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What Is an SSD?

When it comes to IT spending and getting the right hardware, it’s always a matter of knowledge. When you truly understand the risks and rewards of each purchasing decision, you can optimize your spending and get the most value out of your limited budget.

There are countless comparisons to make in this regard, which is why it’s always easier to break things down one concept at a time.

Today, we’re going to cover solid-state storage, or SSDs. They’re a modern improvement on a traditional computer component, and they can offer major advantages that merit an investment.

Improved Modern Data Storage

SSD stands for “solid-state drive,” and it’s a modern storage drive for modern computers and servers. SSDs are designed to improve virtually all aspects of storage technology. Compared to traditional hard drives (HDDs), SSDs are faster, quieter, use less power, take up less space, and have fewer cases of data corruption.

They represent a technologically superior method of data storage, but despite all of the advancements, they do bring up questions of cost and longevity. We’ll get into all of it, but first, let’s talk about how SSDs actually work.

The Meaning of “Solid State”

A traditional hard drive has a magnetic disk that spins in circles. That disk is actually split into very small sections of magnets, and as the platter spins, it comes into contact with a magnetic head that can read and write data. Basically, the speed at which the hard drive can function is limited by how long it takes the read/write head to come into contact with the right section of the drive.

A solid-state drive has no moving parts. Instead, it uses flash memory, which involves an intricate network of electrical circuitry. The circuits actually serve as the “read/write head” in an SSD, so the speed of reading and writing data is determined by how quickly electrons can flow through the circuits.

This design allows the solid-state drive obvious superiority in several aspects of its function.

SSD vs HDD

Perhaps the best way to really understand SSDs is to compare them to their traditional counterpart: HDDs.

Speed

SSDs are much faster than HDDs. In fact, speed is the primary motivation behind the design differences. Depending on the specific devices being compared, SSDs can easily exceed the read and write speeds of HDDs by 100 times or more.

This dramatic improvement in storage speeds creates noticeable differences in performance for entire computers. Load times are reduced. Rendering programs can run more than twice as fast for the same task.

These aren’t small improvements. Servers and computers can be transformed by upgrading to SSDs.

Longevity

On the other hand, HDDs still win the contest for longevity. The gap between the two has closed over the years, but HDDs still tend to last longer than SSDs in the same environment.

It’s at a point now where personal workstations won’t notice a difference in longevity, but when it comes to high-bandwidth servers, the longevity of SSDs is sometimes enough to warrant sticking with HDDs instead.

Cost

There’s also an issue of cost. HDDs cost less per byte of storage, but again, the cost gap is shrinking. Additionally, there are other aspects of cost that favor each type of drive, and figuring out which is the most cost-effective is not always simple.

SSDs use less power and cost less to operate. That difference won’t be noticeable except in servers that are managing very large volumes of data, but in those cases, the cost savings are noticeable. Additionally, the increased speed can generate performance value that is difficult to quantify, and in many cases, the cost of SSDs is justifiable, even when accounting for shorter longevity.

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