Are SSDs more reliable than a regular hard disk?

by ZimTommy on July 31, 2011 · 28 comments

in News

There’s plenty of information floating around that will tell you how much faster an SSD is compared to your regular platter based hard drive.  I personally use an SSD as the main OS drive in my Windows 7 desktop PC and just love how quickly the machine boots up and is ready for me to log in,  applications open up in a flash and the whole PC just seems to race along in general.

But what about reliability?

If you asked for my, not very technical, opinion I’d say that there’s no moving parts so it must be more reliable than a normal hard disk surely!  Well Tom’s Hardware has a great article on this very topic and is quite a good read where they analyse data and opinions from a wide range of people. One interesting quote from the article offers good advice for balancing performance with economy, as well as supporting the “backups are better than duplication” premise that Microsoft have chosen to advocate with Windows Home Server 2011:

…it’s really up to you to be smart about the way you deploy storage in order to get the most value from solid-state and hard drives. Of course you can’t entirely replace mechanical disks with SSDs; they’re too expensive. So rather than trying to protect data from some of the issues currently affecting SSDs by creating redundant (expensive) arrays, just make sure the information exists in multiple places. As Robin Harris at StorageMojo writes, “Forget RAID, just replicate the data three times.”

I’ve not yet had a drive failure in my Windows Home Server in over 2 years but have had a few drives fail on me over the years.  And then there’s the fact that I’ve only ever had one SSD drive and it’s still working fine so can’t really comment from experience.

I’d assume that a number of our regular readers already make use of SSDs in some form or another.  Some may have even gone so far as to have one or more in their WHS server.  Large capacity (and cheap) SSDs would be perfect, in my opinion, for use in home servers. Just think what it would do for heat and power consumption!  And there’s also the chance that they’d be more reliable. Let us know in the comments what your experience has been with SSD reliability versus mechanical drives.





Article by

Hi there, I'm Tommy and I've been messing around with PCs and electronics since before I can remember. I had been running my own WHS "frankenserver" for a good few years before I picked up an ex490 on super special after HP has discontinued them and that's, in turn, how I found this little community of fellow enthusiasts.


{ 28 comments }

Comp1962 July 31, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Lately I have been giving some thought to using smaller SSD’s exclusively for system drives in all my clients. The prices are now attractive but from reading consumer reviews on sites like Newegg I still get mixed feelings on these and the impression that the technology needs to mature abit longer.

The one interesting thing about having a server is the reduced need for multiple drives or partitions in a client athough I still prefer to do all my ripping to one specific drive of course this would not be an SSD.

The other thing I have been thinking about but its cost prohibitive is the use of an SSD for the Server System drive in my WHS v1 and WHS2011 Servers but the cost still needs to come down more and for my comfort level the technology needs to mature more but its very tempting just for the speed boost.

For now I will sit on the side lines eagerly reading what others have to say but whats most important is not the enthusiasm of when the SSD is first put into use but after its been in use for a year or more and that will for me be the best review to read.

Damian August 1, 2011 at 7:40 am

Honestly price has still kept me away from SSDs. I just built a new desktop PC and opted for a 1TB WD Caviar Black. I am not looking to break any sort of “boot up” record and my system runs snappy as is, so the added cost of an SSD drive just doesn’t seem justified when looking at price per GB. I am sure as time goes on SSD will close the gap vs. platter so I am not in a rush.

Cheers
Damian

varun August 7, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I used to think EXACTLY like you on this not even six months ago. Then Microcenter’s cheap self-branded SF-1222-based SSD was on sale for $70 or so, and I was building a little workstation to basically be our one work-linked machine. Put it in, thought nothing of it. Fast forward a couple of months and I decided I needed more storage, so I cloned the drive to a Samsung spinner, put it in and whyisthissoslowwwwwwwwwwwwww?!?! Long story short, I put the SSD back in and mapped certain folders onto the WHS.

SSDs never seem all that fast when you put them in. Take them out, though, and it’s PAINFUL. So I’m gradually shifting, as I can, to SSDs all around. :)

hellerbrewing August 1, 2011 at 8:31 am

It has been a while, but when I first started researching this I discovered that SSDs have a limited number of writes to each sector (is that the correct term?). It was a pretty in depth article from anandtech, it is pretty old but here it is:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/2738/1

It seems to me that server environment, especially one with drivebalancing, would not be conducive to the limited lifespan of SSD. Has the technology improved in the last couple of years to where the lifespan is not an issue?

Josh August 1, 2011 at 9:22 am
Damian August 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

Interesting read. Definitely sounds like you should have a good backup plan in place with an SSD. Anyone know how the warranties look compared to platter?

Drashna (WGS) August 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Warranties look to be the same as platters, but each company is different.

Also, one thing I’ve noticed is that when a SSD fails, you rarely get any warning, and because it’s 99% the chipset on the “disk”s fault, you lose EVERYTHING. Platters generally give you all sorts of warning beforehand (click of death, bad sectors, etc), and give you enough time to get important data off them (not always though).

For a backed up computer, SSD is fine, but for storage of any sorts? Platters hands down. Between Home Server, Live Sync and DropBox, my really important stuff is safe. :)

Comp1962 August 11, 2011 at 3:01 am

After reading the article in the link and some of the comments. I will always stick with whats reliable. With the price of SSD’s comming down they are tempting to try out. For me I just want reliability and while speed is great it does you no good if your going to crash and burn in a short period of time. The authors solution is to have a good backup plan and this is true in all things but I still think SSD’s need to mature more and yet they are tempting to try out. Years ago I use to use what’s called a RAM Drive to store the OS of a Bulletin Board System to make the system faster than it was and it worked well. I miss this function which in part is similar to todays SSD but I was doing this back in the 1990′s using an Amiga 2000HD to run C-Net Amiga Pro BBS Software.

Do not get me wrong I do see SSD’s as the wave of the future just that they need to evolve more. I also know that some people have very good luck with them but no matter how tempting they are I have to force myself to sit on the sidelines and wait it out.

PatrickGreene August 11, 2011 at 3:34 am

I used to run C-Net on an Amiga 2000 in a Bomac tower, 24/7 for a few years uptime. I am using a ramdisk now on my Windows 7 machine, great use of the ‘extra’ ram in my 16 gb total, esp. in combo with 4 SSDs in RAID 1 on a highpoint controller. I have all the various system caches etc in the ramdisk, on shutdown it writes the ramdisk contents to a “normal” storage HDD, on boot, the ramdisk is recreated and repopulated. Speeds up the system, lessens small writes to the SSDs, minimizing wear and tear and adding a little speed. The program I use is RAMdisk from Dataram, Inc. It’s free although they have a paid version.
As for the Amiga, I used to copy the ROM into the ramdisk to speed up those system calls, also made it easy to map new commands to replace old dodgy system commands. RIP Amiga.

Phileas Fogg August 2, 2011 at 11:35 am

Am I the only sucker for SSD’s here?
About 4 years ago I bought a 32GB SSD for my OS drive, since then I can tell you that I have replaced every boot drive in my household to an SSD.
it’s just like Pringles, Once you pop you can’t stop..
Nowadays I have everything here with a 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 beside my WHS that still have the original 240GB Vertex.
and no I’m not rich I just don’t have a life.

Jared August 2, 2011 at 11:49 am

I’m in the same boat. I put an SSD in one of out PCs and I couldn’t wait to upgrade our second one. Once you work with an SSD it is hard to go back to platter HDs.

It’s not just about boot-up time but responsiveness as soon as Windows is up and not waiting on your PC to get things done. I makes your PC feel faster and it’s maddening now when I get stuck on a PC with a mechanical drive.

Funksultan August 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Amen too. Can’t go back to conventional drives. Yes, I have a magnetic drive for storage, and of course my WHS is all platter, but as for the rest… SSD is the future.

Yes, anyone will find articles condemning SSDs at some level, but for me, the bottom line is, it’s solid state. I have one of the first MP3 players made (premium, with 32mb of memory!) and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t still work. Drop resistant, magnetic field resistant… there are a lot of pluses to SSD.

As far as the write limits on SSDs, you have to interpret the numbers… To touch the write endurance limit on modern drives, you’re looking at 51 years of constant use (at 80mb/sec).

http://www.storagesearch.com/ssdmyths-endurance.html

Use your SSD, enjoy it, and back it up just like you would anything else on the planet.

David August 2, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I’ve been going back and forth about using an SSD for my system drive for my WHS. I have a spare 60 GB SSD, would this be too tiny to use as a OS drive for WHS?

Comp1962 August 2, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Not to hold the OS but WHS v1 requires the system drive to be 80 GB and WHS2011 160GB. Honestly I wish both versions would let you pick the OS Size and just dedicate the entire drive to the OS at the installation.

T.Bone August 3, 2011 at 8:16 am

I totally Agree. the 20gb limit is a drag!!

David August 3, 2011 at 10:07 am

Thank you, I didn’t know that.

AXm77 August 4, 2011 at 5:10 am

WHS 2011 can be installed on smaller disk than 160GB and disk can be set to be for system only. I have 2011 on 90GB Vertex SDD as system drive only. I’ll post “how to” on forum.
BTW my Vertex in server fails after a just over 1 year of use, so no, SDDs are not even close to HDD reliability.

Howard August 4, 2011 at 10:46 pm

I am actually using SSD (Intels) in a RAID at work in a server environment. I have had no reliability problems. 1 year and counting. I had one of my 72GB SAS platter hard drives fail in the previous server. The problem I have had is that the 4 SSDs in RAID 10 push so much data at the RAID controller I had to put a fan on the controller.

Dan August 5, 2011 at 6:41 am

The danger with Flash storage is that when it fails recovery is extremely difficult to the point where only dedicated professionals can get it back.

With a mechanical HDD you generally have some warning signs and even then the drive may still be partially functional to the point end users can sometimes recover data on their own.

That’s why I never use SSD’s in anything that is critical.

Damian August 5, 2011 at 6:59 am

Agreed. I have a Seagate 2TB drive that is reporting 25% health and about 60 bad sectors. I was easily able to pull the drive out of my WHS and copy off all the data before the drive went dead.

PatrickGreene August 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm

What we need is tiered storage like we use in the enterprise. Data is stored on your slowest [lowest] tier, say 5400 rpm green Sata drives, and as it is used [play a movie say] it migrates up, first to 7200 rpm “black” or performance drives, and if you keep accessing it, to first tier SSDs. If you stop accessing it, it migrates back to the slowest cheapest storage. Say a spreadsheet you access daily might reside on your 7200 drives because of the use pattern, but an old TV series say the Munsters migrates back to the slowest until it is needed.

Al West August 15, 2011 at 5:12 pm

If you are backing up properly you should be okay with ‘losing’ you system disk. The only downside after price for an SSD is the fact that you don’t know when it’s going to fail (just like Winchester) and usually when they do fail there is no way of getting data off them. However, for the dramatic speed increase they are certainly worth it – it helps if you have a reason to be able to use that speed.

Howard August 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm

It seems to me anybody on this website automatically has a backup. No? Did you turn it off? I have restored a computer from my Homeserver restore disc and was backup in less than 5 minutes of human intervention (took 1.5hrs to move the data across the network). I say go for the SSD you will not go back and you have a backup just in case the SSD fails.

ImTheTypeOfGuy September 22, 2011 at 7:54 am

SSD’s are definitely less reliable than spindles. I have used SSD’s for a couple years and have had two die; out of four. They didn’t die due to the number of writes or anything related to trim. They just died beyond repair. I use SSD’s for my OS drive on all my systems except servers. It makes absolutely zero sense to have it on a server and I want the most reliable drive I can get for my server.

Helrazr November 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

I’ve used SSD’s in a number of systems. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of requiring consistent and reliable backups on SSD based systems after a Sandforce controller based Mushkin in my wife’s 8710W failed 3 weeks after installation. The store I bought it from has a generous SSD replacement policy though as they have a much higher %age of returns in comparison to disk based drives. They replaced the Mushkin drive with a 120GB OCZ Vertex 2 which wouldn’t take a Windows 7 install. IN order not to void the warranty I let them flash the F/W, and I could then do a W7 install but the drive suffered from spontaneous stop problems, the system would stop responding and after a painfully long time would blue screen with an F4 error. They replaced that one with an Intel 320 series drive. I have a pair of 80GB x-25m drives that are flawless as well. The Intel drives I’ve had are all flawless performers. I also have in the past had problems with 32GB Patriot Drives that on a warm boot would disappear. Only a cold boot would reset them properly for the BIOS to see them. I also replaced my 2710p drive with a Runforce 120GB unit (1.8″ zif pata) that works well also.

Yeah I love SSD’s but I don’t trust ‘em

Atvars March 14, 2012 at 8:41 am

I bought 120 Gb OCZ Vertex 3 for my HP8740W as disk for OS. Original 500 Gb disk put in upgrade bay where all important data are stored. I knew that OSZ have relatively high return rate compared to Intel SSD disks, but anyway opted OCZ.
After 3 or 4 weeks of usage I did get first signs (frequent blue screens, corrupted files) that there will be problems. After week it died. It was replaced with new one, which works fine already for 8 months. No problems at all. So I would say, do not ignore even smallest problems with SSD, it will certainly die. Be prepared.
Performance is astonishing. When HDD in upgrade bay is not touched, and when it stops spinning, laptop becomes very quiet.

Gardian March 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I use both, Each has it’s purpose.
I dual Boot a gaming/home rig. 1 drive is a 1 TB normal drive the other (gaming) is a OZC 256 Vertex 3.
Both on same win7pro 64 bit as it doesn’t know the difference and I can’t use both at once anyway. Both are fast but the SSD is just right for gaming. I do not keep data on my drives, it all goes on the server so it really doesn’t matter if I lose a drive, all that is their is the OS and basic stuff which I keep a image of. Point is, I don’t trust any drive SSD or not. But for speed, ya can’t beat’em. I am going to start trying then in the family netbooks and see how well they do.
Would I use them in a server, no, not big enough, to much money and as Comp1960 says, not tried and trued yet.

wade November 18, 2012 at 9:21 am

I purchased a macbook air with a 128gb SSD. I ended up buying an SSD for my workstation i have as well. The MacBook Air cpu, was under clocked and the rams overall performance is lower than the workstation. Yet the MacBook would load applications almost instantaneously compared to the workstation. I found HP had an upgrade SSD for their Elitebook Mobile Workstations so I had to pick one up, they’re becoming very cheap 119 bucks for 128 gb IMO isn’t bad at all. I also have a new 350gb hdd to replace the failed one in it too, but its going to be added as the second hdd expansion, so it will just be used for music, video’s, basically stuff that wont need lots of oomph to get going. While the SSD is going to boot the OS and app’s, plus a virtual machine or two, also crysis and a few other games lol.

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