A network-attached storage server is much like a PC, so why can’t you simply use the same drives that are housed inside your five-year-old system collecting dust in the garage? That’s a very good question! I’m going to run you through what makes storage designed for NAS use far superior to desktop-class drives.
Why use a more expensive NAS drive?
Okay, so you’ve just parted with £400 for a new NAS enclosure, but don’t feel comfortable spending another £300 on some new drives. We’ve all been there and biting the bullet for more expensive NAS drives is a tough, but necessary step to creating the best NAS you can afford.
The primary reason why NAS drives are better than those used for desktop PCs is reliability and endurance. Desktop computers often aren’t running continuously for months between shutdowns whereas a NAS enclosure can do just that without issue. The same goes for desktop-class drives compared to NAS drives.
NAS drives are specifically designed to run 24/7. They have thermal controls and anti-vibration technology to enhance endurance and avoid potential data loss through hardware failure. Each mechanical hard drive has a spinning motor, which causes vibrations. Combine this effect with four or more desktop drives and you could encounter problems.
All hard drives eventually fail
All drives will eventually fail, whether it be a mechanical hard drive or a solid-state drive (SSD). This is an inevitable outcome we should consider when running a NAS. It’s only a matter of time before you replace drives inside your NAS, but the goal is to mitigate this and make each drive last as long as possible.
So, with the thought that even the best NAS drives will fail, what are our choices? NAS storage often comes with three or five-year warranties to cover the first handful of months of operation. After that, you can rely on Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) to monitor the health of each drive, which most (if not all) NAS operating systems support.
Because of how desktop-class drives are designed, you’re more likely to run into problems using such storage compared to NAS drives. Endurance and reliability are incredibly important for drives used in server environments. (It’s also why I always recommend backing up your backups!)
Choosing the best NAS drives
There are a few options to choose from for NAS drives. Western Digital and Seagate are the two most established brands in the storage space and both companies have families of NAS drives. There aren’t too many differences between the two, aside from some specific specifications like cache and motor speeds.
If you’re just starting out with your very first NAS enclosure, I’d recommend choosing Seagate IronWolf or Western Digital Red Plus hard drives. These are more than good enough for most home NAS usage and will last many years under the right conditions.
When you’re ready to step up to the next level, Seagate IronWolf Pro and Western Digital Red Pro drives are great storage solutions. Seagate also has the Seagate Exos family of drives, which are designed more for enterprise and data centre use. Then there’s Seagate SkyHawk for surveillance NAS.