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Personal computer users today save more data than ever before. The phenomenal growth of digital photography, audio, and video have focused consumers’ minds on the secure storage of their precious pictures, music, and movies, raising the profile of backup and media server solutions.

Even though the most consumers still rely on single-computer backup scenarios, a small but growing number are opting for Network Attached Storage (NAS). While the market is still relatively small, consumer NAS is expected to deliver more than $1.25 billion in revenues by 2011, according to ABI Research.

“In order to move the consumer NAS market forward,” says ABI Research senior analyst Jason Blackwell, “vendors, including leaders such as Buffalo Technology and Linksys by Cisco, need to educate and inform consumers about NAS’s advantages.”

Consumer NAS equipment falls into three groups:

  • Integrated NAS drives, which include the necessary networking software.
  • Network storage enclosures, for those who wish to add the hard disk themselves.
  • Storage routers and bridges, which allow attachment of standard USB or IEEE 1394 hard drives to a network.

Integrated NAS drives comprise the lion’s share of the market, but, says Blackwell, “Storage routers and bridges offer vendors the greatest growth opportunity.”

Challenges in this market have traditionally included consumers’ relative indifference to data security: backups have always been considered a bore. So marketing and customer education will be key to success. Cost has been an issue too: while prices continue to fall, they still pose a barrier to adoption.

The rise of the home media server market, however, will provide some lift: DLNA and UPnP-enabled NAS devices can act as media servers and are being branded as such. “The fact that NAS devices are becoming more like media servers will certainly help them penetrate the digital home network,” notes Blackwell. “Vendors are making a concerted effort to market NAS for these more exciting purposes rather than simply for backup.”

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