Is the NAS Still Relevant in Today’s Cloud Era?

Over the years, Network Attached Storage (NAS) has helped make data more accessible, allowing corporate teams to share information easily and effectively, collaborate, respond to clients/customers in a timely manner and add necessary measures to secure their data.

However, if we’re speaking about a centralised storage location and with added functionalities, the cloud has upped the ante, becoming a viable and cost-effective option for individuals and organisations of all sizes.

The cloud has changed a lot of things and disrupted the way we store data, giving businesses a range of options and solutions for storing and sharing their data through various cloud applications and storage services – with a highly appealing pay-as-you-use pricing model.

As businesses move more data to the cloud, where does a NAS fit among organisations today? What should companies do ensure their data management and protection measures are up to date? To get answers, we interviewed Sheena Chin, Managing Director of ASEAN at Cohesity.

Data&StorageAsean: Should people continue to consider using NAS technology for storage? In what ways do NAS technology offer benefits that edge over the cloud?

Sheena Chin: NAS provides three main advantages such as accessibility, simplicity, and security. The first advantage of adopting NAS is accessibility. With NAS, IT teams can access any files needed either from desktop workstation or working remotely. Files can also be accessed while on the road to a client meeting. The second advantage is simplicity. These devices are designed for simple set up and are easy to use, as they come in varying sizes according to their capacity. The last benefit is that most NAS devices come with in-built security processes, which helps businesses protect their data to some extent.

However, despite these advantages, businesses need to carefully consider all available options when choosing the right data storage solution. The first challenge is that the deployment of multiple NAS appliances has led to islands of NAS management. These duplicated data can slow processes down if snapshots are too frequent. In the long run, IT teams will be less efficient due to multiplied and duplicated data that needs to be reorganised and consolidated. Moreover, the second challenge is the cost of wasted capacity in the system. There is a storage cost to protecting duplicated data in the cloud that could ultimately impact business decisions. Lastly, businesses would still need to identify the critical data that needs more security, as NAS providers are not able to identify the important areas that need more protection. Internal IT teams would need to step up, identify loopholes in the network and implement necessary data protection measures.

Data&StorageAsean: Why is backup and recovery important to businesses in the modern era?

Sheena Chin: The pandemic has forced businesses to leverage cloud storage for easy accessibility and to streamline workflows and processes. Those who saved their data on public cloud environments now realise that there can be more challenges faced such as fragmentation, inefficiency, and dark data. Businesses who succeed are those that can protect their cloud data, as inadequate protection can lead to data loss.

Moreover, today’s backup and recovery landscape is littered with separate legacy point-products for backups, target storage, and long-term data retention. It’s a complex environment to manage since each of these silos is designed on proprietary hardware and/or software packages that typically have their own management tools, upgrade cycles, and maintenance and support contracts.

Basic techniques for performing backup and recovery have evolved incrementally and within proprietary vendor silos. Until recently, IT teams have had no option but to perpetuate the traditional hardware-centric approach which only adds more complexity, risk, and cost rather than solving underlying issues. Moreover, most of these old solutions follow the legacy transaction model—you are made to pay a fat license fee up front, then a recurring support and services fee, and repeat the same cycle after three years when your hardware is already obsolete, overburdened, and out of capacity. Enterprises require a fundamentally new approach in order to break the cycle of technical debt, liberate IT and business teams from outdated architectures, and free trapped data into assets rather than costly liabilities.

Data&StorageAsean: Why is it important for businesses to know how much the data held on hand is worth with the lack of visibility on the information available?

Sheena Chin: As businesses evolve, organisations must strive to stay ahead of growing IT complexities. Enterprises need IT infrastructure, including backup and recovery tools that are agile, simple to manage and easy to scale. Data has exploded in volume and become scattered across multiple public clouds, data centres, remote offices, and the edge, with little global oversight. In each of these locations, data has become isolated in specialised infrastructure—often from multiple vendors—to manage basic functions such as backup, networking, storage, archiving, disaster recovery, dev/test, and analytics.

Even though businesses can have endless storage systems in the cloud, they often empty their pockets for these investments. These data tend to get siloed into multiple storage products, which store the data as multiple copies, replicated and uncompressed. These redundancies, referred to as copy data, can easily be 10-20 times more than the actual capacity needed. Providing that amount of storage requires large investments – not just on the storage side, but in the overall IT infrastructure, such as networking, archival, cloud bandwidth, manageability etc. Thus, there are significant cost advantages in reducing the data footprint.

The reality, however, is that often customers are already at their limit and at best only able to perform backup jobs once a day, with such jobs sometimes bleeding into their “working hours” production windows. Perhaps even more importantly, should rapid recovery be necessary – say as the result of a ransomware attack – it can take multiple hours to restore, which has serious business implications. This is a recipe for IT tragedy should disaster strike.

Data&StorageAsean: With storage costs escalating, how can start-ups with tighter budgets prioritise data management?

Sheena Chin: The pandemic has impacted organisations of all sizes, many of which are scrambling to recover. Businesses are desperately trying to accelerate digital transformations but they are often relying on outdated, legacy infrastructure. This prevents them from effectively backing up, securing, and protecting data that can provide insights.

Moreover, unstructured data is making up an increasing percentage of business-critical data sources such as email, video, images and data from next-generation IoT devices. Smaller organisations with tighter budgets may not have the necessary skills or staff to effectively embrace a modern approach to data management that will create new opportunities for data management specialists and services.

A single backup solution can require several dedicated infrastructure components, such as master and media servers, target storage, deduplication appliances and gateways, besides the backup software itself—each of which may hold a copy of a given data source. As this requires a significant amount of investment, organisations of all sizes should do their research. When they have a stronger understanding of their business data and company needs, businesses can re-strategise and allocate budget for better management. This will help them to increase revenue and fuel competitive advantages.

Data&StorageAsean: What are your thoughts on data management and protection measures moving forward?

Sheena Chin: Regardless of the size of the organisation and the industry they are in, businesses should adopt data management and protection measures that help them increase resilience. As data continues to evolve and grow, IT teams are expected to react faster. I hope businesses will remember that they need to streamline and get rid of duplicated data. Deduplication is one of the key storage technologies that enterprises rely on to deliver optimal storage efficiency and reduced infrastructure costs. It is designed to eliminate the need to store multiple copies of identical files. This reduces the amount of storage capacity required to store any given amount of data. Deduplication is a space efficiency feature that can be found in many enterprise storage products. However, because of a lack of standards, the effectiveness of data reduction ratios and cost savings are difficult to quantify when comparing different vendors. There is simply not always an apples-to-apples comparison.

Moreover, proper data management can help businesses stay resilient and ready for any crisis. Many organisations are still paranoid about security and adopt multiple layers of protection. On the other hand, some businesses take a more cool approach, where they trust and allow systems to be hacked only up to a point, without the risk of the hackers accessing critical data.

Proper data protection measures can help organisations detect ransomware threats and ensure that critical data is secured. Although assuring robust data security and ransomware protection is the top priority, equal focus needs to be placed on how an organisation responds when an attack occurs to minimise its impact and maintain business continuity. Organisations can take a more holistic, platform-based approach for hybrid data management that defines a blueprint for an intelligent data workflow. This can be based on common policies for data protection, access control, security and lifecycle management that leverage the highly scalable resources, orchestration capabilities and cost efficiencies found in the public cloud.

Moving forward, it is time for businesses to re-enter the game and start managing their data better again. After all, data management and protection is a never-ending game, as businesses need to constantly eliminate silos as data continues to grow exponentially.

For views from other experts in the field of data and storage on the relevance of the NAS in today’s cloud-centric landscape – such as Jason Bonoan (Seagate’s Global Product Marketing Manager of NAS and Surveillance Solutions), Joanne Weng (Synology’s Senior Sales Manager), and Matthew Hurford (NetApp’s VP, Solutions Engineering & Field CTO for Asia Pacific) – you can download our Special Focus, which covers this topic, by clicking here.

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