The right way to add storage to your growing network

Michael J. Miller, Editor-In-ChiefPC MagazineIt's amazing to realize that 15 years ago, a single megabyte of hard-disk storage cost about $100.

Michael J. Miller, Editor-In-Chief
PC Magazine

It's amazing to realize that 15 years ago, a single megabyte of hard-disk storage cost about $100. Today, you get 1,000 times the storage for the same price.

That's why there's no reason to run short of space on your LAN. Network-attached storage (NAS) servers make growing your LAN easy. At PC Labs, we've just tested nine solutions. Here's what we found.

NAS servers are both affordable and easy to use. We tested systems ranging in price from about $30 per gigabyte of storage on the low, non-expandable end, to upwards of $150 per gigabyte for systems with many of the same redundancy, reliability and expandability features that midrange file servers provide. There really is a NAS solution for just about any budget. As for installation, you can usually do it in 30 minutes and then manage the server from anywhere via a Web browser.

They're extremely flexible. You can use NAS servers as primary or secondary storage on your LAN, as shared backup devices for your small office or workgroup, or even as personal backup devices for individual clients. They operate somewhat slower than dedicated file servers, but they're much faster than tape drives.

They're good for file sharing. A NAS server lets an organization share files quickly and easily, without incurring the installation and administrative costs associated with deploying a dedicated Windows NT or NetWare server. Although most NAS servers don't provide the same level of performance as dedicated file servers, they're more than fast enough for most small-office and departmental needs.

You can leave your main server alone. By moving archived or finished projects off the main server and onto the NAS server, you'll free up main disk space and reduce network traffic.

They're cross-platform. Several of the products in our roundup support Macintosh, Linux and Unix clients -- in addition to Windows PCs.

They don't require dedicated server PC or server OS licenses. Most use Pentium or Strongarm processors running proprietary server software. From the client's point of view, the NAS server looks and works exactly like a file server, so no retraining or special software is needed. Users can browse servers and map drives on the network, just as they would with a Windows NT or NetWare server.