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Feature Article: November 2013

When working with large SQL databases, deciding on the best storage option is rarely straightforward. One option that has both positives and negatives is a network attached storage (NAS) solution.

NAS is a file-level storage solution connected to a network that provides data access. While NAS works as a file server, its hardware, software, and configuration will dictate its actual use. It is normally not a “general purpose” computer. SQL can function well on a NFS services for UNIX, however, most of the time NAS is used on a Windows-type file service, such as a Common Internet File System/Server Message Block (CIFS/SMB). By default, use of network database files is not enabled for SQL Server.

A NAS unit looks like a standard network servers and operates through the network layer. It does not require any specialized hardware, such as a FibreChannel card, and is generally considered inexpensive since network card slots are not very expensive. Ultimately, a NAS device is a worthwhile consideration for a SQL server. They are very fast and offer plenty of features that would cost much more when using other storage solutions. They also have enough internal and network bandwidth to support multiple SQL servers. They generally use Alpha or PowerPC designs instead of Intel processors.

While NAS solutions have plenty of great positives for SQL management, they do have a few detractors. The initial investment can be higher than other solutions, depending on how many servers are connected to the NAS. Additionally, a NAS solution is really best for read-only databases. There is a greater risk of data loss when working with a read-write database. A NAS solution is not generally the first consideration for SQL management, however, it can work well.

As mentioned previously, use of network database files is not enabled by default. Therefore, it is important to remember that NAS devices need to be accessed using UNC (Universal Naming Convention) names (\\Servername\Sharename). That means you will need to set trace flag 1807 to access the SQL server, as this is not set it its default state.

Ultimately, a NAS solution offers many different positives for SQL management. It is important, however, that some additional work is done prior to setup and client access in order to avoid potential issues down the road.

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