Can you think back to 2001? The thought of using a terabyte of storage seemed like a grossly unnecessary amount of space. Now, there are personal computers that come standard with a terabyte hard drive.

The importance of data storage grows daily, and this means 1) you have a lot of storage options to sift through and 2) making the right choice is more important than ever.

SAN vs NAS storage

SAN and NAS are two of the leading storage solutions that are commonly compared and confused because of their similar acronyms. But don’t let the re-arranged letters (also known as a “semordnilap“) confuse you—there are major differences, pros, and cons to each solution.

Below, we compare the difference of SAN vs NAS to help you determine which solution would benefit your environment most.

nas storage

NAS—Network attached storage

NAS—Network attached storage

NAS is a data storage device connected to a network providing data access to clients. At its base, it is built with either SAS or SATA disks arranged in a RAID; it is then attached to devices over ethernet.

Essentially, NAS is a highly specialized file server and because of its hardware, software, or specific configuration, NAS only does storage.

Pros of NAS:

  • Consolidated security: As a single system for file storage and distribution, a NAS consolidates and centralizes data protection.
  • Simplified architecture: NAS is built just like a desktop or server. A simpler architecture means simplified management. Fewer moving parts equal fewer potential points of failure. This also means that using a NAS does not require any changes to your existing network architecture—it’s a plug-and-play solution. As you’ll see, this is a major difference between NAS and SAN.
  • Inexpensive: Although prices naturally vary based on the size and quality of the NAS, as a general rule of thumb a NAS is an affordable storage solution.
  • Specialization: The very fact that a NAS does nothing but storage makes it more reliable. Since it can’t be used for things like internet searches (which might lead to viruses or malware) it is a more efficient storage device.

Cons of NAS:

  • Limited scalability: A NAS is limited to its own resources, meaning you can only scale by adding another NAS. However, too many NAS devices can lead to other issues like NAS sprawl.
  • Minimal speed: With low throughput and high latency, a NAS is not fast enough for high performance applications.
  • Network dependent: Since files are typically shared with NAS devices over the LAN (local area network, also used for normal traffic), they can cause congestion or can be effected by other traffic on the LAN.

In the end, a NAS is a great auxiliary storage device, but it is not going to solve all of your problems. Its straightforward architecture and easy implementation make it great if you’re looking for a “quick fix,” but it leaves some storage needs unaddressed.


SAN—Storage area network

SAN—Storage area network

SAN is a dedicated network that enables servers to share a pool of storage resources. SANs are complex, interwoven systems most frequently used with mission-critical data and databases.

As a separate network, a SAN moves resources off of the LAN (local area network), creating a separate, high-speed, more organized environment that can be accessed by each client OS as if it were directly attached storage. A SAN is more than just one device, it is a network of storage devices that work together as a single cluster.

Pros of SAN:

  • High performance: A SAN means that other devices in your network won’t need to use local storage, allowing them to run more smoothly. With your servers using internal hard drives less (or not at all), they will naturally consume less power and run at a cooler temperature.
  • Fast backup: The fact that client OSs see the SAN as attached storage allows for more rapid backups. Even though the data from a SAN may travel, the SAN itself is transparent to the client OS, allowing the data to be stored quickly. As it is an entirely distinct network, SANs won’t cause bottlenecks like other storage solutions might.
  • Disaster recovery: Replicating data from your primary location to an offsite SAN is easy. You can replicate rapidly and get your environment up and running quickly. This a major plus, because downtime is expensive.
  • Better redundancy: Since the servers within the SAN function as one cluster, you aren’t necessarily accessing one particular device. If one of the servers goes down, the other devices within the same network pickup the slack. Such a high level of redundancy is unparalleled by any other storage solution.

Cons of SAN:

  • High complexity: Developing a SAN is no small feat. It is a network of intricate and interconnected devices and implementation entails major device and architectural changes; this might prove to be more work than benefit for some.
  • Upfront cost: Simply put, a SAN is expensive. Although the ROI can be as quick as 12 months, the upfront costs of hardware and network implementation can be a major deterrence.

Creating a storage area network is an investment. A big one, yes, but it will save you money in the long run. A SAN will speed up your entire environment, give you a disaster recovery solution, and lengthen the life of your hardware, all while meeting your storage needs. You just have to determine whether the investment is worth the reward.

Difference between NAS and SAN


Looking at SAN and NAS side by side shows they’re not necessarily competing technologies—SAN vs NAS. Though they might do some of the same things, for the most part they meet different needs in drastically different ways.

NASs are reliableinexpensive, and ideal for SMBs looking for an easily implemented storage solution.

SANs are high-performingcomplex systems and ideal for mission-critical tools and companies looking for top-of-the-line storage performance and reliability.


Choosing between SAN and NAS storage should be a confident, strategic decision based on the needs of your company’s data center. We can help you make the right choice and compare available solutions. Help me choose.