Do I need a mechanical hard drive or SSD?

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When choosing a server, one of the most important decisions you'll make is whether you want a hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD).

In this article, we'll explain what is the difference between HDD and SSD memory to help you decide which technology may be right for your application

What is the Difference Between SSD and HDD Memory?

The classic, magnet-based hard drive that makes the whirring noise when you boot your computer up is an HDD. HDD stands for hard disk drive and the name references the fact that there is a spinning mechanical disk inside of the drive enclosure. HDD memory is almost as old as computers themselves. Dating back to 1956, when IBM released the 650 RAMAC, which held a total of 3.75MB. Since then, hard drives have become the standard tool for long-term data storage.

The main difference between hard drive and SSD is that the Solid State Drive does not require any physical moving parts and instead stores data using flash chips and an electric charge. SSDs are a more recent phenomenon (developed in the mid 1970s but only becoming more mainstream in the past 10 years), but they're quickly taking market share from HDDs. 

An HDD consists of a read head (kind of like on a record player) and a magnetic disc where it stores all the data. This disc spins while the read head either reads data from it or writes data to it. Whereas, an SSD is made up of a sequence of flash memory chips with no moving parts.

Hard Disk Drive

Solid State Drive

Construction

Mechanical

Electrical - No moving parts.

Read / Write Speeds

Average 200Mbps

Above 500Mbps

Drive Lifespan

5-6 Years

Typically longer than HDD depending on amount of data stored and how often data is written to drive.

Cost

$0.03per GB

$0.12 per GB

Which is better SSD or HDD?

There is no single answer on whether SSD or HDD are better. It all depends on the particular application. If the server is used as a dedicated game server, you will generally want Solid State Drives to ensure optimal performance. But if the server is being used for long-term storage, than a traditional Hard Disk Drive is generally the best option to make the server more affordable.

Here are some factors to consider when comparing the two drive types: 

Boot Speed

Generally, the servers boot speed is not as important as it may be in a consumer application where the device is being restarted frequently. Solid State Drives tend to boot faster than Hard Disk Drives as they are able to load the boot data more quickly than an HDD.  

Storage Capacity

Both solid state drives and mechanical drives have a similar storage capacity, although the price for the same capacity will generally be significantly higher on SSDs.

Read/Write Speed

While every disk operation is unique and will perform differently on SSD or HDD depending on block size, Solid States Drives will read and write data at significantly faster speeds than a mechanical hard drive. This is the major benefit of SSDs. 

Price

Although SSD drives continue to get cheaper, they're still usually two to four times as expensive (per GB) as hard drives. For example, most ServerMania servers include a 500GB SSD or a 1TB hard disk drive for free. That means you will receive double the storage capacity for the same price when choosing a traditional mechanical hard drive. However, the performance improvements mentioned above may be more important than capacity. 

Here are some sample monthly pricing on ServerMania Dedicated Servers:

Storage Capacity

SSD

Mechanical Hard Drive - HDD

500GB

Free

Free

1TB

$30

Free

2TB

$70

$5

3TB

$140

$15

Durability

A mechanical hard drive drive is very sensitive to impact. If you drop your computer, it can easily damage the read head or disc, whereas an SSD will be much more resilient. This is more important on consumer electronics, but it's something to note for server drives as well. 

Energy Efficiency

A solid state drive drive won't waste any energy on mechanical processes or friction. This means a server with SSD memory will tend to use less power. 

Fragmentation

When an HDD saves a file, it attempts to write all the parts of the file in a neat row on the disc. However, if the disc is almost full, it may need to put different parts of the file in different places, leading to messy inefficiencies.

Because an SSD retrieves everything electronically, it doesn't matter where it stores its data.

Which Should You Choose?

If you plan on storing a lot of information on your server and you don't want to spend a lot of money, go with a classic mechanical hard drive. But, if you want speed and efficiency, an SSD is the way to go. Hard Disk Drives can also see improved redundancy and performance through the use of a RAID array, so that is one option to consider when choosing the traditional hard drive route. 

Need help choosing between a hard disk drive and a solid state drive server? You should consider  booking a free server consultation. We can review your unique requirements and advise which drive type may be best for you.