Gary Bernstein

Cloud or NAS Backup: Which is Better for File Security?

Cloud or NAS Backup? Exploring the Benefits of NAS for File Security

Sending backups offsite is a solid way to add reliability to an organization’s data and infrastructure. Still, to provide proper file security and overall data protection, an organization must pick the right offsite storage. The use of specially purchased HDDs and SSDs to store backup data offsite can suit an individual but not an organization. Thus, the choice is mainly between the two options: cloud and NAS backup storage.

In this post, we explain the importance of file security and highlight the pros and cons of cloud vs NAS backup to help you choose a reliable offsite storage solution.

The Importance of File Security

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File security describes the set of approaches used to keep files safe. The list of threats for digital files’ safety includes unauthorized access, modification, deletion or theft. In this sense, you need security techniques and measures to ensure reliable user authorization and file protection against malware, ransomware, viruses and other sophisticated cyberattacks.

The importance of file security can be explained by the following features that it provides:

  • Privacy: File security ensures only authorized users have access to data, thus boosting the privacy of both individual users and organizations. Such enhancements are especially important when working with personal information such as medical records, credit card information, passwords, etc.
  • Compliance: Legal requirements for data security may vary between countries and industries but they all suppose strong security against unauthorized access and data breaches. Non-compliance can result in severe financial penalties and reputational issues for an organization.
  • Intellectual property protection: File security approaches are required to protect data such as patents, corporate secrets and proprietary IT solutions from misuse or theft.
  • Reputation: The level of competition for every client is enormous, meaning that a client can easily find an alternative in case they slightly doubt the trustworthiness of an organization. Reputational damage after a data loss or breach incident is bound to be harmful if not devastating for an organization, causing an additional decrease in client flow and profits.

To sum up, file security is the element of the data protection strategy that ensures confidentiality and compliance to maintain an organization’s legal status and reputation among clients.

What is Cloud Backup?

Cloud backup is one of the modern backup strategies. This strategy is about sending one of the backup copies (files, items or other data) to cloud storage. Thus, one data copy is always stored offsite, enabling file recovery even in case a major failure renders the main environment inoperable. Below we explore the pros and cons of cloud backup.

Advantages of Cloud Backup

Organizations use public cloud storage as backup repositories due to the capabilities and features that those services provide. The list of cloud backup advantages includes:

  • Price. Cloud backups are usually cheaper, especially when compared to the total cost of the onsite hardware, storage, software and network equipment required to build a backup infrastructure. Moreover, there can be providers offering free backup to the cloud while applying storage limits, which can be a great benefit for small organizations.
  • Flexibility. You can increase the capacity of your cloud backup storage with the growth of the organization’s data volumes. Thus, you use only the volume that you need, making cloud storage more cost-effective.
  • Manageability. Cloud service providers usually offer a UI that includes numerous tools streamlining backup data management. Such interfaces are light and easy to master.
  • Security. As cloud backups are stored away from the organization’s main servers, they can add security against incidents such as ransomware attacks. Additionally, cloud service providers can enable data encryption both during transfer to the repository and throughout the retention period.
  • Redundancy. Normally, cloud repositories ensure data redundancy, thus increasing the resilience of an organization’s data. Backup copies located in the cloud have fewer chances to suffer from human errors like accidental deletion or wrong storage settings that would otherwise cause common failures.
  • Consolidation. Cloud storage helps an organization to consolidate backup data. You can send backups of almost any type of data from any system to your cloud repository, from main server data to the individual files.
  • Accessibility. Cloud backups are accessible from any point of the globe with an internet connection. Therefore, you can recover the required data items, including files, whenever you need and no matter where you are.

Potential Concerns of Cloud Storage

Of course, just like any other IT solution, cloud backups have downsides. When considering the cloud backup integration into your organization’s IT infrastructure, you should be aware of the following issues:

  • Speed. Cloud storage is available via the web, thus being dependent on the connection speed, latency and bandwidth to ensure the required recovery speed. Connection issues or network bottlenecks happening, for instance, during working hours, can complicate reaching the desired recovery time objective (RTO).
  • Cost. Although the price of cloud services was mentioned among advantages, you should remember that the cost escalation can happen rapidly, especially when your organization grows successfully and quickly. The increasing data generation tempo means more backups that result in additional payments for cloud storage services. Proper data retention and management policies are key to keep cloud costs acceptable.
  • Control. With backups in the cloud storage, you add a cloud service vendor into your chain of data flow and security. An outside vendor controls the physical storage, hardware and software where your data resides, creating additional protection and privacy risks that are beyond your control.

What is Network Attached Storage?

The NAS acronym stands for Network-Attached Storage. A NAS device is a standalone set of hardware and software components built to enable efficient storage of particular data volumes. Organizations can configure NAS to use, for example, as:

  • Private cloud for employees, enabling coordination and cooperation for data-related workflows. Multiple employees can instantly participate in file creation, storage, editing, copying and deleting, making operations with data fast, convenient and efficient.
  • Target storage for big databases, storing terabytes of data in a single controllable location. Text files, tables, videos, images and other elements required, for example, to run an organization’s website or app, are easy to locate and manage whenever necessary.
  • An element of an organization’s data protection strategy, providing the large and extendable storage space along with the appropriate hardware. You can place a NAS backup appliance in a location that is different from your main server and then choose the use case. The scenarios may vary: a NAS can serve as the main backup storage that is always available or be the offsite and offline backup repository that remains disconnected until all else fails.

NAS: Key Elements

The key components of a network-attached storage device include:

  • Storage. A NAS device’s primary element is on-board storage. Usually, a NAS has multiple physical drives (HDDs or SSDs) of high capacity: a network attached storage device can store terabytes of data, for example, united in RAID configurations. Still, the drives installed in a NAS must be designed to bear the operational load with little to no failures.
  • CPU and RAM. A NAS has its own central processing unit and random access memory on board to handle I/O operations. Most NAS vendors enable you to pick the CPU model and RAM capacity according to your organization’s needs and data flows. Therefore, you can either avoid overpaying for unnecessary performance or get some extra hardware capabilities to ensure stability when the NAS backup data flow increases.
  • Network. An appropriately installed and configured network provides access to a NAS and enables operations with the data residing on drives. Backup data recording, transfer and recovery are mostly conducted through the network. A NAS can be available only within the internal network to boost backup data security, or serve as a private public cloud for an organization if accessible online.
  • Operating System. An OS is the obligatory part of a NAS device, enabling the proper functioning of the hardware and providing the UI to ensure effective and comfortable interaction between the user and the device. NAS vendors offer proprietary OS with their devices. Alternatively, if you build a NAS on your own, the FreeNAS OS functionality, for example, most probably is enough to enable the majority of workflows.

Factors to Consider When Choosing NAS

Although a NAS seems to be a straightforward and simple storage solution, choosing and installing an appliance that can suit your organization’s needs requires special considerations. You need to consider  the points below to avoid possible miscalculations and ensure that your NAS backup appliance can meet your requirements.

  • Capacity. How much storage space do you need? Can the NAS you are considering provide that space? Two main points to consider are the supported quantity of physical disks and the storage capacity you plan to use. For example, your NAS can hold two disks with 8 TB capacity each. Then, the overall storage space of your appliance can technically reach 16 terabytes. However, if you plan to configure data mirroring (RAID 1) to increase backup resilience even further, you can back up only 8 TB of data.
  • Form factor. Where do you plan to install the NAS appliance? You can mount a device with storage into a standard datacenter rack or use a separate case to build a desktop-like rig. A preferable form-factor of a backup NAS depends on the type and size of your organization’s primary or secondary site.
  • Performance. How much performance does your NAS backup appliance need? The overall amount of data to process during backup updates poses certain performance requirements for the NAS hardware, including storage disks’ speed and CPU capabilities. The backup and recovery time objectives (RTO) set additional demands that the hardware and network must meet. In case the bottleneck occurs at some point to I/O operations with backup data, the overall speed of backup and recovery workflows significantly decreases.
  • Network. In case your recovery time objectives are short, a NAS must have a wired network connection and appropriate nodes supporting the normal network functioning. Onsite and offsite backup NAS devices can have different network configurations depending on your data policies and expectations. Keep in mind that the bandwidth requirements are high even for a small organization’s infrastructure.
  • Reliability. Is the appliance reliable enough to avoid backup data loss and corruption? The importance of a NAS backup device for an organization cannot be overestimated, while a single hardware or software failure may result in non-recoverability of backup copies. A certified motherboard and RAM sticks, a high-performance CPU, NAS-oriented disks, well-organized cooling and licensed software are a must-have to ensure the system’s reliability.
  • Security. How can you enhance NAS backup data protection? All-round data encryption, both “in flight” (during transfer) and “at rest” (throughout the retention period), access control, multi-factor authentication, strong passwords and continuous threat monitoring are your answers.

Benefits of NAS Backup

When choosing between NAS and cloud backup, NAS benefits are not always obvious at the first look. The here-and-now availability and price of cloud services along with their features’ similarity to NAS solutions make cloud backup seem like the ultimate choice. However, NAS backup has advantages you might want to consider when comparing NAS to cloud storage.

Enhanced Data Privacy and Control

When you set a NAS backup device for your organization, that device is all yours. Thus, you can ensure proper service provisioning and hardware or software maintenance without involving third parties. Additionally, unlike cloud storage, you can physically control the online availability and overall state of a NAS device at your organization’s site. Given that a NAS backup can contain sensitive data, additional control and privacy are beneficial to enhance file security.

Improved Security Measures

Apart from physical security, NAS backup software can provide additional features and functions specially designed to ensure file security. For example, a modern NAKIVO NAS backup solution can be capable of:

  • In-flight and at-rest data encryption to avoid third-party readers
  • Immutability to enhance anti-ransomware resilience
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) to strengthen login security
  • Role-based access control (RBAC) to grant only the required permissions to employees

These and other security features available in the enterprise backup solution from NAKIVO can boost the protection of backup data and ensure file security even when the main site falls victim to a cyberattack. If you install the NAKIVO Free Edition, you can use all of the basic features for a whole year.

Local Backups and Data Redundancy

NAKIVO Backup & Replication solution can combine the advantages of cloud and local backup storage. You can locate a NAS appliance right next to your main server and then configure the online access to backup data for responsible employees. Thus, you turn a NAS appliance into a cloud backup resource for your organization, while your storage is still physically located on site.

Another use case is to locate a NAS device off site and for offline storage. You can schedule backups and then disable network connection on a backup appliance for physical isolation. As a result, your files and other data items remain safe and recoverable even if a disaster impacts the main site.

Finally, combining these approaches can help you ensure ultimate data redundancy while keeping the hardware, software and storage of your backup infrastructure under your control.

Swift Backup Updates and Data Recovery

With a NAS backup infrastructure at your disposal, you can avoid the bottlenecks connected to the limitations of cloud services and online connection bandwidth. A network-attached storage can be connected to your organization’s local network and run workflows at the very limits of the network’s capabilities. Whenever you need to update backups or recover your data, a NAS built into the infrastructure enables that quickly and efficiently.

Conclusion

Integrating a backup NAS into your organization’s environment has benefits boosting file security when compared to running cloud backups. Unlike cloud storage, you can pick the NAS hardware and software that can meet your security, privacy, RTO and RPO requirements. Moreover, a NAS backup appliance can serve as a private cloud for an organization’s data copies, providing the benefits of cloud services while eliminating their flaws.

By Gary Bernstein

Gary Bernstein

Over the past two decades, Gary has established himself as an authoritative voice in the tech industry, penning articles for renowned platforms including Forbes, TechCrunch, and CloudTweaks. His expansive portfolio underscores a deep-seated expertise and commitment to the evolving technological landscape.
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