Updated: June 28, 2017
SAN storage arrays are self-contained disk systems, providing excellent data handling capabilities in an efficiently organized system. This technology is a marked step beyond the traditional method of managing data, which is maintaining a disk attached to each server on the network. In effect, a company can consolidate its disks into a single, logical setup. This is naturally much easier to manage, so network admins can backup data more easily and keep data from becoming fragmented, which is a common issue with individually managed disks.
What is the difference between SAN storage arrays and NAS systems?
Network attached systems, also known as NAS, are connected to the network using a standard Ethernet protocol, which means NAS systems are subject to slowdowns and other issues if a network is stressed. NAS systems only allow file level access as well, so when data is retrieved from the system, it has to pass through the extra overhead, slowing it down a bit. Still, NAS systems are an ideal solution for companies that don't require elite data transfer speeds and don't want to spend a lot of money on a system.
SAN storage arrays are not just another device on the company's network. Instead, these disk systems connect all of the company's storage subsystems to each other using highly sophisticated Fibre Channel protocol. Fibre Channel offers elite transfer speeds, and units attached to each other in this way can be accessed so quickly that they are practically linked physically. In fact, people on the network may not even notice the overhead that typically comes with data backup, as the system is extremely quick. The only drawback with Fibre Channel is that it is a relatively new protocol, so manufacturers sometimes implement the technology in ways that aren't compatible with each other. However, with its current 4 Gbps speed (experts believe Fibre Channel will eventually offer transfer speeds of up to 10 Gbps) and flexibility (Fibre Channel can be used with optical fiber and coaxial cable), it is quickly replacing SCSI protocol.
Though it may not be something users or company owners think about, network administrators want to control where their company's data goes physically. With physical control over the business's data, a network admin can prioritize data and keep it organized so that a network admin always knows where it is. These systems offer block level access, so IT professionals won't have to fight the system to get the access they need.
As businesses grow, they have to consider their data organization more often, and more seriously. In enterprise applications, companies often choose NAS and SAN systems to operate on their network. The NAS can handle lower priority data and data that is accessed less, while SAN storage arrays can maintain data that needs to be accessed frequently and quickly. With smart organization like this, a business will be able to get the most out of its data.