Choosing the Right NAS Appliance for Data Protection

Small to midsize businesses (SMBs) traditionally considered standalone tape drives as the most cost-effective means for backing up data. Sure, tape backup was slow, prone to error and difficult to manage. But it was the best option available for backup because it was significantly cheaper than disk.

Now, the wide availability of low-cost network attached storage (NAS) appliances has changed the SMB backup landscape. NAS appliances enable SMBs to replace tape drives with a disk-to-disk (D2D) backup solution that can fully automate backup procedures and accommodate explosive data growth.

In its simplest form, a D2D system copies the files or volumes from one disk to another disk. Data is backed up to the NAS appliance in the form of virtual copies (space-saving snapshots) or full-volume, byte-for-byte copies. Underlying this simplicity is a host of benefits over traditional tape solutions.

Why switch from tape to disk for backup?

NAS appliances bring all the benefits of disk to the backup process, including direct random access, improved read/write efficiency and significant time savings. Backup sessions that would ordinarily consume several days using tape can be completed in hours with a D2D solution.

Disk’s retrieval advantages over tape are beyond dispute. Loading a tape to search for a single file to restore from a week-old backup tape could take hours, while a similar search from a disk might take only a few minutes or less. The difference becomes even more pronounced if a full server restoration is required.

In addition, D2D backup eliminates the need for manual tape-rotation processes, reduces the number of tape drives an organization must purchase, limits the physical space required for tape storage, and shrinks personnel costs associated with managing a large tape library.

A NAS appliance can also enable disk-to-disk-to-cloud (D2D2C) backup, a hybrid process that combines local storage with third-party cloud storage for disaster recovery. Data is backed up at high speed to the local NAS appliance, then encrypted and replicated to the cloud where it can be recovered even if the NAS appliance is lost.

Not all NAS appliances are suitable for backup.

Many NAS appliances now offer multiple terabytes of storage capacity for a few hundred dollars. However, while most NAS appliances provide roughly comparable features when it comes to data storage, there are important differences to look for when it comes to using a NAS appliance for backup.

Some low-cost NAS appliances use consumer-grade disk drives that are unreliable and provide no warning when the drive is about to fail. SMBs should select NAS appliances with high-quality drives and software that reports on the state of the hardware.

At the same time, the appliance should also have an LED interface. The device’s software can fail, and without an LED interface it can be difficult to determine what is wrong — particularly if the device loses its network connection.

SMBs interested in a D2D2C solution should look for a NAS appliance with integrated cloud connectivity. But cloud backup isn’t always an option. Removable media enable SMBs to take advantage of the performance benefits of disk without losing the portability, scalability and durability benefits of tape.

Check for these features before selecting a NAS appliance for backup or contact for expert guidance. has also published a whitepaper on choosing the best data protection strategy for your IT requirements and business needs.