Small and medium-sized businesses, like their larger enterprise counterparts, struggle constantly with the question of how best to store and access unprecedented amounts of corporate information. Companies also need the right people — with the skills and expertise to manage this data —

making certain their teams maintain high levels of productivity while achieving solid returns on their technology investments.

Faced with slimmer budgets and fewer resources, SMBs are turning to networked attached storage (NAS) solutions for cost-effective data storage and management that is easy to install and manage.

But what is NAS? NAS solutions are high capacity, specialized file/print-serving devices that support heterogeneous files on Ethernet-based networks. The technology allows file-sharing between users, making them available for collaboration at an accessible price.

As with just about every other aspect of technology, there are a few considerations SMBs should take into account in order to make intelligent NAS purchases.

  • Affordability: Adding a NAS solution should neither be financially onerous nor a drain on operating expenses. NAS solutions offer low acquisition costs and reduced total cost of ownership over standard server approaches.

  • Ease of Installation and Use: NAS solutions can and should be up and running in minutes, not hours or days. And they should integrate easily with existing technology assets so current IT investments are effectively leveraged.

  • Reliability: A hallmark of a technology’s success is the extent to which users depend on it. They won’t depend on it unless it is continuously available, with reliable backup and restore capabilities. It must also be easy to use. NAS solutions provide simplified central administration and empower users to restore deleted files without IT department intervention.

  • Versatility: Just like the principals of a typical SMB, the system should be capable of handling multiple tasks — in this case, tasks such as acting as a file storage device and hosting local user files. NAS solutions should provide powerful file sharing capabilities among colleagues and to and from your head office.

  • Openness: Frequently, the addition of new technology can obsolete gear in which you’ve already invested. Avoid letting the ‘tail wag the dog’ by picking a NAS solution built on open architecture that adheres to the widest possible range of file-sharing protocols.

  • Security: If you’re going to send vital information across your network and beyond, it had better be protected not only through built-in applications, but also by the capacity to add off-the-shelf anti-virus and security packages as they come on-stream.

Well-researched, logically deployed NAS solutions should be an incredible benefit to SMBs — giving small or branch offices access to the vital information residing within the business at an affordable price. Above all, NAS solutions should be a corporate weapon, not a distraction for your business, delivering centralized administration, business continuity and infrastructure support for agile operations and efficient teamwork.

Parag Suri is category business manager in the Network Storage Solutions Group at Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co.

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