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Saving Data on Your NAS is Greener Than Saving in the Cloud

By - Source: Institute for Applied Ecology | B 13 comments

Don't use your subscription to a cloud storage service for the claim that it is more environmentally friendly than storing your data at home.

The Institute for Applied Ecology in Germany found that storing smaller amounts of data on network attached storage (NAS) devices will result in fewer greenhouse gases than stocking your information in a data center.

The organization estimates that storing 4.7 GB of data, or the data volume of just one DVD, online causes greenhouse gas emissions of 121.3 lbs of CO2 equivalents. Storing the data in an efficient home NAS would result in only 0.33 lbs of CO2 equivalents. In addition a 1 TB NAS would cost only about $130 per year to purchase and operate, while the same money would buy only 100 GB of storage space online.

The Institute also recommended to buy 2.5-inch NAS drives due to their lower power consumption, as well as network storage products with a network standby feature that does not consume more than 4 watts.


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  • 0 Hide
    DRosencraft , December 14, 2012 2:43 PM
    As much as I like an at-home NAS over an out somewhere cloud system managed by some company that could go under or something like that, I am a little suspicious about this. Generally when you can consolidate the activities of multiple people into one place, it saves money and resources. That's the logic of public transportation - an individual bus may not have great fuel mileage, but they are more efficient thanks to the fact that each trip carries a dozen or more people who would otherwise be driving. I get that a data center would need extra cooling that your NAS at home would not, and that is the source of the inefficiency, but I question if the difference is as stark as presented here.
  • 5 Hide
    stickmansam , December 14, 2012 3:14 PM
    drosencraftAs much as I like an at-home NAS over an out somewhere cloud system managed by some company that could go under or something like that, I am a little suspicious about this. Generally when you can consolidate the activities of multiple people into one place, it saves money and resources. That's the logic of public transportation - an individual bus may not have great fuel mileage, but they are more efficient thanks to the fact that each trip carries a dozen or more people who would otherwise be driving. I get that a data center would need extra cooling that your NAS at home would not, and that is the source of the inefficiency, but I question if the difference is as stark as presented here.

    I doubt that the cloud system would get any cheaper electrical rates than you or I. At least where I am business actually have higher rates of electrical energy costs. Also consider the green house emissions of not just cooling but the staff at the place that may have to drive there, heating costs of working spaces in winter, cooling int he summer and lighting costs etc... (not sure if calculated in though)

    I understand where you are coming from with the public transportation thing but I would consider an example of buying vegetables at the supermarket vs growing them at home. Growing at home is more work (NAS) but you reduce carbon emissions by not driving to store (drive once to buy seeds and stuff). Also cut out the carbon emission from trucking the food and the carbon emissions of the store itself.
  • 1 Hide
    scythe944 , December 14, 2012 4:06 PM
    This is obvious and shouldn't need research. The point of the cloud is that YOU don't have to personally worry about making backups and storing them off-site. You pay for convenience.

    Someone else deals with access issues, backups, etc. and you just pay to use it.

    Of course it uses more energy, there's a ton of servers that make up the cloud and to store your trivial amount of data would be more cost efficient to store locally. duh.
  • 4 Hide
    ericburnby , December 14, 2012 4:37 PM
    I don't buy those figures at all. They are claiming data centres are 360 times more power hungry than an NAS?

    Or are they talking about turning on your NAS for as long as it takes to back up the data and leaving it off the rest of the time? The study is useless without this type of information.
  • 0 Hide
    DRosencraft , December 14, 2012 5:20 PM
    StickmansamI doubt that the cloud system would get any cheaper electrical rates than you or I. At least where I am business actually have higher rates of electrical energy costs. Also consider the green house emissions of not just cooling but the staff at the place that may have to drive there, heating costs of working spaces in winter, cooling int he summer and lighting costs etc... (not sure if calculated in though)I understand where you are coming from with the public transportation thing but I would consider an example of buying vegetables at the supermarket vs growing them at home. Growing at home is more work (NAS) but you reduce carbon emissions by not driving to store (drive once to buy seeds and stuff). Also cut out the carbon emission from trucking the food and the carbon emissions of the store itself.


    Wasn't focusing on the electrical cost for the individual vs. the company. I'm not sure one pays more than the other for market rates, but either way that wasn't my point. I don't think that this study looked at that angle, and I doubt they factored in the staffing since that would be too complex to manage for an environmental study. I would assume lighting and heating costs are included, which was part of my point that data centers do have those efficiency costs to account for that a single NAS would not.

    I do agree that the vegetable farm example is comparable, but we don't have a vehicle shortage, so your home garden isn't going to really effect the market of farming, whereas there is a more direct relationship between ridership of public transportation and the number of cars on the road.
  • 0 Hide
    freiheitner , December 14, 2012 5:27 PM
    The "per use" cost (in energy use) is certainly in favor of a local NAS because you can transfer files potentially in excess of 100x faster than you can over the internet (my internet is capped at 1Mbps up, but my local network has 100Mbps ethernet). If your local NAS is connected via USB, eSATA or Thunderbolt, the speed increase could be many times greater. If it takes 100x-1000x as long to transfer your files up to the cloud, then there's much less energy being used to run all the systems between your local PC and local NAS than to run all the systems between your house, your ISP and the cloud storage facility. Getting work done significantly faster is a huge cost savings.
  • 0 Hide
    samuel_57 , December 14, 2012 7:04 PM
    scythe944This is obvious and shouldn't need research. The point of the cloud is that YOU don't have to personally worry about making backups and storing them off-site. You pay for convenience.Someone else deals with access issues, backups, etc. and you just pay to use it.Of course it uses more energy, there's a ton of servers that make up the cloud and to store your trivial amount of data would be more cost efficient to store locally. duh.


    A recent study by yours truly, revealed that the backup methodologies of small to medium cloud providers have high risk backup scenarios i.e. local storage in the same rack as the data going back as little as three days (minimizing disk useage) and backing up to tape offsite every few days. Which is a worse scenario that many businesses. The cost of cloud hosting with guaranteed replication hikes the cost substantially. There are already cloud hosting horror stories of lost data.

    But more important, who has access to the data?. The very fact that it is hosted on a server / server OS, and that OS has to be maintained including file systems integrity checks means your data is accessible and readable. And unless the cloud providers employ ethically programed Androids, the human nature of curiosity and quick gain will always be present amongst data centre technicians.

    If you read google drive terms and conditions (who reads terms and docs that are pages long these days anyway) you will find the following:



    "Your Content in our Services: When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

    The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps)."
  • 1 Hide
    samuel_57 , December 14, 2012 7:14 PM
    Host on a Server (or PC if a home user) in your own premises. Use a volume shadow copy program such as Shadow Protect to back up to a NAS. Encrypt and password your critical data and backup to a backup centre. Do not host in the cloud. And if your business needs 'anytime' 'anywhere', get a decent Cisco router and use a program like Kerio workspace.

    The cloud has some advantages but they are few and far between.

  • 1 Hide
    Shin-san , December 14, 2012 9:00 PM
    Has Hell frozen over? Tomshardware making an article against the Cloud?
  • 3 Hide
    abbadon_34 , December 14, 2012 9:57 PM
    Not sure which I hate more, the green obsession, or the cloud obsession
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 15, 2012 2:01 AM
    Naturally NAS costs less to operate because of the following:
    1. When not in use, a NAS will go on sleep mode.
    2. Backup is faster from your device to a NAS, hence your device can shutdown faster and the NAS can also go on sleep mode faster.
    3. There is no wear and tear on an HDD when the NAS is on sleep mode. Hence the HDD will last a very long time.
    4. You can even shut it down for long period and power it up remotely.

    On a cloud, the power costs and hardware costs are higher because:
    1. It is always powered "ON" either for you or for someone else.
    2. Because service contract is based on SLA, it always has a backup disk or disks which is
    always powered "ON"
    3. Machines have an air cooling system because of the compact server farms being used.

    The only problem with a home NAS is that it has to be configured to be accessible from the internet (if the user is always mobile) and it carries the same risk of loss being physically located in your home.
  • 0 Hide
    Prescott_666 , December 15, 2012 10:36 AM
    StickmansamI doubt that the cloud system would get any cheaper electrical rates than you or I. At least where I am business actually have higher rates of electrical energy costs. Also consider the green house emissions of not just cooling but the staff at the place that may have to drive there, heating costs of working spaces in winter, cooling int he summer and lighting costs etc... (not sure if calculated in though)I understand where you are coming from with the public transportation thing but I would consider an example of buying vegetables at the supermarket vs growing them at home. Growing at home is more work (NAS) but you reduce carbon emissions by not driving to store (drive once to buy seeds and stuff). Also cut out the carbon emission from trucking the food and the carbon emissions of the store itself.


    When most businesses build a Data Center, it's in the same building as their head quarters. When Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, or any body else builds a Cloud System Data Center, they spend a year or more planning it, and they can put it anywhere they want. they consider a lot of things, availability of Administrators, cost of land, taxes, cost of data lines, and cost of electrical power.

    A factory that has already been built cannot move to a different power district, and therefore cannot negotiate power rates, if anything, the local rate board sees them as a target of opportunity and screws them, but when somebody is building a new Data Center, and can put it anywhere they want, if the power company wants their business, and if the rate board will agree to it, they can and do negotiate for the best rate. And they can get agreements in writing from both the power company and the rate board that lock the rate structure in for years.

    So a Cloud System Data Center not only can but in every case will get the best power rates that are available. Better than home owners and better than other businesses that are not in a position to walk away.
  • 0 Hide
    ynhockey , December 16, 2012 12:18 PM
    drosencraftAs much as I like an at-home NAS over an out somewhere cloud system managed by some company that could go under or something like that, I am a little suspicious about this. Generally when you can consolidate the activities of multiple people into one place, it saves money and resources. That's the logic of public transportation - an individual bus may not have great fuel mileage, but they are more efficient thanks to the fact that each trip carries a dozen or more people who would otherwise be driving. I get that a data center would need extra cooling that your NAS at home would not, and that is the source of the inefficiency, but I question if the difference is as stark as presented here.


    It would be awesome if that were true, but unfortunately data centers simply require a lot more power than do NAS systems at home. Servers require more electricity per unit of storage (doesn't matter if it's a single pizza server, or a full rack storage solution), but it's not just the actual storage but also what's around it.

    First of all, server farms have powerful air conditioning that take infinitely more power than your air-cooled NAS. Second of all, all data in a data center is backed up to another identical storage unit (in cloud storage cases, usually to another data center), sometimes more than once. This automatically doubles and triples the emissions. Thirdly, hard drives used in cloud storage are often higher-speed, which requires more power (in homes many people have switched to 5400RPM drives today, those are very slow but efficient).

    This is all not mentioning what others have said here, which may or may not be calculated in the figure in the article—the actual construction of the data center, the employees' emissions, the peripheral equipment, transportation, data center maintenance, etc.