NAS hard drives compared

NAS servers place considerable demands on hard drives. Unlike desktops that typically see only short periods of activity, NAS servers often run continuously, performing tasks like media streaming, backups and virus scanning. Such continuous workloads are hard on the moving mechanisms inside the traditional hard drives, and can lead to premature drive failures.

For these reasons, it is recommended to install specialized hard drives in NAS servers. Usually designated as NAS or Enterprise hard drives, these drives come with high-performance mechanisms that prolong the drive’s life and reduce vibration. NAS hard drives also feature specialized firmware that improves error recovery and optimizes performance, which is especially important when multiple drives are expected to work in concert.

It’s worth noting that new flash-based SSD drives don’t have moving parts, and therefore would be ideal for NAS servers. While the SSD drives are beginning to show up in home NAS servers, they can’t yet match the capacities and prices of traditional hard drives.

There aren’t many manufacturers making NAS hard drives, so finding a good set of drives is not hard. Western Digital, Seagate, and HGST provide a range of capacities and their drives are compatible with all major NAS models.

WD Red NAS Hard Drives  Seagate NAS Hard Drives HGST Deskstar NAS Hard Drives
Interface SATA 6 Gb/s SATA 6 Gb/s SATA 6 Gb/s
Capacities 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 5TB, 6TB, 8TB 1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB 3TB, 4TB, 5TB, 6TB
Cache 64MB
128MB (8TB)
128MB (6TB)
256MB (8TB)
128MB (5TB, 6TB)
Class 5,400 RPM 5,900 RPM 7,200 RPM
(Mean Time Between Failures)
1,000,000 hours 1,000,000 hours 1,000,000 hours
Warranty 3 years 3 years 3 years

All three models offer the same limited warranty and promised reliability. Generally, larger cache size and higher RPM translate into faster performance. Keep in mind that it is recommended that all drives in a NAS be of a same model, although they do not have to be of same capacity.

For more information about NAS servers, read this article.

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