Originally published in The Clarion | July 28, 2010
Last week I mentioned a technology known as Network-Attached Storage, better known as NAS. These systems are application-specific devices that are designed to be connected to a network for document retention and storage. As businesses rely more and more on electronic documents, the necessity of long-term document storage has never been greater. With the inevitable failure of PC hard drives, the architecture and features of an inexpensive NAS solution enable some peace-of-mind in document storage.
Most personal computers only have one physical hard drive. This drive contains the PC’s operating system, software applications and documents. With only one drive, a personal computer is susceptible to unannounced and often instantaneous failure. When a hard drive fails, more times than not, all data stored on the drive is lost forever. Odds are good this has happened to you in your years of computing. For some, especially home PC users, losing a hard drive is sometimes nothing more than a temporary headache. Hard drives can be easily reloaded with the operating system and applications if the drive is not physically damaged. In the event of physical damage, a hard drive can be easily and relatively inexpensively replaced. This is fine if you are a casual PC user. Problems arise though in office environments and in situations where your home PC is used for bookkeeping, etc.
NAS devices are a perfect solution to help ensure your documents and other files are not lost in the event of hard drive failure. Today, a one-terabyte (that’s one thousand gigabytes) NAS solution can be purchased for under $200. These devices contain at least two, often many more, hard drives that are configured where the data is either replicated across the drives or actually stored across the multiple drives, enabling the NAS system to retain data even if one (or more) of the individual drives fails. In the office place, a NAS system can be installed and configured to support all PC’s on the network. Each user on the network has his or her own space on the device. Security features of the NAS system enable access to individual user partitions to be limited to only the owner of the files or maybe to a group of users. For example, Joe can have a NAS partition that only he has access to, but he can also be a member of the accounting group which shares another partition among several users in the accounting department.
In organizations where data retention is paramount, multiple NAS systems can be installed across the network. An almost-perfect scenario would include redundant NAS systems spread across two or more physical locations. Using network connectivity between sites, NAS systems can replicate to each other. Once implemented, total loss of one site due to fire, flood or any other number of disasters would not result in total loss of company-wide data. Considering the inexpensive costs and relative ease of installation and use, a NAS system can be viewed as an extremely cost-effective insurance mechanism for both home and business systems.