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The next evolution of smart NAS infrastructure is faster, more secure, and seamlessly compliant with regulatory requirements … but, is it enough for today’s enterprise?

Data is everywhere and nowhere all at once. It’s piling up on every device you touch. And, yet you can never find the right version of the file you need. Isn’t it ironic? (Yes, you’re singing Alanis Morrisette now. You’re welcome.)

If data storage and accessibility are the ubiquitous problems of every enterprise organization today, what are the answers? Unfortunately, you can’t just point to “The Cloud” and say “solved.” For enterprise organizations serving sensitive data to thousands of employees around the world in real-time, things are a bit more complex than signing up for a SaaS seat or just buying another hard drive.

If you listen to the tech-bard hypemen (and hypewomen), you’ll hear about converged storage, and hyper-converged storage, and object storage. However, many organizations are finding answers in a decades-old technology that undergirds all of these new buzzwords; one that’s experiencing a resurgence: Network Attached Storage (NAS).

The NAS model is essentially a centralized file server designed to store and share files with multiple users simultaneously over either WiFi, an ethernet connection, or even a TCP/IP network. Naturally, this arrangement has evolved to include unique OS frameworks, off-premises server data location, and far more intricate cybersecurity layers as compared to the NAS infrastructure of the early-twenty-aughts.

Let’s unpack how NAS is relevant today in enterprise data storage, the most common configurations, and finally the biggest factor – cybersecurity.

What does Enterprise NAS look like today?

Historically, enterprise NAS was an alternative to dedicated servers, used most effectively for remote offices and branch locations because of its group-user format and centralized storage. These solutions weren’t known for fast performance, but they also didn’t require heavy lifting from IT staff.

Fast forward to today’s NAS infrastructure, and affordable flash or scale-out storage hardware puts NAS back on the map not only for low-overhead staffing but modern features like deduplication, compression, encryption, and snapshots. These are some of the most cost-efficient and management-friendly data storage solutions available today. Furthermore, hot new concepts like hyperconverged storage and object storage literally depend on NAS for their infrastructure.

As an alternative to local storage, often called Direct-Attached Storage (DAS) today, NAS has the major benefit of being available across a network. Work-from-home and hybrid workforces pretty much demand this ability today. The distributed architecture of modern NAS solutions provides both redundancy and security, and yet it functions on the network as a single instance drive. While these distinctions might be enough for IoT and sensor-based networks, high-demand enterprise users know that there’s more to the equation.

Enterprise NAS has to be scalable. It’s fundamental to the nature of a global network with thousands of users. However, here’s where NAS runs into difficulty. Global scalability means moving data over vast distances in ways that have posed enormous challenges to enterprises. By its very nature, NAS performs best when data is close to the user, and very poorly as the distance between user and data increases.

Ultimately, you want to deploy a system that is as redundant, scalable, and easy to manage as possible. You also need to make sure it delivers high performance to your users. Almost all of these factors are baked into the hardware and OS interfaces you choose, but, unfortunately, performance remains problematic.

How do you evaluate Enterprise NAS clients?

There are countless NAS options on the market today. Because it’s difficult to define a single offering, it’s easier to think in typology as we examine the possibilities. There are pros and cons to every platform. The key is understanding the full feature set and your exact needs as an enterprise organization. Here are the essential questions to ask:

  • Does it support HDDs and SDDs?
  • Does it support diskless RAID configurations?
  • How many bays does it offer for disk drives?
  • How many USB or other connector ports does it offer?
  • What’s the processing and storage capacity?
  • What features does the embedded OS offer?

Beyond these fundamental differentiators, the major enterprise NAS offerings are further delineated by how they handle business continuity (or backup protection), file sharing, and security. In other words, any two solutions might match up head-to-head in their hardware specs and framework. They’re equally fast, scalable, and globally available. But, the exact function of how they address an individual file within their OS parameters can become the deciding factor in which is right for your organization. The operating system that overlays their physical hardware determines the security protocols governing file transfers, the deduplication algorithms for processing multi-user real-time edits, and the ability to mitigate the inevitable high-latency bottlenecks common to high-volume enterprise data management. And, they have to balance global remote user access with rigorous cybersecurity protocols.

What does the ideal NAS look like?

First off, you get what you pay for. Bargain NAS solutions might not cost as much on the capital expenditure, but the lack of support costs you in the long run.

So, assuming you’re only looking at reputable storage partners, you want to look for something that at a minimum provides high-capacity, cloud-based, file-level storage designed for multiple simultaneous users across multiple devices or networks.

From there, begin to evaluate what degree of encryption they provide for data-in-flight, how they integrate with your existing data storage infrastructure, and how they approach cybersecurity.

Panzura’s CloudFS takes the novel approach of cloud-based, real-time object storage. Instead of modifying stored data on the cloud or a premise-based server, Panzura stores new and changed data as additional objects, each protected by read-only snapshots generated at customizable intervals. This immediately mitigates ransomware, as the system can instantly revert to the most current file pre-attack while isolating the system from additional infection.

Another plus in Panzura’s column is their administrator dashboard that equips specific users within the organization to leverage analytics and auditing capabilities to quickly search, monitor, and optimize their entire file network. This also allows IT leaders to forecast capacity needs based on historical, current, and future trend analyses.

If you drill down to the nuts and bolts of how an Enterprise NAS storage solution performs in the real world, you have to consider its approach to global deduplication and compression. These are fundamental to the framework of the NAS OS and dictate the infrastructure’s resulting efficiency, speed, and availability. Panzura runs inline block-level deduplication and compression on the data stored on the network. By deduplication at the block level (128kb) instead of the chunk level (4MB), Panzura gains efficiency. Furthermore, by leveraging the cloud as a distribution point, Panzura can embed the deduplication reference table in the file metadata, which is then shared across every Panzura appliance. This reduces data redundancy globally within the organization, lowering your total storage footprint and optimizing your file transfer speeds whether users are on the network backbone or remote.

Panzura goes beyond NAS to transform the way enterprises work with data.

Enterprises are struggling with the growing need to manage unstructured data. The NAS storage infrastructure offers many appealing benefits to global enterprise users in a global business environment or growing compliance and rapidly evolving cybercrime threat landscapes. However, without the right cloud-based capabilities and a thorough understanding of how the right cloud-based storage architecture can defeat ransomware for good, you’ll struggle to effectively provision and manage your data.

Worse yet, unless you conquer the seemingly impossible challenge of making the same data immediately available anywhere and everywhere it needs to be, equipping your people with instant access to the most current version of any file in your network, your productivity will suffer. It’s not just data bloat and corruption caused by a variety of versions of the same file causing you problems, it’s the fact that your best people cannot be as effective and efficient as you need them to be.

With Panzura, putting data where it needs to be, the instant it needs to be there, becomes a reality. CloudFS delivers NAS-feeling performance to users in global locations, using the same data set, allowing your enterprise to unleash the kind of productivity that sets you apart from competition with a framework that works everywhere your people do, seamlessly and securely.

Panzura gives you full visibility of your data and how your teams use it. Unlike traditional NAS, you can analyze the entire scope of your unstructured data in real-time, while still empowering your users to collaborate from anywhere in the world without latency or data corruption. You can eliminate duplicated data, locate missing files in seconds and seamlessly restore lost data without the burden of a traditional enterprise NAS infrastructure.

And, no matter which public cloud you use, Panzura protects you from egressing data or sacrificing security while still increasing your time-to-value from your data. DOD-grade, air-gapped protection ensures that your data is immutable to cyber threats like ransomware.

With Panzura, you can gain the powerful benefits of enterprise NAS like scalability and global visibility combined with the expertise to deliver truly secure, always accessible, unstructured data storage.

Ready to level-up your legacy NAS? Get a demo here.