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Consumer disks trump enterprise platters in cloudy reliability study

Spinning results about spinning rust's reliability rates

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The chaps at Backblaze have cracked open a spreadsheet and fed it some log files again, this time coming up with the assertion that contrary to expectations hard disks designated as destined for “enterprise” use don't always outlast cheaper kit directed towards everyday punters.

A recap for those who aren't familiar with Backblaze: it's a cloud backup outfit that rolls its own arrays and in 2011 roamed Silicon Valley buying consumer-grade external disks and “shucking” them to cope with demand after the Thai floods dried up world disk drive production. The company also recently released a 25,000-drive study on the working life of disk drives in its farms.

The company has now extended the latter analysis by comparing the longevity of enterprise drives to others. Here's the conclusion:

Enterprise Drives Consumer Drives
Drive-Years of Service 368 14719
Number of Failures 17 613
Annual Failure Rate 4.6% 4.2%

Looks bad for enterprise drives, right? Not entirely. Backblaze admits it doesn't have any enterprise-class disks that are more than two years old. On top of the small sample size for enterprise disks – 368 – there's every chance the results include an anomaly or three. The company also admits that its enterprise-class drives may be used more roughly than the consumer-grade drives it puts to work for customers.

The study also admits that it doesn't cover total cost of ownership, noting that enterprise-class drives offer longer warranties. It can therefore be cheaper, the study concludes, to buy consumer drives. Whether it is more cost effective for heavy disk users to do so is left to readers' own spreadsheets to determine. ®

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