in the cloud store, providing virtually unlimited backup.

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Scheduled Downloads, Deduping and Security

Updated files from one office are sent to all other sites either automatically or according to policy-based schedules that optimize usage of web gateways. Employees routinely see files on their hard drives regardless of whether the files are cached on the LAN or in the cloud. The appliances dedupe files to conserve bandwidth, all files are encrypted for transit between sites and the cloud, and each cloud store has its own access rights.

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Cache Locally and Sync Globally

With a cache-and-sync approach, businesses eliminate the costs of NAS boxes scattered across the enterprise and the staff needed to administer them and perform backups. By reinventing NAS for enterprise-wide service, they retain the performance of LAN access, avoid the capacity limitations of local storage and sync files across multiple offices. They eliminate the tradeoffs inherent in hybrid NAS/cloud solutions while gaining global control of file sharing and security policies.

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Bringing the Cloud Closer to the LAN

Merging the cloud with on-LAN performance is a simple, affordable solution for empowering businesses with high-speed file sharing, unlimited storage capacity and syncing across distributed sites. Cache and sync is practical not only for SMBs and remote or branch offices, but even for professional power users like video editors or designers working remotely. With this approach, NAS works at the speed of business.

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Why Object Storage Is Coming of Age in the Big Data Era

With data storage volumes growing at exponential rates, some enterprises are taking another look at object database technology as a way to manage all that stored information in the big data era.