Pros and Cons of using a Purpose Built Backup NAS vs a Generic NAS for Backup

Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are very common for adding shared storage to a small business network infrastructure. While providing an inexpensive and convenient way to store extra data, there are some common pitfalls to avoid if you choose to use a conventional NAS device or appliance for your backup. High-Rely makes specialized backup NAS systems. Each has a place. In this overview we outline Pros and Cons of a conventional NAS system and a Backup NAS.WBA lft drive rflct_800

  1. Off-site Backup. The fact is, NAS boxes are usually designed as local storage, not transportable media. Experts widely acknowledge that data not transported offsite on a regular basis does not qualify as a “backup” at all. Many NAS boxes are simply not designed as true backup solutions.  Any NAS intended for backup should either have drives designed for daily removal, or include offsite data replication. Try not to rely on only one local copy as a backup. That won’t protect against fire, flood, accidental or deliberate erasure, theft, or a virus that may infect or encrypt files throughout the local network. High-Rely’s NAS products include removable drive systems as well as Cloud facilities which provide the best of both worlds in an affordable and effective solution.
  2. Backup Focus. Almost every USB drive or NAS appliance mentions backup as one of the uses for the storage. But many of these treat backup as an afterthought. High-Rely designs  are built for backup first and feature our removable drives. Features include built in replication, Automatic Mirroring Technology (AMT), and the ability to quickly seed offsite backup. They also work with remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tools to monitor the backup hardware and jobs including our own free NetSwap Dashboard for Monitoring and Managing both local and remote devices so that removable drive swaps, Sync and replication jobs and status can be controlled from one web site.
  3. Automatic Mirroring Technology, Offsite Replication, SpeedSeedTM. These are three features available in our backup NAS products that are not typically available in a generic NAS. AMT is where every backup job is automatically copied in the background (mirrored) to a removable drive. When the drive is swapped it creates yet another copy. This not only provides redundancy, but increases software compatibility because backup jobs are unaware of drive swaps. Replication refers to sending the jobs over the Internet to one or more remote locations. SpeedSeed works in conjunction with the other two features, allowing the removable drive to become the “master” drive at the remote site the minute it’s installed so replication can more efficiently use bandwidth to broadcast only changed files. These features can work independently or together.  This video details how these technologies work together:
  4. Design Reliability.  NAS appliances require motherboards with processors, RAM, bridge chips, glue logic, and a boot device (Flash RAM or boot hard drive). Each of these components generates heat, uses power, and most importantly, is subject to failure. High-Rely backup NAS servers pay special attention to cooling needs and also offer optional redundant power supplies in many models.
  5. WatchDog. Have you ever had a computer lock-up on you? Whether it’s from a power glitch, heat, software bugs, or the odd energetic neutron from a solar flare, we’ve all seen systems become unresponsive. The first rule of computer troubleshooting is “reboot it”. It’s frustrating to know that rare onetime events could prevent you from getting a good backup. Such is the fate of many conventional NAS products, which are computers that are purpose built for storage. One way High-Rely has provided for reliable backups in our products is to include a small circuit called a watchdog, which monitors our NAS appliances to insure the hardware and software are alive and doing what they are supposed to do or it reboots them so they are ready for the next backup software job. If it is unable to reboot the system, an audible alarm notifies the user for attention.

    Typical conventional NAS drive carrier.

  6. Protected Hard Drives. Almost all generic NAS drive trays are open at the top and back of the drive (See photo). These are designed to change out if the drive fails, but not intended for regular swap. Such “Bare” drive designs mean hard drives are exposed to shock, static, moisture, and other environmental problems when removed from the unit. Our removable drives fully enclosed and protect the hard drives during handling and transport.
  7. Removable Drive Trays. Many NAS solutions are intended to be fixed storage solutions.  It is important to be able to get multiple sets of physical backup copies so that a rotation scheme can be set up that insures current data is always available off-site.  Therefore, additional removable drives are readily available and inexpensive to purchase allowing you to have an unlimited amount of archive/offsite storage.  Our removable drives also interchange with our DAS products or can allow for emergency/in-field access and faster restores by plugging them in via USB3 or eSATA directly into the server being restored.
  8. Reliable Connectors. As mentioned above, most NAS designs expose the back of the drive so that the male SATA connector on the drive can mate with its equivalent female socket (or in some cases with a standard SATA cable). According to the SATA-IO Committee specifications, this connector is rated for only 50 plug/unplug cycles. Contrast this with the 1,000s of plug/unplug ratings of our removable drives and you realize that our removable drives are designed for the daily rigors of backup and frequent swapping.
  9. Warranty and Reliability. Many NAS warranties are only 90 days. The standard High-Rely warranty is 1 year with extended warranties to 5 years available. The care that has gone into the cooling systems, the audible alerts, other facets of reliability and the fact we warrant everything including the hard drives make High-Rely a more enterprise solution than most NAS boxes.
  10. Monitoring or Auditing. Being able to have a log of whether drives were swapped for a backup job, or when a replication completed is important. Generic NAS devices don’t provide this important security and manageability feature. With Direct Attached Storage (DAS) such as High-Rely drives, this information is available to you natively as part of the Windows Event viewer and auditing system. With our NAS products, we support log files, which can be monitored with RMM tools like Labtech, Level Platforms, N-Able and the like.  We also provide for free, a powerful NetSwap Dashboard utility that allows for the monitoring and management of a large number of NetSwaps anywhere on the internet all from one website. 
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RAIDFrame 4000 Backup NAS

Summary: Both Backup and Generic NASs can be effective for local backup, however High-Rely backup NAS appliances offer more choices, better reliability, and higher flexibility for backup than conventional NAS devices that lack removable drives or specialize in disaster recovery. In addition, there is a line of larger products called a RAIDFrame that use RAIDPac removable drives (up to 30TB each!). These integrate RAID 0/5 controllers to provide for both larger volumes and more redundant storage.