Comparing The Reliability and Performance Of SSD and HDD

It’s not difficult to realize why solid state drives (SSD) are way better than traditional hard disk drives (HDD). It has been said a lot all over the places, whether by an expert or even a regular user.

Although the price of an SSD is higher than that of an HDD, but to many people it is worth it when the substantial benefits of SSDs, such as the solid performance and consistent reliability are taken into consideration.

SSDs are far more power-efficient than HDDs both directly (in terms of power consumed) and indirectly (a reduced need for air conditioning and air exchange, due to SSDs generating far less heat than HDDs).

What Makes SSDs Different than HDDs

Despite the fact that they perform the same functions, SSDs and HDDs are as different as MP3 players are to eight-track tape machines.

An SSD is basically a set of memory chips, similar to those used in RAM and flash memory cards. This means SSDs do not have moving parts, and do not require power to retain data on the chips once it has been recorded there.

In contrast, an HDD is complex and can contain multiple magnetically coated disks (platters) that spin at a very high rate. This requires lots of power to keep these drives spinning.

The result: The fastest HDD can read/write data at speeds up to 200 Mbps. The fastest SSD can read/write data at 550 Mbps; more than 2.5 times faster!

Why SSDs Are Intrinsically Better than HDDs

The fact that SSDs offer faster read/write access than HDDs is just the start of their many advantages over spinning disks. These advantages all come back to the fact that SSDs have no moving parts while their HDD counterparts have many.

Because they have no moving parts, SSDs are extremely durable and resistant to damage caused by shocks, jolts, and falls. This makes them less likely to fail than vulnerable HDDs.

SSDs provide much faster boot cycles, program loading, and multitasking than comparable HDDs. Lacking moving parts, SSDs also use little power and generate virtually no heat. They are fan-free and silent.

According to research conducted by IDC, the price-performance of SSD exceeds mechanical hard disk drives (HDD) in a number of areas. Here are just a few of their research findings:

  • SSD improve data access times for applications which increases productivity by 35 percent or about $93 per user per year.
  • SSD improve reliability to reduce PC downtime which can result in productivity costs of 40 percent or $52 per user per year.
  • The extended battery life of SSD adds 11 hours of work time for users who travel.

Another big benefit of SSDs: Data fragmentation is not an issue. Data from a single file can be stored side by side or in different locations without an issue.

Due to their reliance on moving parts, HDDs are vulnerable to being misaligned or damaged due to shocks, jolts, or falls. Their need to search for data across the platters slows down boot cycles, program loading, and multitasking. Worse yet, as old files are deleted and new ones are added, HDDs “fragment” their file structures — recording data from single files on various noncontiguous locations on the disks. This fragmentation increases read/write times, thus slowing down a PC’s operations.

Having so many moving parts, HDDs generate heat, thus requiring passive ventilation, if not outright fan-based cooling. Because the heat is generated by friction, every motion wears down the HDD’s parts a little, until one day, it just stops running altogether.

Did we mention that, comparatively speaking, an HDD uses nearly 10 times as much power as a comparative SSD? It does, and at a time when electricity bills are skyrocketing and laptop battery power capacities remain limited.

Add the fact that HDDs weigh 10 times as much as SSDs — a difference that matters to employees using laptops out of the office — and you begin to wonder why HDDs remain as popular as they do, even with their lower price. After all, a lower price isn’t the same as the best value; which is what SSDs deliver to their users.

What SSDs Offer to your Business

Computing devices equipped with SSDs can read/write data at least 2.5 times faster than HDDs. Not only does this reduce user wait time, but it also results in faster multitasking. Faster multitasking means faster employees, because all those microseconds saved add up over time across a group of users. But that’s just the beginning: Employees who can access their programs and files as they need them are less frustrated, more focused, and, thus, more likely to get things done.

(Note: It is possible to use SSDs in RAID arrays, although the comparative price difference with HDDs – and the ability of RAID technology to help boost apparent HDD read/write performance – may not make this economically practical at present. As well, not all RAID systems that work with HDDs will work with SSDs; research should be done before swapping out one for of drive for the other.)

Because they do not have moving parts wearing out and generating heat through friction, SSDs last longer and SSDs fail less frequently than HDDs. This means less employee down time and less IT support time spent fixing media storage issues, which saves money.

The faster access speed provided by SSDs can substantially improved the performance of older, HDD-based computers. The reason: “The benefits of SSDs are immediately visible to users as a means to improve application performance by reducing electromechanical HDD latencies,” said Gartner. “In addition, the ROI of SSD performance benefits is immediately apparent and measurable, especially when the applications using the SSDs are high-profile, revenue-generating services.

For your business, this means that a system upgrade can be postponed, thus improving productivity simply by replacing the HDDs in older Macs with SSDs. (Add more RAM and a new O/S, and the computer will do even better than before; albeit at a higher price.) The revamped computers will be faster and more reliable than their original incarnations, subsequently giving the capital budget a breather for this year and, likely, the next one too.

What SSDs Can’t Do:

The only performance advantage to HDDs over SSDs is their ability to offer capacities larger than 1 terabyte. This, combined with HDD’s lower per-gigabyte cost, is why many data centers are still using them for storage. This is why Gartner sees SSDs and HDDs coexisting in data centers. They recommend using “HDDs for the majority of an organization’s active data with SSD specifically installed and implemented for use with applications and data that require fast access times and high performance.”

At the desktop level, most clients do not need drives bigger than 1 TB—and they certainly don’t need all the finicky failure issues associated with HDDs.

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