Network Attached Storage

What is NAS?

A NAS system is a high-capacity storage device connected to a network that allows authorized network users and clients to store and retrieve data from a centralized location. 

Fundamentally, a NAS device is simply a container for hard drives with some additional intelligence included for files to be shared and authorized. Because a NAS device uses a technology called Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID), it can distribute and duplicate the stored data across multiple hard disks. That redundancy ensures data resilience in the case of any failed drives.

Why do organizatons use NAS?

NAS systems are versatile, flexible, and scalable, so you can add onto existing solutions as your storage needs grow. They can be either pre-populated with disks or diskless and have one or two USB ports so you can connect printers or external storage drives to the network, allowing additional options for all connected users.

Do you need IT to manage NAS?

Because NAS devices are simple to operate and can be configured and managed through a browser-based utility, you may not need an IT professional on standby to manage storage. Additionally, a NAS device can be accessed remotely, allowing it to serve as a private Dropbox or Google Drive with far more storage and no monthly cost.

How does a NAS device work?

A NAS device runs on any platform or operating system. It is essentially a bundle of hardware and software with an embedded operating system to run independently. Often, it is a simple combination of a network interface card (NIC), a storage controller, a number of drive bays, and a power supply. NAS devices contain anywhere from two to five hard drives to provide redundancy and fast file access. While NAS is often thought of as a mini-server, its controller only manages disks for storage and does not operate as a server.

In basic terms, a NAS device is an appliance that directly connects to the network either through a hardwired Ethernet (RJ45) cable or via Wi-Fi, thus creating a LAN instead of WAN. It is assigned an IP address, and data transfer between users, servers, and a NAS via TCP/IP. NAS operates with a traditional file system—either a New Technology File System (NTFS) or NFS for remote file services and data sharing. All storage on the device is accessed at the file level through a file share.

NAS devices deliver shared storage as network mounted volumes and use protocols like NFS and SMB/CIFS. When it’s used for shared storage, the NAS device attaches multiple servers to a common storage device. These “clusters” are often used for failover through a cluster-shared volume, which allows all cluster nodes to access the same data.

A NAS consists of the following elements:

  • Hardware: The hardware is simply a server that contains storage disks or drives, processors, and RAM. Known as a NAS box, unit, server, or head, it transfers only two types of requests: data storage and file sharing.
  • Software: Storage software is preconfigured and installed on the above hardware and deployed on a lightweight operating system embedded in the hardware.
  • Network switch: Users access data transfer protocols through this switch, which is essentially a central server that connects to everything and routes requests.
  • Protocols: Transmission control protocol (TCP) combines files into packets and sends them through internet protocols (IPs).


What are the benefits of using NAS?

NAS systems are rapidly becoming the popular choice for businesses because they are effective, scalable, low-cost storage solutions. Using a NAS system, users can easily work together and serve customers because data is continually accessible. Selecting NAS over other solutions depends on current backup and recovery business requirements. The following are benefits to using NAS for data protection plans and business needs:


As a LAN-connected device, NAS is able to store and transfer files much more quickly. It can also rapidly back up files so incremental changes are protected.


Using a NAS means that companies are not using a third party for storage, which allows them to maintain total control over access to their data.

Ease of use

Because NAS has been around for years, administrators are more familiar with how to set up and manage them. In addition, setup is simpler because many NAS architectures have simplified scripts or streamlined operating systems already installed.


Reliable access

Because they are on a dedicated network, users can access data from anywhere. Also, since a NAS is positioned on site, it is not subject to Internet service interruptions.

What is the difference between NAS and SAN protocols?

There are two main types of networked storage: NAS and storage area networks (SANs). Both NAS and SAN were developed to make stored data available to multiple users simultaneously. Each provides dedicated storage for a group of users, but they have totally different approaches.

NAS device is a relatively affordable single-storage device that serves files over Ethernet and is easy to set up. A SAN is a tightly coupled network of multiple devices that is quite a bit more complex to set up and manage.

From a user perspective, the biggest difference between the two is that NAS takes care of unstructured data, including audio, video, websites, text files, and MS Office documents, while SANs handle structured data or block storage inside databases.

Additionally, how they work differs quite a bit. Both manage I/O requests, but a NAS handles them for individual files while a SAN handles them for contiguous blocks of data. And each uses a different protocol for moving traffic: NAS uses Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) while SAN can use FC protocol for storage networks or the Ethernet-based ISCSI protocol.

Finally, they differ in how a client OS views each of them. To a client OS, NAS appears as a single device managing individual files, while a SAN is presented to the disk as the client OS itself. As a block-based data system, SAN often houses business-critical databases instead of the “economy class” NAS device.


Why do small businesses use NAS?

When it comes to data storage, small businesses need low-cost, scalable storage with easy operation and data backup. The following are a few examples of how organizations manage this.


A leading telecom operator was looking for an easily managed backup solution that would fit their limited budget. The company was particularly concerned with the volume of internal data generated by its employees and how to find disk space for all of it. With more than 1,600 employees and at least that many desktops, laptops, and mobile devices, their 2PB storage capacity wasn’t enough. They also needed the ultimate in data protection and easy maintenance to free up staff members who were responsible for manual routine backups. They chose NAS because of its low cost, high-capacity file-sharing capabilities.



A major cloud-based platform provider for the mortgage finance industry had 30 billion small files to store with a rapidly growing volume that their current storage capacity could not manage efficiently. They were struggling with repair, expansion, and maintenance issues and constantly concerned with security for their clients. They found a reliable scale-out NAS file system that offered significantly better storage efficiency and cost savings for rack-space, power, cooling, and heating. With a more scalable, flexible, and available system, they were able to devote less time and resources to storage and more time to customers.


Criminal justice

A national prison system needed a storage system that would reliably preserve high-definition video surveillance used to ensure the safety of staff and prisoners. Their current storage array lacked visibility and an automatic process for systematically deleting video, which led to capacity problems, and an upgrade to high-definition video only compounded the problem. They implemented a NAS solution with much larger capacity and room for expansion that delivers the ability to review the data and comply with preservation requirements.

HPE NAS solutions

HPE has NAS solutions that are secure, tailored, and economically feasible for large and small businesses alike. We offer resilient and self-protecting platforms to help you safeguard your unstructured data. Our solutions have native capabilities such as data encryption, sophisticated access controls, file access auditing, file immutability, and deletion prevention to help you reduce security risks.

HPE StoreEasy is designed to help businesses get the most out of their capacity, spend less time managing storage, and densely scale capacity as they grow and protect data. With StoreEasy, you can support tens of thousands of concurrent users with diverse workloads and ensure data security while at rest and in flight with built-in encryption. And by using a StoreEasy management console, you can consolidate multiple interfaces, automate storage tasks, and centralize monitoring.

With the exponential growth in unstructured data, enterprises need scale-out solutions to manage it. HPE Apollo 4000 Systems are intelligent data storage servers that provide accelerated performance, end-to-end security, and predictive analytics for storage-intensive workloads.