We’re frequently asked “Should I buy a Server or Nas box”? Well, as with so many things in IT (and life), it depends. So we’ve set out below some of the key features and benefits of each to help you with your decision making.
From the outset, if you are a business with more than 10 computers then we would firmly recommend a Server. It’s not a precise rule of thumb but at this size of business and above it’s highly unlikely that a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device will be sufficient for your business needs. If this is you then please visit our server page or contact us for advice.
For any small business, it is important to have an effective way to store data and share it among workers. Thus, any network with more than 2 or 3 users who need to access the same data should be implementing some sort of client-server relationship.
What is a server?
A server manages resources on a computer network. It has its own operating system. A server can fill a number of different roles, all of which manage resources and clients on the network. Potential server capabilities include:
- Active directory domain controller -authenticates and authorizes all users and computers on the network
- DHCP Server – dynamically assigns IP addresses to devices on the network
- DNS Server – associates IP addresses with domain names
- Printing and Document Services
- File storage, sharing and collaboration tools
- User or Device Specific Permissions
- Applications – applications installed on server that are accessible to clients (accounting software, e-commerce software, etc.)
What is a NAS?
NAS stands for network-attached storage. It is attached to a network and stores data. It’s a device that is specialized to provide data storage and make it easily accessible. A NAS provides a central location to allow for synced folders that can be accessed and modified by others on the network. It is also useful for backing up data.
In addition to file storage and sharing, NAS devices offer many of the same services that an application server can, but with more basic settings and less customization. It also requires you to use its own compatible applications, rather than choosing from any third party software.
Server or Nas box?
There are several considerations, here is a useful breakdown:
Functionality and Ease of Use
- Servers are more powerful than NAS, as they offer more functionality
- Application servers allow you to install third-party software.
- With a NAS, you are limited to applications you can download on the NAS operating system. For example, to make a Synology NAS into a mail server, you’ll need to download the Synology Mail Server app.
Servers are more capable and offer more advanced controls over your network services and applications, but also require more management. The NAS offers less advanced functionality, but will not require as much maintenance or configuration.
- Both file servers and NAS provide a great way to share files across devices on the network with the use of shared folders.
- Both a server and NAS allow for control over user permissions. User groups can be created that make files only accessible to those who should have access.
- The server offers more configuration options in terms of access control and security than a NAS will.
A NAS is also great for sharing folders with clients outside of the network. A server does not offer this ability (without some additional setup work eg a VPN)
With the difference in functionality, comes a difference in cost.
- A server contains more powerful hardware and offers more functionality, so it will cost more than a NAS. An application server will almost always cost more than a NAS.
- Server operating systems also drive up the price because they often require purchasing licenses for the server, and in some cases, licenses for each user or device connecting to the server.
- Most NAS software comes with the NAS device and does not require user licensing.
Conclusion – Server or NAS?
For a small business, a client-server network setup will improve efficiency and reliability. When choosing a server device to determine the choice of Server or NAS, you must consider the needs of your business as well as your budget. For those seeking higher functionality and who can handle the more complicated configuration and maintenance, a server is the best choice. For those whose are looking for a simple file storage and sharing solution, with other basic applications, a NAS is a more affordable option.
If you’re still not sure please contact us – we’ll be pleased to advise on the most appropriate solution for your business.