Solid State Disk drives: Resistance is futile!

Facts about SSD drives

Solid State Drive

Solid-state drives (SSD) are computer drives that do not contain any moving parts. A solid-state drive is a data storage device that uses solid-state memory to store persistent data. A SSD emulates a hard disk drive interface, which means that you can easily replace your old hard disk drive in most systems.

Even though Solid State Disk drives have made steady progress in gaining popularity over the last year, there are still many people who are not yet convinced of the superiority of SSD technology over the regular disk based hard drives.

There have been a number of persistent rumors and misconceptions about SSD drives which I shall address in this post.

The energy savings of SSD drives are not that big in real life usage.

Fact:
It is obvious that having to use an internal motor to rotate the disks of a regular hard disk costs more energy than powering the chips in an SSD drive. SSD drives do not have any moving parts and therefore the potential power savings can be huge. Unfortunately the chips in an SSD drive are constantly ‘on’ and using power. Modern hard disk drives stop rotating when they are not in use and in that state use very little power. Still, thanks to the fact that operating systems are being optimized for SSD drives recent tests have proven that SSD drives have far superior energy consumption over regular hard disk drives and can easily improve laptop battery life to as much as 30 minutes.

SSD’s have a shorter lifespan than regular hard disk drives

Fact:
The impression of a short lifespan is probably caused by the shock that SSD drives do deteriorate over time. Some people might have had the hope that the chips in the drives would not suffer from any wear and would never break. Still, in practice SSD’s have a much longer lifespan and are much more reliable because of the absence of any moving parts. If for example a laptop with a regular hard disk falls on the floor, chances are quite big that the disk will not survive.
When a chip in an SSD drive comes to the end of it life, it will be switched off and the data will be moved to another chip in the SSD disk. The controller software will keep you informed of the health status of your SSD drive. If a regular disk drive fails, it will mean a complete loss of all data on that disk.

Interestingly, the bigger the SSD drive capacity, the longer it will last. This is because the disk controller makes sure that all chips are used evenly, SSD disks now easily outlast the lifespan of the computers they are used in.

SSD drives are actually not that fast.

Fact:
Questions about the speed of SSD’s have arisen after some poor benchmark results of cheap netbooks. A lot of netbooks are equipped with small SSD drives but unfortunately they do not always perform better than the hard disk versions. The Acer One is an example of a netbook with a very slow SSD and based on the poor test results of the speed of the SSD in this particular machine some people have drawn the incorrect conclusion that all SSD drives are slow. As with regular disk drives, there are fast and slow versions (what a surprise!). To cut costs, netbook manufacturers often use inferior SSD drives that both have a very small capacity and are relatively slow. Adding to that, netbooks are often using Windows XP which is not at all optimized for getting maximum performance out of SSD technology.
The latest Intel SSD drives use Multi-Level Cell NAND chips and offer a staggering performance of 250MB/s sustained read rate and 70MB/s sustained write rate. These drives completely blow away any regular disk drive when it comes to speed.

SSD drives have very small storage capacity.

Fact:
Thanks to storage in the cloud (photo’s at flickr, video streaming from Netflix etc.) most users do not need huge amounts of disk storage and even though currently SSD storage is still quite expensive and does not offer the capacity of regular hard disk drives, SSD disks are rapidly becoming bigger and cheaper. 128Gb SSD drives are quickly becoming mainstream and Sun is already offering a 576 Terrabyte storage system based on SSD technology! While this system is still pretty expensive, it definitely offers lots of storage capacity.

As you can see, resistance to SSD technology is futile ;) Are you planning to buy an SSD drive for your computer?

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17 Responses to “Solid State Disk drives: Resistance is futile!”

  1. Steven says:

    Wow! Samsung is going to mass-produce a blazing fast 256GB ssd!

    http://gizmodo.com/393198/blazing-samsung-256gb-ssd-is-the-one-weve-been-waiting-for

  2. Shawn Patrick says:

    The article is misleading on many points. First of all, the “latest” ssd drive the author is talking about is only available on the MAC or you can install it yourself for $600. No one in their right mind is going to pay $600 for a SSD drive on a netbook.

    The 2nd is the “cloud” thing. Not everyone has access to wifi or broadband. That makes cloud computing totally worthless. All those flickr photos don’t mean a thing if you can’t connect at a high speed to the web. So yes, almost everyone does need more storage space than what SSD drives offer.

    And if you notice, when they first came out, all netbooks had SSD drives. Now less and less do. In fact, Best Buy doesn’t even stock SSD drive notebooks anymore at our store in Lexington, SC. But they offer about 6 different netbooks with real hard drives.

    And the better harddrives easily beat a 250Mb read speed by several fold.

    The SSD drive you will get in your average netbook are about 5 to 10 times slower as a low end hard drive on an EMachine.

  3. Johan says:

    @Shawn: The article is a year old and you are right that since then ssd’s have not taken off as I predicted. The netbook market is indeed a good example of that.

    But I still believe that all (or at least a big chunk) data is going to move to ‘the cloud’ and the upcoming Google Chrome OS that was announced this week is a good example of that. Note that official Chrome OS devices will only support SSD drives and all personal data is stored in the cloud. This does mean that you will have to be connected all the time, but this is becoming less of an issue with the broad availability of mobile internet and wifi.

  4. Also note Google Gears technology for offline caching which allows web apps to work offline too and sync back with the web when connected.

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  9. Freddy Stubbs says:

    I have SSDs in all of my systems, as the boot drive (64GBs.) Hard Disk Drives as storage. SSDs have increased boot times by 2000% and increased performance of certain apps and pagefile procs. by 3x.

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