The main purpose of buying a NAS is having data that can be shared, protected and thus ensure business continuity. Small Businesses will benefit greatly from an investment in a NAS solution. It's seen as a barometer for growth, and not having one may mean the difference between success and failure. A NAS will provide data centrally for local users and, if required, for remote staff as well.

Let's look at a case study for a video editing company that shoots, edits and distributes the final product to its clients. In this business there are many essentials – amongst which quality, speed and the overall cost of production – allowing the business to win the deliverables. All this can boil down to basic rule of how good and quickly can we do this project – efficiency being the main objective.  So, here the quality of the shoot downloaded to a NAS and then the editing on the fly and completion is where the cost savings are made. Stored centrally this allows for multiple designers to be involved and time saving for completion. Many of the NAS solutions now support 4K video editing on the fly. All this is important as the hard disk or solid sate drives are the main components in the NAS to make this happen.

In this case study we would strongly recommend a NAS with 4K capabilities and with a combination of SSD's and HDD's and M.2. SSD's, preferably NVMe format, for caching. So, where is this all leading to you may ask? To the fact that the quality, performance and longevity of the drives we choose will be the crucial aspect of the company being competitively successful.

Hard Disk Drives

Well in this instance l would not chose any drives that are less than 7200 rpm in speed, that means the popular WD RED, Seagate IronWolf and all other NAS drives (below 7200rpm performance) would be excluded. This is when buyers tend to ignore the facts, and exercise frugality – wrong! Don't do it. Be warned, if you don't buy decent drives then face the perils of slow performance and even loss of data with consistent failures. Why invest so much in a NAS and buy sub-standard drives? That appears more suicidal to us than business sense.

So, having decided we want 7200rpm spinning drives as a minimum, we now need to ensure the MTBF (mean time to failure) rate is no lower than 1 million hours. Which mean the likes of the IronWolf PRO which has 1.2 million hours and the Enterprise EXOS from Seagate which has 2.5 million hours – wait, does this mean the IronWolf will fail much earlier? No, that is not so, this is merely a guideline, in making the correct choice for drive usage.

The other pertinent factor is that of Multi-User Optimization, which is spec'd at 300TB/year for the IronWolf Pro and 550TB/year for the EXOS Enterprise Seagate drives.

Reliability – information on this is not easily available, try forums which can be a great source, our company has a vast knowledge base on reliability.

Warranty – Only accept 5 years as a minimum, no less.

24×7 Operation – Often, drives are designed for limited usage. With the IronWolf range working around the clock this is not an issue. Mission critical data can be always-on, and accessible at all times, constantly leveraging an increase in productivity, whether on-site or remotely.

The main difference between the IronWolf Pro and the Exos enterprise drives, aside from specifications, is the ability to differentiate in the way they handle caching of data. IronWolf utilizes the write-back policy and the Exos Enterprise deploys the write-through policy.

Write-through

Using the write-through policy, data is written to the cache and the backing store location at the same time. The significance here is not the order in which it happens or whether it happens in parallel. The significance is that I/O completion is only confirmed once the data has been written to both places.

Advantage: Ensures fast retrieval while making sure the data is in the backing store and is not lost in case the cache is disrupted

Write-back

Using the write-back policy, data is written to the cache and then I/O completion is confirmed. The data is then typically also written to the backing store in the background, but the completion confirmation is not blocked on that.

Advantage: Low latency and high throughput for write-intensive applications

"QNAP has worked closely with Seagate for many years on product and technology enhancements to help create the best hard drives for NAS users."
– Meiji Chang, General Manager of QNAP

"The Seagate IronWolf series have captivated the NAS market with the EXOS drives encapsulating the Enterprise NAS and SAN arena."
– Michael Gray, NAS Product Manager of SimplyNAS

Drive specification and performance are merely guidelines and are normally used as calculators for performance ratios when attached to drive controllers within servers. So, in short, a competent system integrator will test a host of drives from different manufacturers and have results that provide performance, compatibility and, with historical use, reliability as well.

At QNAPdirect we have done exactly that and optimized the NAS and drive performance ratio to ensure customers get the best bang for their buck, without compromise. Our drive prices are competitive and carry full manufacturer warranties and are purchased via the manufacturer channels to ensure no grey products are purchased and sold with no warranty. Be safe and always buy from a reliable source.

How is this done in actual practice?

One example we can share is from our years of experience of burn-in and testing of 100% of the Configured NAS servers from QNAP.

This occurs immediately after production, before they are shipped to their new owners. We install a full set of drives, sync a RAID array, and transfer hundreds of Terabytes of data to test the functionality of the unit. The drive sets used for this activity are thus very heavily used. We switched about 5 years ago to enterprise grade drives and those drives are still working flawlessly. Thus, we are very confident in what we recommend.

If you would you like to discuss the information we've shared in this article or have any other questions we are here to help. Just give us a call at 800-666-0557 and speak to one of our technicians. We can help you put together the right data storage solution for your needs.

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