Even the largest enterprises are moving operations to a remote-friendly, hybrid workforce model—at least in part. Thanks to global disruption becoming the norm, companies have accelerated their plans to build composable infrastructure that can work any time from anywhere. These systems rely on stakeholders having access to tools and data they need to work even if they can’t get into the office. So when it comes to storage for that data, should you choose NAS or the cloud?
What is network attached storage (NAS)?
NAS is a file storage system that doesn’t need to be connected directly to a computer the way an external hard-drive does. Authorized network users can retrieve and store data and can access it from anywhere that connects to the network.
NAS centrally manages data, making it faster and more efficient than traditional on-premises storage. Organizations can involve a single device or a cluster, giving enterprises more freedom to house the data they need without wasting space.
It shines with unstructured data, providing companies with the space to manage complex data while maintaining the speed and efficiency of data retrieval.
Moving NAS to the cloud
Cloud-based NAS provides the same basic features of a private NAS, but shifts the responsibility of hardware and maintenance to the service provider. The enterprise relies on the surface providers NAS devices instead of their own, reducing the initial cost of equipment.
This off-site file storage also expands the usage area for those working remote or in distributed enterprises. The service provider’s network can extend the company’s reach without needing to invest heavily in a large private network.
Everyone is moving to the cloud, but storage may not need to
Gartner predicts that at least two-thirds of enterprise IT spending will be directed towards the cloud by 2025, However, shifting to Cloud NAS requires some consideration for what kind of data a company stores and how teams will use that data.
Cost is a factor for both choices
An onsite NAS system will cost companies more upfront, requiring sometimes heavy technology investments to build its infrastructure. Cloud-based NAS only requires that the company migrate their data; devices and hardware are the responsibility of the service provider.
Continuing costs include maintenance and overhead. In addition, completely restructuring existing NAS systems could include additional costs because these systems aren’t as agile as what’s available in the cloud.
Once everything is set up, costs begin to shift. Cloud uses different metrics to calculate costs. Storage itself may cost a single fee per month, but the act of accessing that data may drive up monthly costs later. However, the company won’t spend money on maintenance or overhead associated with updating servers.
Security and reliability are another factor
One myth about cloud operations is that on-premises systems are automatically more secure. That isn’t always the case. Cloud service providers make it their priority to stay up to date with the latest security threats and can take a more proactive, nimble approach to security than some in-house teams can.
However, companies under heavy regulatory pressure may need NAS systems on-premises to ensure that they remain in compliance. Certain cloud services may not meet some aspects of data management protocols required of companies with highly sensitive data or those who contract with government departments.
In terms of reliability, cloud NAS is certainly easier to set up and in its ongoing management. However, onsite NAS can provide decision makers with an ultra reliable connection built on an internal network that isn’t reliant on someone else’s equipment.
Choosing cloud versus onsite NAS
The decision is unique to each company. Here are some things to consider.
- NAS is often faster and more efficient than cloud thanks to a local network.
- Storage involves a single upfront cost rather than relying on continual monthly fees
- Companies with heavy regulatory responsibilities can better comply to those regulations
- Security and configurations are entirely within the company’s control.
- The NAS system often pushes available bandwidth to its limits, which can slow other actions throughout the network.
- Scalability isn’t as straightforward because companies must invest in the hardware upfront.
- It’s specifically designed for file storage. Companies will need other tools to build an infrastructure.
- Cloud scales up or down based on the company’s changing needs and with little effort on the company’s part and reduces upfront costs.
- Storing offsite in cloud servers provides a failsafe should the company’s network go down. It often includes a redundancy that further protects data assets.
- Cloud provides flexibility for access without the hassle of downloading or installations.
- Service providers offer their expertise in cybersecurity, deployment, maintenance, and upgrades
- While companies may save money in installation and upfront investment, usage costs may very depending on how the company processes and retrieves data.
- Choosing a service provider can lead to vendor lock-in.
- If there’s an outage, companies can’t take any steps to retrieve data or fix the problem themselves.
Cloud NAS versus onsite NAS depends on a company’s core priorities
Choosing traditional NAS systems or the newer cloud options is a matter of what priorities. The decision will depend a lot on how they plan to execute their data storage within the larger operational framework. For some companies, the option to scale in the future could far outweigh potential cost increases. Others may prefer to have total control over their data storage and access.
Organizations may want to match their storage choice to the location of their connected tools—for example, Cloud NAS partnered with an app available only in the cloud—but this isn’t a given. It will be up to each company to fit NAS storage into its overall data ecosystem in the say that makes the most sense for operations.
Elizabeth Wallace is a Nashville-based freelance writer with a soft spot for data science and AI and a background in linguistics. She spent 13 years teaching language in higher ed and now helps startups and other organizations explain – clearly – what it is they do.