Global Shipments of Hard Drives Predicted to Rise

We recently wrote about a new series of SSDs from Sandisk that have been designed in order to challenge hard drives positions as the leading type of storage media used in data centres. Today, we’ve stumbled some news that is likely to leave the California based flash memory specialists feeling more than a little disappointed: IT research and advisory firm Gartner is not expecting the HDD market to shrink over the coming years, but to experience modest growth.

Overall, Gartner have predicted that an additional 83 million hard drives will be being shipped annually by 2018; an overall annual growth rate of just under three per cent.

Most noteworthy of all, though, is their prediction that this growth will largely stem from new helium-filled high-capacity business critical drives which have been specifically designed for data centres and cloud storage providers.

So, what do you think? Will SSDs become the de facto storage media used in data centres or is the helium-filled HDD set to be the king of mass-storage?

What is the Storage Capacity of a Human Brain?

However quickly the storage capacity of hard drives, solid state drives, USB sticks and so on grows, it is unlikely that they will ever match the capacity of your brain.

The human brain has a whopping storage capacity of 256 Exabytes. Maybe that doesn’t sound too impressive. Ok, let’s put it another way: your brain is capable of storing 256 billion Gigabytes; and if that didn’t impress you, how about the fact that that’s the equivalent of 1.2 billion average hard drives.  Click here for a visual representation of these figures.

Saying that, you can’t choose what you want to erase from your memory and what you want to replace it with!

Choosing an SSD

So, you’re tired of your old hard disk drive and its moving parts. You’re trading it in for a sleek, fast and silent SSD. Here are a few tips on what you should look for:

Price

No one wants to pay over the odds for anything and SSDs are no exception. The more you spend, the more storage space you’ll get, of course, and whilst you’re generally better off purchasing a drive with as much storage space as you can afford (more on that later), you shouldn’t be paying much more than 50 to 70 pence per GB.

Storage Capacity

It goes without saying that the higher the storage capacity of an SSD the more data you’ll be able to store on it, but did you know that testing has also confirmed that the higher an SSD’s storage capacity, the better its performance. This is because whilst HDDs write data in a linear fashion, SSDs write data in an indiscriminate fashion by locating and using free cells before writing over other data in order to preserve the life of the drive (known as wear levelling); the more cells that a drive has, the quicker it will be able to find free cells and the faster it will be.  Results did show, however, that improvements ceased when drives reached a capacity of 256GB so there’s no need to shell out for a larger drive if speed is your only concern.

NAND Memory Type

All SSDs will use one of three types of NAND memory: Single-Level Cell (SLC), Multi-Level Cell (MLC) and, more recently, Triple-Level Cell (TLC). These cells all have limited shelf lives as each cell can only have data written onto it, removed and new data written on to it so many times before it cannot be used again. TLC NAND cells have a lifecycle of approximately 5,000 writes, MLC 10,000 and SLC roughly 100,000. It’s estimated that even SSDs with lower write/rewrite capacities would still last for a decade if every cell was written to on a daily basis – and it should also be noted that the drives protect themselves by utilising blank cells before rewriting to others – but it’s still advisable that you choose SLC, particularly if you’re a heavy user.

Keep Your HDD

Yes, we know, you’ve bought a brand-new, shiny SSD because you want to enjoy the speed and other benefits that it affords you, but don’t throw away your HDD just yet. HDDs are far more economical than their solid state cousins and, particularly if you have the space to keep both types of media in your machine, can provide an immediate area within which to back up your important data as well as store bulkier files which you won’t necessarily need to access at the drop of a hat and would take up precious and costly space in your new SSD.