May 18, 2024

The Difference Between Storage Area Networks and Network Attached Storage

Shared storage programs are a great way to share files and projects among personnel in the office or abroad. Whether it be a professional setting about finishing a product or even things like school assignments; shared storage programs are a great solution to fast and convenient data sharing that is easy to use. Various programs like those from the big-name producers can do the hard work for consumers. 

Traditional direct attached storage has physical limitations of hard-drives and location. If someone needed a file from a different computer one would have traditionally had to go to the physical location of that storage to access the file. One solution to this is called a storage area network.

Invented as a way to consolidate storage; Storage area networks require special hardware in order to work such host buses and are connected with high speed Fibre Channel. This makes it great for transmitting a lot of data very quickly. Modern advancements allow Fibre Channel to transmit data at the speed of 51,200 MB/s or about 51 gigabytes a second. It is the fastest way to share storage however it does have some limitations. SAN itself only works on the block level; meaning that without external software more meaningful files and extensions are not accessible. SAN only sees a block of some kind of data without any reverence to whether that file is a word document, a graphic file or etc. 

Using Network Attached Storage. as opposed to a Storage Area Network one user can make a change to a file that is immediately accessible to another user as NAS works on the file level. A good example exists in video game design post production workflow where multiple users are working on the same scene. One person can be working on coding and apply real time updates that the level designer can use. Another benefit of NAS is that it doesn’t require expensive Fibre Channel to set up and can even be done with Ethernet. In using a direct Ethernet switch as a connection, it also allows virtualization and file access to systems that may not be in the same building or even country. This makes it cheaper to set up and a lot easier as well, but the biggest drawback is the speed. Advanced NAS type systems can reach some high speeds but still for the most part pale in comparison to the fiber optic systems present in SAN 

In short SAN are more complex, harder and more expensive to implement but are better for very large-scale environments. If you’re looking for something to get started however a NAS might be more applicable as it is cheaper and easier to set up to the point that it is even practical for home consumers to use. NAS also allows access to file types inherently which some may find to be more convenient for other reasons for data storage where the file is being used and not just backed up.

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