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Hard Drive Failure Rates 2014: More Bad News for Seagate

Last year, Cloud storage provider Backblaze published a study detailing the failure rates of the numerous hard drives they use in their data centre. This year, they’ve published a further report and, once again, there are some very interesting findings.

As part of their study, Backblaze analysed the failure rates of each individual model of hard drive they used in their data centre, provided at least 45 were being utilised so as to ensure an adequate cross section of each model was included in the study. As the company found last year, Seagate produced the least reliable hard drives.

The drive that was found to be the most likely to fail was Seagate’s 3TB Barracuda 7200.14 which was found to have an annual failure rate of 43.1%. The second least reliable drive also belonged to Seagate, with their 1.5TB Barracuda 7200.11 possessing an annual failure rate of 23.5%. Third was the company’s Barracuda LP 1.5TB drive with 9.5%.

Backblaze also discovered that higher capacity (4TBs and up) drives were significantly less likely to fail. Indeed, Seagate’s mass-storage drives faired significantly better than their 3TB and lower drives with the three that were involved in the study possessing annual failure rates of 2.6%, 1.1% and 0% respectively.

Following them having published this report on their blog, Backblaze are recommending consumers that are looking for advice on their next HDD purchase to opt for a 4TB HGST or Western Digital drive.

Unsurprisingly, Seagate have been quick to note that each of the drives analysed by Backblaze have been designed for consumers and are not suitable for as intensive an environment as that you’d find in a data centre.

MicroSD Cards Most Popular Non-SSD Flash Storage in 2014

Sales of non-SSD flash memory devices grew by two per cent in 2014 – largely thanks to the growing popularity of MicroSD cards – according to research conducted by Futuresource Consulting.

It is estimated that approximately 1.2 billion units of non-SSD flash-based storage were shipped in 2014, with the number of MicroSD cards shipped during this period having increased by 11 per cent compared to 2013.

Whilst the number of non-SSD flashed based storage that was shipped in 2014 increased when compared with the previous year, however, the popularity of USB pen drives and standard-sized storage declined.

Mats Larsson, senior marketing analyst at Futuresource, has attributed this growth to the falling price of flash storage products, noting that the global trade value of these devices fell to £6.5 billion in 2014 – a reduction of two per cent.

Almost 40 per cent of non-SSD flash storage devices were sold to countries based in the Asia-Pacific region, whilst 22 per cent were sold to the Americas. SanDisk is currently the leading vendor followed by Kingston and Transcend with these three companies alone sharing 50 per cent of the market.

Seagate Unveil Their First ‘Shingled’ HDDs

Recently, we discussed the technologies that will, hopefully, one day lead to 100TB HDDs. One such development was Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) – a technique that involves increasing the areal density of a drive’s platters in order to increase their storage capacity – which is being utilised in Seagate’s latest range of HDDs that have been designed for use in ‘cold’ storage arrays.

As a result, the hard drive manufacturers latest efforts boast significant storage capacities and, at just $260 (£165) for an 8GB drive, is exceptionally good value for money, too.

That said, the drive is, in performance terms, nothing to write home about. Its read/write speed is, of course, nowhere near that of SSDs or many other HDDs for that matter. These drives, though, are not designed to be used every day.

Whilst the drives spin at just 5,900 RPM and possess average read/write speed of 150MB/sec, performance is not the main concern of Seagate’s target market. These drives are designed to store data that will need to be accessed rarely, if at all. As a result, these drives are low-cost, reliable (the company claims that they will usually last for 800,000 hours) and consume little power making them ideal for the task of storing cold data.

Seagate’s archive HDDs are currently being shipped to retailers and it is expected that their official launch will take place in January.

How the 100TB HDD Could Become a Reality

The amount of data that can be stored on HDDs is currently limited by existing technology, with current models topping out at around 8TBs. At the recent Magnetism and Magnetic Materials Conference, however, a number of new technologies were discussed which could, when combined, potentially result in HDDs capable of storing up to 100TBs of data.

New technologies such as hermetically sealed, helium-filled HDDs and shingled magnetic recording (SMR) have allowed manufacturers to develop drives with greater storage capacities by decreasing resistance in order to squeeze more platters into a drive and by writing data together more closely respectively. These technologies alone are unlikely to help the likes of Seagate and Western Digital to develop drives which boast capacities greater than the 10TB models that are expected to be unveiled in 2015, however.

Thanks to techniques that are currently being developed, though, it was predicted at the conference that 100TB HDDs will be available by 2025. What, though, are the key developments that will facilitate the creation of such a drive?

Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording, which is expected to increase the storage density of platters by up to one hundredfold, is set to be rolled out in 2017. This is likely to be followed by bit pattern media (which will allow drives to record data in small magnetic islands) in 2021. By 2025, these two technologies are expected to be combined with SMR and experts have claimed that this will increase the areal density of drives to 10TBs per square inch. As current HDDs offer areal densities of up to 0.86TBs per square inch, it is conceivable that the HDDs of 2025 will indeed boast storage capacities of 100TBs.

Are 5TB SSDs Around the Corner?

SSDs are superior to HDDs in a number of ways: they’re considerably faster, have no moving parts meaning that a mechanical failure is far less likely and are also quieter and cheaper to run. For all of their advantages, though, SSDs are simply not yet able to store the same amount of data as the largest HDDs. That may soon change, however.

Sage Microelectronics, a Chinese start up, has created a new a controller chip that, the company claims, will double the storage capacities of SSDs.

The chip utilises a SATA II interface to drive no fewer than ten SD, MM, or eMMC flash memory cards, each of which is capable of storing 512GBs of data. Whilst this means that the drive will not achieve the transfer speeds of the very fastest SSDs available, it’s still safe to say that they’ll be significantly faster than standard HDDs.

Of course, this creation will not address the main hurdle that SSDs face in their attempts to become the planet’s dominant form of storage media – their cost per GB – but it will go some way towards placating both private and commercial consumers who desire faster drives with high storage capacities.

Western Digital Announce Better-Than-Expected Quarterly Revenue

Hard drive manufacturers Western Digital Corporation have outperformed expectations having recently announced that their revenue rose by approximately £3 million more than had been forecast previously.

The company have attributed this growth to the fact that a large number of businesses have been upgrading their storage systems by updating their PCs, servers and data centres.

Western Digital’s main rivals, Seagate Technology PLC, also reported better-than-expected quarterly results on Monday which, coupled with the fact that WD’s chief executive Steve Milligan has been quoted as stating that the industry is stable in terms of supply and demand, would suggest that the HDD sector is still in rude health in spite of the growth in popularity of flash storage devices such as SSDs.

This, many including Fields Data Recovery would argue, is due to the fact that demand for HDDs will remain until the cost per GB of flash storage falls significantly. Equally relevant is the fact that the demand for online storage is growing with data centres needing to meet this demand by purchasing affordable, high-capacity storage media.

Yes, SSDs are almost certainly the storage media of the future but, for the moment, there’s plenty of life left in the HDD yet!

Could Data Storage Devices Double Up as CPUs?

Storage media like HDDs, SSDs and flash drives are vitally important parts of computers. Without them, we would be unable to store simple electronic data like word documents and spreadsheets, let alone larger files such as those containing audio or video. Now, though, scientists at the University of Sheffield feel that they could be performing an even more important role as Central Processing Units.

According to researchers at the institution’s Faculty of Engineering, HDDs are able to store information when they are not powered due to magnets, any computer that utilised a HDD as a CPU as well as a storage device would be extremely energy efficient as they would consume very little power compared to current machines.

The process of transforming HDDs into devices that can not only store data but also devices that can carry out instructions issued by programmes is not simple, though. The team theorise that it is possible to create logic gates from magnetic materials by using them to create what are known as magnetic vortex domain walls.

Researchers are expected to begin preparing experimental prototypes soon.

Do You Have Faith in the Cloud?

Online ‘cloud’ storage has suffered something of a PR nightmare in recent weeks. Hackers have gained access to a number of celebrities iCloud accounts and leaked a number of their private images online, more claim to have obtained the login details for over six million people’s Dropbox accounts and, as ever, there is the persistent fear that ‘big brother’ may be watching and checking every byte of data we store with these services.

Nevertheless, it was not until this weekend, when a friend informed me that he ‘didn’t trust the cloud’ that it occurred to me that the public’s faith in online storage systems and/or companies could have diminished significantly. Yes, I expected a niche to have rejected cloud storage already but they made their minds up several months ago following the actions of NSA and various other security organisations having been revealed. I genuinely thought that, whilst online storage may have taken some flak, it was the most prominent, public and recognisable brands that had been involved in recent scandals – such as Apple and the aforementioned Dropbox – that would have taken the brunt of the pummelling.

Intrigued by this, I took the question to social media and have been surprised to discover that many people felt a lot less comfortable about storing any kind of data online let alone data that could be exploited and truly considered sensitive. These people were not ‘techies’ or even individuals who would describe as being particularly technologically-astute, rather they were people who, like the vast majority of us, use the internet, smartphones, and therefore services such as iCloud, on a daily basis.

Perhaps this just goes to show that we’re all beginning to take the security of our data that little bit more seriously!

Want to Keep Your Data Private? Get a Self-Destructing SSD!

People are more concerned about keeping their data private than ever before and, considering that there are any number of institutions out there that would love the opportunity to rummage around our hard drives, rightfully so!

This growing concern has created a new gap in the data storage market; a gap which SecureDrive hope to address with their latest SSD which, whilst unexceptional in terms of performance, does have the rather unique ability to self-destruct when it receives a text message from its owner.

The drives – which SecureDrive have dubbed the Autothysis range, come in the by-now ubiquitous 2.5in form factor, can store either 64GB or 128GB of data and also utilise 256-bit AES CBC hardware level encryption – will, following their owner having sent a text message to a specified number, destroy the flash cells on which the data is stored not only rendering it unreadable but also unrecoverable.

Unsurprisingly, the drives aren’t cheap! Expect to pay £750 for the 64GB model and £850 for the 128GB model.

SanDisk Release World’s Largest SD Card

American flash memory specialists SanDisk have unveiled the world’s first SD card capable of storing 512GB of data.

The company announced the release of their latest effort one decade after they became the first company to offer an SD card that could store 512MB of data. What’s more, the company have announced that they expect to one day be able to produce cards storing as much as 2TBs of data.

The card is aimed at photographers and production companies who, due to 4K Ultra High Definition having grown in popularity, require storage media that is small enough to be stored in cameras and other recording equipment yet is also capable of storing large volumes of data.

Beyond its exceptional storage capacity, the card also boasts write speeds of up to 90MBs a second and, as it is also optimised to capture high-resolution images and video, it’s perfect for its target audience. Furthermore, according to SanDisk, the card is waterproof, temperature proof, shockproof and x-ray proof.

Whilst there are a number of variables that can affect this figure, 512GBs should provide enough space to store approximately 175,000 8-megapixel images or up to 30 hours of high-definition video footage.