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SSD vs. HDD – Boring Nerdy Article For Your Rainy Monday We Made Interesting…Totally.

Although solid state drives (SSDs) have been around for decades in one form or another, we still get questions regarding their value and performance improvements from a basic laptop all the way to new technology like VMWARE Virtual SAN.

Yep, SSDs increase cost, but they provide enough substantial benefits over traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) to make the cost increase worth it.  From superior performance, energy reduction, reliability, to ruggedness, SSDs easily justify the higher price tag.

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Now prepare as we dare to enter analogy-land: let us pretend you bought a 4 cylinder truck (HDD) because it was cheaper and you are headed to the mountains. The mountains are your Windows operating system, your SQL database queries, security updates, a Photoshop file – all things that require processing and quick access to data.

Unfortunately you use your 4 cylinder truck (HDD) to tow your family, a pop-up trailer and possibly a mother-in-law in the truck bed. You notice it gets you up the first mountain, but 25 MPH is as fast as it can go hauling all this weight – and if you hear one more “when are we going to be there” you are going to pull over and walk.  It is not the best for the job at hand.

In this analogy, an SSD drive would be considered the 8 cylinder diesel truck that gets 30mpg you should have purchased for attempting the trip through the mountains – it’s fast, powerful, and efficient – and would safely get you there and provide the experience you were hoping for.

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Analogy aside, if we get back to the ol’ brass tacks…

  • Will both drive types boot your new copy of Windows 10? Yes. SSDs show 10-20% increase on boot times from our testing the last 7 years with any Windows operating system.
  • Does the speed improvement of SSD reduce cost over time? Yes. Overall there is less time waiting – for EVERYTHING – from employees working efficiently to contractors updating systems. We will always argue with your accountant that the time spent waiting less for SSDs to process data saves you and your company more than the likely 20-25% extra upfront cost (as of 2015).
  • Will even a basic user notice a performance increase in an SSD?  Abso-flipping-lutely. Whether it’s quickly escaping Windows hibernation hell on your laptop or installing Office 365, you will never want to return to an HDD after using an SSD-based system after a week of use.
  • Do SSDs last as long as HDDs? In our experience, they easily last as long as you should own your workstation, server or SAN solution. This would equal 3 years – maybe 5 years if its still under warranty and you like to live on the wild side. If you are reading this and hope to use the same equipment for 7-10 years, then take a long look in the mirror, empty your checking account via cash and burn it all in a metal garbage can.

In the end, if you want a simple answer, use SSD for your operating system drive and HDD for file storage – e.g. pictures of your kitty named Ms. Sweetness of Matterhorn II. However, there are new drives called Hybrid SSD (SSHD) we will discuss in a future article that are the best of both worlds and have amazing technology in separating out the data to which drive portion makes more sense. Now grab another cup of coffee and enjoy that SSD-based Lenovo Carbon we just installed on your desk.

Written by: Kevin Calgren, Partner

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