A Small Business Guide to Network Attached Storage - Page 2

By Drew Robb
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Product Choices
There are plenty of vendors out there offering NAS. This small sampling covers options from the established vendors as well as a couple of smaller players that may suit certain SMBs.

As the vendor with the biggest slice of the NAS pie, it stands to reason that EMC has a massive line of products. At the lowest end, its LifeLine software coupled with inexpensive hardware is good enough for a start into the NAS world. EMC doesn’t sell this software directly, but licenses it to companies such as Iomega for use in its NAS products, which start around $1,500 for 3 TB. According to EMC LifeLine is designed for up to 10 users or for companies with less than $1 million in revenue and no IT staff.

Pillar Data Axiom 300
Pillar Data's Axiom 300.

Higher up on the food chain, the EMC Celerra NS20 system is designed for small businesses with 25-100 employees, revenues up to about $100M and at least one IT person– or external on-call help. The box can support up to 60 disk drives (60TB), but that can get quite costly. An entry level 2 TB Celerra NS20 configuration starts at $32,000.

“TheCelerra NS20 is for more sophisticated users with a larger amount of critical data, and at least one IT administrator, or a consultant on retainer,” said Tanya Loughlin, product marketing manager at EMC. “Installing a rack-mounted Celerra NS20 is more complicated than setting up a LifeLine-equipped desktop unit, though both are relatively easy to install.”

The Celerra NS20 fits in a standard rack and includes the Celerra Startup Assistant, which guides you through the initialization process (typically in less than 15 minutes, according to Loughlin).

Like EMC, NetApp offers a wide range of tools in the NAS space. This includes heavy-duty NAS filers (its name for a NAS box) that can house “all the terabyes in China.” It offers a decent selection for small businesses.

The StoreVault S300, for example, is aimed at the IT generalist in smaller companies that typically need 1 to 4 TB of data storage and have five to 15 servers in a Windows-centric environment. It costs $2,988 for 1 TB.

Don’t make the mistake of comparing apples to oranges in the various products listed here, however. Some come high in capacity and low on features, and others like this NetApp model or the EMC Celerra may seem to have less capacity. But you can do a lot with them compared to cheaper boxes.

Vendor Product Capacity Price
EMC Celerra NS20 2 TB $32,000
Net App StoreVault S300 1 TB $2,988
Iomega 150D 3 TB $1,579
MicroNet PlatinumNAS 4 TB $1,499
Pillar Data Axiom 300 5 TB $35,000

“StoreVault S300 provides SMB customers with proven data center technology, including advanced security, scalability, data protection and simplified data management,” said Sajai Krishnan, general manager of the NetApp SMB business unit.

“Despite the sophistication of the underlying operating environment, you don't need storage management expertise or learn anything new, as everything is accomplished via a familiar Windows environment,” he said.

Interesting Alternatives
You don’t have to go to the big boys to find good NAS deals. MicroNet’s PlatinumNAS Plus has a maximum capacity of 4 TB Terabytes, supports a wide range of networks and operating systems and includes RAID for data protection. The PlatinumNAS sells for $1,499, and all you need to install it is an Ethernet connection. There are plenty of other choices out there for those looking for bargain basement NAS.

Higher-end choices for small business NAS systems include the Pillar Data Systems’ Axiom 300. It provides up to 5 TB of storage, high performance and data protection features. Pricing starts at $35,000.

NAS is in Your Future
For the many small businesses that need to cope with expanding volumes of data, it makes good sense to move to networked storage. IDC says that small businesses account for the majority of growth in the networked storage market, particularly in products priced less than $15,000.

"The growth of low-end networked storage is fueled by an increased understanding and confidence among SMB users who are seeking more effective solutions to manage an increasingly complex and expanding set of requirements related to data storage,” said IDC's Nisbet.

Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.

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This article was originally published on March 25, 2008
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