Need network-attached storage (NAS)? A storage startup wants small and midsized businesses (SMBs) to think “virtual.”

Houston, Texas-based SoftNAS is asking SMBs to consider software instead of devoting some of their typically meager IT budgets to pricey NAS systems. In that spirit, the company today launched new software (in beta) that allows organizations to forego the cost of acquiring dedicated NAS hardware.

Claiming an industry first, the company says that its self-named SoftNAS platform is a “software-deployed, cloud-based virtual storage appliance that uses the hardware that companies already own to securely store mission-critical data.” SoftNAS runs on VMware ESXi, vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. It additionally runs in cloud environments including Amazon EC2, said the company.

In press remarks, SoftNAS CEO Bill Hood said that this company’s technology helps level the playing field for SMBs and IT organizations with big file storage requirements.

“SoftNAS is a simple way for smaller businesses to have world-class data storage and security without the expense of a dedicated IT staff or a bunch of new hardware,” he stated. The company hopes to lure customers with enterprise-grade storage management features and the budget-stretching ability to turn both aging and new servers and IT infrastructure into a NAS platform.

While NAS technology has trickled down to the SOHO set and even prosumer segment, the cost of a purpose-built system for business workloads can quickly climb into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, depending on configuration, size and feature set. SoftNAS hopes to change the economics of SMB storage by taking a virtual appliance approach.

SoftNAS aggregates disks and presents them to a network as volumes or file systems, claims the firm. It supports RAM caching for accelerated data access and deduplication to maximize available disk capacity.

Other features include a copy-on-write file system and scheduled snapshots with background data integrity checks. SoftNAS also enables unlimited file sharing.

The goal, said Hood, is to put business-class storage capabilities within reach of fledgling enterprises. “Now SoftNAS allows those organizations to turn their familiar, existing hardware and virtual servers into enterprise-grade NAS without paying a premium for Big Data brand names,” he stated.

A beta version of SoftNAS is available now. The commercial version is expected to launch in February.

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