NAS Hard Drive – So you have decided that it is time to centralize your storage and give your data a safe home to be served to all of your devices. Whether you are using a DIY NAS or a pre-built solution such as a Synology DiskStation 4-Bay DS412+ you need to chose the correct NAS hard drive to get performance and reliability that a standard desktop drive cannot provide. Luckily, hard drive manufacturers such as Western Digital and Seagate have picked up on the cue’s and are providing purpose built NAS hard drive solutions. So let’s review my experiences and delve into the reasons why…
My Personal NAS Hard Drive Experience
When I built my first home server (WHS 2011) I went with the cheapest options available at the time. I bought four WD Green 1 TB Desktop Hard Drives and slapped them in the box thinking that I had just saved a few dollars. Now at the time I didn’t have a lot of devices connected to my little home server and the load I placed on it was very small as it was mainly used for backing up my other computers. When I built my first HTPC everything changed, and those drives were put to work. Within the first month of backing up my Blu-Ray collection to MKV format I had my first drive failure. Luckily I had copies of everything on my main computer or else it would have been a total loss. So began the search for a more reliable storage solution that ended up with the ditching of WHS 2011 in favor of FreeNAS and relegating the WD green drives into backup only duty. So, enough about me. Let’s talk about what you should do to stave off the experience I encountered.
Enter the Purpose Built NAS Hard Drive
The reasoning behind using a purpose built NAS hard drive becomes apparent when you consider the environment that they must work in. The drives must perform 24×7 which can place unique stresses a standard desktop drive is just not meant to handle and could be an accident waiting to happen. The stresses include:
- Temperature – a purpose built NAS hard drive has a greater MTB (meantime between failure) and are designed to mitigate the effects of temperature produced by running the drives in close quarters 24×7.
- Vibration – NAS hard drives are balanced to reduce vibrations that can be amplified when placing more than one drive close together and accessing data at the same time.
- Error Recovery Controls – NAS hard drives include error recovery/prevention firmware that work with your raid array to help detect errors and lessen downtime rebuilding the array.
- Streaming Support – large video files can place a lot of demand on a NAS hard drive and having native support for the ATA streaming feature set can improve performance when accessing/writing this type of data.
- Power Optimization – NAS hard drive firmware optimizes power use that can result in significant power savings and lower hard drive operating temperatures. This helps improve the overall reliability and performance of the drive and could reduce the cost of ownership.
Recommended Purpose Built NAS Hard Drives
WD’s line of consumer level NAS hard drives are purpose built for systems ranging from 1-5 disks. They include custom firmware they call NASware and have all of the features I mention above. At the time of this writing they offer three models ranging from 1TB – 3TB. I personally use this line of drives in the 1TB variety and have been very happy with them and have no failures so far. Below are the models and pricing as of this writing:
Seagates line of consumer level NAS hard drives are purpose built for systems ranging from 1-5 disks and were just released in June 2013. They include custom firmware they call NASWorks and have all of the features I mention above in the previous section. At the time of this writing they offer three models ranging from 2TB – 4TB and are the highest capacity NAS hard drives available. Seagate drives are known for their reliability and the NAS HDD line should be no different. Below are the models and pricing as of this writing:
The main point of this article was to persuade you away from the pitfalls of using the wrong drive in a NAS environment. The drives I have recommended for you are the best options currently available outside of moving up to costly network enterprise drives. Don’t follow in my footsteps to learn that you just spent a lot of money on a drive configuration destined to fail. Start off on a solid platform designed to meet your storage goals.
So what are your thoughts on NAS hard drives? Would you still use a cheap desktop model over a purpose built drive?