Upgrade Your NAS With The Best HDD or SSD

If you’re looking to buy or upgrade your NAS hard drive select from our pick of the best high-capacity HDDs and SSDs.

The questions on every buyer’s lips are which hard drive do we need for our NAS server, and which is the best RAID level? At SimplyNAS we provide the best options currently available and we constantly strive to share our expertise and advice with our customers.

The popularity and the ever-decreasing price of SSDs signals a decrease in popularity for traditional hard drives from what it was once, or does it? This, it appears, is just a cyclical trend as ever-increasing media libraries grow, and 4k and 6k files become increasingly common place. There will still be a huge demand for high capacity spinning drives for a long time to come.

The combination of larger capacity quality HDDs and SSDs make for an ideal combination of performance and Tiering storage, to deal with extensive amounts of data.

The question is, which hard drive should you buy? Does performance matter, or should you just go for the cheapest model? We list the best of the best HDDs and SSDs based on our statics of usage and our expertise on the NAS platform for over the last twelve years.

What should we buy HDD or SSD?

Today a combination of HDDs and SSDs is the ideal platform. If you can afford to install 2TB SSDs and combine these with higher capacity HDDs, that would remove the storage bottleneck, because the speed of the SSDs are just too good to miss out on.

How many terabytes do I need?

A terabyte is a hell of a lot of storage – it’s enough to store around 260,000 songs in MP4 format, or around two million Word documents. There’s a good chance that if you add up all the files on your server, and those tucked away in various cloud storage services, they’ll come to much less than four terabytes. That doesn’t mean you’ll never need more, however. Big collections of digital photos and media libraries take up space quickly, and with the rise of 4K video, well, who wants to hazard a guess? And since now days nothing comes on media you may want to keep hold of downloads and save them. Data now forms part of our lives, be it for home, work or businesses, so never compromise on terabytes.

Rule of thumb is give yourself plenty of headroom, buy two to three years’ worth of terabytes, so you don’t get the hassle of upgrading within a year. As a typical example; you require 4TB now then immediately double that. When you are working with half capacity full the seeking times fall as sorting and constant access takes its toll.

So, with that in mind and making an allowance for RAID protection, maybe look at 12TB as a starter. RAID 5 will allow for one drive redundancy. In this scenario if the budget is reasonable then go for four 1TB SSD’s and three 8TB HDDs. Using RAID 5 this will provide a useable capacity of approximately 17TB. Now from a price perspective if you select 3 x 6TB or 3 x 8TB the price differential will not be more than $175 so it’s prudent to plum for the higher capacity and platter drives.

Do I need to worry about NAS hard drive performance?

For a storage drive, it’s much less of an issue if you are dealing with just standard office productivity files and only accessing one or two data files at a time. Even the slowest 5900rpm drives will be fast enough not to matter.

On the other hand, if you have something more intensive – such as editing large batches of RAW photos, or creating your own videos or complex musical compositions – then it’s worth looking at a high-performance drive. The fastest models can read and write data around 40% faster and they offer faster access times, so files can be opened and closed quicker. In this scenario we would recommend a combination of SSDs and HDDs, with HDDs being 7200rpm SATA drives. On SAS platforms you can look at 10K drives if the capacity fits the bill.

What about hybrid drives?

A hybrid drive is a regular hard disk that features a small built-in SSD that’s used to accelerate performance. These have been totally inadequate for NAS servers, they have shown to be slow and overpriced. These need to be discarded from your buyers list.

Do we need to worry about platter, spindle speeds and cache sizes?

They’re important in that they have a direct impact on a drive’s performance. Drives with more platters are faster, because they can read and write more bytes simultaneously. A higher spindle speed means that it takes less time for the disk to access the right sector and start reading or writing. And a bigger RAM cache works a bit like the SSD portion of a hybrid drive to speed up read and write operations.

Unless you are a technical enthusiast don’t worry about these details. The best way to compare is to look at real-world tests we have carried out at SimplyNAS, as we simply go through 1000’s of drives per month and have rich and valuable HDD and SSD statics about performance. The one factor that you need to be adherent of for dedicated NAS appliances is to buy hard disks specifically intended for high performance, longevity with a sensible warranty period. These are designed to withstand constant 24/7 usage. Other than that, ignore any other drives as it’s a waste of time and money. That is the reality of hard drives. 

Shortlist of the best hard disks for NAS Servers

Category: Connected Home, SOHO, and SMB NAS

Model: Seagate IronWolf NAS drives for NAS Models 2 to 8 bays

Interface: SATA 6Gbps | Capacity: 6 – 12TB | Cache: 256MB | RPM: 7,200

The Best NAS drive for NAS Servers 2-8 Bays.

Seagate IronWolf NAS 8TB – Model ST8000VN0022 $239.00

This 8TB drive is one of the best Seagate Ironwolf NAS drives available and has the same specification and warranty as the 10TB and 12TB. Best-fit applications are 2-8-bay network attached storage, ideally suited for desktop RAID and multimedia servers. The performance of the 8TB clocked the same as 10 and 12TB.

Sporting AgileArray optimized for NAS enables dual-plane balancing and RAID optimization in multi-bay environments, with the most advanced power management possible. The deployment of Rotational Vibration (RV) sensors aid to maintain high performance in multi-drive NAS enclosures and provides a workload rate of 180TB/year. Multiple users can confidently upload and download data to handle the workload for creative professionals or small businesses.

Designed for always-on, always-accessible data on your NAS any time, remotely or on site, with 1M hours MTBF, the 3-year limited warranty represents an improved total cost of ownership (TCO) over desktop drives with reduced maintenance costs. The number of bays specified is only a guideline and in no way set in stone, as our internal best practice notes clearly depicts no issues on 16-bay and greater. What is more significant is the workload figure provided which in this instance is <180TB/year.

Even though these drives are designed for optimal reliability and longevity, unexpected things can happen that lead to drive failure. To remedy this, Seagate is offering its extensive Rescue Data Recovery coverage, which is an optional service for rack-mount or tower NAS solutions populated with their Seagate Enterprise NAS HDDs. Users of these drives will be able to recover from unfortunate events including RAID controller failures, missing RAID configurations and partitions, power surges that cause multiple drive failures simultaneously, virus damage, and natural disasters. The Seagate plan also covers accidental damage and human error, which adds even more peace-of-mind protection. With this coverage, Seagate asserts that most data can be recovered in-lab with a nearly 90% success rate.

Key specs –

  • Form factor: 3.5in;
  • Spindle speed: 7,200 RPM;
  • Cache Memory: 256MB;
  • Interface: SATA 6Gb/s;
  • Other capacities offered: 6TB, 8TB, 10TB and 12TB;
  • Warranty: 3 years;
  • Yearly Workload: <=180TB/year user workload rate;
  • Price: $239.00 as reviewed

Category: Commercial and Enterprise NAS

Model: Seagate IronWolf PRO NAS drives for NAS Models 2 to 16 bays

Interface: SATA 6Gbps | Capacity: All up to 12TB currently | Cache: 256MB | RPM: 7,200

The Best Enterprise NAS drive for NAS Servers 2-16 Bays.

Seagate IronWolf PRO NAS 10TB – Model ST10000NE0004 $391.04

The next level up from the IronWolf NAS are the IronWolf PRO drives with strategic differences allowing for commercial and enterprise NAS deployment, with cloud and data centers placed to take advantage. Everything that the IronWolf offers is significantly the same in the PRO version except, the support for number of bays goes up to sixteen (16), all models have rotational vibration sensors, the workload increases to up to 300TB/year, the MTBF increases to 1.2 million hours, and finally the warranty goes to 5 years. The PRO version has forced its competitors to rethink their NAS strategies as initial offering from competitors such as WD were not only wishy washy but also quite expensive, in many cases it was a rebranded exercise from desktop drives with NAS firmware.

10 tb seagate ironwolf

Key specs –

  • Form factor: 3.5in;
  • Spindle speed: 7,200 RPM;
  • Cache Memory: 256MB;
  • Interface: SATA 6Gb/s;
  • Other capacities offered: 2TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, 10TB and 12TB;
  • Warranty: 5 years;
  • Yearly Workload: <=300TB/year user workload rate;
  • Price: $391.04 as reviewed

Category: Data Center, Bulk Cloud and Enterprise NAS

Model: Seagate EXOS X10 Helium Enterprise NAS Models 4 to 16 bays

Interface: SATA 6Gbps | Capacity: EXOS Helium 10TB & 12TB only | Cache: 256MB | RPM: 7,200

The Fastest and Best drive/s for Enterprise NAS Servers 4-16 Bays

Seagate EXOS X10Series Hyperscale 512e 10TB – Model ST10000NM0016 $335

The Helium Seagate EXOS Enterprise drives have proved popular amongst our customers as the reliability factor has been high and performance has fared well. With that said these drives pack in a lot of technology to get 10TB of capacity including a completely new design that leverages seven platters and fourteen heads. Helium has been added to the recipe, which also includes Seagate’s PowerChoice and PowerBalance technologies. These two technologies work in tandem to reduce power consumption and offer an optimized IOPS/Watt efficiency. These are very important metrics as this solution is rated for 550TB/yr workloads, which is equal to 10x a typical desktop drive. Adding to this Seagate has increased the MTBF to 2.5 million hours, and has the 256MB cache with a spin rate of 7200rpm, with a sustained transfer speed of 254 MB/s and an average latency of 4.16ms. Power consumption is said to hover around 4.5w at idle, while in use its said to consume between 6.5 to 8 watts. The street pricing at the time of writing was $353.16, with a solid 5-year warranty.

Key specs –

  • Form factor: 3.5in;
  • Spindle speed: 7,200 RPM;
  • Cache Memory: 256MB;
  • Interface: SATA 6Gb/s;
  • Other capacities offered: 10TB and 12TB;
  • Warranty: 5 years;
  • Yearly Workload: <=550TB/year user workload rate;
  • Price: $335 as reviewed

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