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Need Space?

If your server is filled to the brim with data, a network-attached storage device can help make some room.

Your server is a reservoir that holds one of your most valuable assets: data. When those important-but-amorphous bits and bytes of information start to overflow the container, it's time to go to Plan B.

You could take your server offline and add hard drives. But between IT labor and lost productivity, your soft-dollar costs will far outstrip the price of the hardware itself. And the way databases are ballooning nowadays, those could be recurring expenses.

A better alternative is to add one or more network-attached storage (NAS) devices. NAS is exactly what it sounds like: dedicated storage that hooks up to an available Ethernet port in more or less plug-and-play fashion. NAS is an easily scalable and economical solution for storing, organizing and sharing enterprise data among users on one or several interconnected networks.

A big portion of the NAS hardware is made up of hard drives, so it's ideal for backing up data. You can think about replacing your old tape backup systems with a faster and more long-lived NAS solution. But NAS appliances vary a lot in terms of price, capacity and features.

In the budget category, the Iomega NAS A205m slides in under the $1,000 mark with 160GB of storage. It's a very affordable option for equipping multiple workgroups or for a small office getting started with NAS. Even lower is the $549 (all prices street) Linksys EtherFast Instant GigaDrive EFG80, which is designed for ease of use. The trade-off with Linksys is its 80GB storage capacity, nonrack-mountable form factor and lack of RAID features (more on RAID in a moment). It does come with an extra empty drive bay for expansion purposes as your business needs grow.

There are several flavors of Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) management software, the goal being to share and/or duplicate your data across multiple disks. If one goes down, you can make a quick-and sometimes instantaneous-recovery. Both the $1,799 Dell PowerVault 725N and $2,749 Hewlett-Packard StorageWorks NAS 1000s are RAID-ready.

Scalability can be a key element in making a NAS decision. You want a storage architecture that can keep up with the growth of your business-even rapid growth. The 160GB capacity First Intelligent Array POPnetserver 4300 model 160 comes in at an affordable $999. It has a total of four drive bays. Adding another 160GB cartridge will run you $350. Keep in mind that although most NAS devices can be expanded, the expansion hardware often has to be purchased from the original manufacturer. So make sure to keep an eye on the costs.

Most NAS devices work with most operating systems. But if you're running multiple platforms over your network, pay close attention to compatibility. The Linux-based $2,995 Snap Appliance Snap Server 4200, for example, works with many Macintosh, Red Hat Linux, Unix and Windows clients. It also features some convenient software extras, including integrated eTrust antivirus software and PowerQuest DataKeeper for automatic backup and restoration of Windows clients.

In that $3,000 price range, you can also expect a healthy amount of storage capacity and a processor in the fast 2GHz range. The Snap Server 4200 with a 2GHz processor features 320GB, as does the similarly priced Hewlett-Packard 1000s with a 2.4GHz processor. All that space and speed can really pay off for a demanding network application where you need to move and store large files for graphics, design or intensive database programs.

The first step to take when shopping for a NAS device is to determine the needs of your business and network, as well as how much you will need to expand in the future. After that, you can look forward to the perks of having all your data centralized, secured and manageable.

Shopping List
If information overload is giving you trouble, it's time to get NAS-ty. Try one of these models to whip your server back into shape.

MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACTCAPACITYRAID-READY?FEATURESSTREET
PRICE
DELL
PowerVault 725N
(800) 917-DELL
www.dell.com
160GBYesIntel Celeron 2GHz processor, rack-mountable, hot-swappable drives, four drive bays$1,799
FIRST INTELLIGENT ARRAY
POPnetserver
4300 model 160
(888) 353-0337
www.fiainc.net
160GBYesIntel Celeron 950MHz processor, rack-mountable, four drive bays$999
HEWLETT-PACKARD
StorageWorks NAS 1000s
(800) 888-9909
www.hp.com
320GBYesPentium 4 2.4GHz processor, rack-mountable, hot-swappable drives$2,749
IOMEGA
NAS A205m
(888) 4-IOMEGA
www.iomega.com
160GBYesIntel Celeron 1.7GHz processor, rack-mountable, USB 2.0 port$999
LINKSYS
EtherFast Instant
GigaDrive EFG80
(800) LINKSYS
www.linksys.com
80GBNoTwo drive bays, can also act as a print server$549
SNAP APPLIANCE
Snap Server 4200
(888) 343-SNAP
www.snapappliance.com
320GBYesIntel Celeron 2GHz processor, rack-mountable, hot-swappable drives$2,995

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This article was originally published in the January 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Need Space?.

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