Today’s storage devices are bigger, faster, and more powerful than ever. In addition to beefing up capacities and performance, manufacturers have made tremendous strides to up the ante on hardware reliability. Despite all those efforts, the fact remains that even the most durable of NAS devices have a shelf life. What the actual expiration date is on a NAS device is a challenge, but let’s try to figure this out.
In its infographic Data Centers: The Lifecylce of a Server, Sims Recycling Solutions determined that a server has an average lifespan of three years. This data actually falls in line with most findings about hard drives. They live an average of three to five years. The correlation here is all on the inside. Servers and hard drives both contain vital moving parts that make them susceptible to failure. These failures can be attributed to kinetic energy, lubrication issues, and general wear over time.
What Triggers NAS Failure
The true life expectancy of a given NAS device is influenced by numerous factors. Here are three that instantly come to mind:
1. Hardware Quality
Everyone loves a budget-friendly bargain, but cheaper is not always better – especially when it comes to mission-critical hardware. Buying from trusted brands gets you much more than a name. The leading manufacturers are steadily cranking out NAS hardware with superior quality and reliability in mind. In most cases, the more you spend on your hardware, the more you’ll get back in productivity and longevity.
2. Device Workload
The enormous amount of data flowing through the enterprise is forcing IT systems to work harder than ever. Ask your hardware to do the bear minimum, and it will give you many years of service in return – possibly more than the norm. Push it to the max, and you’ll be shopping for a replacement before you know it. A NAS device is a lot like an automobile. The more you drive it, the more likely it is to break down and push towards its expiration date.
3. Future Support
When you factor in practicability, the lifespan of one device or another isn’t purely a matter of physical longevity. Compatibility with supporting technologies will say a lot about how long your hardware retains its usefulness. I have a ton of those little floppy disks with copies of short stories I wrote many years ago. The sad thing is that between a total of four computers, I have no way to access them today. Now apply this logic to rapidly evolving interfacing technologies. Compatibility issues may render your NAS device obsolete before it physically fails.
When to Replace Your NAS Device
The last point on supporting technologies raises a very important question: when do you replace a NAS device? After all, you’d much rather have a replacement lying in wait than have the unit clunk out with nothing to replace it. To make sure you’re prepared for the worse, here are a couple of variables to keep in mind.
Warranty coverage: Any new NAS device will come equipped with a limited manufacturer warranty. Purchasing an extended warranty is always an option once it expires. However, you’ll have to decide whether simply buying an all new server outweighs the cost and hassle of holding on to an aging device.
Parts and accessories: Like that aging automobile, components such as RAM and processors are harder to find as a NAS unit gets older. The risk of loss productivity and downtime may be all the initiative you need to replace your hardware every couple years.
Performance: A noticeable decline in performance is plenty justification to retire that struggling NAS unit. If your storage system is becoming a hindrance to productivity, it’s probably time to replace it with something more reliable.
App support: Like any server, a NAS device requires an operating system, DNS software, and other applications to support various business needs. In order to continually deliver, the hardware must be able to accommodate the upgrades, updates, and patches your business applications demand.
Management: Older hardware is often harder to keep up as IT staff, systems and business requirements evolve. A server that has become a bigger headache than you can handle is a tell-tale sign that it’s time to move.
Nothing lasts forever. No matter how much cash you shell out, that top of the line hardware will eventually exceed its usefulness – be it in a physical or practical sense. Coupled with a comprehensive backup strategy, knowing when to replace your NAS will allow you to be proactive in a world where being reactive just isn’t enough.