What Drives Should I Use for a NAS? UGREEN NAS

Written by: UGREENBLOG

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Time to read 10 min

Choosing the right hard drives is critical when building or upgrading a NAS (network-attached storage) system. The drives you select greatly impact performance, reliability, capacity, and cost.

This guide explores the key considerations when selecting NAS drives. We'll cover drive technologies, features, installation best practices, and data protection strategies.

By the end, you'll know how to select the ideal HDD or SSD drives to create a high-performing NAS perfectly suited for your needs. Whether you need maximum capacity, blazing speed, or enterprise-class durability, you'll learn how to pick the right drives. Let's dive in!

Key Factors for NAS Hard Drives

Reliability

Robust drives designed for 24/7 operation. Prioritize commercial or enterprise-class models over consumer drives.

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Capacity

Calculate needed storage based on workflow needs and growth projections. Larger drives provide more space but may impact rebuilding.

Performance

Faster drives improve overall NAS speed and responsiveness. Key specs like RPM, cache size and interface affect performance.

Cost

Balance performance needs with budget constraints. Start with the most affordable drive that reliably satisfies workload requirements.

Installation

Seeks drives engineered specifically for seamless NAS integration and hassle-free configuration.

Warranty

At least 3 years of warranty coverage provides peace of mind. Ensure the vendor offers advanced replacement.

The key is finding the optimal balance across these factors based on your specific NAS usage needs and budget. I kept the main point for each factor while condensing details. Let me know if you would like me to expand or modify this abbreviated version further.

Understanding NAS Drive Technologies

Now let's drill down on the underlying technologies that power modern NAS-optimized hard drive solutions...

HDD vs SSD

The first key decision is HDDs (hard disk drives) vs SSDs (solid state drives). HDDs use spinning platters with magnetic read/write heads to store and access data. SSDs use integrated circuit assemblies and flash memory with no moving parts.

For NAS applications, HDDs still dominate for the massive per-terabyte capacity they offer, while SSDs are increasingly used for caching layers and top performance storage tiers. The average cost per gigabyte remains far lower for HDDs. Storage capacity typically ranges from 2TB to 18TB for 3.5-inch HDDs. 2.5-inch SSD capacities top out below 16TB currently.

If your budget allows, a tiered NAS architecture with SSDs for caching and flash-based storage pools can significantly improve performance. But HDDs will comprise the bulk of large NAS setups. Carefully determine what mix of HDDs and SSDs best align with your needs and financial resources.

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SATA vs. SAS vs. NVMe NAS Drives

The drive interface specifies how the drive physically connects and communicates with the NAS system. Most consumer HDDs utilize the ubiquitous SATA interface, with different generations indicating speeds (SATA I, SATA II, SATA III). Newer NVMe SSD drives offer blazing transfer rates.

SAS (serial attached SCSI) represents the performance-focused enterprise-grade alternative to SATA, with 12 Gb/s SAS as the latest and fastest option. However, SAS drives command premium prices. SATA drives are more economical yet perform admirably for many SMB NAS workloads. Leading NAS vendors offer drive families optimized for reliability in SATA, SAS or NVMe interfaces to precisely match varying needs and budgets.

Drive Formatting Factors

Choose drives formatted specifically for the rigors of NAS and RAID operation right out of the box. They should use appropriate sector sizes (4KB vs 512 byte) and block sizes to maximize performance based on your chosen file system. This avoids wasting time re-formatting drives yourself. Stick with reputable models guaranteed to work correctly from initial installation.

Cache Sizes

The cache on the hard drive acts as high-speed short term memory, buffering reads and writes. Larger cache sizes - 128 MB or 256 MB versus 64 MB - significantly accelerate real-world NAS throughput and response times. Maximizing cache is one of the most impactful ways to improve overall workflow performance.

Drive RPM

Faster hard drive spindle speeds directly translate into better performance, particularly for transactional and random access workloads. The standard for NAS drives is 7200 RPM, while 10,000 RPM and 15,000 RPM offer progressively faster operation for high-end applications. However, higher RPM drives consume more power and tend to run hotter with noise implications. Dial in the sweet spot for your needs between RPM and budget.

RAID Support

It's vital that the NAS hard drive's firmware fully supports the popular RAID levels you intend to use, like 1, 5, 6, and 10. This ensures maximum compatibility, avoid potential rebuild issues, and optimize performance within the array. Leading NAS drive vendors specifically optimize models to deliver seamless, glitch-free RAID integration out of the box.

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Recommended NAS Hard Drive Types

Now let's examine the main hard drive categories suitable for NAS workloads, discussing the pros and cons of each...

Desktop HDD Drives

When building or upgrading a NAS, one temptation might be to stuff it full of economical consumer/desktop grade hard disk drives. These provide lots of terabytes for the money. However, the trade-off is they aren’t engineered specifically for punishing, high-intensity 24/7 NAS environments.

While desktop HDDs work fine for backup or archival NAS purposes, for critical business storage, their average reliability and workload rating often leave something to be desired. Their warranties tend to be shorter as well.

NAS-Specific HDD Drives

For mission-critical NAS systems, it’s wise to invest in hard drives built specifically for the demands of network-attached storage and RAID architectures. Leading vendors like WD, Seagate, HGST, Toshiba and others offer HDD product lines designed from the ground up for NAS workloads.

These NAS-optimized drives incorporate special firmware and mechanics for superior reliability under 24/7 operation. Vibration tolerance improves stability. Their high workload rating - often over 550TB/year - gives confidence in their endurance. 3 to 5 year warranties provide peace of mind.

While NAS-specific drives carry a price premium versus desktop models, they deliver the peace of mind that your data is safe. Their enhanced workload ratings and MTBF metrics often justify the extra cost over the long term.

2.5-inch vs. 3.5-inch Hard Drives

The vast majority of NAS systems utilize 3.5-inch hard drives taking advantage of their much higher capacities today - up to 18TB. However, 2.5-inch HDD models up to 2TB are also found in compact NAS boxes. While 2.5-inch drives come in smaller footprints, the TB-per-dollar value is lower. Carefully compare workload ratings between form factors when choosing.

SSD Drives

Purpose-built NAS SSDs offer enticing benefits like drastically faster access speeds, especially for read-intensive workloads. However, SSD endurance concerns remain compared to HDDs for write-heavy applications. Consumer SSDs may wear out quicker under constant workloads. Enterprise SSDs address this through overprovisioning and wear-leveling.

SSDs are a game-changer in a tiered NAS for caching and flash pools. Use SSDs for your primary working data volume, then tier colder data to high-capacity HDDs. This blends speed and affordability. Going all SSD for massive capacity remains cost-prohibitive for most.

Must-Have NAS Hard Drive Features

Beyond the basics like RPM, cache and capacity, advanced HDD features further tailor drives for the rigors of NAS environments:

Vibration and Shock Resistance

Steady drive performance requires physical stability in the busy NAS chassis. Specific vibration damping and shock absorption mechanics keep drives firmly on track.

Cooling Capabilities

Efficient cooling preserves drive lifespan by preventing overheating. Models equipped with dedicated heat fins, cooling chips or other thermal management technology run cleaner in RAID.

Noise Reduction

Noisy drives quickly become an annoyance in shared office environments. Quieter drives improve quality of life. Look for noise ratings around 22 to 25 dB in idle and load states for your NAS.

Enterprise-Level Workload Rating

Higher annualized workload ratings in the 550TB or 600TB per year range helps drives withstand intensive 24/7 RAID operation without succumbing early to wear and tear. Consumer drives often rate just 55TB/year.

Dual Actuator Technology

Top-end drives provide a secondary read/write head assembly. By allowing simultaneous reads and writes to multiple platters, overall throughput gets a sizeable boost.

XOR Parity Error Correction

ECC capabilities using XOR-based parity allows NAS drives to detect and fix more read/write errors without failing. This prevents potential data loss due to corrupted blocks.

Power Efficiency

For green datacenters, power-stingy NAS drives like Seagate's IronWolf Pro can trim thousands in electrical costs versus older models. Newer drives do more work per watt.

Disk Vibration Prevention

Sensors detect and compensate for potential performance-sapping vibration in multi-drive NAS systems. This maintains consistent operation if one drive begins resonating.

Security Features

Drives supporting Instant Secure Erase improve end-of-lifecycle data destruction. Crypto-erase makes previous data irretrievable by erasing the encryption key.

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Getting the Right Storage Capacity for Your Needs

When selecting drives, properly balance the need for storage capacity with factors like performance, redundancy, and budget. Let's explore best practices for capacity planning.

Calculating Your Storage Requirements

Have a good handle on both your current storage usage along with estimated growth for the next 3-5 years. Account for expanding file sizes from new applications. Overestimate rather than underestimating capacity. You can start with smaller drives and scale up.

Allowing for Growth

Larger 12, 14 or 16TB NAS drives offer flexibility for expansion if your storage needs grow. Or choose a NAS box with open bays to add more smaller drives over time.

Drive Configuration Trade-Offs

For a given total capacity, fewer larger high-capacity drives reduces costs and power needs. The downside is slower rebuilding with larger drives if one fails. More smaller drives improves redundancy and speeds yet adds costs. Overall performance also depends on your RAID level. Carefully weigh the pros and cons for your setup.

Virtual Storage Pools

Leveraging capabilities like ZFS virtual storage pools lets you flexibly grow capacity while optimizing drive configurations behind the scenes.

Installation and Setup Best Practices

Meticulous drive installation and setup prevents avoidable issues down the road:

Drive Formatting

Always format the drives according to NAS vendor guidelines to match your file system. This optimizes capacity, performance and compatibility. Quick formatting is inadequate.

Follow Equipment Installation Instructions

Carefully adhere to the manufacturer's instructions when installing drives in your NAS. Use anti-static precautions and don't void warranties with improper drive handling.

Give Drives Plenty of Breathing Room

Allow adequate airflow and cooling around drives as specified. This prevents overheating and thermal throttling which degrades NAS performance.

Use Manufacturer RAID Configuration Tools

Leverage the vendor's own software tools for creating and managing RAID arrays. This guarantees seamless compatibility and optimization.

Set Up Spare Drives

Have compatible spare drives ready to swap in if you experience a failure. This minimizes downtime and avoids data rebuilding delays.

Optimize the Physical NAS Environment

Keep the NAS unit in a clean, climate-controlled space to reduce vibration, humidity and temperature-related stresses on the drives.

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Backing Up and Protecting Your NAS Drive Data

Your irreplaceable data demands both fault tolerance and independent backups for true protection:

Backup Strategies

Schedule automatic backups from your NAS to an external NAS, tape or cloud storage. Create incremental backups of changed files for efficiency.

Use Mirroring or Parity-Based RAID

RAID 1, 5 or 6 tolerates drive failures without downtime. Use hot spare drives, hot swapping and alerting to fix degrading arrays preemptively.

Continuously Monitor Drive Health

Keep tabs on HDD S.M.A.R.T. attributes and SSD wear levels. Replace aging drives before possible failures.

Test Restores and Backups

Periodically perform test restores to confirm your backup files remain intact and restores complete quickly. Catch backup issues early.

Consider Offsite Backup Storage

For ultimate security against local disasters like fires or floods, rotate backups to an offsite vault or cloud repository.

Encrypt Sensitive Data

Use AES hardware encryption included with many NAS systems to render stored files unreadable without the key.

Conclusion and Final Recommendations

Carefully choosing the ideal hard drives or SSDs for your NAS involves balancing performance, reliability, capacity, and total cost based on your unique needs. Seek out purpose-built NAS drive models from trusted vendors used successfully by other customers with similar workloads and scale. Invest in the best drives you can reasonably afford that satisfy your performance requirements while also implementing sound data protection. Then you can feel confident your NAS will operate smoothly for years to come while safely stewarding your data.

Innovative new NAS options are arriving from exciting brands beyond traditional data storage vendors. For instance, Ugreen, best known for its revolutionary charging accessories and recent strides into alternative energy sources like the PowerRoam Portable Power Station, is now applying that success to engineer cutting-edge networked-attached storage solutions like its new Nasync series.

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The Nasync combines Ugreen's extensive knowledge in HDD and SSD solutions with Intel's unmatched expertise in high-performance PC components and cloud computing. This NAS lineup offers professional-grade features and expandability perfect for power users. Dual 10GbE network ports and dual Thunderbolt 4 enable extreme transfer speeds to maximize productivity. Smooth 4K playback and seamless collaboration across devices comes courtesy of the brawny 12th gen Intel Core i5 processor and upgradable 8GB DDR5 memory.

With up to 184TB of storage configurable in optimized RAID arrays, the robust Nasync has room for immense media libraries with data redundancy. Keep it all secure with Ugreen's hardened encryption, data integrity checks, and ransomware protection. Easily access, share and manage your digital assets with Ugreen's integrated smart NAS assistant and intuitive mobile app.

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The Nasync brings advanced business-class NAS capabilities to home media servers and small office workgroups at an outstanding value. Ugreen is currently offering exclusive discounts up to 40% off for early adopters who reserve units during their upcoming crowdfunding campaign. Leave your email on Ugreen NAS to get notified when the crowdfund goes live. Visit our preheat page to get notified when the Nasync crowdfund goes live to lock in the best savings on these trailblazing new NAS systems.