Why choose network attached storage over cloud based storage?

When it comes to data storage, companies have two main options – network attached storage (NAS) or cloud based storage. NAS involves storing data on hard drives that are connected directly to your local network. Cloud storage involves storing data on remote servers accessed over the internet. Both options have their pros and cons, so which one should you choose for your business? Here we’ll examine the key differences between NAS and cloud storage to help you decide which solution is right for your needs.


One of the biggest considerations when choosing a data storage solution is cost. NAS devices require an upfront capital investment to purchase the hard drives and NAS enclosure, but after that initial hardware purchase you just need to pay for periodic upgrades or replacements as needed. Cloud storage services operate on a subscription model where you pay a monthly or annual fee based on how much storage space you use.

For small amounts of data (less than 5TB), a cloud storage subscription can often be more cost effective than buying a high capacity NAS system. But as your storage needs grow, the monthly costs of cloud storage subscriptions can add up. With 10TB or more of data, a NAS system that you own and manage yourself is likely to be more economical in the long run.


How and where you need to access your data is another key criteria. A NAS system stored on-premises allows for very fast data access and transfer speeds on your local network. But that data is only accessible when you are connected to that network, unless you setup remote access. Cloud based storage can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection, but transfer speeds are limited by your internet bandwidth.

If employees need to collaborate on data across multiple geographic locations, cloud storage makes accessing and sharing files easy. For data that only needs to be accessed and updated within your office, a NAS on your local network will provide better performance.


Security is often a top concern when choosing a storage platform. With a NAS system, your data stays under your physical control within your office or data center, protected behind your own firewalls and security policies. Cloud storage means trusting a third party provider to properly manage access controls and encryption for your data. But major cloud providers have robust security teams and protocols in place to safeguard data.

A NAS gives you full control over security, while a cloud provider offers expertise and resources you may lack locally. Both options allow setting up user permissions, encryption, VPN access, etc. Evaluate your own security needs and resources when deciding which approach fits best.


As your storage demands grow over time, how easy is it to expand capacity? Cloud storage allows seamless scaling – you can add more space with just a click. Most cloud providers offer tiered pricing models where per GB costs go down as your usage increases, allowing you to optimize costs.

NAS capacity is limited by the physical hardware – adding more drives or upgrading to larger capacity drives requires manual configuration. But scaling NAS doesn’t incur recurring subscription fees like cloud storage. Look at your current storage needs and projected growth to choose the most scalable and cost effective option long term.


The reliability of data storage platforms is critical. With NAS, you control the redundancy and backup schemes to guard against drive failures. This puts the burden of preventing data loss on your IT staff. Cloud providers offer automatic data replication and fail-over across multiple geographic regions, eliminating single points of failure. The leading enterprise cloud providers guarantee 99.9% or higher uptime and data durability.

Evaluate your IT resources, expertise, and uptime requirements when deciding whether a cloud platform or managed NAS can provide the reliability level you need.

Data Recovery

Mistakes happen, files get deleted or corrupted, and data recovery is needed. Recovering data from a NAS requires connecting the drives to a recovery platform locally and manually restoring files. Cloud storage allows recovery of deleted or previous versions of files without physical access to the servers. Leading providers offer data recovery services as well.

If quick, automated restore of data is important for your use case, cloud storage has a big advantage. For maximum control over recovery processes, a NAS system may work better.


Regulatory compliance is another factor to consider when evaluating storage options. Industries like healthcare (HIPAA), finance (PCI DSS, SOX), and government (FEDRAMP, ITAR) have strict data privacy and security regulations to adhere to. Check that any potential cloud provider meets all applicable compliance standards for your industry and location.

Maintaining compliance with a NAS system puts the onus on your IT team to implement controls like access auditing, encryption, policy management, etc. Cloud services are designed from the ground up for regulatory compliance, but you still retain responsibility for encrypting data appropriately before uploading.

Backup and Archiving

Reliable backup and archiving of data is crucial for recovering from ransomware or other threats. Cloud storage facilitates automated backups that are stored remotely, avoiding local backup failures. Cloud archival solutions provide cost effective long term retention by moving inactive or rarely accessed data into slower, cheaper storage tiers.

Backing up NAS systems requires manual processes like connecting external drives. NAS appliances often lack native archiving features, so you must move data to separate systems for long term retention. Ensure your backup and archival processes are robust when relying on a NAS.

Disaster Recovery

For maintaining business continuity during events like natural disasters, cloud storage has some big advantages. Data stored in the cloud is accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, keeping operations running even if facilities are damaged. Cloud data is stored redundantly across multiple regional data centers, reducing disruption risk.

Using a NAS for disaster recovery requires replicating data across sites, regular off-site backups transported physically, and potentially having spare hardware available to restore service. This can be complex and costly to manage compared to cloud solutions.

Integration and Applications

The ability to integrate storage platforms with business applications and workloads is important to consider. Most cloud providers offer breadth and depth of integrations with software like analytics, DevOps, backup, etc. APIs and SDKs allow connecting cloud storage directly to internal applications.

NAS options tend to have fewer turnkey integrations. But NAS allows high performance, direct data access from applications running on your local network. Evaluate application integration needs when choosing between cloud and NAS.

Hybrid Options

The choices of NAS versus cloud storage do not have to be mutually exclusive. Many organizations use a hybrid approach combining cloud storage with an on-premises NAS system. This provides the flexibility to store data in the environment that best matches usage patterns, security requirements, etc.

A common hybrid architecture involves using NAS for high performance local workloads, while storing backup/archival data and data that needs broader access in the cloud. This balances the strengths of both approaches.


There are valid use cases for both NAS and cloud storage, so consider your specific data needs, budget, and IT resources when deciding between them. Key factors like performance, security, access requirements, scalability, reliability, and cost often dictate which choice makes the most sense for a particular business. In many cases, a hybrid approach delivers the best of both worlds.

Criteria Network Attached Storage (NAS) Cloud Storage
Cost Higher upfront cost, lower ongoing costs Lower startup costs, recurring subscription fees
Accessibility Accessible on local network only unless set up VPN Accessible from anywhere with internet connection
Security Full control over security policies Managed security but risk of external access
Scalability Limited by physical hardware and manual upgrades Seamless online scaling
Reliability Depends on redundancy schemes set up by IT staff High redundancy and uptime guarantees from provider
Data Recovery Manual recovery processes Fast automated recovery tools
Compliance Maintaining compliance requires internal resources Designed for regulatory compliance
Backup & Archiving Manual backup processes required Automated backup and archival capabilities
Disaster Recovery Challenging to setup resilient DR processes Data accessibility through internet for DR
Integration & Applications Limited turnkey application integrations Broad ecosystem of integrated solutions

In summary, NAS and cloud storage both have important roles depending on your specific use case requirements, budget, and resources. Consider factors like performance needs, data security, access requirements, scalability, reliability, compliance, disaster recovery, and cost when deciding between on-premises NAS vs cloud storage options. Often a hybrid model delivers the ideal balance to suit your storage needs.

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