Feeds

Buy Smarter: what you need to know about... SSDs

Speed up your laptop

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Things to watch

Not everything is in the SSD’s favour, though, the main drawback being its cost. A typical 500GB hard drive will set you back about £40, while an equivalent SSD is likely to cost more than £300.

Even if you come down to the SSD sweetspot, around 120GB, the respective costs are about £30 and £100.

You may also have read about the shorter life of an SSD drive. It is true that each Flash chip in an SSD has a limit to the number of read/write cycles it can sustain, but modern techniques of wear management have reduced the problem considerably by spreading the data evenly across all memory elements. Even so, SSDs are less suited to tasks where data is repeatedly overwritten.

Intel 520 240GB SSD

Low-capacity SSDs make a good start-up drive for desktops

The distribution of data to help balance wear can lead to a third disadvantage of an SSD. If the drive happens to fail, data from any given file is likely to be distributed among many of its Flash chips. That makes it much harder to recover than from a hard drive, where large swathes of data are likely to have been written sequentially.

And if the controller fails, the drive is likely to fail catastrophically, with much less chance of data recovery. The bottom line: you still need to back up your SSD.

Spec checks

Many of the SSDs on the market come from familiar memory and chip suppliers. Crucial, Intel, Kingston and Samsung are major players and there are obvious advantages in buying drives from recognised chip makers. There are other criteria to apply in your choice, too, though.

Drive controllers are particularly important in an SSD drive as the data distribution algorithms and caching are more important to speed and longevity than the comparatively simple controllers used in HDDs. Names such as Sandforce and Indilinx are well regarded and often quoted in spec sheets.

There are obvious advantages in buying SSDs from recognised chip makers

Other useful criteria to check are read and write speeds, the input output operations per second (IOPS) and the mean time between failures (MTBF).

Check that the drive supports Trim (most do), as this technology helps handle junk data and increase the performance of SSDs over time as it fills with data. By reorganising the way data is removed from the cells in a drive, it can also extend the life of an SSD. Trim is supported in Windows 7 and 8, Linux and Mac OS X.

Whether you are converting to an SSD or upgrading a drive to a higher capacity, check that the drive matches the interface it will be connected to. Many new drives support Sata III with an increased throughput, but this standard is backwardly compatible with earlier interfaces too.

And finally…

If you are running a desktop, you can achieve a significant start-up improvement by installing an SSD as your start-up drive. It doesn’t have to be that big, just large enough to hold the operating system and key applications.

There is also a new breed of hybrid drive, which effectively uses an SSD as a sophisticated cache to a traditional hard drive.

It is claimed to provide speed improvements close to those from free-standing SSDs, but at a fraction of the cost. The main provider so far is Seagate with its Momentus XT range. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Hi-torque tank engines: EXTREME car hacking with The Register
Bentley found in a hedge gets WW2 lump insertion
What's MISSING on Amazon Fire Phone... and why it WON'T set the world alight
You fought hard and you saved and earned. But all of it's going to burn...
Trousers down for six of the best affordable Androids
Stylish Googlephones for not-so-deep pockets
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
The total economic impact of Druva inSync
Examining the ROI enterprises may realize by implementing inSync, as they look to improve backup and recovery of endpoint data in a cost-effective manner.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.