RAM vs SSD – What’s the difference between memory and storage?

When we talk about memory and storage, there may be confusion for those who are unfamiliar with the terms. It may sound like these two terms are the same thing, but they in fact perform very distinct functions. This is even more confusing because people often use the terms interchangeably.

When talking about dedicated or cloud servers, it is important to realise that memory and storage are different. While they both relate to processing data, their actual purposes are not the same – that is, they have different functions.

In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between the two to help you use and identify the right terms in the right context. This article also focuses on what memory and storage mean for dedicated and cloud servers.

See Also: Cheap Clouder Server

What is the Difference Between Memory and Storage?

Memory and storage are both, essentially the place to hold your data. Memory is something similar to a person’s short-term memory whereas the storage is the long-term memory.

The main functions of each component vary and are as explained below: 

Memory

RAM (Random Access Memory) is often referred to simply as memory in the server world. If you're still wondering "is ram the same as memory" then you can rest assured that memory is RAM and you can use the terms in the same way.

Memory performs an important function in the server world. It is a type of volatile storage which a server can use in order to store information needed for short periods of time. Memory chips are designed for the maximum transfer of data in and out of memory so that operations that need to access the information quickly can do so.

The more memory allocated to the server, the more actions it can perform in this rapid function. Historically, memory was significantly more faster at accessing files than on a traditional spinning hard disk. But more recently, the speed difference between an NVMe and SSD have made memory transfer not nearly as rapid by comparison. However, memory is still an essential component on any device.

See Also: What is ECC RAM?

How much memory do you need?

This is a common question once people understand what memory or the technical term RAM means. It does not have one answer. This is because the needs of every user are different.

For example, a game hosting company may need upwards of 256GB of server memory to host several hundred game servers on a node. However, a small business hosting a simple e-commerce website may find 32GB of RAM is more than enough for their needs.

We recommend researching the recommended system requirements of the applications you are looking to run in order to understand how much memory you should select.

Storage

Storage in a dedicated or Cloud server is non-volatile, meaning that when the server is turned off this information remains stored indefinitely. Storage in a dedicated or cloud servers refers to the data stored on the physical disks such as a hard drive, solid state drive, or NVMe drive. This data is local to the server and can be accessed at any time, but they are not as rapidly accessed as those in RAM such as files used by running programs. 

How much storage do you need?

Your storage space depends on what operating system you use and what you are using the server to accomplish. There are several storage options available for dedicated and cloud servers to choose from. With a cloud server, you can always scale up your plan so you don't need to worry so much about choosing the perfect drive storage. However, with a dedicated server, you need to think about long term storage needs as it's not as easy to add drives.

Also, consider the role you hope for your server to play. Data processing and transfer may need a lot of storage and so will storing large game files. On the other hand, if you are a personal user a lesser amount of storage may also fit your needs. 

Is it better to have storage or memory?

When you consider the difference between storage and memory, you may be wondering which component it is better to have more of. The reality is, you need both, and how much you need of each component is entirely dependant on your usage requirements.

Memory has two main aspects that affect the performance of the system: Capacity and speed. The more memory your server or system has the faster it is going to process any data or task you throw its way that requires this randomly accessed data. If your system performance becomes slower because you don't have sufficient memory and it starts to run behind, adding memory may be the solution. 

On the other hand, storage is just as important. When someone says they have 1TB of memory on their server, they typically do not mean memory. It means they have that amount of storage to work with.

The more things you save the more the storage fills up. So if your project requirements involve storing large video files that are kept in an archive, then more storage is best for you. But if you are transcoding video files on the fly, then you need both sufficient RAM and storage for the task. 

What are the different storage types available?

There are several hard drive storage options available that you can select when configuring your server:

Mechanical Hard Drive

The mechanical hard drive that utilises moving parts including a magnetic disk, optical disk or magnetic tape. It is the primary way of storage and most widely used. Although, each year more and more devices are moving away from mechanical drives in favour of Solid State Drives. 

Hard disks initially were so big they took up a considerable amount of space, however, over the years they became smaller and smaller. 

The primary issue with mechanical drives is that the internal components are not capable of transferring data at high rates of speed, and the itnernal components fail. However, these drives are cheaper to make and are still a good choice for storing large amounts of data.

See Also: Do I Need a Mechanical Hard Drive or SSD?

Solid State Drive (SSD)

SSD or Solid State Drive is electronic and non-volatile kind of storage device. It was introduced as an alternative to the mechanical hard disk and is quickly taking it over. It is used commonly in several devices such as computers, servers and phones.

SSDs are faster than hard disks because there is less latency, they are more reliable, and have better protective structure even in harsh environments. They also use less power than a hard disk.

Most SSD’s have flash memory chips but if you want even faster storage speed, you can use volatile memory chips, which are backed up by non-volatile storage. They can also be fused with hard disks to form a hybrid. An example of this is the Fusion Drive found in MacBook.

NVMe

NVMe hard drives are the latest innovation in drive technology. It stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express and was created to accelerate the transfer of data from enterprise to SDDs or client systems and vice versa. It is a combination of a host controller interface and storage protocol.

It works by mapping I/O command and response to shared memory inside the host. The host also has a PCIe Interface.

Next Steps

We hope that now you know a bit more about the difference between memory and storage as well as how to differentiate between them. If you still need help choosing the right about of storage vs memory for your dedicated or cloud server, consider requesting a server quote with our team. We'll help you choose the right server requirements for your needs to deliver optimal performance.

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