Preserving the Reputation of WD Products In The Mail-Order Age

I’m in the process of buying and setting up a new SOHO NAS for home use. I already have a QNAP TS-670 Pro (which is fantastic) and so I’m aiming to purchase another QNAP. The 670 currently has 6Tb WD Reds (5400rpm) drives and this setup works perfectly in RAID 6.

As I gear up for the new NAS, I’ve been steadily ordering a set of 16 WD Red 12Tb (5400rpm) drives. I’ve been buying them in batches of 4 drives at a time in an attempt to avoid the “putting all your NAS Drive Eggs in one basket” problem. (16 because I need 6 for the new NAS, 6 for the TS-670, and, with RAID6, I want 2 spare drives for each, too)…

Good thing too, because the first batch of 4 drives came with the top plate of one of the drives sporting a massive dent due to an almost complete absence of packing. (Likely struck edge-on by another of the drives as they bounced around in the box).

This has given me the idea of coming here with a couple of suggestions. The first is that Western Digital might like to reach out to major retail partners (cough, Amazon UK, cough) and try and help them understand that shipping bare NAS drives through the post so that the literally bounce around inside a flimsy cardboard box is a bad idea.

It’s a bad idea because customers able to “read the signs” and who know enough about the potential risks of transit-damaged drives are going to either refuse the parcel, or simply return it as “transit damaged”.

It’s an even worse idea for customers who are not technically aware that they should be cautious before using badly-packed hard drives and may end up putting a marginal, transit-damaged drive in a system, only to have it fail after a short period of time. This is going to harm the reputation of the drive vendor, because that person is simply going to equate “failed drive” with the vendor’s name.

I have a few wild and whacky ideas on ways that WD could reduce the risk of reputational harm that may come as a result of careless retail/channel partners:-

  1. Print a warning slip and put it inside the sealed silver anti-moisture bag in which the the drives leave the factory. Encourage people to examine shipping boxes for transit damage.

  2. Provide some injection-molded polystyrene or similar protection around all bare drives, such that a retailer would have to tear away the protection to remove it [make it hard for them to ditch the protection].

  3. A bit expensive, but… find a partner who can manufacture those little assemblies with vials of fluid inside a toughened case - the things that will shatter and leak the fluid in to the protective assembly if the unit is dropped or crash-damaged - as a way of helping the recipient determine whether your drives have been subject to harmful transit damage.

  4. Keep on discussing the importance of safe handling with your retail and channel partners, cough, Amazon, cough, until they understand that HDDs need to be treated with a bit of respect and not as the warehouse soccer ball…

In fairness to Western Digital, this is not a brand-specific problem; in fairness to Amazon, this is not an issue associated with any specific retailer. However, just think about how easy it isn’t to walk into a retail store to buy something like WD 12Tb Reds… Pretty much you the only way you can obtain them is mail order. Which means that the reputation of Western Digital - for product failure rates - hinges upon the person driving the delivery truck.

That’s not a good bet, believe me.

Sorry for the long and rambling post… I hope this finds its way to someone from WD who can consider [preferably implement] some of these suggestions.

Thank you.