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NAS Backup

5 NAS Backup Strategies and Their Pros and Cons


What Is a NAS Backup Strategy?

Network-Attached Storage (NAS) is a storage system that lets computers access storage over a local area network (LAN). NAS is commonly used by enterprises for sensitive data, and it is important to set up backup for NAS devices, to ensure you can recover data in case of data loss.

A NAS backup strategy is a technical method for backing up NAS data to another system or device. A NAS backup strategy should also address all the additional aspects such as number of copies, retention periods and terms, different locations and platforms, and more. We’ll review several NAS backup strategies and their pros and cons.

In this article:

NAS Data Loss Risks

NAS devices are often used to store sensitive enterprise data. The possibility of data loss is a real threat and should not be ignored. The following are common reasons for data loss on NAS devices:

  • Human error—can result in NAS data loss if a user accidentally deletes files, overwrites a drive, improperly updates or reformats the device.
  • Mechanical failure—RAID systems are configured to compensate in the event of a single drive failure. However, if multiple devices fail, the remaining devices may not be able to deal with the load, causing NAS failure.
  • Security threats—a ransomware or other malware infection on a NAS device can result in data loss and exposure of sensitive data to attackers. Malicious insiders might abuse their access to a NAS system to delete or tamper with NAS data.
  • Overheating—component malfunction or insufficient cooling can result in overheating, which can lead to drive failure.
  • Power outage—voltage fluctuations and overvoltage can cause problems with NAS network memory. After power is restored, disks may not be correctly reintegrated into the RAID, leading to data corruption or data availability issues.
  • Maintenance error—technicians servicing the NAS may fail to replace a malfunctioning disk, or accidentally replace the wrong disk. This can cause disk failure which will result in loss of data.
  • Natural disasters—like any on-premises storage equipment, NAS devices are at risk of loss or damage from fires, floods, or other catastrophes affecting the physical facility.

5 NAS Backup Strategies

Here are common strategies you can use to backup NAS devices and protect the business from data loss and service disruption.

It is important to note that most of these backup strategies, except where specifically noted, are not application-aware. Backup is not sensitive to changes made to files by applications, and when data is restored from backup, applications using it may crash or not function properly.

1. Backup to a Directly Attached USB Hard Disk

Some NAS device models provide ports that allow you to connect an external hard drive, via either USB or eSATA protocols. A simple backup method is to connect a hard drive to your NAS device and copy the files you want to protect.

Pros: Easy to implement. Typically, the NAS vendor will provide a web interface you can use to manage and copy files.

Cons: This backup method is that it is not automated—it requires physically attaching the disk, starting the copy operation, and ensuring it completes successfully. If during the copy operation files are opened or modified by an application, or accessed over the network, the copy will be inconsistent, and files may be out of date, corrupted, or not copied at all. Also, backups can be inconsistent if files are opened or modified by applications while being copied.

2. Backup to a Secondary NAS

You can copy data from one NAS device to another - for example, by mounting a shared folder from a remote NAS on a local NAS device. One NAS device then becomes a backup for the other. Copying data directly from one NAS to another removes the overhead of a backup server.

Pros: Check if your NAS device can mount a remote shared folder, and if so, you can directly copy data from one NAS to another. Some NAS devices let you schedule data tasks, and if so, you can automatically perform backups with no additional equipment or software.

Cons: A main disadvantage of this approach is that backups can be inconsistent if files are opened by applications while being copied.

3. NDMP Backup

The Network Data Management Protocol, or NDMP, is a protocol designed specifically for managing NAS device backups. It enables NAS devices to directly send data across the network to tape devices or backup servers without requiring any intervention from the backup client.

The backup server can communicate directly with your NAS devices, indicating the storage device data that can be sent for backup. Mainstream backup solutions (i.e., Veritas, Commvault, Dell EMC and IBM) typically support NDMP and offer varying levels of functionality and integration.

Pros: NDMP backups are most suited for file data. Oracle Secure Backup fully supports NDMP.

Cons: Most other database applications - including Microsoft Exchange, SQL and Db2 - do not fully support integration with NDMP backups, because they require application awareness to ensure consistency.

While it is possible to use custom scripting to enable awareness of backups, this usually means you have to temporarily shut down the application. You will also need to maintain and troubleshoot scripts, which can become a large effort for operational teams.

Related content: Read our guide to NDMP

4. NAS-Based Data Replication

Data replication between NAS appliances provides improved capabilities compared to the other methods we reviewed, including application awareness. Vendors provide protection for NAS data using a combination of remote and local data replication (in other words, replicating data to destinations in the local data center and outside it), along with application-specific solutions.

An example of NAS data replication technology is NetApp Snap suite. NetApp offers data protection and management capabilities such as:

  • Snapshots—for local, point-in-time and block-level copies
  • SnapVault—for remote or local incremental backups at the block level
  • SnapMirror—for remote or local or data replication
  • SnapManager—for simplified, automated backup of application data that requires application awareness (i.e., SQL, Oracle, Exchange)
  • SnapCenter—a scalable data protection platform that provides central control over backup, restore, and clone operations

5. NAS Cloud Backup with NetApp Cloud Backup

NetApp understands ONTAP better than anyone else, which is why the best backup solution for ONTAP systems is NetApp Cloud Backup. Designed by NetApp specifically for ONTAP, Cloud Backup automatically creates block-level incremental forever backups. These copies are stored in object format and preserve all ONTAP’s storage efficiencies. Your backups are 100X faster to create, easy to restore, and much more reliable than with any other solution. NetApp Cloud Backup also provides application awareness, addressing the challenges of traditional NAS backup strategies.

Cloud Backup simplifies the entire back up process. It’s intuitive, quick to deploy, and managed from the same console as the rest of the NetApp cloud ecosystem.  Whether you’re looking for a less expensive way to store your backups, a faster, more capable technology than NDMP, or an easy way to enable a 3-2-1 strategy, Cloud Backup offers the best backup solution for ONTAP.

Learn more about the NetApp Cloud Backup capabilities here, and find out more in our Cloud Backup Service Customers’ Case Studies.

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Semion Mazor, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist