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I work in a smallish company - about five people in the office, with another fifteen or so scattered around the country accessing network files via VPN. We don't worry too much about quotas or things like that, and everyone has access to everything on the share.

The current architecture is basically our "File Server" machine has a shared drive, and everyone dumps their files in there in the folders we've set up. Of course, we are perpetually running out of space and buying more hard drives to try and keep up.

When we first looked into setting up the file server, I suggested a NAS instead, but was told "NAS devices are too slow, and the VPN is slow as it is". This seemed surprising; I have a ReadyNAS NV+ at home that has treated me incredibly well, but admittedly I'm the only one accessing it. But since I didn't have the benefit of any numbers providing evidence one way or the other, I let it go.

But we're now once again into "Running out of available space" territory. We're reclaiming space by re-organising what's currently in the directory, but it would be nice to have the expandable drive features that some NAS devices offer and stuff like that. However, when I bring it up, I continue to be told that NAS devices are inherently slow.

Is this true? If anything, I'd think the Windows share would be slower because Windows is more likely to be trying to think about other things than churning out files, but I have no way of testing my theory.

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You realize there is a range of NAS equipment from the cheap consumer stuff $100 to the extremely expensive enterprise stuff $100k+. If you get a crappy low-end NAS, then it will be slow. But you can certainly get equipment that will greatly exceed the performance of your Windows server. The primary question is almost always cost. –  Zoredache Dec 13 '11 at 1:30

4 Answers 4

The short answer is, there is no inherent difference in file transfer speeds when comparing a NAS device and a Windows server. They will both (probably) use the CIFS protocol to offer up the file shares and transfer the files. The only limiting factor is the speed of the network (be it Fast Ethernet or Gigabit) and the speed of the disks (depending on the disk setup, anywhere between 80MB/s to 200+MB/s and beyond).

The difference is that the Windows server will offer more granular permissions and sharing rules. Since you don't need these, the NAS is the cheap and effective file sharing capacity.

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Adding: When you get processing heavy (lot of IO9 the NAS also tends to fall apart - cheap procesor, small memory. Servers tend to be faster. They also scale higher... I just look at a server case for 72 discs. –  TomTom Dec 13 '11 at 7:00

Not all cifs servers are the same and not only does performance differ so does management. I would test everything in your price range against a windows server. Additionally, with your usage I would be looking at cloud based services which would resolve the slow vpn issue

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For what its worth, I recently migrated a file-based database from a Netgear Raid 5 NAS (3 drive, consumer quality?) to a Win Server 2012 Raid 5 (5 drive) and immediately experienced some lag in application performance. So there's is lot more to it in protocols, particularly if Windows uses SMB, as I'm starting to learn quickly.

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NAS (Network attached storage) are 'disks' + 'filesystem' + 'sharing software'. If the sharing software is CIFS, you have the equivalent of a Microsoft Windows share running on a desktop.

While they have less memory than a standard system, NAS tend to be faster because they have more disks (so more I/O can be processed) and get less random access due to software running on the host.

What ever the NAS you have, you will almost always be limited by the network speed. Even if your system are connected through 1000Mb, this still only account for a theorical 125MB/s which is about what a standard SATA drive can now provide.

So the slowness experienced by user is most likely due to your VPN device, upstream connectivity or your network. If it really is the network, a dedicated windows server could be enhanced to provide channel bonding (more than one network interface working together)

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-1. Sorry. You tell me a NAS has more disc than the 72 drive bay server I just bought? And my limiting factor on discs with crappy IOPS is the network speed when making fully random IO? That is way too specific to be generic, and way too generic to be rigt then. –  TomTom Dec 13 '11 at 6:59
    
Ha. You are simply playing on technical terms. Yes, a 72 drive bay server is better than most small-office NAS, but then, you really think you should compare it with the "ReadyNAS NV+" mentionned ? Also, your 72 drive bays will very likely become a NAS by itself, just a custom made one.. and without dedicated I/O ASIC. So: Please review my post, the whole idea was mainly around the fact that a Windows box + HDs + CIFS is a NAS, that he will likely be limited by his net I/O with VPN user. And AGAIN: READ. small office fileserver, those are not '100% small random I/O'. You are trolling. –  CloudWeavers Dec 13 '11 at 7:11
    
Yes. Sadly tyour statement is similar to a lawyer being accused to play bon legal terms. This IS about technical terms. I have no server with less than 8 drive bays - just getting another 10 drive bay 1u rack server. –  TomTom Dec 13 '11 at 7:53
    
On top, dumbo - even samll offices may use that as NAS or have virtualization. If yuo put ISCSI on that - it is FULLY RANDOM IO. Really. All virtual systems hitting the server at the same time. I have a 8 disc RAID 10 Velociraptor array here. Guess what - soetiems I dont get 10mb/s from them with full speed because 10 virtual systems hitting them at the same time... is purely random. –  TomTom Dec 13 '11 at 7:54
    
And now you will tell me were are not a small company. Hm, last time I checked we are 6 people. Office of 3, 3 externals. This is small. –  TomTom Dec 13 '11 at 7:55

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