If you’re currently relying on a cupboard full of hard drives to provide your creative team with storage, here are a raft of benefits that come with moving to network attached storage (NAS), including increased productivity, easier collaboration, and a reduced chance of a version control error ruining a print run or someone accidentally deleting your files.
However, these benefits are going to be pretty short lived if you opt for a sub-par NAS system. Ideally, you need intuitive management software that allows you to work with your assets in the way you want to. So, when looking for NAS solutions, there are a few things we recommend asking yourself…
1. Is it scalable?
It’s important to choose your NAS based on not just your requirements now, but where you predict your business will be in the future -some NAS setups have limits on the amount of storage capacity or throughput available to you, making it difficult to scale up if your business expands.
Keep an eye out for scale-out NAS systems, which can provide greater redundancy and can scale in a linear way. Scale-out NAS is designed to be modular, and by adding more nodes of storage you can increase capacity, throughput and resilience without greatly increasing the amount of management work you need to do.
2. Is it redundant?
Data redundancy – the ability to use drives in whatever RAID configuration you prefer – is important, and you should ensure that your NAS setup has enough capacity to allow you to do this, even as you expand. But you’ll also want a NAS solution that supports hotswapping, so you can switch out bad drives without powering everything down if something goes wrong.
It’s also important to opt for a NAS setup that and has redundant power, as a power failure will stop your entire NAS dead in its tracks and you’ll lose access to everything, not just one disk. Having a redundant cooling setup is also recommended, as this prevents your power supply (or indeed the drives themselves) overheating and failing.
3. How piecemeal is it?
If your NAS’s server, housing, drives and software aren’t engineered to work together, you’re unlikely to get optimal performance for any given element. While it can be tempting to cut corners on elements like drives and housing in order to keep your initial outlay down, the risk of them failing (and needing to be expensively replaced) and losing you valuable uptime is far higher.
Ideally, you want to chose a NAS setup where each element has been engineered to work together. Although very few companies offer everything you need, keep an eye out for long term, strategic partnerships between any software and hardware vendors whose products are compatible; you’re going to get much better results going with them than trying to put something together piecemeal yourself.
4. Does the management software do what you need it to?
Based on the kind of assets you’re storing and the level of expertise you have available in-house, the features you’ll need in your NAS control software will vary. Check how it handles back ups and make sure you’re preferred workflow is supported, whether that’s backing up to a cloud service like AWS, or to another NAS device.
If you have mobile workers, check that remote access to the NAS is supported, and whether there will be any restrictions that could prevent people in key roles getting the data they need, when they need it. Other common considerations include what kind of antivirus and security protection your NAS system can offer, and whether third party plug-ins for third party services are available, as this will allow you to consolidate your existing functionality into a centralised, more easily managed system.
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