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HARDWARE
By 24 October 2013 | Categories: Hardware

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We love our media. So much in fact, we couldbe called hoarders, finding it almost impossible to delete anything once it is safely tucked away on a drive. You can therefore imagine our chagrin when, somehow, the TB drive fell and all the data was gone.

Still weeping, unashamedly, due to the loss, we decided to investigate the various alternatives which could serve our purposes. The search led us to Zandré Rudolph, retail manager at Drive Control Corporation.

Solid state drives (SSDs) are starting to gain traction in the market as they are smaller, lighter, faster, more power efficient and, with no moving parts, more robust and reliable than traditional hard drives. “While the capacity of SSDs (64 -512 GB) is significantly lower than that of HDDs and they cost about five times more, SSDs continue to grab more market share in both the 2.5 and 3.5 inch formats. They are finding a very welcome home with niche users,” says Rudolph.

It would appear that SSD fans are IT savvy users with specific needs in mind when it comes to their storage needs. “Mostly we see mobile workers, gamers and users of data and/or graphics intensive applications as the main adopters. They understand the technology and realise the benefits. The most notable is that you get all the benefits that come with the non- volatile NAND flash memory of the SSD. This is the same kind of memory found on mobile and portable devices and on your desktop PC’s flash drive.”

What made us sit up and listen was that fact that there are no moving parts. In essence, it allows SSDs to offer instant-load performance which translates to faster boot times, faster application loading times, and better system responsiveness. “SSDs are also more rugged, reliable and stable than traditional magnetic hard drives, shaking up or dropping a mobile device with an SSD may leave you with a broken screen, but your data will be intact. It’s what you want when you are on the road, need to present sales information to a client without start-up delays, crunch a huge amount of data or edit video footage in the field or from a remote location.”

The read and write speeds of SSDs can vary by capacity, model and brand but users can expect to reach up to 500 megabytes per second write speeds and read speeds of up to 260 MB/s on a 512 GB Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) 3 model. “A 128 GB SATA 3 SSD may have write speeds of only 175 MB/s. On a SATA 6 512 GB SSD however, you could get read speeds of up to 500 MB/s.

In order to understand how the speeds differ and the performance benefits of SSD over traditional HDD, it is necessary to take a step back and clarify the difference between the two hard drive technologies. A traditional HDD features a platter or disk with a moving arm with magnetic heads. SSD technology has no moving parts and features a far smaller footprint.

The speed of a traditional HDD is measured by the rotations per minute which illustrates the speed at which the drive’s disk spins. For example, low-end HDDs read approximately 100 MB/s and write speeds of approximately 40 MB/s. Conversely, a low-end SSD hard drive features read speeds of approximately 200 MB/s and write speeds of approximately 100 MB/s. This is significantly faster than traditional HDD.”

Sounds perfect, but, and there is always a but, NAND flash memory is a little hard to come by which puts a premium on getting your hands on an SSD. Production capacity is unlikely to meet demand in the next decade, according to industry sources so while costs are coming down a little, there will be no fast drop. “At present, you can expect to pay about R5 000 for a 512 GB SSD, and about R1 000 for a 500 GB HDD.”

Another little spanner in the works hinges on maximum capacity. The SSDs are capped at 512 GB which pales a little when compared to the TBs available on HDDs. “There are some compromises to be made and many are doing so, using the 3.5" SSDs. All SSDs only come in a 2.5" form factor and one would need a 3.5" bracket to install it into a desktop PC for targeted applications and processes. With installation as easy as ghosting the current HDD onto the SSD and dropping it in, it is a no brainer for those that can make productive use of the speed and processing capacity of the SSD.”

For the hardcore users out there who demand a fast start-up on their desktop PCs, the 2.5" SSD with a 3.5" bracket is installed and used to boot up the PC. “In this instance the operating system and key applications that demand fast response times loaded on the PC, and the bulk of other data and applications, are stored on an accompanying HDD. The same setup can be used by graphic design professionals, video editors and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) users of data intensive applications with the SSD dramatically increasing the speed of workflow by being able to speed up processing and file transfer.”

As an added benefit for the eco-conscious users out there, the fact that there are no moving parts makes the SSD about 20% lighter on power consumption. “Thi is great as well if you are worried about battery life. It’s also quieter – no moving parts means there’s no mechanical wear on components, increasing the relative life of the drive.”

At the moment the SSD seems, to be more of a ‘want’ as opposed to a ‘need’ product.

The price tag is a little hefty but for corporates and high-end users with a bit of cash this would seem to be a great solution. As with all things we believe that the price will plummet in future and, in certain cases, SDDs will become the standard as opposed to the exception. TSB

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