STORAGE

  • 10/19/2015
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Making Sense of SSDs

Solid-state storage is hot. IT storage pro Anthony Sequeira explains the pros and cons of the SSD technology.

Storage is one of the fastest growing areas of IT, for good reason. Everybody, from large corporations to end users, wants to be able to securely store, organize, and retrieve their data at a moment's notice, whether it’s financial data or family vacation photos. 

Solid state drives (SSDs) especially are gaining traction in the IT storage realm because they offer key advantages over traditional hard drives -- namely speed. Instead of relying on spinning mechanical parts, SSDs use chips to store data.

We recently sat down with longtime IT pro and trainer Anthony Sequeira to get his thoughts on SSD technology. 

Q. In your opinion, why is SSD so popular these days?

The main advantage of SSD is still one thing: Speed --  the raw performance when compared to traditional disk drives. Are there other advantages that help its popularity? Sure, there are. For example, ruggedness, form factor, lack of noise, or the lack of fragmentation are other great reasons. But the fact remains: The most important factor is how much better performance is presented.

(Anthony explains how SSDs work in the video below from his “CompTIA Storage+ SG0-001” CBT Nuggets course.)

Q. What makes SSDs so fast compared to traditional means of storage?

It's the lack of moving mechanical parts that makes SSDs so special. With the data being written to chips in the system instead of a spinning platter with a read/write head, the performance increase is revolutionary. OK, sorry... that was a really bad pun.

Q: In which situations would you want to use SSD?

SSD is the preferred solution whenever the highest levels of performance are needed.

Q: In which situations would you avoid using SSD?

SSD is not appropriate when very large capacities are needed, and money is a primary concern. SSD prices are falling, but they are still measurably more expensive than more traditional means. Combine this with the fact that mechanical disk drives tend to be of larger capacity, and you realize quickly that in environments where you need a lot of storage space at a low cost, traditional disks might be the answer.

Q: What types of organizations/businesses would be most likely to use SSDs?

SSD technology is now being used by businesses of all sizes. This is especially true considering that even very small businesses are seeing SSD technology used in their small, extremely mobile devices. Large enterprises are tiering their storage based on performance needs (among other requirements) and SSD technology can show up there in large supply.

Q: From an IT pro’s perspective, is learning and utilizing SSD technology more difficult?

SSD technology is simple to learn. The trickier part is designing solutions that take full advantage of the technology at the right price. Again, this often involves tiering the storage so that speed is used where it makes sense.

Q: One of the main pushbacks against SSD is its cost. How can users get around that?

Storage tiering allows you to only spend the money on SSD where you need it in your enterprise. For storage needs where speed is not that relevant, you can save massive amounts of money using traditional storage.

Q: Why might some consider a hybrid drive? And why might they avoid it?

Hybrid drives offer the advantage of storage tiering right in your personal device. Information that needs to be accessed often can be stored on the faster SSD, while information that is not accessed that frequently can be served up from the mechanical disk drive. Because more and more we are intrigued by higher performance, many people will save the money for an all-SSD solution.

Q: In terms of reliability, where do hybrid drives fall compared to SSDs and HDDs?

They really do fall somewhere in the middle of the two solutions. Sure, we are still somewhat at risk with the mechanical disk drive involved, but this drive is not used as much, so this is a big benefit.

Q: Do you think SSDs will eventually replace HDDs? Why or why not?

Yes. This tech (SSD) will continue to evolve and become more affordable. I see it replacing HDDs.

Q: What is the average lifespan of an SSD and a hybrid drive vs. HDD?

Most research shows that about 50% of your mechanical disk drives will fail by year six of their operation. Of course, there are plenty of variables involved, but it's a good rule of thumb.

Q: Can computers fully use the read/write speeds of an SSD or a hybrid drive?

Yes. Today’s amazing computing power means that we are still “waiting” on the storage system, even in the case of the fastest SSD technology.

Q: What read/write speeds can be expected from today’s SSD and hybrid drives?

A great site to see speeds as well as price information is at UserBenchmark.

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