When you use computers a lot whether in business or at home, you have to save your files somewhere safe. In most cases this would be a file server. This is a device (not on your local computer) that A. Has a storage medium and B. Has a backup copy. Be warned, one is no good without the other!
But what sort of systems should you use? There are loads to choose from, and There are loads to avoid. I’ve seen the wrong type of system recommended so many times, and all too often it’s the one that makes the most money for you supplier! Call us for helpful and truthful advice, but read on for a bit of a guide….
When it comes to storage devices for your files, they break down into a few categories:
Microsoft Servers: Running Windows Server Operating Systems, these machines are highly reliable and efficient, but come with a very high price tag and cost of operation. In my opinion they should only be used by companies with an in house IT staff.
Windows Workstations: This is a normal (but choose wisely) computer running Windows 10 or 11, but optimised for file storage and sharing. It’s set up as part of a network with other computers and devices connected to it via ethernet cables and switches. Very simple to do and cheap to set up, as everyone now has spare computer capacity. Remember that there’s no built in failsafe though, and updates can sometimes cause problems. It’s fine for very small offices but has a limit of ten incoming connections.
Cloud Storage: Online storage is available everywhere now with free space (but limited) available from all the big players. Using this as the main store for business is a simple idea which seems to tick all the boxes, but for multiple and concurrent users it has many drawbacks. It’s really only for a single user or multiple users who don’t share files often that this is ideal for.
Network Attached Storage: This is a device that connects to your local network and has a customised (Linux based) operating system that’s specifically designed to store and share files. There are loads of types available too from pre-built sytems by Qnap, Western Digital, Synology etc. to Systems that run on Normal PC Hardware. These are sometimes pricey, but are all very reliable and can be configured and customised by the end user. In most cases in my opinion, these are the best solution for storage if you can afford them and know how to use them.
It’s important to talk about backup whenever you talk about storage. Nowhere on it’s own is safe to store files, you always need a backup, and preferably two! The rule is: one onsite backup and one offsite backup…Minimum. I have one client with two onsite, one offsite, and six full extra separate daily ones just in case!
External Hard Drives: The simplest form of backup device. It’s cheap and fairly reliable, but needs to be checked regularly. A backup software with daily reporting can be used for peace of mind. Maybe a little bit restrictive on size.
Other Computers or Servers: Once you have a network set up and each computer can see the others, then it’s a fairly simple add on to back up your files to another computer. Again a reporting system of some type should be added because the backup should be a hidden, automatic process. Unless you want to go to extra expense, this is an ideal onsite solution requiring only a spare hard drive.
Cloud Systems: The free amount of storage that you get in most cases isn’t enough for a reliable backup system. If you’re paying for storage then it’s fine to use this as a backup as long as you have some way of knowing for sure that it’s actually backing up. This is only normally available on a single PC system so for peace of mind I would use only personal cloud storage for any backup system.
Network Attached Storage: As above in the storage section, NASs are probably the best for this purpose too in most cases. They have very customisable operating systems with built in Apps for backup in the branded ones. The cost is the only drawback, but what price peace of mind?