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What is a "Surveillance" or "NAS" hard drive?



  A platter and head for a hard disk.
mike mols / Shutterstock

Capacity is not the only thing that distinguishes one hard drive from another. Yes, they are all rotating dishes that use magnetic storage to store data. However, some are marketed as "Surveillance" or "NAS" drives. Here are the differences:

What your PC needs from a hard drive

  A desktop PC case, monitor, keyboard and mouse on a table.
Billion Photos / Shutterstock

Before we get into the different types of hard drives, let's define what we expect from a hard drive on a regular old desktop PC.

In the era of NVMe and SATA III SSDs, we can all agree that traditional mechanical hard drives quickly become secondary storage. M.2 and 2.5-inch SSD form factors, meanwhile, are the best choices for primary boot drives, but none of this matters.

Whether you use a hard drive as your primary, secondary or tertiary storage, the basic idea is the same. PCs typically operate eight hours a day or less (excluding special uses, such as gaming or home servers). During that time, there is more or less an even flow between writing (storing new data) and reading (retrieving stored data from disk).

Just think of how we use PCs. We download files, create documents, install programs, play games and watch or listen to downloaded media. All these actions bring the hard disk into play. At night, the PC goes to sleep, hibernates or shuts down and rest the hard drive.

A hard drive built to withstand intense 24/7 activity is simply not important to the vast majority of home PCs.

What is a Surveillance Drive?

  A Western Digital Purple Surveillance Drive.
Western Digital

Surveillance drives are intended for recording video on 24/7 security systems. They usually use something called a network video recorder (NVR). Unlike a PC, these drives have to write data all the time, especially video data. A Seagate representative told us that writing accounts for about 90 percent of a surveillance station's activity.

As with PC hard drives, monitoring stations are available in 5,400 and 7,200 RPM flavors (indicating how fast the disks are spinning), as well as cache (internal memory) up to 256 MB in size.

On Amazon, you can get a premium 8 TB consumer PC running at 7,200 RPM with a 256 MB cache for about $ 225. However, a 10 TB surveillance disk with comparable performance specifications costs about $ 265.

The surveillance disk is more expensive, but that extra 2 TB of storage makes it tempting to throw in a PC at home – especially when the surveillance disk is turned on

The problem is that surveillance drives often lack the random read and write performance you expect for activities like gaming . Instead, it's all about storing data.

"WD Purple is more attuned to streaming writing… Making these disks more suitable for surveillance, allowing more simultaneous writing streams than some other disks," a Western Digital representative told us. Reading data is also part of their functionality, of course, but those speeds just aren't their focus.

What is a NAS disk?

  A Seagate IronWolf 4 TB NAS disk.
Seagate

Network-attached storage (NAS) hard drives are similarly built for 24/7 action. A NAS device is a handy box with multiple hard drives in a RAID configuration to make redundant backups of your data. A NAS often functions as a home server for commonly shared files, such as video, photos, documents, and e-books.

The problem with a NAS box is that the drives are packed very close together and are spinning like crazy. They typically work longer than PCs. This is because a NAS can back up multiple systems overnight. It can also meet the data needs of multiple people on a network at any time.

For that reason, NAS drives are built for heavy 24/7 operations. They can withstand more vibrations with multiple disks in a compact box that runs simultaneously. NAS drives are also more heat resistant because all those computer parts are active all the time.

Although it is made for various activities, there are circumstances when a NAS drive is the best choice for your PC. As the Seagate representative told us, the major advantage of a NAS drive in a PC is the higher workload. You can push more data in and out, and it is also more resistant to 24/7 use.

NAS drives are also a good choice for PCs that use a multidisk RAID configuration, similar to a NAS box. Just as a NAS has multiple drives that run like crazy, so would a desktop PC with a multidrive RAID setup.

When it comes to price, NAS drives are often cheaper, or the same price as a PC drive. For example, currently you can get a Seagate 4 TB 5.900 RPM IronWolf NAS drive for about $ 100. The Seagate 4 TB Barracuda Compute 5400 RPM hard drive cost about $ 90.

Which one should you buy?

  A Synology DiskStation NAS.
Synology

Ultimately, a hard disk is just a hard disk. . Whether you install a surveillance or NAS drive on your PC, you will likely find that it works just as well as any other.

Disc types can make a difference, but only if you use your PC in a specific way. An old PC that has been converted into a do-it-yourself security system is a good candidate for a guard ride. Gamers will typically be happier with powerful hard drives tuned to home computers.

If you have a PC that has a 24/7 workload or large RAID configurations, consider a NAS drive.


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