SSD vs HDD: Which is the Best?

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Is your server running slowly? Are you running low on storage space? If so, it may be time to look at a hard drive upgrade. Granted, the issue may lie elsewhere on the server, but oftentimes, a new drive may be needed. This begs the question: should you choose a cheaper, traditional hard disk drive, or should you take the plunge and buy a faster SSD?

In this tutorial, we show you the differences between HDDs and SSDs in terms of speed, capacity, efficiency, reliability, power, and cost.

What is an SSD?

A Solid State Drive (SSD) is a computer storage device that retains data in flash memory instead of a magnetic-based system like a hard disk drive. By definition, “flash memory is an electronic (solid state) non-volatile computer memory storage medium which can be electrically erased and reprogrammed.” A solid state drive is defined by its ability to store server data using the reliable attributes of a durable cluster of semiconductors. Because solid state drives do not depend on moving parts or spinning disks, stored data retrieval speed is faster.

What is an HDD?

A Hard Disk Drive (HDD) is a non-volatile, hardware data storage device attached to a computer or server. An HDD magnetically stores, retrieves, and outputs digital information using a series of stacked rotating metallic platters that have been coated with magnetic material. The rotating disks are paired with an actuator arm that reads and writes the digital data to the server disks.

SSD vs. HDD Performance Summary

SSDParameters HDD
0.1 msAccess Times5.5~8.0 ms
6000 io/sI/O Performance400 io/s
20 msI/O Request Time400 ~ 500 ms
0.5%Reliability (Failure Rate)2 ~ 5%
2 & 5 WattsEnergy Savings6 & 15 Watts
1%CPU Power7%
6 HoursBackup Rates20~ 24 Hours

Speed 

An SSD has data access speeds of 40 to 100 microseconds, nearly 100 times faster than an HDD.

Solid state drives continue to dominate the hard drive market’s growth because of the ongoing improvements being made to the solid state drives. Major manufacturers like SanDisk, Samsung, Sun Microsystems, and Toshiba continue to improve the speed, space, and stability of SSDs. 

In the server market, SSD offers faster read/write times, which increases server speed by an average of 95%. This, in turn, decreases page load times, leading developers to invest more functionality in web-based applications. This allows users to take advantage of and utilize more functional websites. SSDs increase the data transfer rate, which increases the servers’ overall speed and responsiveness.

Increased access speed means programs can run quicker and work harder with less stress on the server. 

Because every storage block is available at the same speed as every other storage block, the access rate is exponentially enhanced. This means that solid state drives throughput is dramatically faster than an HDD.

Capacity

HDD: As of August 2020, hard disk drives typically average capacity of 1 to 8 terabytes, with larger capacity drives reaching 20 terabytes or more soon. 

SDD: As of July 2020, Solid state drives ranging from 50-100 terabytes are available for sale.

Capacity is always a factor when selecting a storage medium. SSD drives offer the greatest return on investment due to the larger sizes available and pricing options.

Since the two are very different technologies, each has very different physical sizes if that comes into play for your build.

Efficiency

SSDs can read sequential data at up to 550 MBps and write at up to 520 MBps, whereas HDDs can only handle sequential reads/writes at 125MBps.

In terms of efficiency, solid state drives outperform conventional hard drives due to higher reliability, consumption of less power, and faster read/write times.

SSDs have no variable seek time or rotational latency issues, since solid state drives read and write to NAND cells, which is fundamentally different than how HDDs read and write files. It’s much faster, and consumes less power than HDDs.

HDDs require physical mechanical movements in order to read and write data to the disc, which takes more time and power.

Reliability

The age limit for SSDs are around 10 years, whereas HDD drives will last approximately three to five years.

Since solid state drives have no moving parts to wear down or break, they typically provide better performance and improved reliability over HDDs.

Additionally, SSD provides enhanced data integrity and endurance since they retain data even when powered down. The average SSD lifespan can be shorter than 10 years, depending on specific use cases.

Because server HDDs are typically reading/writing data 24/7, they tend to require maintenance more often. Additionally, HDDs’ failure rates continue at approximately 2-5% per year versus SSDs, which only have a failure rate of 0.5% per year.

This being said, SSD does have a downside. There is a finite number of writes available, which will cause the eventual need for a replacement solid state drive to be employed. Some estimates place about 3,000 write cycles average per cell before breakdown.

Additionally, some drives may arrive from the factory with degraded cells, which can cause an exponentially faster breakdown and cause the drive’s early failure.

Power Requirements

Typically, the power consumption for an HDD is about 7%, while an SSD uses approximately 1% of the server’s power.

SSD drives require less power and cooling than other types of storage media. Because of this, they produce less heat than a regular hard disk drive, which lowers the need for heat dissipation. HDD drives generate more heat due to the mechanical action of the disk. 

Solid state drives perform better because they spend more time in an idle state compared to an HDD. This simply means that an SSD delivers a larger magnitude of increased efficiency per watt than an HDD.

Cost 

SSDs cost around $0.07 per GB, whereas HDD cost around $0.03 GB.

There continues to exist a significant market share for traditional HDDs. As pricing continues to fall and raid array usage provides a large amount of storage space, SMBs often take advantage of the lowered total cost of ownership traditional storage mediums offer.

The lower costs associated with large HDDs versus the newer SSDs medium permit a reliable alternative option for many businesses, depending on their needs. The overall cost, however, continues to narrow. 

SSD vs HDD: Who Wins?

Currently, the benefits of using an SSD drive in your current server setup will be shown in an overall increase in capacity, performance, and reliability. This means that with the addition of this type of drive, the amount of data you will be able to store will increase, with an overall lower total cost per gigabyte.

SSD drives provide critical time-savings in the overall conversion time of data if you are rendering graphics or processing videos. If analyzing significant amounts of information, SSDs offer a drastic reduction in processing time and server load.

Additionally, the ability to stream videos in real-time will dramatically increase, which will allow for no-lag video streaming.

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