When you are looking for local storage for business, there come two options: NAS (Network-Attached Storage) and SAN (Storage Area Network). Today you will find out what is the difference between a storage area network and network-attached storage and whether it is NAS vs SAN that fits your needs.

What is Network-Attached Storage (NAS)?

Network-Attached Storage (NAS) is a network-based storage solution. NAS storage is a method of managing storage centrally and sharing that storage with multiple servers. Unlike SAN, which uses Ethernet and FC, NAS uses Ethernet. Additionally, NAS focuses on ease of use, lower cost of ownership, and manageability. Another difference between the two is that NAS storage controllers partition the storage. This makes a NAS server look like any other file server to the client-server connected to it. While SAN stores data at the block level, NAS accesses it as files. Therefore, it’s usually associated with unstructured data, such as images or video content, while SAN usually handles structured workloads like databases. Hybrid and all-flash NAS hardware is also available due to the impact flash storage has had on storage mediums.

What is Storage Area Network (SAN)?

Storage Area Network (SAN) is a high-performance, high-speed network of storage, servers, and devices that allows access to consolidated, block-level storage. Multiple client devices can access it, and it usually appears to the client OS as a disk. SAN storage separates the storage system from the rest of the local area network (LAN). This way, they improve application performance, data protection, and disaster recovery if needed.

nas vs san

NAS vs SAN: What’s the Diff?

NAS vs SAN: Fabric

NAS uses TCP/IP networks, most commonly Ethernet. Traditional SANs typically run on high-speed Fibre Channel networks, although more SANs are adopting IP-based fabric because of FC’s expense and complexity. High performance remains a SAN requirement and flash-based fabric protocols are helping to close the gap between FC speeds and slower IP.

Data Processing

Then, let’s see NAS vs SAN for data processing. The two storage architectures handle data differently: SAN handles block data, while NAS handles file-based data.

SAN can access a dedicated SAN file system, while NAS can operate using a global namespace. In the SAN architecture, each server maintains a dedicated, non-shared LUN (Logical Unit Number). The SAN file system allows servers to share data securely by providing file-level access to servers on the same LUN. The global namespace aggregates multiple NAS file systems to present a unified view. The SAN file system enables servers to share files.

NAS vs SAN: Protocols

NAS connects directly to an Ethernet network via a cable into an Ethernet switch. NAS can use several protocols to connect with servers including NFS, SMB/CIFS, and HTTP. On the SAN side, servers communicate with SAN disk drive devices using the SCSI protocol. The network is formed using SAS/SATA fabrics, or mapping layers to other protocols such as Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) that maps SCSI over Fibre Channel, or iSCSI that maps SCSI over TCP/IP.

Performance

For environments that require high-speed traffic (such as high transaction databases and e-commerce websites), SAN performance is higher. NAS usually has lower throughput and higher latency due to its slower file system layer, but a high-speed network can make up for the performance loss inside the NAS.

NAS vs SAN: Price

Although a high-end NAS will cost more than an entry-level SAN, in general, NAS is less expensive to purchase and maintain. NAS devices are considered appliances and have little hardware and software management components than a storage area network. Administrative costs also figure into the equation. SANs are more complex to manage with FC SANs on top of the complexity heap. A rule of thumb is to figure 10 to 20 times the purchase cost as an annual maintenance calculation.

nas vs san

Scalability

The scalability of entry-level NAS devices is not high, but high-end NAS systems use clusters or scale-out nodes to scale. In contrast, scalability is the main driver for purchasing a SAN. Its network architecture enables administrators to expand performance and capacity in a scale-up or scale-out configuration.

Ease of management

In a one-to-one comparison, NAS wins the ease of management contest. The device easily plugs into the LAN and offers a simplified management interface. SANs require more administration time than NAS devices. Deployment often requires making physical changes to the data center, and ongoing management typically requires specialized admins. The exception to the SAN-is-harder argument is multiple NAS devices that do not share a common management console.

Conclusion

You have got a comprehensive overview of NAS vs SAN, so it is up to you what type of storage would you like for your particular business. For taking a successful decision, it is mandatory to understand your business needs and choose any of the storage that better suits you. There are many benefits if you are using the right dedicated storage for your business.