Regardless of what sector one is talking about — public safety, the enterprise or government — entities increasingly are turning to cloud computing as a lower-cost, less-troublesome way to effectively manage their data. But for those organizations that are dealing with very, very large files or sensitive, proprietary data, a technology known as network attached storage might be a better option, said Rob Kaufmann, an analyst with KPI Analytics.

There is no question about the need to effectively manage data, which is mushrooming in lockstep with the growth of broadband. According to a Cisco research study, 1.3 trillion gigabytes of online data will be generated worldwide by 2016, roughly triple the 500 billion gigabytes generated in 2009. Moreover, Web-connected business devices are expected to increase to 5.1 billion by 2016, a significant leap from the 2.2 billion in use in 2011. According to KPI Analytics, which is hosting a webinar on NAS on July 17 in partnership with Dell, the amount of internal data generated by businesses will parallel this growth.

Consequently, storage and access is going to become an issue — a very large issue. But where cloud computing offers a big advantage in that it allows data access via any device from virtually anywhere, the fact that it relies on the Internet creates speed issues, according to Kaufmann.

"With NAS, you would create a single appliance, or a cluster of devices storing your information onsite, and you would access it through your local network," Kaufmann said. "You tend to have a faster network at your location, compared with your Internet connection … so there are tremendous speed advantages with NAS."

Also, because the data is stored at the company's premises, there are fewer security issues.

"Because NAS is part of your company's system, you have full control over the security levels, the backup of it and the redundancy, so you can keep your information a lot more secure."

In addition, NAS is scalable, which is a big advantage for organizations that are dealing with very large files, such as video editors, animators and those engaging in computer-aided design and drafting, Kaufmann said.

"It all depends on your price tag, but you can scale to enormous sizes with NAS, where a lot of cloud services will have limits. Because they're serving [tens of thousands] of people, they might be able to give you only 20 gigabytes," he said. "Some of these files get very large, such as when you're [rendering] something as complex as a car."

Yet another advantage to NAS, compared with cloud storage, is that there are no recurring costs.

"Cloud is a service, so you are paying monthly," Kaufmann said. "So if your storage needs are large, you might pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars each month. With NAS, once you get past the initial cost of setting it up, then all you're paying for is upkeep."

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