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I currently have 3 old NT File Servers that are about to die, which have no disk level redundancy. We're considering buying drives and attaching them to a newer server that would serve files, but I wanted to know whether there's an advantage to installing a NAS instead.

Both choices involve hardware purchases, but obviously the NAS would probably be more expensive.

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FYI - a SAN will not do what you want, unless it comes with a NAS head as part of the package. SAN is just storage presented to servers as block devices, not as networked filesystems that can be presented to users. –  mfinni Feb 15 '12 at 19:31
Whatever you do, don't use a RAID5. –  Sven Feb 15 '12 at 19:37
Are those tags really accurate? I doubt anyone could confuse NT with Win2k8. –  Magellan Feb 15 '12 at 21:00
I'm not sure recommending against a RAID5 is useful with the amount of information provided. –  CC. Feb 15 '12 at 21:07
Adrian, the fact of which operating systems makes no difference. Its really just for some other techs opinion. –  bettsy583 Feb 16 '12 at 13:27

2 Answers 2

The advantage of a NAS is primarily redundancy (uptime). While a server has multiple points of failure (the RAID card, the motherboard, the OS, sometimes the network card or the network), a NAS can be configured to avoid all of these. A cheap NAS won't be that much more reliable than a single file server, though. They're usually equally easy to back up, so the main variable is how fault tolerant you need your storage to be.

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This is a bit of a broad question, so this is a broad-stroked answer.

In general, a NAS is more of an appliance than a server. The OS is not as full featured as a dedicated server OS, but it has an interface to let you share files. A common feature is to have different RAID levels (0 & 1 almost always, 10 and 5 common) available for data availability. This increases uptime, since a single drive failure (other than RAID 0) will allow you to continue to work. It is not backup, since if you lose the NAS in a fire, you've lost everything. There are plenty of other features, but I'm sure that there are other better descriptions of NAS elsewhere.

The good news is that less features generally means less care and feeding over time. But there's also less functionality as well. You won't necessarily be able to install any arbitrary application on it, like SQL Server.

In your case, since you're talking about a file-server replacing NT (!), a simple NAS may be worth considering. The big questions that only you can answer are how much downtime are you willing to accept, and how much are you willing to spend to mitigate that risk.

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Unless you're talking about a specific OS, you should be careful about making generalizations. NAS is a catch-all term that means any storage device that serves files instead of blocks, and while some are dinky little appliances, some aren't. –  Basil Feb 15 '12 at 21:19
Fair point. But I will infer that someone asking about NAS to replace 3 NT servers is unlikely to be looking at, say, high-end EMC stuff. :) –  CC. Feb 16 '12 at 0:34
CC. cheers. Ye I think you could be right, downtime is limited although there is another twist to the story..... –  bettsy583 Feb 16 '12 at 13:29
The NT Servers have spaces in the hostnames for examepl 000 admin server don't ask why, it was long before my time. There for simply moving the data will break hyperlinks in the documents. –  bettsy583 Feb 16 '12 at 13:30

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