Why use NAS instead of a Windows File Server?

Posted on 2006-07-01
Last Modified: 2008-10-13
What is the advantage of using a NAS server over a Windows File Server?
Question by:Axter
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LVL 88

Assisted Solution

rindi earned 50 total points
ID: 17023524
A NAS doesn't necessarily replace a file server, but rather it is storage with usually lots of capacity, and then this storage is handled by a separate or some separate servers. One advantage is that the disks aren't inside the server, which usually only has limited room for disks anyway. If the server breaks the NAS is still working. With failover systems you can also make sure the NAS is reachable even while the server itself is down.
LVL 96

Accepted Solution

Lee W, MVP earned 200 total points
ID: 17023672
Lets be clear on what kind of NAS - are we talking about a "cheap" little thing with space for 1-4 drives or so that will cost you $500-$2000 or are we talking an Enterprise class NAS device that can be expanded into the multi-TB level and offers features such as snapshots (roughly the same as volume shadow copy) that costs at least high 5 figures and probably 6-7 figures fully loaded?

In a large environment that needs multi-TB of space, I actually recommend NAS because devices from EMC and Network Appliance usually have very high performance with very high reliability and service as well as the ability to grow without taking the system offline.

If you're talking about the "cheap" little NAS devices like the SNAP servers and such, about the only advantage is that they usually don't have client access limits/licensing - but then again, neither does a Linux Server running Samba.  Otherwise, they are often more expensive (noteably so) than buying/building a server to handle storage.  You could easily get multiple controller cards and connect external arrays to the server for less than the price of a "cheap" NAS device AND not be tied to a potentially proprietary system.  Besides, they make cases that can handle many drives.  For $80 I got one that can handle 14 drives - 14x750GB drives in a RAID 5 is 9.75TB usable space - internally alone.  Get a few controllers and attach external SCSI or SATA drives and double, triple, or quadruple that.  OR more.

Snap Server - $2630 - for 1 TB (750 GB usable space).  Or spend roughly $1000 on a server running linux.  Which is the better deal?
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Assisted Solution

garycase earned 200 total points
ID: 17023906
... I'd also include the Buffalo TeraStation products in leew's cheap NAS list => these work very well, and are very competitively priced (e.g. $669 for the 1TB example:

The complete list of TeraStations:

The NAS approach has a few advantages over a dedicated server:

(1)  Essentially immune to virus/spyware attacks, since the OS is not being updated
(2)  No client licensing access restrictions (as leew already noted)
(3)  Often have built-in RAID, so single drive failures do not cause any data loss
(4)  In the smaller, "cheap" sizes (per leew's terminology) they are more compact than a server

Relative to the "cheap" NAS implementations, a Windows Server approach provides more flexibility; but at a cost both in dollars and in complexity.   (the question asks about using Windows Server, so I won't detail the advantages of using Linux for this)
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LVL 30

Author Comment

ID: 17024698
Have any of you seen the FreeNas web site?

Do you see an advantage of using FreeNas over a windows file server, other then the client license issue?

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Author Comment

ID: 17024704
Are there any good websites on NAS, and does anyone have a good book to recommend on this topic?

I'm a developer, and I have a program that I maintain that supports NAS, and I just want to be more familiar with the topic.

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Assisted Solution

garycase earned 200 total points
ID: 17024719
Yes, I'm aware of FreeNAS (but haven't tried it).   It's simply a port of FreeBSD dedicated to providing NAS services with a very compact OS implementation.   As with any free-OS-based NAS it's main advantage is cost  (which is, of course, directly related to client licensing).  In case you weren't aware of it, many of the "cheap" NAS boxes run Linux to implement the NAS (e.g. the Buffalo TeraStations all use Linux) => albeit they just run a basic kernel and file services, but they're Linux nevertheless.

LVL 44

Assisted Solution

scrathcyboy earned 50 total points
ID: 17025219
To put this in perspective, windows is basically an application and "LOCAL-LAN" file server.  It is severely limited with other types of "remote" lan file services.  A NAS or SAN is a TCP-based drive resource, and therefore it is "REMOTE" according to MS rules.  Of course this is stupid archaic thinking, but that WAS the thinking of MS when they developed the OS.  There should be NO difference between a TCP IP NW resource and a local resource, except speed, but MS, in its infinite wisdom decided that there was a difference.  Therefore windows is NAS ans SAN "challenged" for no other reason than lack of foresight.
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Author Comment

ID: 17025242
Thank you all
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Expert Comment

ID: 17025257
You're most welcome.

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