There are so many options for hard drives at the moment that it can be super confusing, slow performing or even money draining if you make uninformed decisions. Not all hard drives are created equally. Although the marketing that’s out there doesn’t always seem to help consumers figure out what’s best for them, it is getting better.

I’d like to share some information on the different lines and types of hard drives that people can purchase for use in or as their backup systems, for both direct attached storage (DAS) and network attached storage (NAS).

Before you buy

There are things to know about each kind and type of drive, so depending on your goals, what you put into your boxes might differ. As a general rule of thumb, desktop performance drives go into DAS boxes and NAS drives go into NAS boxes.

For example, if you have deep pockets and want the most performance, you could go with all high capacity solid state drives for speed if you don’t have a lot of things to store. Or, you can go all in with high capacity enterprise grade drives in your DAS for higher than average performance, reliability warranty and capacity.

For the best starter kit, get whatever drives you can afford that will hold a few more terabytes than what you currently use. I started with five 1TB drives.

For best reliability, get drives that have a great warranty and have vibration sensors.

For best performance, get desktop or enterprise grade drives, or go solid state.

Types of drives

Hard Disk Drives (HDD)

These drives generally allow you to gain more capacity for less money and depending on what kind of drive can require more power. These drives can provide modest performance for the price. Lower end drives will read around 60MB per second, whereas high end drives are upward to 280MB per second.

These hard disk drives are great if they are going to be stationary for the majority of their use, but can become a liability if they’re being toted around.

Imagine that these are like record players with the needles that move back and forth across the disk to read and write, any jolts or drops may cause that needle to damage the disk and cause corruption. 

If the drive is in use, the needle is typically parked on the side to prevent any damage to the disk while being moved or bumped.

They all have moving parts, so at some point in time, they will end up failing. Generally, these drives have warranties from anywhere between 1-5 years, depending on what kind of drive.

Solid State Drives (SSD)

These drives use a type of memory chip that stores information rather than a rotating disk. As you can imagine, they’ll cost more due to the type of technology, but they’ll be much faster.

These typically perform extremely well compared to normal hard drives, with the budget SSD’s having a huge read and write advantage. SSDs, in general, can get super speedy! PCIe NVME based SSD’s can get up to 3500MB per second for sustained reads, but most DAS and NAS devices will use the 2.5″ SATA interface instead, pushing a not-sluggish 550MB per second sustained reads.

Most of these drives are able to survive a four foot drop on cement with minimal damage and still be able to work, unlike most hard disk drives. 

While these are super fast, these are drives that I wouldn’t necessarily use solely as storage media in a NAS or DAS due to effective cost. A 4TB solid state drive costs as much as a 14TB enterprise hard drive, so to me, it isn’t worth it. If you’ve got the money, shoot, have at it!

These are great to add to DAS and NAS models that are equipped with a slot specifically for those drives, but to dedicate an entire slot in a 4-bay or a 5-bay system seems like a waste of space.

Warranties also range between 1-5 years, depending on the model.

Kinds of drives

Please note that I’m generally grouping different lines from different brands and some specs don’t exactly have direct competitors and therefore have specs that don’t compare extremely well with the others in that group — I’m looking at you, Toshiba.

Within the consumer and specialized drive categories, both HDD’s and SSD’s can be found. While all these hard drives can all be used for a purpose different from what they’re intended to provide, many won’t perform as well as one that is made specifically for that purpose.

I am omitting the popular Samsung SSD’s from the groupings, as they don’t market themselves as a DAS or NAS specialized drive, but you’ll see certain SSD’s from the various major hard drive brands listed. Feel free to use Samsung SSD’s when you can. I use them, and they’ve been wonderful as well.


Economy drives

Examples of these drives include:

These drives cost the least and have the shortest warranty periods, but make great entry level drives for those who just need to fill up their boxes. Their warranties are pretty short at two years, which one of the biggest reasons they’re in the Economy drive section.

There are Seagate Barracuda and WD Blue SSD’s as well, and these are also the entry level points for both companies in terms of performance.

This is the stepping stone drive with a great entry point and performance that gets you by. Like any Toyota Yaris.

Desktop performance drives

Examples of these drives include:

For the best speed per dollar, this would be the best choice for a DAS. They typically will be higher power with faster spindles and more cache which leads to better performance. These drives are great drives that offer more of all specs which also includes longer warranties. 

The difference is that these drives aren’t made to run 24/7 and due to their priority in performance, lack certain things like vibration reduction and can get pretty loud as they reach max rotation speed. 

Let these drives sleep when they can if you want them to last. Many of these also heat up, so if you’re running more than four bays, you’ll probably want to keep that in mind.

These drives have a 5-year warranty.

These are the bread and butter drives of most DAS boxes. Like an entry level Toyota Camry.

Specialized drives

NAS drives

Examples of these drives include:

These are tailor made and tested to be in 24/7 applications for home/small business use. There are features built into this kind of drive that help longevity and low power consumption. 

Because performance is generally capped by the physical limitations of the network, economy drives tend to saturate what the interface can do already, so higher speeds aren’t super necessary. Vibration reduction starts here, and is important as you put more and more drives next to each other.

Error recovery in these models tend to help the NAS boxes ta online and reduce failures. Noise protection is also considered in these drives and up. Helium technology is also introduced in this line of drives going up.

These drives have a 3-year warranty.

Think of these drives as drives that focus on longevity and consistency with the least power consumption. Perhaps like a Toyota Camry Hybrid.

PRO NAS drives

Examples of these include: 

Well, there isn’t much more pro than those drives that have the word PRO in them, right? These two drives are made with NAS boxes with more than eight bays in mind. These are built to support much more heavy duty workloads than the normal NAS drives can provide for a bit longer as well. These also have the vibration sensors in the drives and have a higher sustained transfer rate and will consume more power.

These drives have a 5-year warranty.

Think of these as the drives that also focus on longevity and consistency. They’ll provide better performance at the cost of a bit of power. Similar to a Toyota Avalon.

Because of the higher transfer rates and other additional features these make wonderful candidates for DAS boxes as well.

Enterprise drives

Examples of these drives include:

These are the drives that’d typically try to go for, if my wallet could help me with that. These are the drives that you should feel comfortable running 24/7 that goes all out for performance and are backed with a 5-year warranty. These are fully loaded models. They’re meant to work with an unlimited amount of drives next to each other with crazy workloads and performance with minimal power consumption.

In my NAS box, four of my eight drives are Seagate Exos X drives and the others are WD Red Pro. 

Think of these as the highest trim level car you could buy. These are like the Toyota Avalon Hybrid.

Surveillance drives

Examples of these drives include:

Well, if you come across these drives for your DAS or NAS, they’re not ones you should definitely avoid, even though they’re deemed for DVR and video surveillance use. These drives perform well. They’re meant to write a whole lot and read a little. So in theory, these work great for network backup drives that need reliability to run 24/7 and for uses where something is always writing to them.

If you get these at a price cheaper than a Desktop drive, I’d probably consider them. They have technology to run with other drives next to them and larger capacities have vibration reduction as well.

These have a 3-year warranty and aren’t a bad solution for a backup.

What works for you?

“What is best” will be quite a bit different from “what is best for you” when all is taken into consideration.

You’d know best about what you can afford and what you want to use. For instance, I had used an array of all sorts of used drives at first in my Drobo. That’s was one of the things that attracted me to using them as my first DAS. I figured that with the mix of drives, one or a few drives would eventually fail, and as they did, I started replacing them with quality drives.

Similar to my DAS situation, for a while, I had used whatever drives were cheapest for my 8-bay Drobo B810n NAS. So I had bought some surveillance drives and used some other older Western Digital Red drives. As I grew in space and upgraded drives, I eventually upgraded into Seagate EXOS X drives.

My thought behind going this route was mainly due to the warranty durations. With the surveillance drives, I had a year of extra time to not worry too much about a failure compared to a desktop performance drive. Since it was on the network, I didn’t care for raw performance, I wanted to make sure my data was being backed up.

Some of these newer boxes have SSD slots in them to help with caching and performance. If yours has one, I’d definitely take advantage of it and put a SSD in there. Whatever kind works. It’ll help out overall.

Lessons learned …

Used drives are a great bargain, if you can get them from a reputable source. If you’ve got a DAS or NAS that supports dual disk redundancy, I’d highly recommend getting used drives if you’re struggling to get some brand-new drives. I got a bunch of 4TB drives for $40, which was an absolute steal. They will fail early, but there’s a high chance that you can save a lot of money by having the ability to allow two drive failures.

Some of those $40 drives lasted four years, some lasted eight months. Still, the money saved was well worth the time they worked.

I had also had a period of time where I used to shuck external drives. Shucking is basically removing the shell and enclosure of an external drive to get the bare drive, much like shucking corn. Then you can take that drive, in many cases, and throw it into a NAS or a DAS.

Some of those Western Digital My Cloud external drives contained rebranded RED drives, so performance was pretty good and the drives were generally a lot cheaper than their retail counterparts. The downside is that you entirely void the warranty, so that’s a chance one could take. I had a brand-new 10TB My Cloud drive that I bought for on sale for $184, a wonderful price for a 10TB drive at the time, but it only lasted three months before it failed.

Try to stick with drive types that are similar. High vibration drives can often times cause issues for other drives next to them (which is why I recommend going with NAS drives even for DAS applications). Of course if you can get the same model drives, that would be best, but do what you can to get by and get drives into your box and data replicating onto it. It’s better to have a slow backup than none at all.