Not all drives should be used as NAS drives.
Anyone who has spent some time in the world of domestic and SMB NAS devices should know by now that not all hard drives are created equal and that simply chucking your old spare drives into a new NAS will likely cause issues. Those issues include weird-and-distracting noises resonating throughout the device, vibrations resonating through the hardware (which can decrease the lifespan of all the drives) and subsequent data integrity issues. All of this affects reliability. To this end, many drives are nowadays being designed with the primary focus being on NAS performance rather than PC performance. One such line is Seagate’s IronWolf Pro range. Here we review the latest, 18TB version.
6Gb/s SATA, 7200rpm spindle speed, 3.5-inch mechanical hard drive, 256MB cache, 1.2 million hours MTBF. 3yrs Data Rescue service.
Though the IronWolf Pro drives are designed for reliability, we started by connecting it to our PC to run the industry-standard CrystalDiskMark to test it. The incredible increase in data density has boosted speed considerably over the years. While our old 8TB Seagate drive scored Read and Write speeds of 144MB/s and 133 MB/s respectively, the 18TB Ironwolf Pro drive scored 280MB/s read and 281MB/s write! Of course, this is largely irrelevant when it comes to NAS drives as the network connection to them will usually act as a bottleneck.
It’s worth noting that Windows formatted the drive to 16.3TB.
In a rather unscientific test, we took our Synology DiskStation 1019+ NAS, with three aging drives inside it, and measured the annoying sound it made. Our highly scientific sound measuring device (an Android phone) clocked it fluctuating between 40dB and 60dB. After replacing these drives with two 18TB IronWolf Pros, it purred along at a constant, barely-noticeable 40dB. While we could still hear the odd pop and whirr (more so when the device was under load), it was not intrusive in a quiet room.
Many of the key features of a NAS-oriented hard drive aren’t initially obvious. One of Seagate’s main features is called Agilearray. This technology “makes use of rotational-vibration sensors [under high workloads] to reduce vibration in multi-bay enclosures to maintain fast and smooth data transfers.” There’s also built-in error recovery control plus advanced power management which suits NAS applications - providing fast response time and low power consumption.
IronWolf Health Management technology works with ‘popular’ NAS systems to, “Prevent external disturbances from affecting the NAS or drive health and proactively intervene to backup your data when the system [registers an issue]."
The IronWolf Pro drives also come with an impressive three-years’ "Rescue and recovery services" which can help recover data should catastrophic failure occur.
At $900 for 18TB, this IroNWolf Pro works out at $50 per Terabyte. While the range starts at 2TB, it's more comparable to the other large drives in its range (the 16TB and 14TB models) which also come in at $50 per Terabyte. While you should get better value for more outlay, in reality, local price fluctuations for any of these models can tip the value balance in any direction.
This 18TB IronWolf Pro drive likely represents the top end of the current-generation hard drive capacity limit which is defined by Conventional Magnetic Recording - CMR technology. The next-gen models will boost beyond 24TB using energy-assisted magnetic recording (using heat or microwaves) called HAMR and MAMR. For now though, few people will be bemoaning a lack of capacity with this 18TB drive which is big, fast, quiet and comes with data security features that are both preventative and necromantic.