Storage improvements that cost less

So you bought your NAS a few years ago and it is starting to look a little full. Perhaps it’s not quite as fast as it used to be due to its constant use or maybe newer and faster network trends are beginning to make your Network Attached Storage look a little antiquated. All electrical devices have a shelf life – the old adage “they don’t make em like they used to’ doesn’t just apply to tables and chairs! Most electronics these days are made with a lifespan in the single figures and for many of us, although 2015 and 2016 seem like only yesterday (Brexit, Trump, La La Land accidentally getting that Oscar) there is no escaping that time passes and your technology becomes a central nervous system of our lives.

Fear not – just because your NAS isn’t shiny and new any more doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to help it back on track without shelling out lots of money. Today we want to discuss upgrading your storage, as opposed to replacing it completely. It works out cheaper (several times cheaper in many cases) and NEVER at the risk of voiding your warranty. So have a look below at the many ways in which you can increase your NAS environment on a budget!

1. Upgrade your Firmware

Firmware for your NAS
Probably the most straight forward upgrade but always should be a consideration, namely, Upgrade your firmware. It may seem obvious but is often overlooked and a simple update of the software on your storage device or even in some cases the drives themselves. Like any system upgrade it has its own advantages and disadvantages and should be weighed up carefully beforehand, as some updates are irreversible.

Pros

Cons

Software from some manufacturers updates regularly and alongside performance tweaks, fixes and patches will also provide updated utilities and apps for the device to perform many tasks more efficiently

 

Some Hard Drive firmware actually improves the performance of Drive operations (WD Red NASware 3.0 is a prime example)

Hard Drive Firmware is mostly done at the factory level and can be difficult or impossible to implement locally

 

Always be sure to check patch/update notes for any firmware update prior to installation in case they are incompatible with your existing setup outside the enclosure – requiring difficult and occasionally impossible downgrading.

Some enclosures will require the Hard Drives inside to be formatted alongside with the new firmware for system stability

2. Change your RAID level to gain additional Capacity, Performance, and Redundancy

Often the simple act of changing your RAID level will give you increased storage, increased transmission speeds and at ZERO additional cost. RAID options that are available across the majority of Network Attached Storage devices are as follows:

Areca SAS RAID Controller ARC-1216-4x SAS/SATA 12gbit 4-Port;  One x4 External SFF8644, PCI-Express-x8 v3.0;  RAID-0/1/5/6 HPE ProLiant Gen9 Smart Array 726897-B21 P840/4G SAS-12Gb RAID Controller - PCI-Express-v3 x8,  2xM8 - RAID 0/1/5/6 - 4GB FBWC Broadcom MegaRAID SAS/SATA Controller MRSAS9361-24I  05-50022-00 SAS/SATA 12gbit 24-Port;  Six x4 Internal SFF8643;  PCI-Express-v3.0-x8;  RAID-0/1/5/6; 4GB Cache
Areca ARC-1216-4x HPE Proliant 726897-B21 Broadcom MegaRaid MRSAS9361-24I
£420.00 £176.00 £698.00


Setting up a RAID on your NAS

JBOD – all drives are lost and singular – no combination and joining

RAID 0 – Creates a giant drive combining all available capacity as well as improving Read and Write Speeds. However, there is no redundancy

RAID 1 – Constantly creates a clone of the contents of one disc onto the other and increases Read and Write Speeds as well as providing total Redundancy. However, it halves your capacity

RAID 5 – Needs at least 3 Disks, you effectively lose 1 disk of capacity, which acts as redundancy. Read speeds are faster however write speed is decreased due to background calculations

RAID 6 – Needs at least 4 Disks, you effectively lose 2 disks of capacity, which acts as redundancy. Like RAID 5, Read speeds are faster however write speed is decreased due to background calculations

Use a RAID card to Setup up RAID 5 RAID 6 and RAID 10
 RAID 10 (aka RAID 1+0) – 
Needs at least 4 Disks, pairs the discs up and mirrors between them (like RAID 1) and provides much faster rebuilds in the event of a drive failure. However, you lose a total of Half the available capacity to keep a sufficient clone of the data (eg 4x 4TB drives would result in 8TB of available storage) so it is an expensive choice.

Pros Cons
It can free up storage that till that point was occupied by redundancy (eg, switching from RAID 1/MIRROR to a RAID 5)

 

It can speed up your Read and Write operations

Costs nothing to change and most enclosures support multiple RAID levels

You need to duplicate your data outside your existing Digital Storage setup whilst the Hard Drives are re-configured

 

Limited by Drive #s – eg, you cannot RAID 5 with just 2 HDDs

Some RAID levels can decrease your overall available Capacity, Read/Write speed or Redundancy, so choose carefully

3. In the case of NAS or DAS – Upgrade your RAM where applicable


QNAP Small RAM
Not one for ALL NAS devices, but where possible a simple increase on the memory of your NAS device can lead to substantial performance increases – and generally starting at around £20-30. Always check your model and it’s limits through before proceeding.

Synology DDR3L RAM RAM1600DDR3L-8GBX2 2x 8GB SODIMM Memory for 17+/19+ range - see list 16GB Qnap U-DIMM RAM RAM-8GDR4A0-UD-2400 8GB DDR4-2400 (for x73U, x77) 8GB Qnap SO-DIMM RAM RAM-8GDR4K1-SO-2400 8GB DDR4-2400 (for x73, x32X, x82ST, x51X) 8GB
Synology 16GB Qnap U-DIMM 8GB Qnap 8GB
£219.00 £134.00 £145.00

 

Pros Cons
Cost-effective way to increase process speeds as well as read and write operations

 

Dependant on your model, some memory can be expanded to 16GB

The fastest way to upgrade your enclosure and with the most instantaneous result.

Limited by the manufacturer – some units do not give you the ability to upgrade and actually prevent removal of the original RAM stick

 

Some manufacturers insist on their own branded sticks of RAM to be used, declaring alternatives from the likes of Corsair and Kingston as incompatible

4. Utilize USB or eSATA ports to add additional storage and backup options

Ever heard of the expression “think outside the box”? Well, it isn’t just for 90’s yuppies and horrific business types, it is also a great rule of thumb for those looking for increased storage options. Those external ports on your NAS aren’t just for show. They can act as an invaluable additional and portable source on increased capacities. And with External drives from the likes of WD, Seagate and LaCie at very affordable prices at SPAN.COM, it can add a year or two to your NAS servers life span at around £30-40 a Terabyte!

Seagate Expansion Desktop Drive STEB8000402 USB 3.0 8TB LaCie 2big RAID USB 3.1 STHJ16000800 Dual HD, RAID 16TB WD Elements Desktop WDBWLG0140HBK-EESN USB3 Desktop 14TB
Seagate-Expansion LaCie-2big WD-Elements-Desktop
£134.00 £538.00 £277.00

 

Pros Cons
No additional Power required with USB Expansions

 

Cost-effective and also means you have a  portable backup in hand

Almost any USB/Esata drive will work so you can add Terabytes of data at a low, low price

 

 

You are limited with regard to the operations that can be conducted remotely with the drive – aside from Direct Actioned Reading and Writing of files, the drive cannot be used operationally

 

Some enclosures will only let you use the additional USB and eSATA slots as a form of image backup (such as Apple Time Machine), so be sure to check with your manufacturer before proceeding

5. Upgrading the Hard Drives to larger capacities

Upgrade your NAS with Bigger Hard Drivesor SSD
 Ok, so you thought ‘outside the box’, let’s look at the biggest one – thinking inside! Increasing your Hard drives (and often with a combination of changing your RAID level accordingly) can by one of the best ways to increase your performance. Not just capacity but also in read and write speeds. Hard drives over the last few years have really evolved and you can get more task-specific drives such as the WD Red series of NAS task Hard drives or the WD Purple Surveillance 24×7 drives. Often the result is that drives, even of the identical capability to those you populated your NAS with previous, operate far, FAR better.

Western Digital WD Red WD40EFAX 3.5 Toshiba N300 (NAS Reliability) Bare HDWQ140UZSVA 3.5 Seagate IronWolf (NAS) ST4000VN008 3.5
WD RED 4TB Toshiba N300 4TB Seagate Ironwolf
£91.00 £106.00 £88.00
Western Digital WD Red WD140EFFX 3.5 Toshiba N300 (NAS Reliability) Bare HDWG21EUZSVA 3.5 Seagate IronWolf (NAS) ST14000VN0008 3.5
WD RED 14TB Toshiba N300 14TB Seagate Ironwolf 14TB
£389.00 £457.00 £338.00

 

Pros Cons
Prices for capacities are always going down as newer and newer drives are released. So you will most likely be able to buy even the capacity of the drives you previously had at half the cost

 

Replacing the old drives will give you the option of selling them  to recoup lost budget or to install in a lower sec enclosure and use as a backup

Rather than invest in higher capacity drives, you can invest in faster or drives that are tailored to your storage environment (eg NAS or Data Center). Again, prices will have gone down since you bought your original drives

You will need an additional temporary storage option to clone/copy your data to whilst installing the new drives.

 

You will need to rebuild your RAID which can take (with larger capacities and multiple drives) 12-24hours depending on hardware

Some technical Hardware Knowledge maybe required in the purchasing, installation and integration of the drives

 

6. Upgrade your NAS to Solid State Drives (SSD)

installing SSDs in a NAS
 Though it isn’t the cheapest upgrade, making the jump to Solid State Drives (SSD) is the one that will give you a truly breathtaking jump in performance. However, as upgrades go, it is often cheaper to replace your entire setup so maybe do the maths a little before going down this route.

Samsung SSD 970 EVO PLUS MZ-V7S250BW M.2 2280 NVMe 250GB SSD Seagate Barracuda 120 SSD ZA2000CM1A003 2.5 Samsung SSD PM1735 OEM MZPLJ1T6HBJR-00007 PCI-Express-v4-x4 HHHL 1.6TB SSD
Samsung-SSD-970-EVO-PLUS Seagate-Barracuda Samsung-SSD-PM1735
£62.00 £207.00 £617.00

 

Pros Cons
Unquestionably faster, both in terms or Read and write, as well as in general preparations

 

Longer warranties are available on a lot of SSDs (eg Samsung Red Pro Drive arrive with a 10 Year warranty, compared to the  traditional 2-5years on most HDDs)

Lower temperatures, energy consumption and noise whilst in use

Unarguable more expensive gigabyte for gigabyte compared to traditional Hard Drives. Worth comparing costs again replacing your enclosure instead

Some SSDs have RAID issues and the manufacturer will tell you if there are issues of creating an array with multiple units

Some older Enclosures are not SSD compatible – though all are SATA or mSATA, the enclosure may not interface correctly with them and may  limit the speed significantly or not register them at all

7. Expand your NAS storage – add an expansion where possible


The Synology Expansion DX513 to inscrease capacity on my NAS
Running out of room and too scared to touch your hard drives or delete some files? Easy – EXPAND! Many NAS vendors such as Synology NAS and QNAP NAS offer you with the choice of adding an entirely new expansion device filled with New hard drives. The result is no interruption with your existing network, file structure or destinations and a huge increase in additional storage. Definitely one for the small to large business users – not forgetting you keen Synology DS716+ users!

Qnap Desktop JBOD TR-004 4-Bay, 3.5 Synology NAS Expansion DX517 5-Bay, For compatible DiskStation models (x17 and newer) Qnap Desktop JBOD TR-002 2-Bay, 3.5
Qnap-Desktop-JBOD-TR-004 Synology-NAS-Expansion-DX517 Qnap-Desktop-JBOD-TR-002
£179.00 £390.00 £134.00

 

Pros Cons
Normally half or less of the price a full enclosure

 

Raid levels can be spread across the Original enclosure and the expansion, bolstering redundancy as well as read and write.

Also the ability to split the raid levels apart, maintaining Capacity

Many expansions feature their own CPU and RAM so they will not drain on the original enclosures system resources

You will need to purchase additional drives to go inside the expansion enclosure – can work more expensive than just upgrading the original hard drives

 

Some enclosures cannot be expanded or older boxes are not compatible with newer expansions, check with your manufacturer before you proceed

Additional power consumption, as well as noise from fans is a possibility

8. Upgrade your enclosure but keep your drives


Swap the Drives from your old NAS to the new QNAP TS-853A-4G to save money
Another often overlooked choice – upgrading your NAS doesn’t mean you need to throw those Hard Drives away. Given that the lion share of Hard Drives these days are SATA, the result is that you can carry your drives over to a new unit and often save a bundle! Take care though to ensure your data is suitable backup up before committing this step though.

Qnap Desktop NAS TVS-873e-16G 8-Bay RAID (16GB RAM) Asustor Lockerstor 8 NAS AS6508T-16GC 8x 3.5 Synology DiskStation NAS DS1819+ (16GB) 8-Bay, 4x 1GbE, PCIe (16GB non-Synology RAM Kit)
Qnap-Desktop-NAS-TVS-873e Asustor-Lockerstor-8-NAS-AS6508T Synology-DiskStation-NAS-DS1819+
£1,181.00 £885.00 £831.00

 

Pros Cons
The newer box will be compatible with your older drives (unless its IDE)

 

You can fill your older enclosure will a compliment of older, smaller drives and use as an efficient backup

Replacing the Enclosure often works out more cost-efficient than replacing drives

Your Drives (from the previous enclosure) will normally have a shorter warranty than the Enclosure, so you leave yourself open to not being covered in the event of drive failure

 

Once again, You will need an additional temporary storage option to clone/copy your data to whilst installing the old drives in the new enclosure.

So there you have it. There are so many ways to upgrade and improve your NAS system without breaking the bank! Have I missed something or perhaps you disagree with me? Why not let me know below.

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