Cloud vs. Network-Attached Storage: What Are The Pros and Cons of Each?


If your small business is like most, you don’t enjoy the luxury of a dedicated in-house IT team. As a result, important decisions like how to backup and store your business’ data are made by you, the owner.

From revamping your data backup plan to searching for cost effective data storage and recovery, finding the right system to meet your needs can be tricky. Two of the most popular systems are the Cloud and network-attached storage (NAS). Chances are you know a little bit about each, but not enough to make a decision you feel comfortable with. We’re going to change that.

We’ll shed light on the Cloud and NAS by providing you with the primary advantages and disadvantages of each storage system. Read over our straightforward guide and in moments you’ll be armed with the basic information you need to choose the system that will serve your small business best.

Network-Attached Storage, what is it?

You’re probably familiar with Cloud products, but might be wondering what NAS is all about. Gaining popularity over the last five years or so, a NAS is a dedicated storage device with its own IP address. NAS is quickly emerging as an affordable and easy way to store files and share them between a number of computers. Plus, many NAS devices hitting the market today also offer added features that we’ll explore in a moment. As a small business owner, you’ll be glad to know that most NAS are relatively easy to install and maintain, and therefore don’t require the expense of a dedicate IT professional.

Comparing Features

Traditionally, NASes were used to store, share and backup files. These days, NAS features are getting more sophisticated. For example, some NASes can be used as multimedia servers, as well as iTunes and print servers. Developed specifically to meet the needs of small business, some NASes can function as email or lightweight database servers. Small business owners will also appreciate that vendors are developing software on NASes that allows integration with social media, such as Facebook and YouTube.

The Cloud doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles of NAS, but when you use Cloud storage you’ll get access to a wealth of other Cloud solutions that could save your business money. For example, block-level compression and de-duplication features reduce storage needs (and thus cost) while making storage more efficient. Additionally, when you use a Cloud provider, you’re tapping the knowledge of industry professionals who are there to support your business 24/7.

Considering Cost

A quality NAS will be easy to setup, and offer solid read/write performance. From sharing files to backing up data from Windows, Mac, and even Linux machines, a good NAS delivers a range of features. The cost of a NAS that’s appropriate for serving most small business varies considerably, from about $500 to $1000 and more, depending on the features and storage space your business needs. Synology and Asustor are well accepted NAS brands. Keep in mind that even after your initial investment of purchasing the NAS, you’ll also pay for additional hard drives if and when you need more storage. If you’re unsure of your storage needs, there’s also the chance that you’ll waste money by buying more storage than you need.

Just like with NAS, the more storage space you need, the more you’ll pay. Some Cloud providers offer a limited amount of free storage. For example Dropbox offers 2GBs of storage at no charge, and some providers offer up to 25GB for free. But if you’re running a small business, you’ll most likely need more storage space. As you’d expect, plans and fees vary from provider to provider, but 1TB of storage will generally cost about $95 per month. You’ll avoid the initial outlay of cash that purchasing a NAS requires, and the costs associated with buying more hard drives, but you’ll pay a monthly storage fee.

Control Over Security

NAS offers data redundancy and protection options, plus data encryption and user access controls. You’ll also have the comfort of knowing that because you host the files on your own hardware, you have complete control over data security. On the downside, you’re also accepting full responsibility for data security with NAS. It’s important to know that several NAS vendors have partnered with Cloud providers to offer you the option of backing up your data to the Cloud for added redundancy and protection.

When you use a Cloud service, the Cloud provider takes on the responsibility of keeping your data secure. Your data will be backed up to multiple centers across the U.S. for added protection, and reputable Cloud providers use the very latest security methods. Using the Cloud, you relieve yourself of the responsibilities associated with security, but the fact is you’re turning control over your data to another party. When you do so, there’s always a chance it can get hacked.

Storage Limitations

There are two basic types of NAS device configurations. A NAS with a fixed amount of storage usually contains just one or two hard drive bays, and can store anywhere from 500GB to 4TB. When more storage is needed, the hard drives can be replaced. Offering the ability to add more hard drives as needed, a NAS with multiple hard drive bays is a more fitting solution for small businesses that need multiple computers backed up or for those with large multimedia libraries, such as architects and photographers.

Using Cloud storage, you’ll never have to worry about running out of storage space or the hassle of swapping out hard drives. When you need more storage, you simply upgrade your plan with your Cloud provider.

Choosing the best system for the backup, storage, and recovery of your small business’ data is a critical decision that will impact your company on a daily basis. We hope we’ve given you the basic information you need to start thinking about which system will serve your business best, the Cloud or NAS.