The Hard Drive: The Important Differences Between HDD Storage Solutions and SSD Solutions

JUNE 8TH, 2023

A recent article on the site notes that hard disk drive (HDD) sales dropped by 35 percent year-over-year in Q1 2023. Meanwhile, MarketWatch projects that the solid-state drive (SSD) market will reach nearly $27 billion by the end of 2030. And TechRadar headlined a recent article, “SSD could hasten demise of HDD as parity looms in 2023.” 

If you’re an IT pro, as SSD prices drop, you’re likely to be considering whether HDDs or SSDs best meet your requirements for specific use cases. So let’s go through the pros and cons of the two technologies.

HDDs vs. SSDs: Structural Differences

The first commercial HDD shipped in 1956. HDDs rely on spinning magnetic disks, or platters, to store and retrieve data, reading and writing to these platters with mechanical arms. The speed at which the data can be accessed depends on the rotation speed of the platters. HDDs are tried and true technology, but they have limitations.

SSDs use flash memory chips, or flash storage, invented by an engineer at Toshiba in 1984. SSDs are a type of nonvolatile memory—in other words, it does not require a continuous power supply to retain stored data or code. SSDs don’t have any moving parts, instead accessing data stored in a grid of memory cells without any mechanical movement.

HDDs vs. SSDs: Speed and Performance

While HDDs have improved considerably over time in terms of speed, they can’t keep up with SSDs. Physically accessing data takes time as the read/write arm moves over the spinning platter. HDD latency can also cause delays, especially when dealing with large files or multiple read/write operations running simultaneously.

Because they rely on electricity instead of moving parts to access data, SSDs deliver much faster read/write speeds. Access times are almost instantaneous, so they make sense in use cases and applications where latency is an issue. 

HDDs vs. SSDs: Reliability and Durability

The very structure that makes HDDs work is also why they are more prone to failure than HDDs. HDDs are subject to breakdowns caused by shocks, vibrations, or just simple wear and tear. The moving parts are particularly susceptible to damage—especially the constantly moving read/write heads. And the magnetic structure of HDDs makes them susceptible to data loss in the presence of strong magnetic fields.

With no moving parts, SSDs are generally more durable and reliable. They can withstand shocks and vibrations better than HDDs, and because they don’t rely on magnetic storage, they won’t lose data if exposed to a magnetic field. The most important limitation to note about SSDs is that they offer a limited lifespan in terms of the number of write cycles each memory cell can sustain. Enterprise Storage Forum says that the service life of an SSD is 256 terabytes written over time or TBW. After that, the chances of a drive failure or data loss of an SSD increase.

HDDs vs. SSDs: Capacity and Cost

As noted in the first paragraph, HDDs hold a cost advantage over SSDs for now. But with price parity on the horizon, the IT equation for which drive you should use is changing, too. For now, HDDs hold an edge in capacity and can meet many performance requirements. But SSD capacities are growing, so that difference may only last for a short time. 

Use Case Drives Choices

Ultimately, your use case will determine whether you should choose HDDs or SSDs. Where speed, durability, and reliability are the priority, SSDs win hands down. Where cost and capacity come into play, HDDs may be your best choice. It all depends on the kind of data you are storing, how it will be used, and your budget. 

For expert help understanding your storage options, as well as ensuring data resilience for your stored data, choose an Arcserve technology partner 

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