Opening the TerraMaster F4-424 Pro up.

How long will a NAS (and drives) last?

Nothing lasts forever, including electronics. Everything made by man has a life expectancy, and that goes for network-attached storage (NAS) too. Luckily, a NAS enclosure should last for many, many years before you encounter serious issues that prevent it from turning on or running the loaded OS. A drive installed within the NAS enclosure has a higher chance of failing.

How long will a NAS last?

TerraMaster F4-424 CPU heatsink
The insides of a TerraMaster F4-424 NAS. (Source: NM)

A NAS enclosure should last for a long time, much like a desktop PC. The life expectancy of even the best NAS device is determined by a few factors, most notably the workload placed on the hardware, the quality of the NAS itself, and support from the manufacturer. Once a NAS hits end of life (EOL), you can expect to see a wind-down of software updates and support.

See below links to check the status of specific NAS for software and technical support:

Hardware relies on software to function as designed by the manufacturer and once you hit a certain point in the lifespan of a NAS, you’ll find it not performing as well as before, especially if specifications such as system memory cannot be upgraded. The quality of hardware is also important with cheaper enclosures perhaps not lasting as long as more expensive counterparts.

That’s not to say every affordable NAS will fail before a premium enclosure, but it will play a part as the more you spend on technology, generally the better parts you receive. The same goes for a NAS, the more you spend on the server itself, the better the hardware. Finally, there’s workload. This should be an obvious factor as the heavier your NAS is worked, the sooner you can expect it to fail.

It’s like anything in life … including your vehicle. Drive it for a few thousand kilometers a year and you’ll own it for decades, but drive it into the ground and you will likely encounter issues sooner. So, how long will a NAS last? Only you can answer that question. If you don’t plan on hitting it too hard, you can expect to see it last to its EOL, which can be a matter of years.

One thing is for certain and that is you will replace a NAS drive before the enclosure itself.

How long will a NAS drive last?

Drives installed on the Synology DiskStation DS224+ tray
Drives installed on the Synology DiskStation DS224+ tray. (Source: NM)

Just like the NAS enclosure the drives the drives will be running inside, a drive will only last for a certain period before failing. Modern drives have advanced considerably and last much longer than drives of old. Typical desktop drives are about as basic as they come, which is why I always recommend using NAS-specific hard drives. These are designed for NAS enclosures.

A NAS drive (be it a HDD or SSD) will be rated for continuous usage, have extended warranties, and have other features to better protect them against failure or degradation. Anti-vibration shielding is great for a NAS as more than one drive will be running at any given time, which can cause vibration throughout the device.

The type of gas inside a HDD can also help extend the lifespan of a drive, likewise with the type of flash memory used inside an SSD. It’s difficult to provide a ballpark number for either storage type, but if you were to run a Plex Media Server on the NAS and stream movies every other day, I would expect a NAS HDD to last a good few years, and a NAS SSD to last the life of the enclosure.

NAS HDD vs. SSD

A mechanical hard drive will have a shorter lifespan than a solid-state drive simply due to the way the technology works. A HDD has a motor that spins some platters and a magnetic arm moves to read or write data. An SSD has no moving parts and as such there’s less wear on the hardware. That said, flash storage is not immune to wear and tear.

Unlike a hard drive that can handle just about as many writes as you can throw at it, an SSD will have a finite amount of times the drive can be written to. This is usually measured in terabytes written (TBW for short). The higher this number, the more data can be written to the drive before you can expect to encounter performance issues.

But if you’re not writing a lot of data to your NAS, your SSD will last for the lifespan of the NAS itself. A HDD will last for as long as the internal parts are in working order and you don’t hit it too hard.

A drive can always be replaced

Don’t worry too much about a drive failing. Modern NAS enclosures can use a redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAID), which will help avoid any data loss. At the expense of some capacity, you can use a RAID to quickly rebuild a storage pool in the event of a drive failure, getting you back up and running within a few hours, depending on how much data is stored on the NAS.

Drives are also relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost of using a cloud storage platform to host all your data in the long term.

How can you help prolong a NAS?

Installing Synology DSM
Updating the Synology DSM OS. (Source: NM)

There are a few ways you can help mitigate the determination of your NAS. By adhering to these suggestions, you can help make the NAS last multiple years.

Don’t run intensive services on the NAS

Modern NAS enclosures have capable AMD and Intel processors but that doesn’t mean you should take advantage of all available computing power with a constant high load. If you want your NAS to last as long as possible, I would recommend only running services and apps you’ll use frequently. Anything else should be removed or run when required.

Keep your NAS and installed packages updated

This may sound strange but it’s something I recommend on all forms of technology with a way of installing apps or packages. A NAS is no different and ensuring it’s running the latest OS release and version of all software is a great way to keep it running smoothly. Newer updates may improve overall system performance and reduce resource usage.

Don’t keep powering down a NAS overnight

A NAS is not like your desktop PC in that it needs to power down during the night. If you’re not going to access your NAS for an extended amount of time – and I’m talking days to weeks, rather than hours – I would recommend to keep the NAS online. The enclosure and drives are designed to run 24/7 and can even power down themselves depending on what’s running.

Maintain a stable environment

Just like all other technology, a NAS will work best at a stable temperature with reasonable levels of humidity. Try to avoid temperature spikes to help the cooling system out. The hotter the NAS runs, the quicker the electronic parts are likely to fail. The same goes for the surface the NAS rests on, and the power supply.

Consider investing in a UPS

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is a great way to protect the NAS and other equipment by using an internal battery to keep everything online during a power cut, and eliminate power surges and other anomalies. Many UPS models can even be connected to the NAS via USB for the OS to read the UPS status and automatically shut down the server at a set battery level.

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