New kit launches signal the rise of the NAS box

EVER heard of a NAS box? Don't worry, at some point in the next 10 years you'll most likely own one.

We've reviewed Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices before, and they're quite nifty as a way of storing huge amounts of media.

So as storage prices go down, computer speeds go up and the number of gadgets you carry around grows, having a central storage location for your data makes more sense.

So while faster but smaller-capacity solid-state drives take over our laptops and phones, the traditional platter-type hard-drives that you may be used to seeing are being moved into NAS boxes where the need for speed isn't quite so high.

What that means for you is that soon you'll have all your pictures and videos stored on a box at home while your laptop, phone or tablet accesses the media from there.

Western Digital (WD) and Seagate have both re-engineered their platter hard-disks to suit the more long-term, low-intensity but high-capacity demands of network storage.

It's hard to say with a straight face that there's a huge difference between the different offerings of high-capacity hard disk, especially when for most home and SOHO (small office home office) users you'll be using the disks that come with whatever NAS box you buy.

There are, however, differences big enough that an SME might notice, or considerations that someone living with an unreliable power supply might notice.

Straight away there are considerations for people living in areas that experience severe cold in winter as neither WD nor Seagate drives are rated to operate at less than 5 degrees.

A comparison of WDs released numbers for their 4TB Red Pro released the other day against Seagate's similar offering shows the WD has an advantage in sustained ability to transfer data.

Still, the difference in speed (anywhere from 30Mb/s to only 1 Mb/s) isn't going to make a huge difference in the kind of applications for which a NAS box would be used.

The Seagate pulls ahead when it comes to power use, needing less juice for read/write, idle, and sleep states. The difference is pretty subtle.

Either you're an SME or an enterprise level client with racks filled with these things and need to keep the costs down, in which case you're not reading this. Or you need to keep your household consumption down, in which case ditch the Red Pro and the Seagate entirely and buy a batch of WD Green drives.

Still, it's worth checking out the new line-up WD released in Sydney last week.

They've re-rated their WD Red series of HDDs so that they'll support 1 to 8-bay NAS boxes instead of 1-5 (arguably a paper rating more than anything).

On top of this they've released the WD Red Pro series, targeted at professional users.

The Reds have better performance, a five-year warranty and a special help line.

One thing that came out of my discussions with WD in putting this together was that a lot of the technology coming out today, especially when it comes to media and storage, assumes a much better communications infrastructure than exists in Australia.

So while the rest of the world moves on, the full potential of this kind of technology is being lost on us because of our ancient copper network.

* The author was recently a guest of Western Digital for the Sydney launch of its Red Pro drives.