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Difference Between NAS and SAN - 3 Considerations

Posted by Sean Kline

The difference between NAS and SAN for small business owners may be described in 3 key areas below.

difference between nas and san

  1. Folder vs. disk: Network-Attached Storage (NAS) provides a file system whereas a Storage Area Network (SAN) provides block-based storage only.  This leads to point three below in that in the case of a SAN, clients accessing storage must deal with their own file system management.
  2. Performance vs. cost:  SANs are typically higher performance than NAS devices, but cost more.  Since SANs usually use Fibre Channel, they are able to operate substantially faster than a shared Internet Protocol (IP) networks.  Fibre Channel operates at 8 gigabit and higher speeds as compared to existing IP networks which often run at 1 gigabit or less.
  3. Simplicity: NAS devices tend to be simpler to manage.  Since many NAS devices support widely supported protocols such as the Network File System (NFS) and Common Internet File System (CIFS), they often work out of the box with minimal configuration.

The world of information infrastructure is one of the fastest changing areas of technology, so the above is only a sketch of some of the differences between NAS and SAN.  A third option falls within the world of iSCSI SAN solutions, but that is out of the scope of this post. 

In Storage Virtualization For Small Business, we privide a specific example of how different storage implementations can have an impact downstream.  As with all things in Information Technology, the best approach is to start with the needs of the business and map technology into those, but it is useful to have a broad understanding of some of the options and trade-offs.  What are your information infrastructure needs?

Key Takeaways:

  • NAS devices offer a simple, inexpensive way to get shared file-based storage
  • For maximum performance, more expensive SANs provide a stronger information infrastructure foundation
  • There are other, hybrid options available such as iSCSI SANs which offer some of the best of both worlds


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Topics: Storage Virtualization, Virtualization, Storage