October 26, 2021

Choosing a hard drive for storage

Whether you’re putting together a new server or your current one is running out of hard drive space, there comes a head scratching moment. How much do I want to spend? How much space do I need? Do I want RAID? SSD or mechanical? While ultimately these are all questions you need to answer for yourself, hopefully this post guides you in the right direction.

How much space?

The first thing we want to figure out is how much storage we need, both currently and in the near future. You don’t want to be buying new drives every year. Don’t ask how I know. You want to future proof yourself a bit, buy as much as you can afford unless you know your storage needs won’t change. Think about how you will be using it: Are you backing up other machines to these drives? Media storage? Photos? Videos? These can all be calculated. Of course make sure to overestimate and project future growth of those things.

Speed

This will depend on a few things. How you’re utilizing the storage, how much noise you’re willing to live with, how much you want to spend on electricity, and how much heat will be an issue. Personally I get by with 5400RPM drives, you may not. If you’re using the drives for backups and serving media you may also get away with 5400RPM drives, depending how many concurrent users you will have. If you want to edit videos directly from your network storage then 5400RPM drives will not be suitable… you’re probably going to have to look into 10K/15K SAS drives or SSD. You’re going to need deeper pockets if that’s the case.

NAS vs “Regular”

Whether to buy NAS drives or consumer grade drives will depend on how much dependability you need. While consumer drives could last just as long as their NAS counterparts, the NAS drives are built with 24/7/365 operation in mind. NAS drives also come with longer warranties and some even offer data recovery services as part of your purchase. NAS drives are built “better” to last longer, so while a consumer drive may last as long as one, chances are the NAS drives will outwork the consumer grade stuff in the grand scheme of things. This may or may not be important for you.

Price

Generally you will find non NAS rated drives to be cheaper. Also, the slower the drives get the less money you will be paying for them, which is why the points above are important considerations. Occasionally you will encounter NAS drives on sale and cheaper than the consumer stuff, in which case I would opt for the pro level stuff.

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