• Here's the Secret to Choosing the Best Office Storage


Data is the lifeblood of your office. Remove access to your files and the whole company grinds to a halt. That makes your data storage solution the heart of your business. You need to store your data and make it available quickly and securely when needed.

Many companies store their data entirely in the cloud, but others still prefer to house at least some of it on local devices. Some don't use Office 365 in the cloud, while others have data including video production files, document scans, or photography that's more efficient to store and access locally. Software developers often want their files available quickly, while some companies prefer local storage for security or reliability purposes. Whatever your reason for keeping files in the office, you're a likely candidate for a network attached storage (NAS) device.

A storage array on your local network offers several key benefits. The first is unified storage; keeping data in a central place rather than storing it on peoples' local drives means that everyone knows where it is. Everyone can access it simultaneously, which makes data sharing easier.

The other benefit is resilience. NAS units often offer RAID-based storage, allowing you to use multiple disks in configurations that keep data safe even if one disk goes down.

What to look for when buying a NAS

When choosing a NAS, your first choice is between an enterprise model or a small business one. Enterprise NAS devices are typically intended for rack mounting in a server room. They allow remote offices or users to access data from a device at headquarters. This can be useful if you've a distributed workforce, or lots of branch offices. Small business devices are simpler units, often not rack-mounted, designed for a single office.

Other features to look for include the ability to compress data on the drives, maximising storage efficiency, along with secure storage. Many drives feature on-board encryption that will protect your data from physical thieves.

These functions, along with your expected access frequency, will determine another critical factor of your NAS: performance. A NAS is a computer that just serves and stores data, so you'll need an appropriate CPU type for your needs. Small, less frequently access systems can get away with ARM or Intel Atom chips. Encryption and compression, along with more users, calls for beefier chips like Intel Core systems.

On that note, consider your disk type. Hard drives have been a traditional feature of NAS boxes, but higher-end units now come with solid-state caching options that store frequently access files on faster SSD storage.

Storage I/O isn't your only potential performance bottleneck. Ensure you get a fast enough network interface to support heavier-used drives.

Finally, consider capacity. Many NAS boxes come with empty drive bays, enabling you to insert your own. Ideally, size your data capacity for between two and four times your current storage need, depending on how quickly you expect your storage to grow. This will influence the number of drive bays you want in your NAS. Empty bays allow you to add more disks.

There's a complicating factor, though; RAID configurations can use some of that storage for redundancy depending on how you set them up. You can configure a hard drive-based RAID setup for enhanced performance by striping data across various disks. That maximises your capacity by using all disks to store your files and allowing you to read data from the NAS more quickly. The downside is that if one of those disks fails, you lose your data.

An alternative is to mirror copies of your data across multiple disks. This reduces your capacity, because you're using some disks for redundancy, but increases your resilience by keeping another copy in case one disk fails. There are other options like RAID 5, which uses just one spare disk to keep track of what's happening on the other drives and calculate any lost data.

The NAS unit you choose will support your office data for years to come, so it pays not to skimp on performance, reliability, and other data-saving features. Select wisely, and you'll be able to store and share files locally long after your headcount doubles.

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