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  • Value for Money: 3.5/5
  • Performance: 4.5/5

Storage has become an increasingly hot topic in recent months. When you consider the amount gigabytes users consume on a monthly basis, it either has to be stored locally, or passed through on your local storage. These numbers increase dramatically when considering an office environment whereby multiply users require access to content, files and other documents throughout the day. It isn’t the most affordable approach to install a server of some sort as a solution, even for most businesses. So where does one store all the data required?

While there may be many other solutions available, varied by the specific requirement for each case, Western Digital has designed a NAS-specific drive for mass storage, the Red and Red Pro drives. WD provided FoS with eight 4TB Red Pro drives for review, along with the QNAP TS-853+ NAS enclosure to test the NAS and cloud storage operation.

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What is WD Red?

We’ve previously reviewed the WD Green drive, which was designed for cool and quiet performance. While I wouldn’t suggest that the WD Red drives are noisier than the Green drives, it doesn’t run as quiet. Instead, the Red drives are built and designed for NAS functions. This means that WD has installed firmware on the drives for better performance when running aside other Red drives for better efficiency, which includes the NASware 3.0 software, providing support for compatibility across many NAS enclosures, reliability, data protection, shock protection and optimum performance. The Red drives also support large-scale NAS environments up to 16 bays.

The WD Red Pro 4TB has dimensions of 26.1x147x101.6mm, and weighs just 750g. WD also offers a longer warranty period for the Red Pro drives of 5 years, alongside the premium customer support.

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The WD Red Pro 4TB model, or WD4001FFSX, has a 3.5” form factor, 64MB cache, operates at 7200rpm, and a reported 171MB/s read and write speeds. In real world testing, the results weren’t too far off the specifications, with read speeds maxed at 170MB/s and writing of 165MB/s. Interestingly, these speeds are somewhat slower than the much quieter Green drives, with read speeds in excess of 250MB/s and write speeds above 200MB/s.

Choosing the correct NAS drive for your enclosure isn’t a matter of opting for the most affordable. Instead, it is important to consider these three factors: expected workloads, and power consumption restrictions and performance requirements. Choosing just any drive could lead to damage to your drives, failure to perform optimally, losing information, amongst other failures. Also, drives are sold in allocation to the drive bay support it caters to, with some offering up to 4 bays, while more professional solutions have up to 16. Another factor is the pairing of drives, for which it much better to acquire all of the same drives, there are instances whereby opting for another branded drive with the same specs wouldn’t cause much concern.

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QNAP TS-853+ Enclosure

While not a WD product, the pairing here is seamless. The installation and usage of the TS-853+ was as easy as installing a normal HDD in your PC, but optimising the use for the different setups requires some more time and know-how. Thankfully, the included support allows even the most novice of users to proceed through the step-by-step process.

Setting up was a matter of inserting each of the eight drives into the respective bays, plugging in the power cable, and connecting to your PC. Once powered up, the solution displays itself as a network drive, whether you’ve connected wirelessly through a router, or directly to your PC via the network cable. For the more advanced users, there is the capability to change the IP address and a few other network features of your choosing, directly from the enclosure.

There are a number of different ways to interface with the TS-853+, especially when in utilised for a single-user setup in the home environment. QNAP provides a GUI, which may be access by means of root access the drive using IP address. The interface here provides a much easier method of setup for the drive, which includes firmware updates, software suites that include apps such as antivirus software. Upon first boot, the enclosure operates as a RAID 5 NAS environment, which, for the most part, works well. But, depending on your business requirement, you may wish to change to another file system and rebuild the drives. This can also be performed by means of the user interface, which even provides statistics on the drives all the while. Statistics here include drive capacities, performance cycles, and even operating temperatures.

One of the most important features of a NAS enclosure is the redundancy and backup it can provide. In layman’s terms, in a RAID 1 environment, the data is mirrored across each drive, in effect, only utilising the capacity of 4 drives, with the others used as backups. If one drive were to be pulled from the enclosure, the storage would still perform as expected. Having tested this, the TS-853+ sends a loud beep to grab your attention, with the error being reported on the mini-LCD screen. Using the GUI you’re able to determine exactly what went wrong and how to proceed to rectify it. Replacing the drive means a rebuild of sorts, which may take more than an hour (or 5) to complete, but at the same time still operates, where possible, as it did previously.

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The Western Digital Red Pro 4TB drives have been designed for NAS environments, so users shouldn’t expect high read/write speeds as with standard drives. At the same time, the reliability and optimisation is what makes the Red Pro stand out. While we’re unable to test reliability within a short review period, the 5-year warrantee should be sufficient to appease the hardest detractor.

The QNAP TS-853+ is a handy inclusion alongside the Red Pro drives, offering a host of features, and ease of use. Before I started the install and use of the enclosure, I had set aside some time to go through the process. I had not accounted for the ease of setup and use of the unit, which took me less than 20 minutes to complete, with most of the time spent cutting the drives from their packaging.

The NAS drive isn’t an affordable option for most home environments, but makes sense in a small to medium enterprise. And this is where the Red Pro and QNAP units shine. At no point in time was it difficult to access, or perform administrative duties such as changing settings or installing software to support the network requirement. The use of these two units in conjunction is definitely recommended for your business.

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