SAN vs NAS: What’s the Difference


What is a NAS?

In the world of technology, a NAS is an acronym to meaning, “network-attached storage”. Basically, it is a stand-alone storage device that is connected to your network – kinda like a workstation that has lots of storage and runs a very basic Operating System. It’s primary function is to provide a file system and storage, and to be online and available to serve those files to the users. Generally, you see these devices serving files (instead of requiring a dedicated server) or sometimes used as a repository for backup jobs.


What is a SAN?

A Storage Area Network (SAN) unit is very similar to a NAS device but differs in a very specific way – a SAN makes it’s storage available at a block level. With a NAS unit, the storage devices are paired with a file server of some sort. This means that with a NAS the users will see an available file server and can map that directory as a network drive. With a SAN the user would see a hard disk visible in the disk management utility. The user can then perform all the actions on this disk as they would a local disk (e.g. format it, install a file system, mount it, etc.).




Why does it matter?

Sharing storage means that it’s easier to administrate and manage. It provides benefits of physical separation so that you can physically move storage components to different locations. There is also the consolidation of disk arrays that provides for better performance. Regarding which is better, it all depends on the purpose. A NAS is a great drop in replacement for file sharing or simply having some available storage on the network. SAN units also allow for effective disaster recovery processes, storage replication, and the flexibility to allow a server to boot directly from the unit but would not be a great replacement for a file server.


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