Networking / Beginners

Network Attached Storage

Many network servers exist solely for the purpose of making disk space available to network users. As networks grow to support more users, and users require more disk space, network administrators are constantly finding ways to add more storage to their networks. One way to do that is to add additional file servers. However, a simpler and less expensive way is to use network attached storage, also known as NAS.

A NAS device is a self-contained file server that's preconfigured and ready to run. All you have to do to set it up is take it out of the box, plug it in, and turn it on. NAS devices are easy to set up and configure, easy to maintain, and less expensive than traditional file servers.

Warning NAS should not be confused with a related technology called storage area networks, or SAN. SAN is a much more complicated and expensive technology that provides huge quantities of data storage for large networks.

A typical entry-level NAS device is the Dell 725N. This device is a self-contained file server built into a small rack-mount chassis. It supports up to four hard drives with a total capacity up to one terabyte (or 1,000GB). The 475N has a dual-processor motherboard that can hold up to 3GB of memory, and two built-in 10/100/1000Mbps network ports. An LCD display on the front panel displays the device's IP address.

The Dell 725N runs a special version of Windows Server 2003 called the Windows Storage Server 2003. This version of Windows is designed specifically for NAS devices. It allows you to configure the network storage from any computer on the network by using a Web browser.

Note that some NAS devices use customized versions of Linux rather than Windows Storage Server. Also, in some systems, the operating system resides on a separate hard drive that's isolated from the shared disks. This prevents the user from inadvertently damaging the operating system.

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