Friday, May 7th 2021

SSDs More Reliable than HDDs: Backblaze Study

In the initial days of SSDs, some 11-odd years ago, SSDs were considered unreliable. They'd randomly fail on you, causing irrecoverable data loss. Gaming desktop users usually installed an HDD to go with the SSD in their builds, so they could take regular whole-disk images of the SSD onto the HDD; Microsoft even added a disk imaging feature with Windows 7. Since then, SSDs have come a long way with reliability, are now backed with longer warranties than HDDs, and high endurance. Notebook vendors are increasingly opting for SSDs as the sole storage device in their thin-and-light products. A Backblaze study reveals an interesting finding: SSDs are 21 times more reliable than HDDs.

Backblaze is popular for conducting regular actionable studies on storage device reliability in the enterprise segment, particularly dissecting how each brand of HDD and SSD fares in terms of drive failures or average failure rates (AFR). In a study covering Q1 2021 (January 1 to March 31), Backblaze finds that the AFR of HDDs across brands, stands at 10.56%. In the same period, SSDs across brands lodged an AFR of a stunning 0.58%. In other words, roughly 1 in 10 HDDs failed, compared to roughly 1 in 200 SSDs. Things get interesting when Backblaze looks all the way back to 2013, when it started studying drive reliability.
With annualized failure rates studied between April 2013 and April 1, 2021, Backblaze finds that SSDs total 0.65% AFR, while HDDs do 6.04%. The relatively higher HDD failure rates are attributable to the fact that they have moving parts; pull more average age (before they need replacement), the fact that before they reach their manufacturer-rated endurance, SSDs are highly tolerant to electrical faults using capacitor banks, and the fact that HDD manufacturers have generally reduced the warranties on their drives after the HDD factory flooding incidents in 2012.
Source: Tom's Hardware
Add your own comment

41 Comments on SSDs More Reliable than HDDs: Backblaze Study

#1
lemoncarbonate
As a media hoarder, I'm looking forward to a future time when I can get 2-4 TB SATA SSD with just slightly higher price than HDD.
Then I can replace my 3+4 TB media storage with SSD.
Posted on Reply
#3
BSim500
VannyWhat are hard drives?
They are those things that can store 8TB of data for much less than $800-$1400 (and power 99% of the web for precisely that reason)... ;)
Posted on Reply
#4
Unregistered
BSim500They are those things that can store 8TB of data for much less than $800-$1400... ;)
I don't need to store 8 TB of data.
#5
BSim500
VannyI don't need to store 8 TB of data.
Congrats. I don't need an A3 sized printer, but I don't act surprised they exist for those that do. Servers obviously do need low-cost bulk storage, which is what Backblaze is all about.
Posted on Reply
#6
Unregistered
BSim500Congrats. I don't need an A3 sized printer, but I don't act surprised they exist for those that do. Servers obviously do need low-cost bulk storage, which is what Backblaze is all about.
Take a chill pill. Never meant to attack your precious HDDs. I just think that the less moving parts in my system, the better. Obviously you wouldn't buy SSDs if you're a data hoarder, at least not now.
#7
R0H1T
lemoncarbonateAs a media hoarder, I'm looking forward to a future time when I can get 2-4 TB SATA SSD with just slightly higher price than HDD.
Then I can replace my 3+4 TB media storage with SSD.
Try Fleabay, used (enterprise) or even OEM drives from reputable sellers are generally cheap & super reliable.
Posted on Reply
#8
AsRock
TPU addict
VannyWhat are hard drives?

Same here, Been buying them since intel released their 80GB models ( sata2 ), how ever i have had 3 to fail on me, one Corsair, OCZ and a Team Group one which were on the phison controller(2) and one on the Sandforce controller.

One of the Intel 80GB drives originally priced around $220 at the time is showing signs of quitting too. So to me they are doing a little better but nothing to get excited about.
Posted on Reply
#9
birdie
Yeah, right, SSDs might work longer but when they die, the data usually become completely unsalvagable.

At the same time under most circumstances the data from the HDD can be recovered.

You can tell me everything about backups, you don't have to, but absolute most people never create them and sometimes they create a single backup and then give up on them. Edit: I personally know a couple of people who've been burnt by not having backups more than once.

Lastly in developing/underdeveloped countries, SSDs continue to be super-expensive, unless you're OK with 128GB or data which nowadays is just too little - smartphones often more.
Posted on Reply
#10
1freedude
AsRockSame here, Been buying them since intel released their 80GB models ( sata2 ), how ever i have had 3 to fail on me, one Corsair, OCZ and a Team Group one which were on the phison controller(2) and one on the Sandforce controller.

One of the Intel 80GB drives originally priced around $220 at the time is showing signs of quitting too. So to me they are doing a little better but nothing to get excited about.
Holy smokes, that post needs to get moved into the Nostalgic Hardware thread. Thanks for the flashback.

My latest (brand new, not used) PC purchase was a 500GB SSD. My media hoarding days are done.
Posted on Reply
#11
ExcuseMeWtf
birdieYeah, right, SSDs might work longer but when they die, the data usually become completely insalvagable.

At the same time under most circumstances the data from the HDD can be recovered.

You can tell me everything about backups, you don't have to, but absolute most people never create them and sometimes they create a single backup and then give up on them.

Lastly in developing/underdeveloped countries, SSDs continue to be super-expensive, unless you're OK with 128GB or data which nowadays is just too little - smartphone often have more.
Never creating backups and/or not keeping it appropriately updated is a mistake you only get to make once.

Much better argument for HDDs would actually be for suitability as offline backup medium of choice, where HDDs have inherent edge due to data retention.
Posted on Reply
#12
Sihastru
VannyWhat are hard drives?

They're like fidget spinners, but for data hoarders. I have 12 2TB HDDs, in order to replace them with SSDs, I'd have to pay 500% more. A whole lot more if I'd want to upgrade to 4-8TB drives. Spinning rust still has the price and density advantage. And, in order to mitigate some of the risk, I have large arrays that can still function with 2 drive failures and will automagically dip into a spare pool when a drive dies.
Posted on Reply
#13
Unregistered
SihastruThey're like fidget spinners, but for data hoarders. I have 12 2TB HDDs, in order to replace them with SSDs, I'd have to pay 500% more. A whole lot more if I'd want to upgrade to 4-8TB drives. Spinning rust still has the price and density advantage. And, in order to mitigate some of the risk, I have large arrays that can still function with 2 drive failures and will automagically dip into a spare pool when a drive dies.
And read what I said above, if you're a data hoarder you evidently will not buy SSDs right now. I get that hard drives are better for exponentially more storage. But personally I don't need that much storage and prefer having noiseless and vibrationless drives in my system.
#14
Wirko
ExcuseMeWtfNever creating backups and/or not keeping it appropriately updated is a mistake you only get to make once.
What makes you think that?
In the initial days of SSDs, some 11-odd years ago, SSDs were considered unreliable
Unreliable? I don't remember that time, and I bought my first SSD in 2011 - a used Intel X25-M 80GB that cost me 85 EUR. We didn't quite trust MLC back then, how on earth can you put four distinct voltage levels into a single cell?
The first two or three generations of OCZ Vertex SSDs ... yes, that's another story, and "unreliable" is an understatement.
Posted on Reply
#15
bug
In the initial days of SSDs, some 11-odd years ago, SSDs were considered unreliable. They'd randomly fail on you, causing irrecoverable data loss. Gaming desktop users usually installed an HDD to go with the SSD in their builds, so they could take regular whole-disk images of the SSD onto the HDD
That a bit of revisionism right there. People weren't installing HDDs alongside SSDs because SSDs would fail, they did it because SSDs were tiny. To the point reviewers had trouble installing just Windows and Crysis on a 32GB SSD.

And I believe SSDs' MTBF overtook HDDs years ago. But it's nice to have a third party confirm that. Also, keep in mind SSDs will "fail" if left unpowered for some time. Keep that in mind if you want to use a SSD in an external enclosure or something like that.

For bonus points: who remembers "parking" HDD heads prior to shutting down?
Posted on Reply
#16
ExcuseMeWtf
WirkoWhat makes you think that?
If you don't learn from mistake of not making backup, then losing your important data, you had it coming. It is not like we only know since yesterday it's important to manage backups...

It doesn't matter if you can then play with recovery or not, when you should've never put yourself in that situation to begin with.
Posted on Reply
#17
evernessince
That's really not what the charts are saying. The average HDD age listed is 4 times the average SSD age. It's apples to oranges to say x storage device is more reliable than y when y has been put through 4 times the wear. It's entirely misleading.

Mind you SSD wear is likely highly workload dependent. Read only SSD drives are likely to last a lot longer than ones being constantly written to.
Posted on Reply
#18
anachron
AsRockSame here, Been buying them since intel released their 80GB models ( sata2 ), how ever i have had 3 to fail on me, one Corsair, OCZ and a Team Group one which were on the phison controller(2) and one on the Sandforce controller.

One of the Intel 80GB drives originally priced around $220 at the time is showing signs of quitting too. So to me they are doing a little better but nothing to get excited about.
I think we have installed around 500-600 SSD at work, we had a single SSD failure in the last 5 years, and we are using very low priced one for working station, as the datas are on the servers anyway. In the same time we had a lot of HDD with bad sectors inducing low performances or just failing. Indeed the chance to recover the data on an HDD are higher, but the difference in reliability seems to be quite sensible from my experience.

Edit : for the record, we have around 1000 computers, so it's half HDD, half SSD in the inventory. HDD are on average older than SSD since we only buy SSD for the last 2-3years, but we still had more HDD failure in the same lifespan than SSD.
Posted on Reply
#19
bug
anachronI think we have installed around 500-600 SSD at work, we had a single SSD failure in the last 5 years, and we are using very low priced one for working station, as the datas are on the servers anyway. In the same time we had a lot of HDD with bad sectors inducing low performances or just failing. Indeed the chance to recover the data on an HDD are higher, but the difference in reliability seems to be quite sensible from my experience.

Edit : for the record, we have around 1000 computers, so it's half HDD, half SSD in the inventory. HDD are on average older than SSD since we only buy SSD for the last 2-3years, but we still had more HDD failure in the same lifespan than SSD.
Well, SSDs develop "bad sectors" just the same. But they "correct" them in the background.
Posted on Reply
#20
AusWolf
Wait a minute... what about the column "Average age"? Does this data mean that 0.65% of SSDs failed after a year, while 6.04% of HDDs failed after 4 years of operation? That isn't really a fair comparison.
Posted on Reply
#21
Nater
Skimmed the article and the thread. Reactions:

Duh.

Unsalvageable? When SSD's "die" from wear don't they go into a read only mode...you can get your data, you just can't write to it anymore.

And old? I think I could go out and fire up my OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD based system (that's been off for a good 2 years) and it would work fine. That machine is a solid 10 years old and was on nearly 24/7 for a good 8 years.
Posted on Reply
#22
bug
NaterSkimmed the article and the thread. Reactions:

Duh.

Unsalvageable? When SSD's "die" from wear don't they go into a read only mode...you can get your data, you just can't write to it anymore.

And old? I think I could go out and fire up my OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD based system (that's been off for a good 2 years) and it would work fine. That machine is a solid 10 years old and was on nearly 24/7 for a good 8 years.
While that is technically correct, modern file systems write metadata in the background, so they will fail to work on read-only drives.
The data is probably salvageable, but salvaging it is not straightforward.
Posted on Reply
#23
1d10t
Somewhat mixed feelings here. I have a case where one of my computers refuses to boot up simply because it hasn't been used for a long time, months to be precise. Unique case indeed where I knew similar computer equipped with mechanical drive had no problem.
Posted on Reply
#24
Wirko
bugWhile that is technically correct, modern file systems write metadata in the background, so they will fail to work on read-only drives.
The data is probably salvageable, but salvaging it is not straightforward.
For some additional fun: you want to salvage data as Windows admin, but don't have access to some user's folder. Well, you're the admin, you can add privileges to yourself ... but no, you can't because privileges are stored as NTFS metadata on the drive, and the drive is read-only.
Posted on Reply
#25
damric
I have been using the cloud for my bulk storage for nearly a decade and SSDs as my only storage for nearly as long. Now all I use are NVMe drives.
Posted on Reply
Add your own comment