Why does The NAS Need a Special HDD?

The NAS HDD Drive according to its abbreviation, Network Attached Storage, is basically a computer whose use is focused on data storage. NAS is generally installed in a LAN (Local Area Network), so that the data inside can be accessed by any device that is connected to the LAN, both from PCs, mobile devices, servers, and so on. In addition, lately NAS has also become popular as a private cloud storage.

Cloud Storage: a storage media connected to the Internet that can be accessed by users anywhere as long as they are also connected to the Internet. One of the best known forms of cloud storage is Google Drive or Dropbox. Modern NAS can also function as a private cloud storage, in the sense that only users have access to the data in it.

This NAS DS916 + can Accommodate four HDDs

A NAS can generally accommodate more than one HDD, 2-8 for NAS in a home or small office, or up to tens for large enterprise / enterprise class NAS. HDDs in NAS are also commonly used in RAID configurations where two or more HDDs run together to offer more functions. This RAID will bring distinct advantages for NAS users. RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks): a storage configuration that allows two or more HDDs to be integrated into an array / group that offers more than one NAS HDD Drive operating on its own. 

RAID itself has several modes, which are commonly used are: 
  • RAID 0: combines the capacity of several HDDs into one volume of data storage, for example 2 4 TB HDDs in RAID 0 will produce one volume of 8 TB.
  • RAID 1: back up 1 to 1 to multiple HDDs at once, for example 2 4 TB HDDs in RAID 1 will only produce one 4 TB volume, but have one backup that keeps the data accessible even if one HDD is damaged.
  • RAID 1 + 0 (10): this mode requires an even number of HDDs, at least four, and will combine the advantages of RAID 0 and RAID 1. For example 4 4 TB HDDs in RAID 0 + 1 will produce one volume of 8 TB with backups.
  • There are also RAID 5 and RAID 6 offered by several NAS, which can offer volumes greater than just one HDD, but are equipped with parity that can save data if there is one HDD in a damaged array.

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Apart from general functions as an "external" data storage media, aka outside a PC, modern NAS also has several other functions. Some of the popular ones are media servers, photo servers, local web servers, and so on. Unlike the external HDD which can only be accessed by one PC, because the NAS is placed on the LAN, access to the NAS can be done simultaneously from several PCs or other devices at once, including access to additional functions above.

Why is there a Special HDD NAS?

Seen from the explanation above, NAS and desktop PCs have different uses. Therefore, the workload that must be handled by the storage installed in each of these devices is of course also different. In order for the NAS to operate better, the manufacturers make HDDs that are equipped with features that support better handling of workloads on NAS, and that gives birth to special HDDs that have differences from NAS HDD Drive to desktop PCs.

At present, there are already several NAS-specific HDDs offered by HDD manufacturers, one of which is IronWolf, a product from Seagate. Indeed, physically this HDD is not different from HDD 3.5 "for desktop PCs in general. Even so, the feature set in this HDD turns out to be very different from a desktop HDD PC, and of course specifically optimized to fit the workload that is on the NAS, including one of them is 24/7 non-stop usage.

Ready to Work Non-Stop

Unlike a PC that is basically not intended for 24/7 non-stop use, the NAS is generally turned on continuously by its users. During that time, the HDD in the NAS cannot really rest, because it must be ready at any time to receive the call of duty, either in the form of reading or writing data. That is why HDD NAS manufacturers will design their products according to their existing needs, such as Seagate's guaranteed IronWolf HDD to be ready to work non-stop 24/7, 8760 hours a year.

Not only non-stop usage is a challenge for NAS HDDs, NAS itself can be said to be an environment that is not friendly to HDD. How not, in a NAS that is generally compact in size, several HDDs can simultaneously be forced to work hard, which of course makes the HDD receive a heavier load from the HDD on a desktop PC. HDDs on the NAS must face operating temperatures that can be higher than desktop PCs, and must be able to work well in the midst of vibrations caused by multiple HDDs operating together in the NAS.

RV Sensor on HDD IronWold (Blue Circle)

In order to last working in an unfriendly environment, HDD manufacturers will equip their NAS HDD with features that support high durability. For example, for IronWolf, Seagate implements Rotational Vibration (RV) Sensors that support that HDD to be able to overcome the potential danger of vibrations generated by several HDDs that work together inside the NAS. So, the HDD can still work optimally in that inhospitable environment.

In addition, HDD NAS generally also tolerates a higher operating temperature than HDD for desktop PCs. IronWolf has an operating temperature tolerance of up to 70 ° C. This figure is higher than the tolerance of HDD operating temperatures for desktop PCs, which are generally in the range of 55 ° C - 65 ° C. Without a HDD that can work in such an unfriendly environment, data loss on the NAS will be vulnerable. HDDs that are not prepared to work in an unfriendly environment may not be long-lived in the NAS. This will be very detrimental to the user in NAS HDD Drive.

Especially for the IronWolf HDD, Seagate provides it with features that allow NAS to analyze the health of the HDD. This IronWolf Health Management feature will let users know what the IronWolf HDD is like in their NAS. In fact, this feature can also help users prepare precautions before problems occur, so that data loss can be overcome.

Able to work "Multitasking"

Another thing that is a challenge for a NAS HDD is the demand to work "multitasking", in the sense that it must be ready to accept the workload of several users at once. Some read and write operations can at the same time have to be handled by the NAS, so the HDD inside must be able to handle it properly. Generally, HDD manufacturers overcome this by designing a large cache HDD, which allows the HDD to handle multitasking better. Seagate IronWolf itself is equipped with Seagate with a cache of up to 256MB to support this.

Not only is the cache large, because of its nature that can be accessed simultaneously by several users, NAS sometimes also needs to accommodate read-write operations in large amounts of data. This requires the NAS HDD to offer resistance to very high workloads. The IronWolf HDD line from Seagate is equipped with technology that allows durability of up to 180 TB per year, which makes it ready to accept "multitasking" loads from NAS HDD Drive users.

Special Optimization for Multi-Drive

As mentioned earlier, a NAS can generally accommodate more than one HDD. In order for HDDs to work properly in such multi-drive environments, NAS HDDs must also be specifically optimized. One of these optimizations is also present in support for working in a RAID configuration properly.
Seagate packs multi-drive optimization for the IronWolf HDD in a feature called AgileArray. 

In addition to supporting dual-plane balancing and better RAID, AgileArray also allows this NAS HDD to offer better power management. As a result, the NAS will be more power efficient because the HDD's performance will be adjusted to the existing load, while remaining alert to offer the best performance when high loads come. 

Seeing the data storage needs that are getting bigger and bigger, NAS HDDs must also be "adaptable" to offer capacity in accordance with what is needed. This makes HDD NAS manufacturers now offering their products in large to extra large capacity, reaching 8 TB or 10 TB per HDD. Using a HDD like this, a 2-bay NAS can offer up to 20 TB of capacity, and a 4-bay NAS can offer capacities of up to 40 TB, or 20 TB with backups (RAID 10).

Seagate IronWolf 6 TB

The Seagate IronWolf HDD comes in a variety of capacities, ranging from 1 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB, 4 TB, large capacities such as 6 TB and 7 TB, to extra large capacities such as 8 TB and 10 TB. This choice of capacity will of course make it easier for NAS users to get data storage space in accordance with what they need. Of course, this capacity will continue to be improved according to data storage needs that will continue to grow from year to year.

Seeing the various challenges that must be faced by the HDD used in the NAS, it is only natural that manufacturers prepare a special HDD that is adapted to the existing challenges. Various special features designed by looking at the challenges that exist make the HDD NAS more prepared to face the challenge when used in NAS. Therefore, NAS NAS will generally offer a combination of performance and durability in accordance with what is needed in the NAS.

Using a desktop PC HDD in a NAS is indeed not a very wrong thing, and can indeed be done. However, if NAS users want the best performance from their NAS, and feel affection with the data that will be stored on the NAS, it's good to choose to use the HDD with features that do support the use of NAS. So, yes, NAS should use a NAS HDD Drive.