Feeds

Why is solid-state storage so flimsy?

Flash, ooh-err

High performance access to file storage

Underpants to under-buy

Underbuying storage seemed to be endemic in that era. We used two digital typesetters - this was still two years before taking the desktop publishing plunge - one of which was still using a system based on 8in floppies. The staff carried these around with inexplicable reverence bordering on the holy. I would fantasise walking behind them in single file, swinging an incense burner.

The manager at the other bureau once gave me a tour of its server cupboard, a dimly-lit and air-conditioned walk-in room larger than my hallway, all humming and blinking and swirling with what looked like dry ice around our feet, as if Captain Kirk had relocated the bridge of the Enterprise onto the set of Saturday Night Fever, as he flourished dramatically and announced: "Here we have one hundred megabytes!"

Today, I work with files that are often bigger than 100MB each. Video rough cuts get thrown my way, typically turning up at 1GB per minute.

Thankfully, I am anal about backup and thorough with my data transfers. I carry a clutch of USB portable drives everywhere I go, looking like some kind of cybernetic rat-catcher. With all this, I can manage the limited 500GB or so on my notebook.

But what worries me now is that SSD storage probably isn't as rock-solid and reliable as I thought. Despite all the advantages that SSD wields over a spinning hard disk - resistant to knocks, no moving parts, no having to remember to spell it with a 'k' rather than a 'c', no squealing like the wheels of a rusty tea trolley - Flash memory has one serious disadvantage: if something major goes wrong with the drive, the result for your data is nothing less than catastrophic.

RunCore InVincible SSD with Physical Self-Destruction

Ouch

If a hard disk starts going glitchy, I can usually back stuff off it before it's too late. If the disk dies, I can almost certainly find someone who can salvage much of the data from it. But if a SSD goes glitchy, the data vanishes up its own arse in an instant, completely and irretrievably.

And Flash tech has a fixed lifetime, or at least decreasing performance over time, so buying lots of it doesn't necessarily prolong its usefulness if you use most of it very often. My super-expensive SSD notebook could be effectively knackered in three years' time and utterly worthless in five, for all my attempts to future-proof it by over-specifying all the other components.

OK, this assumes I'm really hammering the storage at all hours of the day and night, and that the SSD controller is not doing its job. What's playing on my mind, though, is that the SSD unit in my notebook might not be easily replaceable, or even removable at all.

In the meantime, internal hard disks are getting easier and easier to swap out as the years go on, and the little buggers get cheaper and cheaper. Why was I so stupid as to put all my faith in a storage technology that's so fragile, short-term and expensive?

Flash, I love you. But we only have 14 hours to save the Earth. ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. His first job was on a weekly computer tabloid called PC Business Direct where he discovered that people didn’t mind him asking questions about disk drives – at least, not Ralph Bancroft.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Report: Apple seeking to raise iPhone 6 price by a HUNDRED BUCKS
'Well, that 5c experiment didn't go so well – let's try the other direction'
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Nvidia gamers hit trifecta with driver, optimizer, and mobile upgrades
Li'l Shield moves up to Android 4.4.2 KitKat, GameStream comes to notebooks
Gimme a high S5: Samsung Galaxy S5 puts substance over style
Biometrics and kid-friendly mode in back-to-basics blockbuster
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.