It's tough for me to talk about evolution--even as it pertains to technology--without thinking about Charles Darwin.  While his Theory relates to living things, I think we can also apply it to technological advancement.  Over time, nature--in this case society--eliminates inferior species.  The strong survive by continuing to adapt to their environment.  And network-attached storage (NAS) has proven to be one of those strong technological species.

Let's talk about storage for a second.  For as long as computers have been around, there's always been a need for storage--a place to put data files that we can access when we need it.  Over the years, this has come in many forms--floppy disks, compact disks, external hard drives, file servers, etc.  By just looking at that list, you can already see some signs of evolution.  When's the last time you used a floppy disk?

In the business world, specifically, NAS has emerged as perhaps the most convenient methods of sharing files among multiple computers.   That's because they're designed specifically for storing and serving files--that's it.  Unlike a general purpose computer, they don't have to compete with application programming for processing resources.  And compared to traditional file servers, they possess faster data access, easier administration, and simpler configuration.

Here's how they got there.

The Early Years
The first NAS device was introduced in 1983 with the early file sharing Novell's NetWare server operating system and NCP protocol.  With Sun Microsystems' 1984 release of NFS network servers could now share their storage space with networked clients, effectively presenting NAS to the UNIX world. 3Com's 3Server and 3+Share software was the first purpose-built servers, which included proprietary hardware, software, and multiple disks, for open systems servers, and the company led the segment from 1985 through the early 1990s.  Following this, a group of Auspex engineers split away from the company to create the integrated Network Appliance filer, which supported both Windows and UNIX, igniting the market for proprietary NAS arrays.

Modern Use and the Future of NAS
NAS devices have picked up a full head of steam, and as of 2010, have become one of the most popular methods for storing and sharing files.  And this is because they've evolved with the times.

Today, NAS vendors can integrate online backup solutions with their appliances, allowing reliable online disaster recovery.  In a digital world, where most businesses operate, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, present even more of a threat.  So this, combined with their affordable price tag, makes NAS devices even more popular.

As in any ecosystem, different species have their competitors.  And in a world of constant technological advancement, NAS isn't exempt from this. But with their increasing popularity, more and more people--including consumers--are eager to learn more about NAS devices and how they stack up against other options on the market, giving them the upper hand to survival.