Are SSDs replacing HDDs?

Why the storage market isn’t exactly in a solid state

Is the SSD tide turning? More importantly, are SSDs worth it? Just a few years ago, solid-state drives, or SSDs, were seen as cutting-edge solutions with price tags to match, strictly reserved for hard-core techies and high-end users. Most people were still perfectly content with tried and tested hard disk drives, and didn’t see the point of paying through the nose for performance they didn’t need… yet.

Now, whether you’re buying a laptop or renting a server, you’ll have probably noticed those three letters popping up more and more frequently. SSDs are steadily gaining ground in consumer products, and in some B2B markets, SSD sales are even pulling ahead of HDD. So what changed?

Advantages of SSD storage

Without the rotating disks of traditional HDDs, SSDs store data on semiconductor microchips, similar to the flash storage found in USB sticks and smartphone memory cards. This lack of moving parts offers numerous advantages, from increased shock resistance and durability, to decreased noise, vibration, weight, heat and energy consumption. But for the number one draw of SSD storage, you need to look at performance.

SSDs can access data much faster than HDDs: up to 10 times quicker, or even more. This means more responsive applications and a big performance boost for databases like MySQL, where the rapid read/write capability of SSD storage ensures website visitors aren’t left waiting. Sites that run on content management systems like WordPress and Drupal can also benefit from faster access to databases, because that’s where content elements such as themes and plugins are stored.

From nice-to-have to must-have

With data volumes increasing exponentially, hardware faces a challenge to keep up. While processor and RAM technologies are constantly advancing, traditional hard disks are arguably the weak link. Any kind of performance bottleneck can be an obstacle to a smooth user experience, especially in a web hosting or server environment.

Professional websites are content-rich, often with dynamic and interactive features, and databases serving large numbers of users. Potential customers won’t tolerate slow-loading pages, and Google is more likely to reward fast-performing sites in search results. With bandwidth already imposing limits on loading times, SSDs can help keep latency down to an absolute minimum. For some businesses, this makes SSD storage less of a bonus feature, and more of an essential requirement.

Affordable performance in a hybrid future

Price is another obvious reason why SSDs have taken off. The cost of SSDs has fallen almost to the point of parity with HDDs, making SSD storage a far more attractive option, particularly for businesses and IT pros willing to spend a little more buck for a lot more bang. But hard disk drives aren’t out of a job just yet – they still offer an ideal solution for entry-level users on a budget, and that’s not all.

An innovative new approach to storage involves combining SSD and HDD technologies to store very large volumes, while still retaining lightning-fast access to important data. ‘Smart’ SSD storage automatically detects the most frequently-accessed data, and prioritises it to be held on SSDs. Meanwhile, less in-demand data can be safely packed away on a cheaper HDD, perfectly available if and when anyone needs it. This optimises SSD usage, ensuring maximum availability for data accessed by large numbers of users, while keeping overall storage costs down.

At Fasthosts, our Cluster web hosting offers smart SSD storage with the latest tiered architecture, completely managed by the system. You’ll also find SSDs alongside HDDs on selected dedicated server packages, and our CloudNX server platform comes with SSD storage as standard, with up to 500GB on each virtual machine. If you think you need SSD performance for your next project, just get in touch – our experts are ready to advise you.

Be Sociable, Share!