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NAS vs. Server


Okay, so at my company we're planning on replacing one of our servers as it's pretty old - Old Dell PowerEdge 6650 from 9 years ago. It's still up and kicking, but we want to see about getting something a little bit faster - see if we can increase it a bit. Now, one thing that I was thinking of is getting a NAS to do what this thing does, which I'll explain below. I know NAS's can have great storage space, but I'm not sure about it's speed. It's also a lot cheaper than a server, as the cheapest one I could get from Dell is supposedly $2155, which makes me want to just buy a cheap one from Ebay with no hard-drives and buy them separately if anything.

So, this server is basically only a mapped drive. Employees save files to it, open them from it and edit them, the usual. It gets backed up daily with SyncToy to another server. I don't think it would be a bad idea for a NAS, but I just want to make sure it's what we need.

It's about 200 users, give or take. Most likely less. So a small business. Just a Lot of files are opened continuously from that server, so it slows it down a bit.

Thanks a lot for all of your suggestions.
4 Solutions
Take a look at Drobo. They have a range of products with eSATA, USB3 and iSCSI conections. Check  Drobo FS 5bay Which has a 1Gb network connection and also the Drobo Elite which has 2 x 1Gb iScsi connections.

You only get what you pay for, so research your requirements carefully first and what your peak loads will be.If you want performance you will need a decent CPU, as many spindles as you can afford and at least two NIC ports if you intend to service lots of clients.
If you plan to use iscsi and want to share the storage make sure the unit supports shared storage the Drobo Pro doesn't but the Elite does!
If you intend to use it in a Virtual Environment make sure it has the VMware or Hyper-V HCL approval.
Be sure your chosen vendor has a level of support you are comfortable with.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I would definitely replace a 9 year old server - especially if it's running with the original drives - those things are lucky to still be running.

HOWEVER, the only NAS you should be looking at for such a large business (a small business by most standards is 1-25 people... maybe 1-75 (Small Business Server from Microsoft only supports up to 75 users.  200 users is at least medium.

Now, what is slow?  Before you start looking at getting a faster solution (which most if not all will be) you really should know WHAT is slow about it?  Is it the disk?  Is it the network?  If it's the network - if you're using a 100 mbit network than a new server won't help at all.

I cannot imagine an experienced consultant, based on your current description, recommending a small NAS that doesn't support RAID 10 or RAID 5.  Further, if you're looking at a NAS you should be looking at advanced devices that support de-duplication and snapshots for backups (but not the only backups).

A dell server running a version of Windows Storage server may be an option.  

In general, unless you get LARGE, expensive, NAS devices, I don't recommend them as you are often better off getting a server that has expandable drives and a known OS (not some custom OS that you have to learn to integrate it into your domain and may not support new features as time goes on)

With 200 users, you'll want decent performance - that means a NAS made by QNAP, Synology, or Thecus.  Compare them at http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/
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ITGateAuthor Commented:
@Shah - It's not going to be a virtual environment. I just started here not too long ago and have heard virtual didn't work very nicely with the databases they're running. I'm actually finding out more about that today. I'm going to look at some good performance ones though - decent CPU, maybe RAID, etc. Like said, too. It's about 200 users. Accessing it at one time? Most likely not. About 30, 40 of them don't even have access to this dirve so even then I would probably take it to about 125 that have access to it. Maybe.

@Leew - I agree. Since I just started here as mentioned above, I want to try and get their servers upgraded. And if I'm not mistaken, they are the original drives. Which the things old so I definitely want to make sure we get something different. I understand the size and all, too. Still new to the business. 21 trying to work on my knowledge as much as possible.

Hard Drive reading is slow. It takes a bit to log in. The usual for an old system. We just want to try to increase the performance at which users can access this thing instead of having their files take a while to load. It's Gigabit, not 10GB, only 1.

The Dell server running Windows Storage is actually what the quote was for. $2,155 for it. It's not bad, but I was just thinking maybe a NAS would work for just simple user access since it's cheaper, if you know what I mean. But I understand what you mean with the expandable drives and a known OS. Thanks for the suggestion there.
andyalderSaggar makers bottom knockerCommented:
I don't see how you can replace it with just a NAS, for 200 users you really need a domain to authenticate to rather than create and maintain local accounts on the NAS box.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
A Windows Storage Server (I THINK all versions) can connect to a domain.

Windows Storage Server (over a standard server) offers Deduplication (again, I THINK all versions).  It also doesn't require CALs, so if you don't already have any 2008 Servers on the network, this would keep you from having to spend thousands on new CALs if you added a regular server.

I don't have a problem getting a Windows Storage Server based NAS - I'd just make sure the hardware it's sold on has expandability.  It is STILL Windows (you cannot upgrade the Windows version, but it still would like RAM to make management and potentially performance easier/faster.
andyalderSaggar makers bottom knockerCommented:
Nope, sorry Lee, can't run dcpromo on Windows Storage Server. It's both against the EULA and I think it's physically disabled unless you hack things. I guess that's why you don't need CALs, it's assumed you already have them if you're in a Windows environment. Still a good product though, at least you can run antivirus on it.

You can run SQL on it legally under limited conditions, the SQL has to be the catalog of a bckup application or other storage related product. Non-storage related products aren't allowed though. (SQL data can reside on it via iSCSI etc)

It does have single instance storage, not quite as good as block level deduplication but can save some space by eliminating duplicate files.
andyalderSaggar makers bottom knockerCommented:
I misread, yes, it can join a MS domain but they would still need a separate DC or two.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I think you realized this, but just to be clear, I agree - its not possible to turn Windows Storage Server into a DC.  Or to run MOST other Windows Server products (like Exchange or SQL - there may be exceptions under very specific circumstances, but as a general rule, a storage server is intended to provide storage services and nothing else while still providing a familiar Windows based management interface.

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