There is a lot of confusion between the two popular types of networked storage areas recently. In fact, many consumer products often mistakenly interchange the two concepts. However, there are many differences between Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Network (SAN) that you should be aware of. Afterall, one is superior to the other.
This type of additional storage capacity is provided using network protocols. For example, Microsoft uses the protocol CIFS while linux uses the protocol NFS.
To a common user, perhaps in a home, NAS is sufficiently capable of provided the necessary performance. NAS can provide adequate speed for streaming videos, music, or sharing files. Afterall, the limit is the network connecting the storage to the client (user).
However, NAS uses network protocols to connect, thus it heavily relies the performance of specific protocols. It does not scale well in the industrial level.
An example of NAS usage is attaching a commerical external hard drive that interfaces using the ethernet port. This ethernet connection is then routed through a router or switch to other client (users on different machines).
This type of additional storage capacity is more commonly used in the many corporation technology warehouse. It is uniquely different from NAS. Instead of relying on network protocols to share storage capacity, SAN sits in its often system of machines and can be scaled to include more capcity or performance.
Some specific examples of SAN usage in a common household includes connecting an external hard drive to a computer that acts as a server. For instance, many linux operating systems provide the samba interface.
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