Seagate’s NAS Pro may be all the Cloud an SMB Needs

The proliferation of mobile devices and cloud-based services is a good indicator of how people are working nowadays – and what a small company’s storage system needs to provide. It’s all about collaboration and presenting ‘anywhere, anytime, on any device’ access to company data. This is a much different role than the LAN-based file services and desktop backup that the traditional SMB NAS fulfilled, and one that Seagate’s NAS Pro was designed for.

Seagate NAS Pro is a 2, 4 or 6-drive NAS appliance built for small businesses with up to 50 employees. The system comes with Seagate’s 3.5” NAS disk drives (up to 5TB each, with advanced reliability and management functions) and supports hot-swapping drives. The NAS Pro is also available in a diskless configuration, allowing a business to install drives they already own, even if the drives are mixed capacity. The NAS Pro runs Seagate’s NAS OS 4, a Linux-based operating system with a web interface and support for third party apps, which allows additional functionality to be added to the NAS to suit particular business needs.

System Specs

From a hardware perspective, Seagate’s NAS Pro has a 1.7GHz, dual core Intel “Rangeley” processor that’s designed specifically to run a NAS, and 2GB of RAM that provides up to 200MB/s of file transfer performance. It has dual Gbit NICs supporting failover and link aggregation, plus 2 x USB 3.0 ports to connect external storage. NAS Pro supports iSCSI for IP-SAN functionality, plus SNMP integration, email notification and Active Directory support.

Storage Management

SimplyRAIDTM is Seagate’s easy-to-use drive management system that’s more flexible and easier to operate than traditional disk utilities, supporting mixed capacity drives and on-the-fly drive replacement. Users can upgrade to a larger drives and SimplyRAID will migrate data to capacity-balance the NAS automatically. For users who want to manage the RAID settings manually, the Seagate NAS Pro supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and 10, plus a simplified volume manager.

Sdrive Remote File Access

File sync and share is one of the hottest applications in IT right now, everyone understands the value of the cloud to enable users to access their files anywhere, on basically any device. Seagate’s answer to this is their Sdrive file access software. Sdrive provides remote access to NAS Pro files and folders via Explorer or Finder, with the same look and feel as when users are connected to the LAN. With an app for PC, Mac, iOS and Android, it gives employees access to any of their files when they leave the office. The company claims that setup is painless, with no need for UPnP or manual port forwarding to get through the company’s firewall.

Client Backup

One of the design choices Seagate made with this box is to not include client backup software, something that many SMB NASs have provided, either with a basic utility or a as a free trial. They talked with customers and the word was to leave backup software out of the product. I think it’s a good decision. If you just need a file server, having the box keep trying to backup clients is annoying and the extra feature just adds cost to the product. What they did include was Time Machine support, which makes sense based on the increasing number of Mac users in companies of all sizes. PC users would need to install a third-party backup utility, although most businesses already have a preferred backup software suite.

Cloud Backup

NAS Pro enables backing up files and folders to Amazon S3 and Box via an integrated Backup Manager. It also has a remote replication feature that supports backing up shares to another Seagate NAS, to an Rsync-compatible server over the LAN or WAN or to other devices with popular networking protocols, such as FTP, SFTP, or WebDav.

Apps and Support

As a relatively new product, the NAS Pro hasn’t accumulated an extensive library of third-party apps. Currently, there’s a virus scanning app and an app for recording video from IP cameras, to turn the NAS into a surveillance solution. Seagate NAS Pro users do get upgraded support, starting higher in the support queue, at the business level. And, when they call in they’ll get regionalized support people, not a foreign call center.

StorageSwiss Take

As one of the two primary disk drive manufacturers in the world one can’t argue that Seagate knows how to build quality storage, and their emphasis on storage systems through the Xyratex acquisition only strengthens their case for building a good NAS solution. But I think their focus on cloud-like file access, cost containment and overall simplicity is just as important as how they built the box.

Big companies are fighting the “shadow IT” problem, the practice of employees signing up for cloud file services on their own because they’re not provided by the company. The answer for many larger enterprises is to set up a private cloud and provide the file services and access their employees need. With Sdrive, Seagate is making it easy for SMBs to set up a private cloud and enjoy the same benefits that enterprises get, but without the cost or the complex infrastructure.

I like the option to mix or match disk drives and the fact that you can buy an empty chassis and presumably use existing storage should help keep costs down. Although there’s certainly a case to be made for buying Seagate’s new, larger, more resilient drives with the box. I think there are also some advantages to a Linux OS, cost being a big one, and its Apple-like simplicity of OS 4 will be attractive to SMBs that don’t have full time IT people.

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Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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