When it comes to store and share company’s information, the business usually considers two factors: cost structure and security. There are two approaches to store documents and other data: in house, where companies have their own infrastructure; cloud, where a vendor is responsible for all technical aspects.
Common approaches of data storage
Enterprises tend to install and maintain their own infrastructure where there usually is a server that serves as file storage and perhaps hosting for any digital tool used by the organization. This is an excellent solution as it allows to keep all the information secret and only authorised people can access this information. The main downside of this solution is that both hardware and its maintenance is a serious cost for the company. In addition, it won’t work without having trained staff, where usually it is a new position in the company like System Administrator. The cost structure is high: hardware costs thousands of pounds plus there is a cost of the salary for the System Administrator.
The cloud solutions offer something quite different, where the organization does not require any hardware nor employing a specialist that will maintain the architecture. It is a cost effective approach that, depending on the usage, can cost anything from £10 to a couple hundred pounds per month. It is an excellent way to make data accessible from any place in the world and keep the costs low. The downside in this case is that confidential information is kept outside of the organization. Usually it’s not a problem but it may be a serious no-go for some companies.
A budget-minded alternative
The good thing is that the technology has improved and there are products on the market that are combining both in-house storage and the ease of use while keeping the cost low. A Network-Attached Storage (NAS) technology has evolved over the years and there are several vendors that offer the equipment (hardware) which only purpose is to store data and grant the access to authorized users. A NAS can be considered as an in-house Dropbox on steroids.
There are a variety of NAS systems available, yet main focus, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises, should be laid on the entry-level segment of these devices. Their cost starts from as low as £300. These devices have small dimensions and can be easily placed under a desk (comparable to two Mac Minis placed one on the top of another). It’s very efficient when it comes to the power consumption, where the usage is on the level of a light bulb (approximately 30W). But what’s most important is that they come with a pre-installed software which is easy to use and allow to configure the access to the services it provides even to non-tech savvy people.
There is even more in the box
In the past, NAS were handling only files. Currently, these devices are more sophisticated. They are running software (usually accessible with a dedicated application or via web page) that allows to not only access files or configure the access but also install applications. These come from “stores” but it is also possible to launch custom applications or even host web pages. This makes these products even more attractive as they cover more usage cases. Depending on the particular device and its vendor, more features are available. Because such a hardware was a NAS-oriented solution, they are mainly coming with two hard drive disks to ensure the redundancy of data. This makes it fail-safe in case of physical damage of the hard drive.
There are a variety of NAS device vendors which are delivering an entry-level hardware. For example QNap or Synology. These are the most-known manufacturers but there are other vendors as well. The prices start from £130 for the entry-level product from Synology and £230 for QNap, where QNap is richier in features.
On the other hand, with some technical knowledge and patience, it can be installed as a software on a PC. For this purpose, a freeNAS project has been built.
An entry-level NAS device can significantly lower the cost of storing and sharing company’s information while maintaining the data storage within the organization office. They are easy to install and configure, and don't require a technician to set up the accesses. Additionally, these devices allow to host applications, which is an elegant way to host intranet applications that are hosted and stored securely in the office.
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