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NAS Backup

Cloud NAS Backup: Why and How to Move NAS Backup to the Cloud

What Is Cloud-Based NAS Backup

Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a file storage device, typically deployed as a networked appliance, which contains one or more physical storage drives. In many organizations, NAS devices hold sensitive data and must be regularly backed up. However, due to the large storage volumes of many NAS systems, maintaining backups in the on-premises data center can be a challenge.

Increasingly, organizations are moving to NAS backup systems in the cloud. However, this can be challenging because NAS devices typically do not support backup software agents. There are several strategies for backing up a NAS to the cloud, including integrating NAS directly with cloud services, and replicating data to an additional NAS in a cloud data center.

In this article, you will learn:

How Does Cloud-Based NAS Backup Complement On-Premises?

Most organizations do not choose “either or” on-premises NAS or cloud-based backup solutions. Rather, they use both for different workloads, taking into account various requirements such as recovery time objective (RTO), recovery point objective (RPO) and long-term retention.

Performance and Speed

On-premises NAS may be a better approach when you need faster backup, with an emphasis on incremental backups. A cloud-based solution may better suit complete off-site backups, with less of a focus on restoring performance. There is a clear speed advantage to having NAS systems located on the same LAN as the backed-up devices.

Cloud-based NAS is limited by your bandwidth and network connection to the cloud provider and buying extra bandwidth can be too expensive for backup storage. High-speed LANs support faster NAS speeds. Thus, you should consider how quickly you will be able to back up and retrieve data over the Internet verses via a LAN. NAS devices are less affected by network latency, while cloud backups provide better performance for physically distributed networks.

Another aspect is about networking and bandwidth. In some cases, there is a need for fast and performant backup that will not impact the production environment. In your on-premises environment you have full control of the VM configuration, and you can add a network card in order to enlarge the bandwidth capacity while in the cloud this may be a bottleneck or cause additional costs due to oversizing.


On-premises NAS and cloud-based NAS backup solutions can achieve similar levels of data security, provided they are properly installed and configured. Both approaches require encryption to be secure. Only consider NAS technologies with self-encrypting disk storage—transparent encryption at the disk level helps ensure that data cannot be retrieved from the physical disk media if it is removed. Cloud-based NAS providers should also guarantee the use of encryption technology for managed storage.


The overall cost of a backup solution depends on factors such as equipment and backup frequency and size. On-premises NAS can have high upfront costs, which can continue to increase as your capacity grows.

The pay-for-use model of cloud-based NAS backup is generally cheaper upfront, but outbound bandwidth is usually far more expensive and can add up if you need to restore large data volumes on a regular basis. Looking at overall total cost of ownership (TCO), cloud-based NAS storage tends to be more cost-effective than on-premises NAS.


There are several factors that influence reliability, and both on-premises and cloud-based NAS have respective benefits. Backup and storage administrators are more familiar with on-premises NAS devices, making them easier to manage and more predictable. However, cloud-based NAS backup tends to provide better overall data reliability through geographically redundant configurations.


A successful backup system must be secure and easy to access, with data recovery in mind. On-premises NAS solutions tend to be more accessible and easier to configure, but it may be impossible to access on-premises NAS backups in the event of a physical disaster. In such cases, cloud solutions offer the advantage of immediate availability.

Control and Ownership

On-premises NAS typically provides more control, because all data is stored on site. Cloud-based NAS backup provides flexible access, with less control over storage systems. Cloud providers usually guarantee data access and ownership, but it is important to fully review any contract to clarify ownership issues.

On-premises NAS systems generally come with control and ownership guarantees, but existing backups may be unusable or require conversion following version upgrades. This type of issue usually does not exist in cloud-based NAS systems, which handle upgrades transparently.

3 Methods of Backing Up NAS to the Cloud

NAS devices run a proprietary operating system optimized for storage and do not support normal backup software agents. The following NAS backup strategies involve various combinations of off-site and on-site deployment—under the assumption that most organizations will retain on-premises NAS backups in parallel to a cloud NAS service, due to the high data volumes stored in most NAS devices and the need for a low-latency local backup option.

In all these methods, the local NAS device functions as a cache that stores local data while it is being transferred to the remote backup service. This provides high performance while enjoying the reliability of cloud-based backup.

1. Directly Integrating NAS with Cloud Backup

In this strategy, the on-premises NAS integrates with a cloud-based backup system and sends data there.

Directly integrating NAS with cloud backup services lets you automatically transfer all backups to the cloud.

In many cases, integration is achieved via the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP). This is a specialized protocol devised for NAS device backups and best suited to file data transfers. In the context of cloud backups, NDMP can be used to back up NAS data to any NDMP-compatible cloud data service.

NDMP enables NAS devices to directly send data across the network to a cloud-based backup server without requiring intervention from a local client or agent. The backup server can communicate directly with NAS appliances to indicate which data from the storage device can be sent for backup.

2. Replicating Data to Cloud-Based NAS

In this strategy, the on-premises NAS replicates data across a WAN to another NAS, deployed in a cloud data center. This is unlike the direct integration scenario above, in which there is only one NAS interacting directly with a cloud backup service.

A duplicate of the data on the local NAS device is created and stored on the cloud-based device. Vendors offer combinations of remote and local replication to improve performance.

3. Network-Based Backup

The traditional network-based backup strategy involves installing backup agents on every server that accesses NAS storage. Backup data is sent to an on-site home server through the LAN, and the home backup server transfers backups to the cloud over a WAN.

This client-server backup strategy has the disadvantage of increasing network traffic. This is because data has to travel across the network from the NAS device to the client and then to the home backup server. Another issue is that if the NAS file server is shared by multiple systems, each system can create its own copy of backup files, bloating backup storage.

NAS 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.

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