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Achieving fault tolerance with enterprise NAS storage

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NAS storage

Fault tolerance is a way of dealing with NAS storage failures and preventing them from causing downtime. It’s a critical element for mission-critical applications and workloads that cannot be allowed to go offline. Fault-tolerant systems can handle failures without losing data integrity or availability.

This article explains how NAS Storage can help businesses create a fault-tolerant data center.


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Drive redundancy or RAID

RAID (redundant array of independent disks) is a method of storing data across multiple hard drives so that if any drive fails, none of the data will be lost. NAS storage comes with drives configured with various RAID levels depending on your device and manufacturer.

There are many RAID levels. Typically RAID levels 0, 1, 5, and even RAID 6 are supported on many enterprise NAS systems, and each offers its own benefits and downsides.

At the lowest level, concatenation is used with multiple disks to appear as one logical unit. If one disk fails, all data on all other disks becomes inaccessible. This is not recommended for enterprise storage systems.

This is implemented in RAID level 0, also known as striping, splits your data into chunks and writes across multiple disks simultaneously, which helps improve performance. However, if any disk fails in a RAID 0 configuration, all data is lost due to how the information is written across multiple disks.

Because of this, level 0 should only be used for scratch space on NAS systems rather than for storing mission-critical data.

RAID level 1, on the other hand, provides mirroring, which essentially means that every bit of data written to one disk is also written to another disk simultaneously.

Mirroring writes data to two separate disks simultaneously and provides fault tolerance against drive failure but comes at the cost of performance. Since data is written twice on two disks, it takes more time and resources. Furthermore, mirroring doubles your disk cost as every logical unit has two physical units backing it up.

RAID 5 uses both mirroring and stripping and is the best model for achieving high fault tolerance and data availability in enterprise data centers.

Clustered storage systems

Clustering is achieved by connecting multiple servers/nodes to appear as one unit. This type of Network Attached Storage architecture is also known as scaled storage. It provides increased performance, scalability, and resilience because it spreads data across multiple devices instead of just one device.

Clustered NAS systems are designed such that if one server fails, another server can take its place without impacting users or applications. Many renowned storage providers like StoneFly provide a scale-out type of clustered storage. If you are interested, check out StoneFly’s super scale-out NAS storage.

Redundant device components

While NAS solutions are typically considered very reliable, they are nonetheless susceptible to component failure and data loss.

There are dozens of potential failure points that can result in downtime. The list includes:

  • Failed disk drives
  • Controller card failure
  • Memory failure
  • Network interface card (NIC) failure
  • Switches and routers
  • Power supply failure
  • HVAC system failure

Redundant components are essential for continuous uptime. If power supplies, cooling fans, or other mission-critical components fail, they are easily replaced with other units in real-time so that data availability is not interrupted. RAID controllers fall into this category too.

Failover and failback capabilities

Failover refers to the ability of a storage array to automatically detect errors and switch over from a failed component to redundant components without interruption. Failback refers to the process of returning to the primary system after corrective measures have been taken.

When a hard drive fails, the best NAS systems will rebuild the data from the failed disk onto an available spare disk. Once the rebuild is complete, the failed disk can be replaced with a new disk, and another rebuild will occur. This process will continue until all disks are rebuilt onto new, healthy disks.

Multi-site replication

This approach is used by the majority of enterprise NAS Storage vendors, whereby data is synchronously or asynchronously replicated across multiple sites. This method provides businesses with a second site to failover to in case of a disaster. The destination site could be in the same data center or another location entirely.

Bottom Line

System downtime is costly and can even be catastrophic for a business. From a financial perspective, it could mean lost revenue and increased costs. From a reputational perspective, it could harm its brand and its future prospects. A single outage can result in far-reaching consequences that affect the business, its customers, and employees.

Fault tolerance is an essential component of any mission-critical IT system, especially those containing sensitive corporate data. A loss of access could be disastrous for a company’s health, so it’s worth taking every step possible to ensure that your business isn’t at risk.

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Meta Description: Fault-tolerant systems can handle failures without losing data integrity or availability. This article portrays how NAS storage can help businesses create a fault-tolerant data center.


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