While solid-state drives (SSDs) have only hit the practical marketplace less than 10 years ago, the technology has improved dramatically and price points have become very feasible. In this article, we are going to discuss the differences of traditional hard-drives (HDDs) to new solid-state drives (SSDs), pros/cons of each, and how it applies to real-world decisions of which you should choose and for what purpose.
Let’s first talk about what these components are. Both HDDs and SSDs are pieces of hardware that store your data. Every time you save a picture, or download a video, access your documents, or launch a software program, you are utilizing the storage component (HDD or SSD) of the device (computer, server, laptop, tablet, smartphone). Without them, your computer would not have any files. It wouldn’t have any programs. It wouldn’t even be able to start up Windows! They are a crucial component to computing and it is similarly important to educate yourself as much as possible to make informed decisions. The information here will be broken down to the salient topics of their; mechanics/durability, capacity/price, longevity, and overall speed.
The traditional hard-drive IS mechanical. It consists of a metal disk with a magnetic coating that stores your data and has an arm that reads the data while the disk is spinning. To visualize this, think of an old record player but on a much smaller and much faster scale. Although they are heavier and have steel casings, HDDs are not very durable. They are susceptible to impact damage, shock, vibration, and movement due to the delicate metal platters and reading arm mechanics. Most of the time, they should be mounted horizontally (on a flat surface).
An SSD does the same thing functionally, but not mechanically. The SSD will store the information on interconnected flash memory chips which can retain the information even when it isn’t powered. Visually, think of a flash drive that is similarly sized to a smartphone. SSDs are not mechanical, but simply a small circuit board with high-tech memory wafers to electrically store data. Since they have no moving parts, SSDs will not fail mechanically. Although it’s always unadvisable to throw around computer components, SSDs are not sensitive to mounting orientation, vibration, or shock. This allows for a huge benefit to computing out in the field and even on construction sites.
Cost Per Capacity
Something as important as data storage shouldn’t boil down to how much it costs, however, it is certainly a variable in the equation for different environments and purposes. It was generally known that hard-drives had much larger capacity capabilities than their SSD competitors, however, last year, Seagate came out with a 60TB SSD colossus, which proves that this technology can even beat out traditional hard-drives on storage capacity. On more conventional levels, SSDs have now recently been manufactured to compete with the typical larger capacity storage of 4TB to 16TB HDDs.
The options for both are available, however, it’s also about cost per GB. For hard-drives, if we were moving backwards in time we would all be filthy rich collecting all the obsolete hard-drives laying around everywhere. From around $500,000 per GB in 1981, we are now at about $0.03 per GB in 2017. This equates to around $30-$40 for a 1TB HDD. SSDs are slightly different here as the technology has much higher benefits in many different areas as we will continue to discuss. Cost per GB differs greatly based on storage size, however, taking many averages and using it on a standard size drive (500GB), it’s approximately $0.30 per GB. Ultimately, we are talking about a factor of 10 in increased cost per GB from HDD to SSD. But really, it isn’t much on typical devices for end-users.
The longevity of an HDD is directly affected by its moving parts and mechanics. They do not necessarily degrade from reading and writing data to its disk, but have an average failure rate of 6 years even though the life expectancy is 9 to 11 years. The more an HDD is used, the longer its mechanics are being strained and therefore result in quicker failure. Also, HDDs require more delicate handling. They last longer in a physically calm and temperature controlled environment, whereas SSDs don’t really care where they are, how they are mounted, and what physical conditions are present… to an extent. Again, think of the record player. If the needle is constantly and rapidly moving back and forth, up and down, and the record is on a never-ending super-fast spin cycle, you can imagine that something is going to quickly break.
The only caveat here is that for archival purposes, HDDs really shine. If you take an HDD filled with data and sit it on a shelf in an office, it will last a great deal longer than the more reliable SSD.
Conversely, SSDs have no moving parts. They are fixed and mechanically will not fail. But each memory chip can only be erased a limited number of times before failing and they wear out over time. Recently, SSD TRIM technology and improvements in the architecture have optimized read/write cycles to where it’s more likely you will replace the drive before it starts running into problems. Overall, with S.M.A.R.T monitoring and architecture/TRIM optimization, failure is quite predictable and likely won’t happen during operational lifetime.
The final discussion point is the most noticeable, yet the easiest to talk about. Mechanically, HDDs can only read/write as fast as its disk spins. SSDs store data in electrical charges and therefore, the data is reachable almost immediately through the circuitry. The average performance HDD will have read speeds up to 163MBps and write speeds up to 146MBps.
The average performance SSD (with M.2 interface) has read speeds up to 3,200MBps and write up to 1,800MBps.
This is literally 20 times faster than a traditional hard drive and only talking about read/write speeds. Yes, we are measuring in seconds here, but when a simple task takes 30 seconds longer and is performed all the time throughout the day, that time adds up and decreases productivity.
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In any case, there are positives to both digital storage units and can be utilized in certain cases based off the customer’s needs.
At Cloud 9 Computing Group, we are always conscious of our clients’ environments and advise on what technology will be most appropriate. Typically, it’s advantageous for end user computers to have SSDs so we have standardized that with our endpoints. We also offer our cloud services to boot from SSD and data storage on either SSD or HDD depending on speed requirements for our clients.
Please feel free to reach out to us for more information or how we can help your IT needs!