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Definition: NAS

(1) See network access server.

(2) (Network Attached Storage) A file server that connects to the network. A NAS contains the file sharing components of a server and generally does not run applications like a general-purpose computer. However, it is often designed to run NAS-related programs such as backup, cloud synchronization, streaming, surveillance and other services. NAS units generally contain a slimmed-down OS and file system, and they process I/O requests by supporting the popular file sharing protocols, primarily CIFS for Windows and NFS for Unix, Linux and Mac.

Just Plug It In
Using traditional LAN protocols such as TCP/IP over Ethernet, the NAS enables more storage to be quickly added to the network by plugging it into a switch or router. Contrast with SAN. See NAS gateway, direct attached storage and NetApp Filer.

A Raft of QNAP Apps
QNAP makes a variety of popular NAS products from personal storage to enterprise use (top unit). Its QTS operating system supports more than 150 apps covering the categories itemized above.

Network vs. Channel Attached
Data in a NAS are accessed via the network, whereas storage area networks (SANs) have high-speed connections to huge storage arrays.

Industrial Strength NAS
Network Appliance popularized the enterprise NAS device. Sophisticated units like this can hold many terabytes of storage and provide mission critical reliability for large enterprises. (Image courtesy of Network Appliance, Inc.)

The Early 2000s
In 2002, Iomega introduced a line of economical RAID-based NAS units for personal and SOHO use. This model included a hot spare ready to replace a failed disk drive. Iomega was later acquired by Lenovo. (Image courtesy of Iomega Corporation.)