Definition: NAS allows files to be stored and retrieved across a computer network. A NAS includes a dedicated hardware device often called the head that connects to a local area network (usually via Ethernet). This NAS "server" authenticates clients and manages file operations in much the same manner as traditional file servers, through well-established network protocols like NFS and CIFS/SMB.
NAS systems attempt to reduce the cost associated with traditional file servers. Rather than utilize general-purpose computer hardware and a full-featured network operating system (NOS) like NetWare, NAS devices generally run an embedded operating system on simplified hardware. NAS boxes support hard drives, and sometimes tape drives, but lack peripherals like a monitor or keyboard. Designed specifically for network storage, a NAS tends to be easier to manage than a file server.
The term "NAS" is often confused with the related term "SAN" (Storage Area Network). In a nutshell, NAS devices are just one type of entity that can exist on a SAN.
Also Known As: Network Attached Storage
Introduction to NAS
Article explains concepts behind NAS, advantages of NAS over traditional file servers and compares NAS to SAN.
NAS and SAN Directory
Resource listings for NAS and SAN technologies including Fibre Channel and comparisons between the two.