Network storage developer Nirvanix has developed cloud-based NAS - a scheme which lets users connect systems to Internet-located storage nodes via NFS, CIFS or FTP.

It means Nirvanix can serve up its storage-as-a-service offering as if it were a NAS box - previously, you could only access cloud storage by programming to an API.

The company claims that CloudNAS, which is now in beta, is more resilient, cheaper (one-fifth TCO) and quicker to deploy than buying your own physical NAS filers.

Nirvanix CEO Patrick Harr suggested that CloudNAS could also be used for mirroring existing filers. He said that once it is connected, applications and users can work with CloudNAS just as they would with a normal filer, including dragging and dropping files, for example.

CloudNAS could "eliminate the need for backups, data migrations and other complexities of data management, all at a cost that is a fraction of what it costs with storage boxes," Harr added. He cited a recent study which claimed that, once all the costs are included, in-house storage is at least five times more expensive to own and run per GB than cloud storage.

"Cloud storage is not the best choice for high performance applications such as online transaction processing," said the study's author, Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting. "On the other hand it is ideal for storing and delivering vast amounts of unstructured file-based data, such as videos and music, or even online backup and archiving services."

The beta version of CloudNAS is available for server-class systems running either Red Hat 5 or SuSe 10 for the NFS version, or Windows Server 2003 or XP for the CIFS version. Nirvanix said that beta testers would be offered special licensing terms to upgrade to the full release once the beta programme is complete.

The company sad the beta software is free, and that storage will be 25 cents (12.5p) per GB per month. An optional support contract is $200 (£100) a month.