NAS (Network Attached Storage) vs. Server for Small Businesses
For any small business, it is important to have an effective way to store and share data among workers. Thus, any network with more than 2 or 3 users who need to access the same data should be implementing some sort of client-server relationship. It is common to see small businesses operating with without this setup because they simply don't realize the cost and time-saving benefits that a NAS or server can bring. Choosing between a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device or a server depends on several factors. First it is important to understand the difference between a server and NAS.
What Is a Server?
A server is not dramatically different from a regular personal computer, but it serves a different purpose. The main role of a server is to manage resources on the network. The server will be using a server operating system such as Windows Server or Mac OS X Server. A server can fill a number of different roles, all of which manage resources and clients on the network. Potential server capabilities include:
- Active directory domain controller – authenticates and authorizes all users and computers on the network
- DHCP Server – dynamically assigns IP addresses to devices on the network
- DNS Server – associates IP addresses with domain names
- Printing and Document Services
- File storage, sharing and collaboration tools
- User or Device Specific Permissions
- Custom Applications - applications installed on server that are accessible to clients (accounting software, inventory management software, etc.)
Our preferred server setup runs Windows Server 2012 or newer.
What Is a NAS?
NAS stands for network-attached storage. As you can derive from the name, a NAS is attached to a network and stores data. It's a device that is specialized to provide data storage and make it easily accessible. A NAS provides a central location to allow for synced folders that can be accessed and modified by others on the network. It is also useful for backing up data. In addition to file storage and sharing, NAS devices offer many of the same services that an application server can, but with more basic settings and less customization. It also requires you to use its own compatible applications, rather than choosing from any third party software.
Our preferred NAS setup utilizes DSM (DiskStation Manager) and Synology's NAS hardware.
Which Device Suits Your Small Business?
To decide whether a NAS or server will best suit your small business, break down the benefits of each below. Click on a category to learn more.
As discussed earlier, application servers are more powerful than NAS, as they offer more functionality. Application servers allow you to install third-party software. With a NAS, you are limited to applications you can download on the NAS operating system. For example, to make a Synology NAS into a mail server, you'll need to download the Synology Mail Server app. Servers are more capable and offer more advanced controls over your network services and applications, but also require more management. The NAS offers less advanced functionality, but will not require as much maintenance or configuration. Businesses with a dedicated IT staff need not worry about the configuration and maintenance aspect, but those businesses without IT may opt for the simpler NAS.
Next Steps for Evaluating the Right Solution
For a small business, a client-server network setup will improve efficiency and reliability. When choosing a server device, you must consider the needs of your business as well as your budget. For those seeking higher functionality and can handle the more complicated configuration, maintenance, and higher cost, an application server is the best choice. For those whose are looking for a great file storage and sharing solution and backup system, with other basic applications, a NAS is by far a more affordable option.
If your small business is struggling to decide between a NAS and a server installation or is seeking help with installation and setup, please contact us at Igniting Business. We do sell both types of devices, provide consultation to determine which device best suits your needs, and help with installation and configuration. Please fill out the form below to learn more.