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DAS vs NAS Which Attached Storage Is Right for My Business?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

What Storage Problem?

I think we can all relate to working on a project and getting to that crucial part where we need to save or add more data to the project only to find that we’ve run out of storage space.

anyone who has used Photoshop knows the “Scratch Disk Full” error or Final Cut Pro “Not Enough Disk Space” error. – these out of storage errors are not unique to Photoshop or Final Cut Pro and bring dread to any professional who has run into these errors when mid flight. – it’s like running out of fuel before you reach your destination.

Let’s take a look at 2 primary external types of storage that can be used to fix this problem for individuals and groups and how we can improve the way we think about storage.

DAS – Direct Attached Storage

We’re going to focus on DAS for desktop/ laptop computers specifically as server DAS is a completely different ball game which we can cover in another post.

DAS – Direct Attached Storage is a quick and simple solution to be able to extend your storage capacity to an externally connected drive over a USB type cable, in today’s modern age we primarily use USB to achieve this goal in years gone by there where other types of connections like FireWire and ThunderBolt – RIP.

Some of the limitations of DAS include peer to peer sharing this isn’t really DAS’s fault it’s just a limitation of having local storage in the same way you have internal storage in your computer, to share these files with others you’ll need to allow them to connect directly to your computer or send them the files which makes it more challenging to manage different versions of files and increases data sprawl.

In it’s simplest form DAS – Direct Attached Storage is precisely what’s written on the box, you’ll find these as an external enclosure housing a drive either being SSD – Solid State Drive or HDD – Spinning Rust mechanical drive connected directly via a cable to your computer.

Modern DAS will run over USB3 or USB4 which are the latest iterations of the USB – Universal Serial Bus interface delivering the best interface performance. think of USB as the road between your computer and the external drive, you can either have a single lane each way which will have congested traffic or you can have multiple lanes each way which speeds up traffic, these lanes are often referred to as bandwidth the more lanes the more bandwidth you have 😉

Commonly used USB Specifications
Specification New Feature Maximum Speed
USB 1.1 Low Speed / Full Speed 1.5 / 12 Mbits/ sec
USB 2.0 High Speed 480 Mbits/ sec
USB 3.0 Super Speed Plus 10 Gbits/ sec
USB 4 40 Gbits/ sec

table recreated from the Microchip Developer Hub , USB4 details supplied by Wikipedia.

Even though the latest USB technology can deliver these amazing speeds it doesn’t mean the drive you choose can match these speeds so working out the right combination for the job takes a little bit of research. – it’s not hard let us help you.

For those that wish to skip to the end you can scan ahead to the table below and for those interested in understanding why keep reading.

Here’s the quick break down on drive interfaces.

SATA – Serial ATA is an interface that connects a drive to it’s enclosure basically a bridge/ link connecting the 2 objects, in today’s modern technology SATA has a maximum transfer speed of 6Gpbs, when connecting using a USB3, 3.1 or 4 enclosure to your computer you’ll get the maximum bandwidth between the external enclosure, the drive and computer if your computer supports these modern USB types.

Another catch to consider is the drives maximum performance, an SSD – Solid State Drive will deliver the fastest response or what we like to call lowest latency in (I.T. jargon) as there are no moving parts to retrieve or write data and due to this acceleration it can saturate it’s 6 Gbps SATA connection, while a normal Mechanical Drive will deliver between 120 MB/s up to a max of 220 MB/s (0.96 – 1.76 Gbps), drive performance comes down to the brand, type and capacity of the drive used, that equates to between 8x – 4x less performance than SSD on average and make a massive difference in performance.

The USB Take Away.

Short answer for those who aren’t into the technical side of things, which USB type and drive combo to aim for.

points to consider.

  • If your computer has a lower version of USB that’s going to be the max speed you’ll get no matter how fast the drive. (see table above for USB speeds)
  • SSD performance is always better and the drive can be more reliable due to no moving parts but comes at a higher cost / GB
  • Mechanical drives are slower and can be less reliable due to moving parts but deliver more usable capacity / GB
Drive Type Interface Type Pros/ Cons
SSD SATA USB 3, 3.1 or 4 Faster, More reliable, higher cost / GB
Mechanical SATA USB 3, 3.1 or 4 Slower, Can be less reliable, lower cost / GB

DAS Pros/ Cons

Pros

  • Great for a single individual needing more storage
  • Less complex to setup – basically plug and play
  • Quick fix for an immediate storage problem
  • lowest cost solution compared to other storage options
  • Skill Level: Basic – Intermediate

Cons

  • Individual use with limited data sharing capabilities for groups
  • single point of failure when used for production data (where are your backups?)
  • limited data growth opportunities requiring the purchase of another drive + enclosure
  • managing multiple DAS drives increases complexity and the potential for data loss when managing large amounts of data.

Use Cases

  • Backup Drive – used to take a backup of your production data
  • Archival Drive used to store older data requiring infrequent access
  • Extending data storage requirements Production, Backup, Archival
  • Have multiple DAS drives 1 for every project which allows you to compartmentalise for better management.

NAS – Network Attached Storage

Here is where the fun begins as we can start to do a lot more with a NAS – Network Attached Storage, NAS come in many shapes and sizes ranging from a single drive up to 60 drive bay units and these can be grown further with expansion shelves to add more drives, but we are probably getting ahead of our selves for the time being.

NAS can be used as a target for your CCTV footage, to store group files and a whole lot more which we will cover in our Use Case (#link to use case for quick navigation) section below.

As the name implies Network Attached Storage means the NAS is connected to your internal office network, yes this can mean over WiFi but due to the inconsistency of wireless connections the most reliable way to connect your NAS is via a fixed hard wired connection being the best option, a hard wired connection will consistently deliver the optimal speed possible at all times for all users.

Single Drive or Multi Drive What’s The Difference?

With a single drive there is always the risk of data loss due to the single drive failing, depending on your business requirements and what is deemed to be an acceptable time to access your data it may be prudent to use a NAS with multiple drives working together to deliver drive redundancy, this can be achieved with 2 or more drives in your NAS.

NAS Use Cases

NAS – Network Attached Storage As A Backup Target

A NAS can be used as a backup up target for your computer allowing a completely separate copy of your data to exist in the event your computer is lost, stolen or broken. A full backup of data can live on the NAS depending on your backup software this may include version control where by there are multiple historical versions of a document that can be restored. – think MAC Time Machine!

NAS – Network Attached Storage For Group Collaboration

A NAS can deliver the flexibility of storing files to an “always on location” to allow group collaboration, this is different to the previous DAS example of Peer to Peer sharing (computer > computer) (## image of NAS in the middle of multiple computers would be great here)

NAS – Network Attached Storage Value Add Services

NAS – Cloud Sync

Many NAS devices these days offer value add services which can be moved from your local computer to the NAS like syncing with a cloud service like GoogleDrive, DropBox, NextCloud and more, this comes in handy when there are multiple users sharing a single cloud storage account and having limited storage on their PC’s to keep everything needed in sync.

NAS – Group Collaboration With FileSync

Simply add a NAS with enough storage to your internal network, share out the group folders and connect the NAS to a cloud storage account allowing it to sync, then each computer in the office can share files to the NAS which is now in sync with the cloud service. – check out our mini case study for more info on how this solution can work for your business. {link to mini case study “Rochfort Gallery Synology NAS Shared Storage”}

NAS – CCTV – Closed Circuit TV & NVR – Network Video Recorder

Depending on what your business needs a NAS can be used as a simple target to land CCTV footage from your security cameras to store large amounts of footage for playback later, we’ve had great success with clients using the Synology NAS and the built in NVR – Network Video Recorder software “Surveillance Station” which allows you to manage all connected cameras on the network, playback footage and view all footage in real time on a computer or external monitor. – see the case study for more info {link to case study “Southern Cross Vets – CCTV & NVR with Synology Surveillance Station”}

NAS – Website Backups

Like many businesses you probably invested thousands of dollars and time into building your website and brand online, do you have a current copy of your website offline if there’s a service provider issue? Unfortunately, most businesses never consider this to be a problem until it’s too late, depending on the size of your website a backup can vary between a few hundred MB to many GB (1024 MB = 1 GB) of space, using a NAS you can take a regular automated backups of your website at intervals that suit and keep them offline in case of emergency.

NAS – Video Editing & Transcoding

Many of our clients run teams who work with video, using a NAS to to collaborate on video footage saves a lot of data duplication so editors don’t need to have another duplicate copy of the video on their local machines, keeping videos on the NAS reduces local storage requirements and speeds up editing processes when video footage is stored centrally vs on each team members computer.

Read the Reelbox TrueNas Mini Case Study

NAS – Shared Storage Virtual Machines

Many businesses use virtualisation as a way to make the most of their hardware investment, virtualizing hardware allows multiple virtual machines to co-exist on the same physical server in their own sandboxed environment better utilising physical server resources. By introducing a NAS as shared storage allows multiple physical computers to connect delivering improved uptime for planned or unplanned downtime and better access to shared data.

NAS Pros/ Cons

Pro

  • Better separation of data away from your local machine
  • Improved data sharing capabilities for collaboration and virtualisation
  • Low starting price for single drive solution
  • Can deliver more than just storage via plug-ins/ apps on the NAS – see use cases FileSync, CCTV, NVR

Cons

  • Dependant on network connectivity for access and performance
  • Can be more complex to deploy and manage based on requirements
  • Skill Level: Intermediate – Advanced

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Gerardo Altman

Gerardo Altman, Director of Problem Solving

With over 25 years’ experience in the IT industry, Gerardo Altman is a key solutions architect and MD of Velocity Host, with a love for Tetris and complex puzzles of every nature you'll find me hard at work doing what I do best – finding solutions.

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