Can you put SSDs in a NAS?

Most NAS drives will accept SSDs as well as mechanical hard drives - we look at whether it's a good idea

An SSD shown inside a PC system

Most NAS drives will accept 2.5in drives, which means it is entirely possible to populate them with SSDs. But is this a wise idea?

The main allure of solid-state storage is its excellent performance - but in this context that's debateable. A gigabit Ethernet connection can only manage transfer speeds up to around 110MB/sec, so unless you're willing to spend serious money on 10GbE hardware, you'll see no advantage from choosing faster SSD drives.

That's not to say the SSD route is totally without merit. We tested the Qnap TS-453B using four 2.5in SATA SSDs and saw a minor improvement in 4K read speeds - up from 10.4MB/sec to 11.4MB/sec.

And if you've ever been near a four-bay NAS appliance, you'll know that the collective noise of four mechanical hard disks can be rather off-putting. Since SSDs have no moving parts, they run silent, so the only sound from your NAS will be the internal fan.

Abstract image of an SSD flying quickly through the air on a black background

SSDs also use less power than mechanical disks. Our four-bay Qnap TS-453B, populated with four 1TB Seagate Barracuda 3.5in hard disks, drew 32W from the mains while sitting idle, and 38W while streaming video; switching to four SSDs saw this fall to 14W idle and 16W while streaming. You'll see a comparable decline irrespective of which NAS enclosure you select.

Beforehand, there was a major drawback with SSDs - the cost compared to HDDs; a 1TB mechanical disk can be bought for £40, so you can set up a 3TB RAID 5 array for £160. But SSDs have started to close the gap. While just a year or two ago, a 1TB SSD will have set you back around £250, prices have started to drop, and you can buy for around £100. 

This article originally appeared in PC Pro issue 276

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