Manufacturers didn’t always make hard drives just for NAS devices. A few years ago, regular desktop drives were used for most NAS boxes. In fact, you can probably get away with doing this yourself without any major issue.
Still, NAS-optimized drives do serve a purpose. Unlike a desktop computer, a NAS will likely be turned on for 24 hours a day. Since hard drives have moving parts, the constant use subjects them to excessive wear. And with multiple drives so close to each other, there’s also more vibration for them to handle. Heat is another an issue because they’re always powered on and packed so close together in an enclosed box. All of these will affect how long the drives will last.
And if you’re setting up your Synology NAS to use RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), using a NAS drive is even more important. In this setup, data can be spread out across multiple drives and errors can be recovered from data on a different drive.
Regular desktop drives are designed to continuously try to recover data on its own if it detects any errors. This behavior can lead to degraded performance and possibly even data loss if it’s used in a RAID.
On the other hand, a NAS drive will only try to recover data on its own for a few seconds. When that time passes, it will attempt to rebuild the data using information from a different drive in the RAID. Error recovery is one of the reasons people use RAID so the drive must be able to operate with that in mind.
When it comes to NAS drives, performance and reliability should be the priority.
Which NAS Hard Drive Should You Choose?
There are only four major manufacturers of internal hard drives. These are Toshiba, Seagate, Western Digital, and Hitachi/HGST. Technically, there are just three since HGST is a subsidiary of Western Digital but they still make their own brand of hard drives. Each one of these manufacturers has a lineup of drives for specific uses including NAS-optimized models. Let’s go through each one of them.
First up, we have Seagate’s IronWolf series of NAS-optimized drives. They come in two versions: the regular IronWolf and the IronWolf Pro.
The IronWolf is designed to be used for NAS devices in a home, home office or small business environment. It’s available in capacities of up to 12 TB for a single drive and supports up to an 8-bay NAS. The drives spin at 5900 RPM. It may seem slow compared to a conventional desktop hard drive that spins at 7200 RPM but for a NAS, it’s perfectly fine. Seagate’s IronWolf also comes with a 3-year warranty.
The Pro version is aimed at commercial and enterprise NAS applications. With the Seagate IronWolf Pro, you get up to 12 TB of space, support for up to a 16-bay NAS, and a rotational speed of 7200 RPM. The warranty is also better at 5 years.
Western Digital: WD Red
If you’re considering a NAS drive for home or small business use, the WD Red should be in your list. It’s our favorite drive! It’s available in up to 10 TB single-drive capacities and supports up to an 8-bay NAS. WD Reds run at 5400 RPM and come with a 3-year warranty.
Moving on to their enterprise drives made for more demanding business use, we have the WD Red Pro. Like the non-Pro version, it comes in up to 10 TB capacities but supports a NAS with up to 24 drive bays. It’s also faster at 7200 RPM and comes with a 5-year warranty.
Hitachi/HGST: Deskstar NAS
While it’s a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Digital, HGST still produces their own brand of drives. The Deskstar NAS is their line of NAS-optimized hard drives. Based on its specifications, it’s placed between a WD Red and WD Red Pro.
The HGST Deskstar NAS can be found in up to 10 TB capacities and a 7200 RPM rotational speed. HGST doesn’t specify the limit to the number of bays it can support but it’s supposed to be used in desktop form factors. This means it may not be the best choice for environments where drives such as the WD Red Pro or IronWolf Pro are designed for. This is also evident in the 3-year warranty that the Deskstar NAS comes with.
Last but certainly not the least is Toshiba’s N300 NAS hard drive. Similar to the HGST Deskstar NAS, it doesn’t come in a Pro version. But that doesn’t mean it’s a basic drive.
The N300 is available in capacities of up to 10 TB and support for NAS boxes with up to 8 drive slots. This hard drive also spins at 7200 RPM which gives it an edge over slower spinning drives. With a 3-year warranty, you can tell that the N300 isn’t for enterprise use but it offers great value for home users or small businesses.
Should You Go Pro?
For manufacturers that offer regular and Pro versions, how do you decide which hard drive one to get? Like all things hardware, it depends on where you’re going to use it.
Pro NAS drives come with more advanced features, better performance, and more robust warranties. However, these also come at a cost. If you compare Pro drives with their non-Pro counterparts, you’ll see a price difference of around $40 or more depending on the capacity.
That may not seem like much but remember that your NAS won’t just need one hard drive. If need 4 drives, that’s around a $160 difference at best. For an 8-bay NAS, you’ll be paying over $300 more to populate all those slots with Pro drives.
There’s a reason they’re recommended for enterprise-level use. If you need the highest levels of performance and reliability for critical data, then going for the Pro versions might be worth the investment. But if not, then you’re probably better off with the regular versions. After all, they’re still NAS-optimized hard drives.
To get the most out of your Synology NAS, you need to use the right tools for the job. Any one of these NAS-optimized drives will help your device perform at its best and keep your data safe. But before picking a drive, don’t forget to check out Synology’s Compatibility List to make sure it works with your specific NAS device.