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WD Red Pro vs Seagate Ironwolf Pro vs Synology HAT5300 Hard Drives – Which Should You Buy in 2022/2023?

6 juillet 2022 à 01:02

Seagate Ironwolf or WD Red or Synology HAT5300 HDDs – Best for your NAS?

Choosing the right hard drive media to go inside your Network Attached Storage (NAS) server can be a lot more complicated than you might think. A long time ago (about 20 years at least) buying hard drives was much easier, as the technology was significantly less evolved. The difference between one hard drive and another could be the capacity, physical, size or the interface – that is about it! But much like any other kind of technology, over time hardware designers were able to improve it, make it more efficient, increase the storage, speed up the access and all the while sticking with the same 3.5″ physical scale. The result of all this development was that tailored/designed drives arrived that were geared internally towards specific tasks (thereby allowing designers to focus the HDDs development towards one specialization more than others). Fast forward to 2022/2023 and you find that the HDD market is considerably more diverse and brands have much more layered portfolios of drives and one big, BIG area of hard disk development was with NAS/Server HDD media. These are drives that are designed to be on 24×7, be prepared to spin up very quickly with little notice, be better suited to being deployed in larger quantities together (i.e RAID configurations made up of many drives) and all the while combating vibration and increased temperatures to maintain a healthy and stable level of use at all times. Today I want to look at three hard drives that are designed for large-scale NAS deployment (such as 8-24-bay rackmount and 8-12+ bays desktop NAS systems), as all three are the current popular choice for this kind of NAS system. There are the long-established HDD vendor drives, the WD Red Pro series and Seagate Ironwolf Pro range, and there is the NAS-brand labelled Synology HAT5300 series (built on Toshiba MG06/06/08 Enterprise series, but with Synology firmware in services included). With a new generation of NAS Hardware arriving from Synology in 2022/2023, as well as a change in support and compatibility listings by the brand in several of their releases, now is a very good time to take a look at how these three NAS HDDs compare in design, utility, performance and value. With WD and Seagate having a considerable amount of history in their Red Pro and Ironwolf Pro ranges respectively in the NAS industry, many users are still unsure about the Synology HAT5300 and whether they should make the switch, design its shift in architecture towards a more enterprise build (arguable closer to Ultrastar and Seagate EXOs, than Red or Ironwolf). Let’s take a closer look at these three drives and hopefully help you decide which one deserves your data!

WD Red Pro vs Seagate Ironwolf Pro vs Synology HAT5300 – Capacity

Let’s be honest, next to ‘price’, the overall capacity of a hard drive is going to be of importance to the majority of NAS buyers. Yes, you can take advantage of RAID and multi-bay NAS systems in order to bolster the available capacity available to you (as well as the redundancy and performance of course), but you are still going to need to factor in the capacity on offer. The Synology HAT5300, WD Red Pro and Seagate Ironwolf Pro series all arrive in multiple capacity versions (with prices scaling appropriately of course) and you will find that as the drives increase in capacity, their internal hardware and design get decidedly beefier. That said, it would be remiss not to highlight that Synology and their HAT5300 (and HAS5300 SAS drives, which we will not really factor in this comparison) have not been in the market as long as WD/Seagate and although they have made a solid start in presenting a portfolio of HDD and SSD drives, the range of capacities on offer from the HA5300 range is pretty sparse. Just to give you a little perspective on this, here is how the three HDDs compare in available drives on offer:

Capacity Synology HAT5300

WD Red Pro

Seagate Ironwolf Pro

1TB
2TB
 ✔ ✔
4TB ✔  ✔ ✔
6TB  ✔ ✔
8TB ✔  ✔ ✔
10TB  ✔ ✔
12TB ✔  ✔ ✔
14TB  ✔ ✔
16TB ✔  ✔ ✔
18TB  ✔ ✔
20TB  ✔ ✔
22TB  ✔ (Revealed but release TBC) ✔ (Revealed but release TBC)

As you can see, the WD Red Pro and Seagate Ironwolf Pro drives current provide 10 different capacities from 2TB to 20TB for PRO NAS deployment (with the 22TB versions of their respective ranges announced and arriving soon). This does not include the non-pro versions of these series (won’t touch on these further, but worth highlighting) and with that, a NAS Buyer can scale their budget quite well across multiple bays and their budget. For example, a user could opt for 4x 10TBs in a RAID 5 and get 30TB of usable space, or instead opt for 8x 6TB drives in a RAID 6 and get 36TB – this allows a buyer to spend more of their budget towards the NAS hardware than the drive media, or visa-versa. Now, Synology only currently provide 4 different capacities (with the 4TB drive being added in mid-2022) and although it makes sense that the brand would want to develop in this area in a wave-by-wave release strategy (continuing to invest and develop as the series is embraced), for many the lack of smaller capacities AND the lack of the 18TB and 20TB tier is a little problematic. Toshiba recently unveiled their MG09 18TB Enterprise HDD and in a recent roadmap reveal, plans for 20TB and 22TB HDDs in the next 12 months, but right now it is impossible to ignore that in terms of available capacities, the WD Red Pro and Seagate Ironwolf Pro and considerably more fleshed out in their respective ranges.

WD Red Pro vs Seagate Ironwolf Pro vs Synology HAT5300 – Price

Alongside capacity, the price tag that the Synology HAT5300, WD Red Pro and Seagate Ironwolf Pro hard drives arrive with is going to be a big continuing factor on which one populates your large-scale NAS server. Although all three brands have their RRPs stated on their respective product pages, there have been several factors in the last 12-24 months (the pandemic, the rise and decline of chia crypto, semiconductor shortages, droughts in Taiwan, trade wars, actual wars and more) than have led to supply levels of large scale HDDs to be significantly reduced. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in the price points for these hard disks to significantly increase (often a noticeable degree above the original RRP). As each HDD capacity in the WD, Seagate and Synology series’ have their own price based on the internal hardware to support that much data, comparing their price is a little tricky. Additionally, prices and availability differ quite wildly between countries, as stock levels and the ease of the supply chain are being affected differently by the factors mentioned earlier related to shortages. So, below I have listed the prices of each brand’s drives. Note – these prices are calculated at how much per Terabyte (TB) and in order to keep it fair, I have picked the newest/largest drive from each brand as the price average (as smaller drives have a typically less accurate series-wide price per TB overall). I picked Newegg, SCAN and Amazon.de for the prices, as they had pricing AND stock of all drive capacities on all brands in stock at the time of writing for each region and therefore gave a more accurate market pricing for comparison (14/06/22 – date of writing):

Region / eShop Synology HAT5300

WD Red Pro

Seagate Ironwolf Pro

Newegg (US) – avg price per TB $39 per TB $26 per TB $25.45 per TB
SCAN (UK) – avg price per TB £38 per TB £31.90 per TB £27.20 per TB
Amazon (DE) – avg price per TB €46.81 per TB €38.90 per TB €31.45 per TB

The price of the Seagate Ironwolf Pro series is noticeably lower than both the WD Red Pro and Synology HAT5300 (especially in Germany and other parts of Europe) and although these prices are an average based on the largest current available drive from each brand, if you look at the lower capacities you will find that this average price per TB is still pretty accurate throughout. The WD Red Pro is reasonably proved and on offer periodically (not quite as often as the Seagate admittedly) and in the US is much more competitively priced. The Synology HAT5300 series however is consistently the highest price of the three. Now, it needs to be factored in that the design and durability of the HAT5300 (as mentioned earlier) are much more comparable to that of the Seagate EXOs and WD Ultrastar series of HDDs for data centers, which no doubt affects the price. Equally, unlike Seagate and WD who produce their HDDs internally, the Synology HAT5300 is built on Toshiba MG06/MG07/MG08 and no doubt that results in Synology having to factor in an additional profit margin into their production and sale. We WILL be shortly discussing how this more enterprise design AND the Synology NAS universal selling points benefit this drive over the WD Red Pro and Seagate Ironwolf Pro drives, but when it comes to price point, it definitely goes Seagate 1st, WD 2nd and Synology in 3rd.

WD Red Pro vs Seagate Ironwolf Pro vs Synology HAT5300 – Hardware

As mentioned in the introduction, NAS hard drives are the result of HDD development improving over the years and then splintering into multiple specialised storage deployments (eg surveillance needing heavy write, cold storage needing endurance, laptops needing low power use and NAS servers needing 24×7 use). The Synology HAT5300, WD Red Pro and Seagate Ironwolf Pro drives are all very, VERY much designed with heavy-duty NAS deployment in mind and although you CAN use them in smaller systems and even desktop PCs, it would be a tremendous waste of their utility and design (like using a chainsaw to cut a slice of bread). Now all three branded drives have specialised internal hardware/firmware that maintains the drive in particularly vigorous and large-scale deployments (all the way up to 24 bays and higher), so I won’t really be giving any one brand an advantage for vibration, temperature, balance or spin up/spin down utility – all three of the Synology HAT5300, WD Red Pro and Seagate Ironwolf Pro have their own specialized components inside for this that it would be extremely difficult to compare one way or another here. The fact they have them is good enough for me. However, this is certainly going to be where the more enterprise design of the HAT5300 will stand out against the Pro design of the WD Red and Seagate Ironwolf:

Hardware Synology HAT5300

WD Red Pro

Seagate Ironwolf Pro

Balance Control ✔ ✔ ✔
Vibration Sensors & Control ✔ ✔ ✔
Max Transfer Speed (best of range) 272MB/s 272MB/s 285MB/s
CMR (y/n) ✔ ✔ ✔
Seal Method Helium Sealed Helium Sealed Helium Sealed
Platters 9x 9x 9x
RPM (max in range) 7200 7200 7200
Cache 512MB 512MB + OptiNAND Flash 256MB
Workload Rating/Durability 550TBW per yr 300TBW per yr 300TBW per yr
On/Off Cycles 600K 600K 600K
MTBF (hours) M=Million 2.5M 1M 1.2M
Warranty 5years 5years 5years

Now, the officially reported transfer speed of each drive is not something we are going to dwell on. 1) the difference is tiny, 2) different scale/power/RAID configs will result in varied transfer rates and 3) I have personally tested all three and even in sustained Read/Write activity, they ALL hit 260-207MB/s consistently. However, we DO need to discuss durability and on-board caching. The Synology HAT5300 arrives with a SIGNIFICANT increase in its durability rating, with almost DOUBLE the annual workload rating (eg how many Terabytes the drive can have written and re-written per year) compared with the Seagate and WD HDDs. This also means that the drive has a significantly higher mean time between failure (i.e expected failure rate between deployment>drive-dies>replacement) at more than double. Now, although a lot of durability and sustained use is why Synology seemingly opted for the Toshiba MG series as the base for their branded drive series, but the drive also has Synology specialised firmware onboard. This results in two key benefits to Synology NAS users. The first is that the drive can have it’s specific spin, cache, access and load cycles tailed to Synology NAS system operations, whereas Seagate and WD have to be a little more open in their firmware to suit ‘all’ NAS servers. Pretty much all modern NAS drives run on one form of Linux or another (as well as TrueNAS of course, let’s not overlook FreeBSD etc) but this more precise firmware gearing in the HAT5300 means it will likely always be the most efficient drive for Synology NAS of the bunch. The other benefit of the HAT5300 in Synology NAS deployment is that the drive’s onboard firmware can be updated via the Synology DSM user interface and storage manager (without powering the device down), whereas the WD and Seagate HDDs require you to remove drives individually from the system (and RAID Pool of course if already in use) and update the firmware via a PC/Docking station. Although HDD firmware updates are much, much less frequent than many other types of technology and typically very small improvements, this is still something that the more data storage savvy user will want to stay on top of.

The Seagate and WD Drives on the other hand are considerably similar, with both drives having 7200RPM, 300TB annual workload and quite comparable MTBF. However, the WD Red Pro drive pulls ahead thanks to its 512MB of memory on the largest capacities and (more importantly) its inclusion of WD’s new OptiNAND technology. This is a recently developed HDD design choice (being included in their larger tiers currently and likely continuing into the 22TB+ tier) where alongside the nine platters of storage, the drive also features a small area of flash storage on board that is designed to store metadata and other indexing data using by the connected client system. Not to be confused with hybrid drives (optical drives that featured a decent-sized chunk of SSD space for the likes of an OS for large-scale caching), OptiNAND means that important table and micro-associated data that the drive needs to consult when the bulk of the platter houses data is accessed is accessible much, much more quickly and when drives are getting to this large scale of 18-20TB of storage, these increases can make a small but important difference. The Seagate Ironwolf Pro SSD is still an excellent drive, but leases out to WD and Synology’s branded drive, as the other drives have a largely better hardware offering included.

WD Red Pro vs Seagate Ironwolf Pro vs Synology HAT5300 – Noise

If you have EVER worked with larger-scale HDDs and enterprise-grade drive media (not just these three HDDs, but the EXOS, Ultrastar and Gold series too), then you will know that these drives can be particularly noisy. This noise stems from the larger drive needing more horsepower under the bonnet to hit that expected Read/Write performance levels sporadically – something that is particularly important when it comes to large population NAS/Server use being 24×7. The result is that these Pro and Enterprise drives will vibrate more than most, hum loudly when in operation and continuously click with the rapid movement of the arm/actuator inside as it has to rapidly access a large number of internal platters. We have discussed this at length on NASCompares previously over on YouTube and you can check out examples embedded below of noise testing that was performed on all three HDDs (you can open them in a separate TAB if you click the title or watch in the browser:

Synology HAT5300 Noise Test WD Red Pro Nosie Testing Seagate Ironwolf Pro Noise Testing

Now, the impact of noise in your home or business NAS environment is tremendously subjective. As these three drives are all too often designed for deployment in 8-12 bay desktops and 16-24 bay rackmounts (both largely metal chassis), the result is that in most cases you will NOT be able to hear the NAS HDD, as it will be drowned out by the noise of the multiple high RPM fans on the NAS or their impact on the metal chassis. However, if you plan on deploying these Pro/Enterprise drives in systems with LESS than 8-Bays and plan on being in the same room as the system, then you will DEFINITELY hear them. In order to test these drives, I took a large-scale, 9-platter version of the Synology HAT5300, WD Red Pro and Seagate Ironwolf Pro, then installed them in a modest 4-Bay NAS (as this would largely eliminate the fan noise and multiplying factor of a metal chassis) and instead opted for the largely plastic DS920+ NAS. The noise level was recorded using a phone+microphone 20cm from the DS920+ The drives were recorded during a ‘Benchmark Test’ selected in the DSM 7.1 Storage Manager, over 25-30 seconds, Below were the results:

Synology HAT5300

WD Red Pro

Seagate Ironwolf Pro

As you can see, the difference between them was very, very small and the Seagate and Synology were similarly noisy (though even then at this db(A) range, this is still very small. Overall, I don’t think you can choose between the Synology HAT5300, Seagate Ironwolf Pro or WD Red Pro in terms of noise, as they are all ultimately very noisy drives when in single/RAID deployment regardless.

WD Red Pro vs Seagate Ironwolf Pro vs Synology HAT5300 – Verdict

Overall, the Synology HAT5300 is still the most enduring hard drive here (thanks to that enterprise tier design) and the one that will likely be the most useful in a Synology enterprise NAS drive deployment (factoring in that firmware, ease of update and potential for bundle deals). However, it is still a much, MUCH more expensive drive that is available in fewer capacities and still only hits 16TB at the time of recording. In terms of getting the job DONE, the WD Red might not be the lowest price, but with its onboard flash in the larger capacities, a larger amount of onboard cache, fastest reported warranty turnaround and larger variety of smaller capacities that cover both Pro and normal, the WD Red Pro is the middle ground choice that ticks all the boxes and will be the one you know will shut up and do the job! The Seagate Ironwolf is by FAR the best value for money, with the best price point in and out of special offers, as well as inclusive three YEARS of data recovery services thrown in, Health management software onboard and almost always releasing the biggest capacity drives first (and at the best price) – the Seagate Ironwolf Series is the most accessible and storage services choice in 2022.

Synology HAT5300

WD Red Pro

Seagate Ironwolf Pro

  • Synology NAS Firmware
  • Fewer Synology NAS Support tickets raised with the brand with HAT5300 drives vs 3rd Party Drive Setups
  • HDD/SSD Firmware Can be updated within Synology DSM without system power off or disconnecting HDD.
  • Bulk Buying & NAS+Media Business purchases are much more likely to get discounts or savings via Deal Registration with Synology Distributors
  • Warranty/Support/Officially Supported Use only in Synology Hardware
  • Higher Price Point per TB
  • Fewer Capacity Options
  • All modern/standard capacities are available
  • Non-Pro Drives are also available
  • Good Reputation online (aside from the SMR business)
  • Faster Warranty Replacement turnaround reported online
  • OptiNAND (onboard flash module) mean that vital metadata and microdata is available FASTER
  • Wide NAS Hardware Compatibility
  • Less Competitive Pricing outside of seasonal Promos (Black Friday, Prime Day etc)
  • WD Red Pro vs WD Gold vs Ultrastar overlap can be confusing without deep-diving into data sheets
  • Seagate Ironwolf Health Management onboard to add to existing drive health and S.M.A.R.T tests + Interface available in almost all NAS Brand GUI to config easily
  • 3yrs of free Rescue Data Recovery Services (fully featured with multiple data recovery  delivery options, forensic and mechanical recovery included)
  • Lower Price point on all capacities overall
  • Non-Pro drive options
  • Regularly on offer
  • Higher Power consumption on average
  • Noisiest overall (when you factor in ALL capacities) in operation

If you want to check the price and availability of HDDs in your region, you can visit one of the retailers listed below. Clicking these links will result in a small % of whatever you spend going back to NASCompares, which will allow us to keep making great content. Thank you



*Stats come from Synology themselves upon request, see this article on Synology HDDs in 2022 HERE

 

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Synology & 3rd Party Hard Drives – What You CAN and CANNOT Do

13 juin 2022 à 01:53

Synology 2022/2023 NAS and WD & Seagate Hard Drive Compatibility

If you have been considering a large scale business or enterprise NAS solution from Synology in 2022/2023, then there is a good chance you have heard about a relatively recent change in how Synology has approached hard drive compatibility in this tier of their portfolio. This change (in brief) is that this tier of systems is only designed to be used with their own branded range of hard drives and SSDs (the HAT5300, SAT5210, HAS5300, etc) and practically all hard drives from long-standing partners such as WD and Seagate are not officially supported in their business/enterprise-scale systems. Now, it is important to stress that this is NOT a complete closed-door policy here. Indeed, after the initial negative reception to this policy change demonstrated in DSM 7 featured in the DS3622xs+ and DS2422+ reveals (Danger notifications, limited drive interaction options in storage manager, etc), Synology changed a number of these areas in their DSM 7.1 system when using 3rd party drive media. However, many users are still concerned with where they stand on using popular NAS hard drives such as Seagate Ironwolf, WD Red, Ultrastar and EXOS in their brand new Synology NAS drive. So, today I want to go through pretty much everything that you CAN and CANNOT do with 3rd Party hard drives in the larger scale Synology NAS drives with DSM 7.1 right now. However, if you are in a rush or just want the TLDR:

The GOOD News

  • Practically ALL Storage Services and Features of Synology’s DSM 7.1 platform are available when using 3rd Party HDDs (Seagate Ironwolf, WD Red, Ultrastar, etc) and I only found 2 things that weren’t (and even one of those is pretty small)
  • Thanks to recently released specifications and compatibility on the DS1522+ and RS422+ NAS for 2022, we can confirm that these system do NOT have limited HDD compatibility listings and in fact list all the usual HSS and SSD models you would expect
  • Synology has changed the red ‘DANGER/CRITICAL’ warning in the DSM notification panel of DSM 7.0 to show ‘Warning’ in amber. Still not ideal, but still a step up visually
  • SMART, testing, Scrubbing, Hot Spare, Drive management and ALL RAID configurations are available to 3rd party HDDs
  • ALL File Management tool are available with Volumes that contain unverified drives
  • ALL 1st Party Applications that I tested did not complain/refuse the use of volumes that contained 3rd party media

The BAD News

  • ALL non-Synology HDD/SSD is listed in Red in the drive manager as ‘unverified’. I wish (if they have to go down this road) that they list in amber or use less loaded terms
  • Even simple hard drive utilities in the Storage Manager to build a RAID pool and volumes are met with ‘unverified/incompatible warnings 3-4 times throughout, which can be jarring
  • Warning in DSM 7.1 GUI is always present
  • Still 100% unconfirmed but in my testing, Seagate Ironwolf Health Management was not visible in the DSM 7.1 Storage Manager via the 22′ Series NAS I used
  • HDD/SSD Firmware Update checking in DSM 7.1 Storage Manager only available to Synology Drives (eg HAT5300) and not supporting 3d party drives. Not unexpected, as it would require a big chunk of database maintenance management on the Synology side to provide this feature with multiple HDD brands.

Skip Ahead:

Important – Currently only Enterprise and Large Scale Synology NAS systems released from the 2022 Series onwards have stricter HDD/SSD compatibility in DSM 7.1. Smaller-scale home user, prosumer and SMB systems under 8x Bays still have compatibility and supported HDD/SSD for WD, Seagate, Toshiba and more. This article was made and detailed using a Synology DS2422+ NAS, supplied by CCL here. So, let’s get down to business. Here is what you would find if you look up hard drive and SSD compatibility on a large business class Synology NAS drive via the official brand’s support pages (in this case, the Synology DS2422+ 12-Bay NAS system):

Now, as you can see, the available list of compatible/supported drives is almost exclusively Synology branded drives. But what happens when if we were to ignore this and install drives that were not included on this list?

Synology Notifications, Warnings & 3rd Party HDD/SSDs

There is an exception (a Western Digital Ultrastar HC310), but there have been a few exceptions in the available drives list that have tended to be the result of Synology not providing a specific drive-based encryption method/on-board feature, capacity or media interface, but as time has gone on this has diminished. In order to get a better and more complete test range, I installed four Synology HAT5300 drives and eight hard drives that covered the bulk of popular currently available HDDs for desktop and rackmount NAS server use. These included WD Red, Red Plus and Red Pro, Seagate Ironwolf and Ironwolf Pro, Western Digital Ultrastar, Seagate EXOS and Barracuda (that last one was just because I had it spare and wanted to check). As you can see in the diagram below, all eight of the non-Synology branded drives were listed as unverified and the system status in the bottom right of DSM was displayed as ‘Warning’.

A closer examination shows us that the warning is guiding us toward the storage manager area to rectify a problem. This is something that some users have already voiced their concerns over (and subsequentially Synology changed their messaging after feedback since the DSM 7.1 update was rolled out).

These notifications are also triggered in the events log at the top right of the screen and each HDD that I installed resulted in the system creating a warning alert for each. At least the nature of this alert was defined a little clearer and made reference to the drives installed not being featured on the official compatibility list for this device.

In order to see the extent of how the system interprets and interacts with 3rd party storage media in this 2022/2023 generation NAS, I wanted to go ahead and create a single drive storage pool on the WD Red Pro HDD and then create an accompanying Volume inside. So, this was Storage Pool 1 and Volume 2 (with Pool & Volume 1 is comprised of Synology HDDs). You can see that the 8x 3rd party drives (so, regardless of in/out of the pool+volume I created) as displayed in red at all times.

Looking at a single drive in the HDD/SSD tab of Storage manager shows lots of hardware information about the drive that is installed, much like any other drive. I am pleased that you are still able to see/monitor the 3rd party drives in this NAS still in DSM 7.1, even with the alert in the events log.

If you visit that alert in the events log, you can see a little more information on the nature of the alert. The event detail is a little brief, but Synology’s position on this subject is quite clear and although there is zero talk of the system not being supported by the brand down the line, they do add that they recommend using drives on the official compatibility list (ie, in this case, the bulk of which being their media) to ensure system performance and prevent data loss.

Using 3rd party drive media in the storage pool creation wizard is still possible and Synology has not attempted to block/suspend this in any way in DSM 7.1. That said, it will present you with a further warning with each screen (this one being a pinch more heavy-handed though). I know Synology want to be abundantly clear on this and want it presented that you are proceeding on a course that they do not recommend, but less experienced storage users might bulk at this warning.

When the storage pool that is made up of 3rd party storage media is created, it will be available to view alongside all other storage pools in the storage manager of DSM 7.1. The same goes for if/when you create one or more volumes inside that storage pool, but all storage associated with the 3rd party storage media will be labelled as ‘at risk’ as the pool contains “one or more drives that are unverified”. So, right now we 100% can use 3rd party drives in storage pools and volumes, but they are not without the warning in place. Let’s take a closer look at the rest of the storage manager options in DSM 7.1 and how much they can be used with 3rd party drives.

Synology Storage Manager and 3rd Party HDD/SSDs

3rd party hard drives in a large scale/enterprise 2022/2023 NAS still have the drive health information options available when selecting them in the storage manager. They are still listing with an angry red ‘unverified’ message, but health status, check history and S.M.A.R.T are still available to check the drive. In my testing, I was not able to see the Seagate Ironwolf Health Management tool (that is included on Seagate Ironwolf HDDs and visible in the NAS GUI normally), but I did not have sufficient media to identify if this was related to the new DS2422+ not supporting this feature or DSM 7.1 not allowing the featuring in the storage manager at this time.

The smart testing tab, when comparing the number of options provided in the DSM 7.1 storage manager between Synology HDDs and 3rd party HDDs, was pretty much identical! Below is how they appear via the web browser, side by side.

As mentioned, pretty much all the services and features of DSM 7.1’s Storage Manager are available to non-Synology drive media, such as the usage analyzer.

The same goes for if you choose to use 3rd party drives as hot spares (i.e accessible replacement media for if a RAID storage pool fails). You still need to ensure that the drive media in question is sufficient capacity, but it’s still good to know that hot spare use is still available.

Continuing, you also have the option of improving/changing RAID storage pools that are comprised with 3rd party drives still. This is reassuring to those that were concerned that their WD/Seagate storage pools might not be expandable/scalable in DSM 7.1 as needed on these enterprise and bigger scale solutions.

I was also surprised that the Drive Benchmark tool in DSM 7.1’s storage manager still could be used by 3rd party drives. Although this is a small tool, it can be remarkably handy for testing drives sustained activity on the fly. This tool worked with both 3rd party HDD and SSDs in testing still.

Options for scheduled or immediately actioned Data Scrubbing were also available to 3rd party drives still. Another useful and often overlooked RAID maintenance that I’m glad is still available in DSM 7.1 with non-Synology Drives.

The in-built SSD Cache advisor (the tool that recommends the level and capacity of SSD that you need to factor into your daily storage is also more than happy to interact with storage volumes that are built of 3rd party drives too. As the DS2422+ I used for these drive tests does not feature m.2 SSD slots, I was unable to confirm whether the system would accept 3rd party SSDs for caching in this enterprise DSM 7.1 NAS system. I COULD have used the E10M20-T1 or M2D20 PCIe cards to add storage, but then that would introduce an additional component into the mix and those cards also arrive with their own SSD compatibility listings already.

Overall, the big takeaway in the Synology DSM 7.1 Storage manager when it comes to using 3rd party HDD and SSDs is that you can do pretty much EVERYTHING with these drives as you can do with Synology’s own storage media. The only things that were not available were the ability to upgrade HDD/SSD firmware from within the software (something that is understandably only available to Synology media for reasons for database maintenance and accuracy I am sure) and I was unable to completely confirm whether Seagate ironwolf health management was available. EVERYTHING else in Storage Manager is available to be used. However, the lines Synology have drawn with regard to their system are pretty clear, with warnings at every screen and a persistent warning on the desktop GUI. Let’s go up a level and look at how the systems file management and more general storage tools interact with pools/volumes that are comprised of 3rd Party Media.

Synology File & Folder Management and 3rd Party HDD/SSDs

Much like when I explored many areas of the Storage Manager in DSM 7.1, I found virtually nowhere in the general system applications where using 3rd party media-built volumes presented a problem or limitation to the user. First up was File Station and (probably one of the earliest and most important things you will do) I was able to easily and quickly create a shared folder on a 3rd party drive volume as easy/seamless as normal.

The Shared Folder had ALL of the usual configuration options available (visibility, recycling, compression where appropriate, etc) and because BTRFS was still available during the volume’s creation, those benefits were also available to this shared folder too. Interestingly, there were no warnings or recommendations by the system when using this particular pool (unlike the louder stance during the storage pool/vol creation) and, spoiler alert, I never again in my testing was presented with any warnings or recommendations by the system during any further interactions with tools and services.

The file manager presented no limitations or restrictions in its services when used with 3rd party drive foundation volumes and that means that if you are considering a Synology installation for a client/associate and are concerned that their access outside of the DSM 7.1 primary browser GUI will show them warnings regarding non-Synology HDD media, this will not be the case and so far it seems that these amber indicators do not go further than the default storage setup, desktop widget (which can be disabled in 1 click) and the alerts log. Let’s test a variety of popular Synology applications to see if there is any kind of reference to drive compatibility or limitation in their presentation.

Synology Applications in DSM 7.1 & 3rd Party HDD/SSDs

There are ALOT of Synology first-party applications available in DSM 7.1 and chances are that you are going to be using at least 2-3 regularly (backups, multimedia, surveillance, collaboration tools, virtual machines, general sharing, etc), so knowing if the use of 3rd party storage media in a large scale or enterprise Synology NAS solution in 2022 is going to be smooth/unrestricted is going to be paramount. Once again, I found no limitations or hindrances in DSM 7.1 with the DS2422+ and drives I tested compared with the same operations using the Synology HAT5300 drives. Even directly in the app center itself, I was able to select the volume that had the 3rd party media as the default installation directory for all apps if I wanted, without any limitations or warning.

The improved resource monitor in DSM 7.1 also allowed full and unfettered monitoring of the full storage pools, volumes and individual drives as normal.

In the control panel, the shared folders that I created on the 3rd party drive built volume could still be added to the media indexing folders with zero restriction, limitations and without any notification or warning.

The same goes for using some of the background applications such as snapshots and replication used with the non-Synology drive volume. These services also had all of their more customizable features of retention, schedules and capacity available too.

Heading into more business’y territory, the Synology Virtual Machine Manager was still able to use the volume made of 3rd party drives as an available storage space, as well as accessible for VM images and services. The number of these larger-scale solutions from Synology that are deployed for VM utilization is growing rapidly as the tool improves (as well as used in conjunction with the likes of VMware, Hyper-V, SaaS and PaaS providers to sync/migrate from over time) so this was always going to be a crucial area of storage concern for many in DSM 7.1’s drive support.

Equally, there was no limitation to the individual configuration options that Synology VMM includes for the storage you connect it to.

You will also be pleased to hear that the full range of backup and synchronization tools that are included with Synology DSM 7.1 have unrestricted access to volumes made of 3rd party drive media. I tested Hyper Backup, Cloud Sync and Active Backup Suite – all three could utilize volumes, regardless of the drives in the pool, with equal features and services. I was unable to test Hybrid Share, but I saw no indication that this would have any limitation either.

Users looking to use the Synology storage as a direct target for ISCSI LUNs will also be pleased to hear that 3rd party drive built volumes worked 100% normally and there were zero warnings on screen.

Finally, Synology’s ever-evolving Surveillance station software had complete, unrestricted and no-warning access to the 3rd party HDD volumes and there was no hindrance whatsoever when connecting the service. The DS2422+ and large-scale solutions like it are always going to be popular with users who choose Synology for this CCTV software (those recordings can add up to terabytes in no time at all) and with Synology providing 16TB drives at max capacity in summer 2022 and the likes of WD and Seagate hitting 22TB right now, many users will want to know that 3rd party media in these systems is still viable.

Synology 2022/2023 Enterprise/Business NAS & 3rd Party HDD/SSDs – Conclusion

As mentioned in my introduction, I really did struggle to find anything on DSM 7.1 on the DS2422+ using 3rd party hard drives that were restricted or barred from use at all. There IS the ever-present amber warning on the system’s initial GUI splash screen, but there did not seem to be any restriction on the services and features of DSM 7.1. So, this leads to the question of support and also what makes the Synology branded media better choice for the end-user. For that first point, I reached out to Synology earlier in the year to ask for further clarification on how support would be provided by the brand with regard to system’s that are utilizing storage media that is certified/confirmed/present on the Synology Compatibility pages. Here was that response from back in Feb ’22:

We have always recommended only using the drives tested and verified by our engineers to ensure long-term system reliability many many years ago. While non-verified drives can still be used on all devices, the updated policy is being introduced on new products primarily purchased by our business and enterprise clients in an effort to highlight the potential issues with using them. The policy still allows for the use of non-verified drives but with certain restrictions, such as status indicators and alerts indicating the system is not in an officially supported configuration and certain drive metrics not being supported. At the same time we understand that there is room for improvements to the user experience while still ensuring our customers are aware of the issue. In an upcoming DSM update, we are adjusting the alert level shown and also adding drive S.M.A.R.T. monitoring for unverified drives.

So, it would look like the comments on multiple social message boards (Facebook, Reddit, Syno Forums, etc are at the very least being read), However, for many this message does not fully cover the question of detailing the level of support that the brand will indeed provide in the event of perfectly reasonable failure. I raised this matter with Synology with the following examples for guidance (as I felt they covered a cluster of existing scenarios posed by users online):

Example #1, a Synology DS3622xs+ or DS2422+ owner purchases their unit and 12 Seagate EXOs HDDs, then 36 months down the line they suffer an unexpected (but perfectly reasonable) PSU failure. Will the brand support this user and provide a replacement PSU?

Alternatively, Example #2, if the hardware failure (still within perfectly reasonable parameters of hardware that is mass-produced of course) is controller board based? Where will the utility of non-Synology media stand?

A senior Synology manager provided the following response and clarification:

When a customer makes a technical support request, our engineers will work with them in troubleshooting the cause of the issue and to find a solution to resolve it. If it is determined that a failure is directly attributable to a 3rd-party component that has not been validated by Synology, our engineers may make the decision to reject continuing the diagnostics process. This is carried out because in many cases, there is little that our engineers can do without having those exact components on hand to replicate the problem and then determine a way to workaround or mitigate them.

You can read the rest of that article and all the points it covered HERE – https://nascompares.com/2022/02/17/synology-nas-and-hard-drive-compatibility-in-2022-should-i-be-worried

On the subject of what makes Synology Drive media a recommended choice in Synology solutions, Synology was keen to highlight that:

  1. Better reliability: From our observation, our support tickets relating to HDD/SSD issues dropped 19% so far, which means users will gain better reliability with Synology HDDs.
  2. Enhanced performance: Performance when multiple devices read sequentially compared to 3 Party HDD +36%
  3. Seamless update: online HDD/SSD firmware update from DSM without downtime or rebuilding disk array

As further releases in the Synology 2022 range start to appear on the market (most recently the RS422+, RS822+ and DS1522+ at some point) we are seeing Synology’s position on Hard Drives in these less enterprise or large-scale solutions soften somewhat. listing many more HDD and SSDs from 3rd party brands (but still nowhere near as many as in previous NAS releases such as the DS920+ or DS1621+, with many glaring omissions from the likes of WD and Seagate, see here). Bottom line, it is always going to be the prerogative of Synology to choose the storage media they believe is in the best interest of the systems that provide, but I don’t think this is a subject that is going to be removed any time to everyone’s satisfaction. Right now you can definitely take advantage of pretty much the whole Synology DSM 7.1 features and services with your new high-end 2022/2023 Synology NAS purchase, but until more time passes and we have case examples of support queries running smoothly on forums such as Reddit of Synology’s official support forum, many will still have a lingering doubt about using 3rd party media on these systems. We will be doing more in-depth HDD comparisons with Synology media and 3rd party alternatives in the Synology DS2422+ very soon, so stay tuned and/or subscribe to hear about it first and once again thanks to CCLOnline for supplying us with the Synology NAS for our tests. Have a great week

 

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