NAS, or Network-Attached Storage is a file level computer data storage server within heterogeneous computer networks.
This refers to computing systems that use more than one type of processor or core, assimilating various attributes of often dissimilar processors in order to gain improved performance or energy efficiency.
NAS: How It Works
This works by having specific components working towards specific tasks, compartmentalizing the functions of the computer system, and meaning only necessary parts are working at any one time.
As such, these are often purpose built specialized computers, generally employed for centralized storage within large corporations, where they store large amounts of important data, which often need to be accessed quickly, stored for many years, and protected from leaks, errors, and corruptions.
They are also often more expensive than desktop hard drives (even of the same storage size), as NAS drives are specifically designed to handle damage, including heat resistance, vibration resistance, and allowing repeated reading and writing of its data for numerous weeks.
However, there is a growing importance and need for NAS hard drives in the consumer sector, mostly due to the emergence of multimedia data, although they are smaller than their industrial counterparts.
NAS Drives: Desired Attributes
First and foremost, NAS drives require near continuous use, meaning that heat and vibrations need to be taken care of to ensure efficiency for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
This is due to the nature of the industries they are used for, more specifically using RAID technology (or Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks), customized systems of data storage used to protect important systems against common errors and malfunctions that occur through frequent use.
The four main areas that should be considered when acquiring NAS drives should be: MTBF (or Mean Time Between Failures), workload, load/unload cycles, and unrecoverable read errors.
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)
This directly refers to the average working time between multiple adjacent failures.
For example, if three systems began working at the same time, and the first malfunctioned after 100 hundred hours, the second after 120 hours, and the third after 150 hours, then the average of the three would be a MTBF of 116.667 hours.
Then, if the systems were non-repairable, then their MTBF would be 116.667 hours.
If the particular drive reads and writes below a certain amount of data per year, then the device will have a low failure rate, because it is not doing too much too quickly.
Likewise, a device with a higher workload has a higher risk of failure due to overworking.
This refers to the amount of times the head parks in and out of the hard drive it is running.
Whilst this isn’t so much related to the functionality of the HDD, it does indicate the lifespan of the device, i.e. the more moves, the shorter the lifespan.
Unrecoverable Read Errors
Unrecoverable Read Errors (or UREs) are statistical rates that report to what degree the payload data, plus the FEC data (Forward Error Correction) was not good enough to reconstruct the originally stored data.
When data fails to be reconstructed fully, data blocks will be lost.
Higher quality RAID systems (RAID 6 or higher) can withstand more UREs, but these figures are still important for evaluating how stable the hard disk is.
On the current market, the Seagate Ironwolf and the WD RED are two prominent players, each with their own impressive capabilities, strengths and weaknesses.
But first, let’s learn a little more information about each company and their products.
The Seagate Technology Holdings Plc. is an American data storage company, starting life as the Shugart Technology and Commercial Business in 1979.
Based in Dublin, Ireland (their legal domicile) since 2010, and with operational headquarters in Fremont, California, Seagate has remained dominant in the HDD (Hard Disk Drive) industry by acquiring competitors, assimilating their business practices, contacts, and technology bases.
WD, or Western Digital (Western Digital Corporation), is an American hard disk drive manufacturing and data storage company, based in San Jose, California.
Founded in 1970 as General Digital, by Alvin B. Phillips, a former Motorola employee, their main business model was the manufacturing of calculator chips, moving onto hard disk controllers in the early 1980s, and hard drives since the early 1990s.
In the contemporary market, WD designs, manufactures, and sells data technology products, which include storage devices, data center systems, and storage services for the cloud.
Seagate Ironwolf Vs WD RED
The Ironwolf is more visually striking, with its green, black, and red coloring, and with the trademark wolf head logo emblazoned upon it. However, it weighs slightly more, coming in at 1.34 pounds.
The RED has the trademark hexagon design, with a simple black and red motif that remains attractive. It also weighs marginally less than the Ironwolf, coming in at 1.30 pounds in total.
Despite their very slight weight difference, it is not enough to differentiate them, and whilst the superficial look of them isn’t important, the Ironwolf does appear more striking on the shelf.
RPM (Revolutions Per Minute)
Revolutions per minute relates to the rotation speed of the hard drives, counted by how many rotations the device can complete in one minute.
Higher rates of RPM are usually better, although they use more power overall. However, this isn’t an issue for desktops or custom built computing devices.
A higher rate of RPM often makes tasks seem faster and more streamlined, but they do generate more heat, meaning the machine needs to work harder, along with the cooling elements within.
A slower rotation speed means that files cannot be transferred as quickly, and tasks generally seem slower overall.
Whilst both possess what is considered to be average RPMs, the Ironwolf is in the lead with 5,900RPM to 5,400RPM.
The Cache relates directly to the speed at which you can transfer data. This is because data is temporarily stored in the cache during the transfer process.
The WD RED is miles ahead of the Ironwolf in this category, boasting an impressive 256MB to the Ironwolf’s meager 64MB.
Software tends to be a personal preference on the part of the consumer, and so the software portion of this competition is perhaps unfair, as they both do different things.
The Ironwolf comes with Ironwolf Health, which monitors the overall health of the system, automatically displaying prevention and intervention options as the threats appear.
This also provides lasting resistance to vibrations within the system.
The RED on the other hand comes with NASware 3.0, which increases cross device compatibility (such as with televisions etc.).
This is important for successful integration with existing networks, something that is important for corporate or industrial sectors where efficiency is important.
This system is also good for reducing noise and vibration, as well as postponing the overall degradation of the hardware.
Cost (And Worth)
Whilst most NAS hard drives are pricey, some are cheaper than others.
Whilst both the Ironwolf and the RED provide 3 years warranty as part of the purchase, the Ironwolf is indeed cheaper, and by a substantial amount at that.
This is of course reliant on your needs, your budget and what you want from a system. But speaking purely on face value, the winner is clear.
Pros And Cons
- Very quiet and protected against vibrations (thanks to the Ironwolf Health).
- Ironwolf Health provides plenty of diagnostic information during use.
- Cheaper price tag.
- Higher RPM.
- 3 years warranty.
- Heavier (albeit marginally).
- Surprisingly low cache (64 MB).
- Gets hotter, due to (amongst other things) the higher RPM.
- Uses more power.
- Large cache – quicker/more responsive performance.
- Quiet, vibration proof, and longer shelf life.
- 3 years warranty.
- Lighter design.
- Easier to install.
- Better integration and inter-device connectivity.
- Remains cooler and uses less power.
- More expensive.
- Lower RPM.
- No screws or clips provided.
- The RED has more sizes available (in terabytes), ranging from .48TB to 18TB, whereas the Ironwolf offers 1,2,3,4,6,8,10,12, and 14, meaning that not only can the RED be more finely tuned to your needs, but it has the higher achievable storage capacity.
- The WD RED uses a SATA 6.0 GB/s Interface (making it suitable for small to medium sized businesses), whereas the Ironwolf uses 8 Bay NAS environments, making it more suitable for multi-user NAS environments.
- The WD RED doesn’t have a data recovery system in place, meaning that lost files and data blocks could be more detrimental.
- The Seagate AgileArray firmware provides better RAID array and error correction.
As you can see, the competition isn’t so clear cut, but hopefully this article goes some way to laying out all the information.
With both devices offering something different, and both of them excelling where the other fails, the decision really comes down to personal needs, namely what you want from an NAS drive.
At the end of the day, the most important things are to assess your needs, ascertaining exactly what it is you want, and which device can provide the best service for those requirements.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to do your research, and only purchase from registered sellers who know what they are talking about, as they can offer useful advice to influence your decision.
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