May 15, 2013
David Dunlap
SSDvsSATA

My first hard drive was a big deal. Up until that time I was running everything off of floppies and that took forever. My first hard drive was a “daughter” card that was directly plugged into one of the ISA slots in the motherboard (we are in the way back machine mind you, circa 1980′s). It weighed more than the high-end video game graphics cards do today and cost a hefty sum of cash. It held a huge amount of data too, 20 megabytes! I will always remember though how much faster it was than swapping out disks. It’s funny, but it has been a long time since I felt that large of a difference between one form of storage and another.

When SSDs first came out I was skeptical. I had seen just about every single change in storage in the past 25 years and to think that there was such a dramatic difference in speed between the SSD and a SATA drive, to me, was unbelievable. Though I like being cutting edge, I decided to sit this one out. That decision was a mistake I hope never to repeat.

SATA Inside

These spinning wheels have been the basis of storage tech for decades

If you have never seen what a standard drive looks like, you are in for a treat. As you can see there are a lot of moving parts. The disks in the middle (called platters) spin at various speeds. In some drives the spin at 5400 revolutions per minute others at 9600 revolutions per minute. Going at that speed, your traditional hard drive generates an impressive amount of heat through friction. It is also important to note you can’t shake that kind of a drive very hard or you risk permanent damage.

SSDs on the other hand look more like a circuit board filled with memory chips. No moving parts and so they produce far less heat. Another thing worth noting is that since there are no moving parts you can shake and jar these suckers and you are not going to break them. Which could have been quite helpful to me….

 

SSD

The inside of an SSD.. not really a whole lot see

I purchased a high performance 15k RPM SATA drive. To me this sucker was fast. It also sounded like a cross between a jet engine and a dying cat. The hard drive was my operating system drive. I placed all the stuff necessary to run my computer on this drive. Everything was going great for a good month. Please note, my computer sits under my desk and to the right of my legs.

One night I couldn’t sleep, so I fired up the computer and thought maybe I should get some work done to ease my mind. I powered up the comp and started making a fresh pot of coffee. I was in the midst of setting up my virtual work space when for some odd reason I jerked and kicked out with my right leg. I connected with the computer and heard the third worst sound I have ever heard in my entire life. And then my computer died. The 15k RPM SATA drive had been spinning at its maximum and when I kicked the computer I jarred the hard drive so badly the platters had come out of their tracks and smashed into each other. My computer was officially dead.

One of the interesting differences between SSDs and traditional hard drives is how each handle failure. The SSD, generally, fails on write cycles. So as its writing data it might get an error. If an error happens the drive just writes the data to some other part of the drive. The result is, though there might have been an error there will be no data loss. Traditional drives generally have errors on read cycles. As they read they find errors and the data becomes corrupt. The result is, your data becomes lost. And also, like the example above, traditional drives are not well protected against earthquakes, long drops (while running), and odd feats of mad football/soccer skills.

Reliability is a factor. Heat is also something to take note (a cooler system burns less power and, equally, wastes less power). However, SSDs are about speed. And there is a noticeable difference. Two major areas where an SSD shines when it comes to a hosted environment is database and website hosting. For databases, the majority of the processes are read processes. Sure data is added to the database, but the main reason for adding said data is so that a larger audience can consume that data. Websites are the same way. The bulk of the processes are read processes. And in both cases an SSD buries any SATA regardless of how fast the platters are spinning.

How much does an SSD bury a SATA you might ask. Well when it comes to performing input and output operations per second the fastest SATA in 2010 was hitting 380 I/O operations every second. That is pretty amazing. The same year, the fastest SSD was doing 14001 per second (all data from TomsHardware.com). When it comes to actual work production the SSD outclassed the SATA 36 to 1.

Ouch.

Because SSD is a great addition for so many online applications, we at SingleHop have found a way to make it easily accessible to our customers. You can swap out your first hard drive for an SSD drive free of charge. Which is a pretty sweet deal anyway or if you swap out the first drive to an SSD and decide to add another SSD you will get a free RAID 1/0 controller. And if you decide to swap out the first drive for an SSD and purchase two additional SSD hard drives you will get a free RAID 5 controller.

Your Data, Your Choice.

And oh yes I now run an SSD in my home computer.

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