NAS Performance Guide: How To Optimize Your NAS

A decorative images showing a 12 bay NAS device connecting to the cloud.

Upgrading to a network attached storage (NAS) device puts your data in the digital fast lane. If you’re using one, it’s likely because you want to keep your data close to you, ensuring quick access whenever it’s needed. NAS devices, acting as centralized storage systems connected to local networks, offer a convenient way to access data in just a few clicks. 

However, as the volume of data on the NAS increases, its performance can tank. You need to know how to keep your NAS operating at its best, especially with growing data demand. 

In this blog, you’ll learn about various factors that can affect NAS performance, as well as practical steps you can take to address these issues, ensuring optimal speed, reliability, and longevity for your NAS device.

Why NAS Performance Matters

NAS devices can function as extended hard disks, virtual file cabinets, or centralized local storage solutions, depending on individual needs. 

While NAS offers a convenient way to store data locally, storing the data alone isn’t enough. How quickly and reliably you can access your data can make all the difference if you want an efficient workflow. For example, imagine working on a critical project with your team and facing slow file transfers, or streaming a video on a Zoom call only for it to stutter or buffer continuously.

All these can be a direct result of NAS performance issues, and an increase in stored data can directly undermine the device’s performance. Therefore, ensuring optimal performance isn’t just a technical concern, it’s also a concern that directly affects user experience, productivity, and collaboration. 

So, let’s talk about what could potentially cause performance issues and how to enhance your NAS. 

Common NAS Performance Issues

NAS performance can be influenced by a variety of factors. Here are some of the most common factors that can impact the performance of a NAS device.

Hardware Limitations:

  • Insufficient RAM: Especially in tasks like media streaming or handling large files, having inadequate memory can slow down operations. 
  • Slow CPU: An underpowered processor can become a bottleneck when multiple users access the NAS at once or during collaboration with team members. 
  • Drive Speed and Type: Hard disk drives (HDDs) are generally slower compared to solid state drives (SSDs), and your NAS can have either type. If your NAS mainly serves as a hub for storing and sharing files, a conventional HDD should meet your requirements. However, for those seeking enhanced speed and performance, SSDs deliver the performance you need. 
  • Outdated Hardware: Older NAS models might not be equipped to handle modern data demands or the latest software.

Software Limitations:

  • Outdated Firmware/Software: Not updating to the latest firmware or software can lead to performance issues, or to missing out on optimization and security features.
  • Misconfigured Settings: Incorrect settings can impact performance. This includes improper RAID configuration or network settings. 
  • Background Processes: Certain background tasks, like indexing or backups, can also slow down the system when running.

Network Challenges: 

  • Bandwidth Limitations: A slow network connection, especially on a Wi-Fi network can limit data transfer rates. 
  • Network Traffic: High traffic on the network can cause congestion, reducing the speed at which data can be accessed or transferred.

Disk Health and Configuration:

  • Disk Failures: A failing disk in the NAS can slow down performance and also poses data loss risk.
  • Suboptimal RAID Configuration: Some RAID configurations prioritize redundancy more than performance, which can affect the data storage and access speeds. 

External Factors:

  • Simultaneous User Access: If multiple users are accessing, reading, or writing to the NAS simultaneously, it can strain the system, especially if the hardware isn’t optimized to such traffic from multiple users. 
  • Inadequate Power Supply: Fluctuating or inadequate power can cause the NAS to malfunction or reduce its performance.
  • Operating Temperature: Additionally, if the NAS is in a hot environment, it might overheat and impact the performance of the device.

Practical Solutions for Optimizing NAS Performance

Understanding the common performance issues with NAS devices is the first critical step. However, simply identifying these issues alone isn’t enough. It’s vital to understand practical ways to optimize your existing NAS setup so you can enhance its speed, efficiency, and reliability. Let’s explore how to optimize your NAS. 

Performance Enhancement 1: Upgrading Hardware

There are a few different things you can do on a hardware level to enhance NAS performance. First, adding more RAM can significantly improve performance, especially if multiple tasks or users are accessing the NAS simultaneously. 

You can also consider switching to SSDs. While they can be more expensive, SSDs offer faster read/write speeds than traditional HDDs, and they store data in flash memory, which means that they retain information even without power. 

Finally, you could upgrade the CPU. For NAS devices that support it, a more powerful CPU can better handle multiple simultaneous requests and complex tasks. 

Performance Enhancement 2: Optimizing Software Configuration

Remember to always keep your NAS operating system and software up-to-date to benefit from the latest performance optimizations and security patches. Schedule tasks like indexing, backups or antivirus scans during off-peak hours to ensure they don’t impact user access during high-traffic times. You also need to make sure you’re using the right RAID configuration for your needs. RAID 5 or RAID 6, for example, can offer a good balance between redundancy and performance.

Performance Enhancement 3: Network Enhancements

Consider moving to faster network protocols, like 10Gb ethernet, or ensuring that your router and switches can handle high traffic. Wherever possible, use wired connections instead of Wi-Fi to connect to the NAS for more stable and faster data access and transfer. And, regularly review and adjust network settings for optimal performance. If you can, it also helps to limit simultaneous access. If possible, manage peak loads by setting up access priorities.

Performance Enhancement 4: Regular Maintenance

Use your NAS device’s built-in tools or third-party software to monitor the health of your disks and replace any that show signs of failure. And, keep the physical environment around your NAS device clean, cool, and well ventilated to prevent overheating. 

Leveraging the Cloud for NAS Optimization

After taking the necessary steps to optimize your NAS for improved performance and reliability, it’s worth considering leveraging the cloud to further enhance the performance. While NAS offers convenient local storage, it can sometimes fall short when it comes to scalability, accessibility from different locations, and seamless collaboration. Here’s where cloud storage comes into play. 

At its core, cloud storage is a service model in which data is maintained, managed, and backed up remotely, and made available to users over the internet. Instead of relying solely on local storage solutions such as NAS or a server, you utilize the vast infrastructure of data centers across the globe to store your data not just in one physical location, but across multiple secure and redundant environments. 

As an off-site storage solution for NAS, the cloud not only completes your 3-2-1 backup plan, but can also amplify its performance. Let’s take a look at how integrating cloud storage can help optimize your NAS.

  • Off-Loading and Archiving: One of the most straightforward approaches is to move infrequently accessed or archival data from the NAS to the cloud. This frees up space on the NAS, ensuring it runs smoothly, while optimizing the NAS by only keeping data that’s frequently accessed or essential. 
  • Caching: Some advanced NAS systems can cache frequently accessed data in the cloud. This means that the most commonly used data can be quickly retrieved, enhancing user experience and reducing the load on the NAS device. 
  • Redundancy and Disaster Recovery: Instead of duplicating data on multiple NAS devices for redundancy, which can be costly and still vulnerable to local disasters, the data can be backed up to the cloud. In case of NAS failure or catastrophic event, the data can be quickly restored from the cloud, ensuring minimal downtime. 
  • Remote Access and Collaboration: While NAS devices can offer remote access, integrating them with cloud storage can streamline this process, often offering a more user-friendly interface and better speeds. This is especially useful for collaborative environments where multiple users work together on files and projects. 
  • Scaling Without Hardware Constraints: As your data volume grows, expanding a NAS can involve purchasing additional drives or even new devices. With cloud integration, you can expand your storage capacity without these immediate hardware investments, eliminating or delaying the need for physical upgrades and extending the lifespan of your NAS. 

In essence, integrating cloud storage solutions with your NAS can create a comprehensive system that addresses the shortcomings of NAS devices, helping you create a hybrid setup that offers the best of both worlds: the speed and accessibility of local storage, and the flexibility and scalability of the cloud. 

Getting the Best From Your NAS

At its core, NAS offers an unparalleled convenience of localized storage. However, it’s not without challenges, especially when performance issues come into play. Addressing these challenges requires a blend of hardware optimization, software updates, and smart data management settings. 

But, it doesn’t have to stop at your local network. Cloud storage can be leveraged effectively to optimize your NAS. It doesn’t just act as a safety net by storing your NAS data off-site, it also makes collaboration easier with dispersed teams and further optimizes NAS performance. 

Now, it’s time to hear from you. Have you encountered any NAS performance issues? What measures have you taken to optimize your NAS? Share your experiences and insights in the comments below. 


About Vinodh Subramanian

Vinodh Subramanian is a Product Marketing Manager at Backblaze, specializing in cloud storage for Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. As an engineer turned product marketer, Vinodh brings technical knowledge and market insights to help readers understand the benefits and challenges of protecting NAS data. Through his writing, Vinodh aims to empower businesses to make informed decisions about storing, protecting, and using data with ease. Vinodh lives with his family in Arizona and enjoys hiking and road trips in his free time.