Do you need NAS drives for a NAS? 5 Best Budget NAS drives

You, me, and all of us are witnessing the boom of technology in a way none of us would have imagined a decade ago.

While the facets of this boom are diverse, there is one common denominator at the core.

Storage.

I still remember a time when you clicked a photo and waited at least a week before you could see your clicked picture in your hand.

Today you can shoot a video, modify it, put filters on it, and share it with millions in a matter of minutes.

Thanks not only to media devices like your smartphones but also to the fast storage ingrained within.

Now all of us want as much storage as possible on our smartphones and our computers. 

But there is a limit to everything. Except maybe innovation.

This is where storage solutions like the NAS or Network Attached Storage come in.

While it’s a long shot, but its entirely possible that some of you may not be aware of what NAS really is.

What is Network Attached Storage or NAS?

Network Attached Storage or NAS is a storage solution that you can use to share your data across a network. This means you don’t need to store all your data on your media device or PC. Additional features like ease of data backup and redundancy make it very attractive.

In this article, I will cover a few questions that I get about either getting or creating a NAS.

And let’s get started by addressing a very simple yet very important one.

Do you need NAS drives for a NAS?

Desktop drives are not designed to work in a closely nested environment like that of a NAS. Nor are they apt to run for longer than 8-10 hours. While the initial cost may be high, the ruggedness, stability, and reliability make it worth the investment if you really want good data security.

The technical differences between a NAS drive and say a desktop drive deserves a separate section and I will oblige.

But for now what you need to know is if you are serious about data backup, multi-user operation, security, and redundancy, getting dedicated NAS drives is well worth it.

Is NAS Necessary?

Let me tell you a secret.

The reason I am writing this article is because I am regretting something. 

My motherboard died a couple of days ago and all my data was stored ‘just’ on my hard drive.

Imagine if I had all my data safely backed up in a location in a secure manner.  

Yes, yes, that was stupid of me. But hey we all make mistakes.

But I am still in the clear. I don’t even know what I would have done had my hard drive failed. 

And with the hard drive, yes, failure is a very real possibility.

Right now I am in the middle of creating a NAS box using my old system. I want you to subscribe to the blog so that I can tell you how it works out.

So, is NAS Necessary?

If you are a small business with multiple users sharing and working on it. And if data backup, security, and redundancy are important. Getting or creating a NAS is not only important but also necessary. 

Ideally, your data must be backed in two additional spaces, apart from your working PC/device.

Linus from LTT suggests you should have your data backed up securely, on a NAS and on remote cloud storage.

I understand not everyone’s data is as sensitive as that of a business. 

So how elaborate is your data and what you do with it determines what kind of storage solution you need.

It is also important to point out here that there are different types of NAS systems depending on the scale of storage and the kind of activity you want to subject it to.

There is consumer-grade to enterprise-grade NAS. 

Then there is something you can dump your archive files to a high-speed NAS that serves multiple users and carry out multiple tasks in addition to file storage.

In this article, because we are discussing basics, every time I use the word NAS, I am referring to a simple storage solution where you store your files securely with some basic level of redundancy.

Difference Between a NAS Drive & a Regular Drive

Now that we know the importance of having a NAS, let’s dig a little deeper.

If you get yourselves a NAS box or choose to create one using relatively old hardware, is it necessary to get a dedicated and specialized NAS drive, like the WD Reds or Seagate Ironwolfs?

Given that they are comparatively more expensive can you make do with a simple non-specialized HDD?

And come to talk of it why exactly are these dedicated NAS drives so much more expensive?

What is the difference between a normal HDD and a NAS drive?

Let’s get into it.

NAS Drives are Designed for 24/7 Operation

Unlike a PC, it’s entirely possible that the NAS box has to operate 24/7.

If that is indeed the case, the hard drive in question must be designed so as to withstand continuous operation.

A NAS HDD is created with the aim of running for weeks on end. A desktop HDD on the other hand can only read and write data for hours at a time.

This becomes even more significant in large NAS deployments where consumer-grade desktop HDDs are likely to fail.

The technical terms associated with longevity are workload rate and MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure).

Workload rate means the amount of user data transferred annually, and MTBF is the average time the HDD functions before it reached the end of life.

A desktop HDD workload rate is around 55 (TB/yr). By contrast, a NAS drive(like the Ironwolf Pro) has a workload rate of 300TB/yr and an MTBF of 1.2 million hours.

Thermal and Vibration Tolerance

Unlike SSDs, HDDs operation involves moving mechanical parts. 

When a number of similar HDDs work together the vibration, noise, and heat add up.

In order to reduce vibration you would want HDDs with low spindle speeds. 

But low spindle speeds would mean lower read and write performance.

As the NAS system gets bigger and uses multi-bay/rack systems, vibration and heating issues become very prominent.

This can lead to unstable operations, faults, and even data loss.

With NAS drives you won’t have to sacrifice speed for quieter and cooler drives. 

Today’s NAS drives are created using anti-vibration technology that ensures the drives produce too much vibration or noise while maintaining a high-speed operation.

Drive Services

In addition to performance and longevity, the aftersales service becomes very important for HDDs that will be subjected to continuous operation.

Most good NAS drives come with add-on services like a good warranty, drive health management, and data recovery.

NAS drives work primarily to preserve and secure data. And therefore, most of them use S.M.A.R.T (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) to send forth warning signals in case of upcoming drive faults and failures.

Many NAS drive manufacturers (like Seagate) offer a data recovery plan on purchase. 

On drive failure, the rescue efforts can turn expensive, and even then the rescue efforts may fail. 

In these situations, these recovery plans play a very pivotal role, and thus choosing them over normal drives makes much more sense.

Best NAS Drives for your NAS

We now have a lot of clarity on what NAS is, how important it is to have a good backup structure in place, and why you should opt for a dedicated NAS drive.

Going forward it is only logical to see what are some of the best NAS drives you can get.

When selecting these drives I am going to use the parameters I have already explained above in addition to some more relevant factors.

I am not discussing the best NAS enclosures here as for obvious reasons it needs a dedicated post of their own.

I will create that article after I have finished creating my own NAS box using old PC hardware and taking into account the drawbacks.

So, I urge you to subscribe to the blog so that I can notify you about all of that.

Here are the best NAS drives you should look into getting.

1. Seagate IronWold Pro

Overall Best NAS Hard Drive

Sale
Seagate IronWolf Pro 8TB NAS Internal Hard Drive HDD – 3.5 Inch SATA 6Gb/s 7200 RPM 256MB Cache for RAID Network Attached Storage, Data Recovery Service – Frustration Free Packaging (ST8000NE001)
  • IronWolf internal hard drives are the ideal solution for up to 24-bay, multi-user NAS server environments that demand powerhouse performance
  • Store more and work faster with a NAS hard drive that provides 8TB and speeds up to 214MB/s
  • Specifically built for less wear and tear, little to no noise/vibration, no lags or down time, increased file-sharing performance, lower power consumption, and extra data protection—even in the event of power loss
  • Easily monitor NAS drive health using the integrated IronWolf Health Management system, and enjoy long-term reliability with 1. 2M hours MTBF
  • Five-year limited product warranty protection plan and three year Rescue Data Recovery Services included
  • Go to gold standard server storage solution for most use cases and one of the most reliable NAS drives in the market.
  • Designed for servers that run up to 24 drive bays side by side. Hence, good vibration tolerance and low heat output.
  • Can be used for both home and professional use
Pros
  • High sequential performance
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • Excellent monitoring and reporting software
  • Premium design
  • Good vibration tolerance and low heat output
Cons
  • Expensive

2. Western Digital WD Red Plus

Best Value NAS Hard Drive

Western Digital 4TB WD Red Plus NAS Internal Hard Drive HDD - 5400 RPM, SATA 6 Gb/s, CMR, 128 MB Cache, 3.5" -WD40EFZX
  • Available in capacities ranging from 1-14TB with support for up to 8 bays
  • Supports up to 180 TB/yr workload rate Workload Rate is defined as the amount of user data transferred to or from the hard drive. Workload Rate is annualized (TB transferred ✕ (8760 / recorded power-on hours)). Workload Rate will vary depending on your hardware and software components and configurations.
  • NASware firmware for compatibility
  • Small or medium business NAS systems in a 24x7 environment
  • Excellent for NAS setups for home and personal use.
  • Comes equipped with Western Digital’s proprietary firmware. This ensures reliability and performance when working in NAS and RAID environments.
  • WD Reds use CMR (Conventional Magnetic Recording) technology over SMR(Shingled magnetic recording) which make them suitable for NAS solution where large data is stored and accessed at high speeds.
  • Performance is quick and quiet even under load.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Wide variety of capacities available
  • Can work with up to 8 bay NAS systems
Cons
  • 180TB/yr workload rate

3. Seagate IronWolf 18TB NAS

Best High-capacity NAS Drive for Home Use

Seagate IronWolf 18TB NAS Internal Hard Drive HDD – CMR 3.5 Inch SATA 6Gb/s 7200 RPM 256MB Cache for RAID Network Attached Storage, Rescue Services – Frustration Free Packaging (ST18000VNZ00)
  • IronWolf internal hard drives are the ideal solution for up to 8-bay, multi-user NAS environments craving powerhouse performance
  • Store more and work faster with a NAS-optimized hard drive providing ultra-high capacity up to 18TB and cache of up to 256MB
  • Purpose built for NAS enclosures, IronWolf delivers less wear and tear, little to no noise/vibration, no lags or down time, increased file-sharing performance, and much more
  • Easily monitor the health of drives using the integrated IronWolf Health Management system and enjoy long-term reliability with 1M hours MTBF
  • Three-year limited warranty protection plan included and three year Rescue Data Recovery Services included
  • Perfect for home use where you want an archival-type NAS box for storing and sharing data.
  • The most prominent aspect is the 18TB storage.
  • Comes with a 3-year warranty.
  • Excellent health monitoring system with come with a very decent transfer speed of 180MB/s.
Pros
  • 3-year warranty
  • Relatively cheap compared to pro version for the same size.
  • Very apt for home archival data use
  • Good health management app.
  • Good transfer speeds
Cons
  • Compatible with a maximum of 8-bay NAS systems.

4. Seagate Exos X20 20TB Enterprise HDD

Best High Capacity NAS Drive for Enterprises

  • Best suitable for enterprises with large data centers and server rooms.
  • For large-scale operations, in terms of performance, consistency, and speed, Exos are considered the best in the business
  • In addition to offering massive storage capacities, the EXOS has exceptional endurance ratings.
  • Available in SAS and SATA arrangement hence offering more versatility.
Pros
  • Excellent reliability and versatility
  • Low watt/TB rating
  • Ultra High Endurance
  • High workload rate = 550TB/yr
  • 285MB/s transfer rate
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Relays loud noise eventually.

5. Western Digital Red SA500

Best NAS Solid State Drive

Sale
Western Digital 4TB WD Red SA500 NAS 3D NAND Internal SSD - SATA III 6 Gb/s, 2.5"/7mm, Up to 560 MB/s - WDS400T1R0A
  • Storage optimized for caching in NAS systems to rapidly access your most frequently used files.
  • Superior endurance can handle the heavy read and write loads demanded by NAS, giving you the reliability you need in a 24/7 environment.
  • Purpose-built for NAS with proven Western Digital 3D NAND to deliver maximum SATA performance to both home and business users.
  • Reduces latency and improves responsiveness for oltp databases, multi-user environments, photo rendering, 4K and 8K video editing, and more.
  • Excellent value if you don’t require extreme writing endurance.
  • Robust NAS drive for almost all use cases and significantly faster than an HDD.
  • One of the best SSDs in terms of raw speeds.
  • Low access times coupled with high capacity and endurance rating make the SSD perfect for caching or much more speedy file storage.
  • S.M.A.R.T support.
Pros
  • Varied capacities available (4TB Highest)
  • Very power efficient
  • Robust and competitive in terms of performance
  • 5-year warranty
Cons
  • Price/GB is high when compared with NAS HDDs

Can I Use a NAS Hard Drive as a Regular Drive?

Yes, you can most definitely use a NAS hard drive as a regular drive. NAS drives by design are created to be more robust and to run 24/7. Their vibration and heat tolerance are also high. While purchasing a NAS hard drive to specifically use as a regular hard drive doesn’t make sense but yes it can work as a consumer-grade HDD in your system.

The converse of this is equally true but you see where the problem will be.

As explained at the beginning of this article, if you are serious about storage getting dedicated NAS drives is the way to go.

Regular hard drives aren’t designed to work in a multi-bay environment nor are they designed to work for a stretch greater than 8 hours.

They are developed with an aim of high vibrance and heat tolerance when working together.

Regular drives’ endurance ratings, MTBF, and workload rates are significantly lower than that of NAS drives.

Again, this isn’t to say, a regular drive NAS won’t work. 

It’s just that probability of drive failure will be high and your data will be at risk of loss. 

Regular HDDs degrade faster in NAS-like environments.

Which again disrupts the whole purpose of creating a NAS solution.

How Much NAS Storage Do I Need?

The answer is it depends on your use. You can create a NAS box for personal use with as small as 1 or 2TB hard drives and if you are a small business or an enterprise your NAS capacity can touch 100s of TB and even more.

While there is no exact method to arrive at the precise capacity you would need. 

Yet some kind of assessment can be made by taking into account your current drive size, how much data you generate (say per month), and at what rate your data generation(can be linked to company growth).

NAS Capacity = [(No. of users X individual storage requirement) + shared storage requirement] X data growth rate.

So, let’s say there are 3 people in your home who would want to backup say 2TB data each. 

Let’s also assume these 3 people may want to share 3TB of data with each other via shared storage.

For family use, I will just use a data growth factor of 2. This can be more or less depending on your needs. 

If you are a business, working out a data growth factor should not be an issue.

 So, (( 3 users X 2TB each ) + 3TB shared) * 2 data growth rate = 18TB NAS capacity.

Now once again this isn’t an exact science. It’s more of an as-needed subjective assessment.

I wanted to give you an idea of how you can work up an estimate of your storage needs.

Your storage and space requirement can be bigger or smaller than this. You may even take in factors other than what I mentioned here to arrive at an understanding.

Conclusion

Here is what we have learned in this article.

  • While the initial investment is high, the ROI on NAS hard drives is excellent. So, use NAS hard drive if you are serious about your data and its security.
  • Dedicated NAS hard drives are superior to regular hard drives in terms of vibration resistance, heat tolerance, and longevity.
  • There are some really good budget options available when shopping for NAS hard drives. See the list above.
  • And finally, take data growth rate into account when figuring out your NAS capacity.

I hope the information in this article helped you in a very direct sense when it comes to NAS.

Now as I said in an earlier segment of this article, this isn’t the only article I wish to do on the topic.

While I have created an article on NAS before, I haven’t taken on an active personal project of creating one for myself using old hardware.

So, I want you to subscribe to the blog so that I can let you know how everything turns out and also because I want you to be a part of the yantraas family.

If you have any other questions do let me know in the comments below.

Take care of yourselves and I will see you at the next one!

Bye!

Electronics Engineer | Former Deputy Manager | Self-Taught Digital Marketer. Owner & Admin Of A Network Of Blogs and Global E-Commerce Stores

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