What is Cloud NAS (Network Attached Storage)?

what is cloud nas

What is Cloud NAS?

Cloud NAS is a popular storage choice for people looking to use cloud storage for applications, user file systems or data archive. But we still see a lot of confusion when people hear the terms “Cloud network attached storage”, “Cloud-based NAS”, or cloud NAS service. So what is Cloud NAS?

A cloud NAS works like the legacy, on-premises NAS currently in a lot of data centers. But, unlike traditional NAS or SAN infrastructures, a cloud NAS is not a physical machine. It’s a virtual appliance designed to work with and leverage cloud-based storage to give you all of the functionality you’d expect from a premises-based hardware NAS or SAN.

Cloud NAS is a “NAS in the cloud” that uses cloud computing to simplify infrastructure and provide flexible deployment options while reducing costs. Most cloud NAS service solutions work in cloud environments like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Cloud-based NAS uses easily expandable cloud storage as a central source for storage while still providing common enterprise NAS features.

Why do you need Cloud NAS?

The way we work has evolved, but data storage hasn’t changed substantially in over two decades with the exception of the increasing amount of data being generated. With the right set of capabilities, cloud-based NAS offerings significantly shorten the amount of time it takes to migrate from an on-premises NAS to the cloud. With the capacity of cloud storage basically being “limitless”, NAS in the cloud allows you to expand or reduce the amount of data you manage without the need for forklifting hardware-based solutions.

Benefits of using Cloud NAS service:

  • Price/Performance Flexibility: With the right cloud NAS, you have numerous options on what type of cloud storage to use. Low performance Cloud Object storage can be used for use cases that don’t require high performance. But for a price, you can also satisfy HPC (high performance computing) level SLAs. With the right combination of Virtual Machines running your Cloud NAS controller head with the right backend cloud storage, you can meet your storage requirements for just about any project.
  • Eliminate Legacy NAS Systems Refresh: How do you predict exactly how much storage and performance from that storage you will need over the next 12 months? Do you ever have an unexpected project come up that requires more storage possibly at a different performance level? With legacy hardware NAS solutions, you usually get locked into a long-term contract, and if something changes, you incur the overhead and costs with a “forklift” upgrade. With a Cloud NAS, you are in control. You can create the storage you need when you need it, for as long as you need it without signing long-term contracts or renewals.
  • Built-in Data Resiliency: Most cloud storage has data resiliency built in by storing multiple copies of data on multiple disks. This resiliency does not replace the need for High Availability, SnapShots and backups, but it nice to have this level of resiliency built right into the storage used by your Cloud NAS.
  • Pay as You Go and Reduce Costs: You only pay your cloud provider for the storage you need. With cloud storage becoming cheaper, you can instantly scale your cloud instances to best suit your needs. Or, you can even use tiered storage and push legacy data to low-cost storage and store frequently-accessed data in top-tiered storage to maintain performance for your “hot” data.

Use cases for a Cloud NAS include:

  • SaaS-Enable Applications: When looking to migrate applications from on-prem to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in the cloud, a common hurdle is that traditional applications typically do not support the native cloud storage interfaces. Rewriting your applications to support cloud storage requires application development and is usually complex and costly. For legacy applications that use standard file protocols, the right Cloud NAS can offer the expected file services and support for NFS, CIFS/SMB, iSCSI, and AFP protocols along with Active Directory integration support for your existing applications. Choosing a Cloud NAS with the features your application depends on is key.
  • New Apps and Proofs of Concept (POC): A cloud NAS lets developers quickly stand up storage infrastructure for a new application or proof of concept project without any storage hardware. Developers can easily create a storage infrastructure with just a few clicks.
  • High Performance Computing (HPC): HPC requirements for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are becoming standard. The power of the virtual machines you can create in the cloud today matches what you can get on-prem, but you need your storage to meet HPC SLAs also. The level of performance you can get from both compute and storage IOPs and throughput is increasing every day. With the right Cloud-based NAS, you can achieve 10s and even 100s of thousands of IOPS with massive throughput to cloud storage today. And as the performance of the cloud resources increases, you have the option to use this power when ready.
  • File Services for User File Systems: The amount of file data being created daily can be overwhelming. When you add the need to keep copies of the data for compliance reasons for extended periods of time, it gets even worse. The right Cloud NAS can help satisfy the data access needs of your Linux, Windows and Apple users by supporting the necessary file access protocol support. When you include the need for compliance copies of the files for possibly decades, you want a Cloud NAS that will help you automatically move the files to less expensive cloud storage for you. The right Cloud NAS can help you with both your increasing capacity needs and options to keep those compliance files on more cost-effective storage with low overhead on your part.
  • Backup and Archive Data: The data your company collects is one of its most valuable assets in today’s world. You can’t afford to lose it. And when you need to access that data, you need to be able to access it quickly. Using cloud storage to store backup or archive data can be the key. A Cloud NAS with lower cost cloud storage gives you “endless” capacity to store backup and archive data. You have the flexibility to decide what level of SLA you need for the retrieval of archived data and match it to the price/performance requirements you have. If your SLA to retrieve archive data is days, you can use archive level object storage. If you can’t wait days, choose higher performance storage. And you want a Cloud NAS partner that can help get your data onto the archive storage with ease and low overhead.
  • DevOps and Development: With cloud-based NAS, developers and DevOps can quickly stand up a new storage infrastructure needed for a new project and then tear it down when down (no long-term storage contract required). The storage needed is always available to be allocated at the performance required for the project.

    When considering a Cloud NAS partner, it’s important to understand your current and potential future requirements. Most cloud NAS offerings include “table stakes” NAS functionality, but the devil can be in the details.

    • Some Cloud NAS’s only offer limited support for the types of cloud storage that can be utilized.
    • Some limit the capacity of storage that can be supported.
    • Some may be fine for basic performance workloads, but can be quickly overloaded as performance demands increase.

    Top Cloud NAS solutions may offer solution extensions to help you solve problems beyond just storing data in the cloud. The may offer extensions that help you:

    • Migrate your data from on-prem to the cloud
    • Move cold data from more expensive higher performing storage to more cost effective less performant storage
    • Offer enterprise class high-availability
    • Data orchestration that can help you automate the movement and transformation of data
  • So when considering a Cloud NAS partner, take a look under the hood before you buy. Understand what type of mileage you will really get with your selection and choose the right tool for the job from the beginning and save time and money in the long run.
    Amazon EFS vs. GlusterFS vs. SoftNAS Cloud NAS trial

We hope you found this post helpful as you learn more about cloud NAS. Leave a comment and let us know what we should write about next!

[Live Webinar] How to Build a Cloud NAS on CenturyLink Cloud

Date: Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
Time: 11:00 am – 12:00 pm CDT

Click here to calculate your local time.




Want to build limitless cloud storage on CenturyLink Cloud?  SoftNAS Cloud NAS offers an easy-to-use, hassle-free, full-featured NAS in the CenturyLink Cloud. Register for our live webinar and discover how to quickly and easily:CLC

  • Configure SoftNAS Cloud NAS on CenturyLink Cloud (demo)
  • Manage storage repositories across multiple protocols-NFS, CIFS, iSCSI (demo)
  • Extend CenturyLink Cloud local storage up to 14 PB







Matt Blanchard, Solution Architect, SoftNAS

SoftNAS Catches the Eye of InfoWorld at VMworld 2015


The SoftNAS team has just returned from another successful VMworld event. We are delighted to be included in InfoWorld’s 10 eye-catching cloud solutions from VMworld 2015.

J. Peter Bruzzese, columnist with InfoWorld, technical speaker, author and five-time-awarded Microsoft MVP, discussed 10 solutions that stood out to him at VMworld 2015, one of which was SoftNAS.

SoftNAS offers a software-based NAS solution for on-premises, private clouds, and hybrid clouds. What I liked most is that its cloud NAS offering works with AWS, Azure, and CenturyLink; it offers file as a service for object storage as well.

Read the full article.

Better yet, give it a try yourself.

SoftNAS 30-day Free Trial
start free trial now


Learn more: https://www.softnas.com
Twitter: @SoftNAS
LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/company/softnas

SoftNAS Named Best Cloud NAS Solution in Network World Review


Network World recently reviewed software-based NAS solutions and concluded:

If you’re looking for a cloud-based solution, SoftNAS is your best bet.

SoftNAS 3.3.3, the latest version of our award-winning Cloud NAS solution, differs from other solutions reviewed by offering both software-based and on-premise versions.  It’s available using Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure and most recently, CenturyLink Cloud.

Eric Geier, freelance tech writer with Network World, provides a thorough review, citing the following about how SoftNAS is typically deployed:

Commonly, SoftNAS is deployed in AWS VPCs serving files to EC2 based servers within the same VPCs. SoftNAS also supports a hybrid cloud model where one SoftNAS instance is deployed on-premise on a local PC in your office and a second instance in an AWS VPC. In this hybrid model, replication occurs from the local SoftNAS to cloud-based SoftNAS for cloud-based disaster recovery.

SoftNAS is quick and easy to configure and setup in minutes, something we strive to achieve with all our products. Eric alluded to this during the review:

Once we configured the EC2 instance of SoftNAS, we could access the web GUI, which they call the SoftNAS StorageCenter, via the Amazon IP or DNS address. After logging in, you’re prompted to register and accept the terms. Then you’re presented with a Getting Started Checklist, which is useful in ensuring you get everything setup.

Read the full review.

Better yet, give it a try yourself.

SoftNAS 30-day Free Trial
start free trial now


Learn more: https://www.softnas.com
Twitter: @SoftNAS
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/softnas

Make Your Storage Fly @ VMworld – Win One of 100’s of Electric Paper Airplanes



The SoftNAS team is here all week at VMworld 2015. We have lots of exciting news to share, including:

If these announcements weren’t exciting enough, then you could be in with a chance to win one of these geeky electric paper airplane conversion kits.
airplane combined

Come meet the SoftNAS team in booth #2347, Moscone Center, San Francisco

Try SoftNAS: softnas.com/vmworld2015
Learn more: softnas.com
Twitter: @SoftNAS
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/softnas


Hope to see you there
– SoftNAS team

Demystify Your Cloud Storage Strategy – Meet SoftNAS at VMworld

The SoftNAS team will be present at VMworld next week, Aug 30th to Sept 2nd. There has been a lot going on at SoftNAS HQ the last couple of months and we are looking forward to sharing these exciting updates with you. For example:

Come meet the SoftNAS team in booth #2347, Moscone Center, San Francisco

Try SoftNAS: softnas.com/vmworld2015
Learn more: softnas.com
Twitter: @SoftNAS
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/softnas