SSD vs HDD

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Ralph

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Sep 24, 2020
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I was searching the web looking for an answer to the question "in constant 7x24 use which type drive would be most reliable/ longer lasting"? From what I read, it depends, so I thought I would pose the question here to see if there was a common consensus.

I recently put a 4TB Western Digital 'red' NAS HDD into a constant use scenario (no RAID). NAS drives are supposed to be optimized for that use, and SSDs have limited write cycles. While I am leaning toward the mechanical NAS drive, there are a number of advantages to SSD as well. One thing that keeps me leaning toward HDDs is work. I repair servers which run 7x24. Most have some age to them, and while HDDs do get replaced it's not that often for how many there are, and I am often surprised how long many have been in service. Once they 'act up' they get replaced and destroyed so there's no way of knowing if any are recoverable.

If anyone has any experience or knowledge of the pros and cons I would appreciate it. Regular backups are insurance in either case. Thanks.
 

PHolder

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Sep 16, 2020
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constant 7x24 use
Unclear what you mean here? Do you mean constantly being online but generally unused, to you mean constant reading, or do you mean constant updating/writing?

If you mean the latter, like a security camera recording situation, HDDs suffer wear and tear from activity, but in general their surface is not subject to degradation just because of being written to. I think for constant writing, a HDD is still the better choice over time. Simply in terms of cost per gigabyte, HDDs are much more cost effective.
 

rfrazier

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Sep 30, 2020
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@Ralph , @PHolder is correct. If you could elaborate on your purpose a bit more, we could elaborate on answers. NAS drives have one strange attribute that I'm trying to remember but I cannot. Something about buffers, maybe. It's not coming to me. Maybe someone else can chip in. But, that might distinguish them from say, a video recording drive. HDD's are mechanical parts and always moving the platter and the heads, and will eventually wear out. If there are no surface defects and if the heads keep flying like they should and if they're not subject to excessive vibration and physical abuse, HDD's can last a long time. They can retain data for long periods of time when dormant. HDD's need periodic defragging. HDD's are subject to data loss from power failure, power spikes, bad cables, etc. Look for a long 3-5 year warranty from a reputable company and possibly a pro or industrial model. I personally like to burn in my HDD's by filling them with encrypted junk data and hitting them with a level 4 pass with SpinRite. That should produce no errors and no reallocated sectors. But, all machines fail eventually. HDD's are no different. They generally fail when we're least prepared and least want them to. Just cosmic karma, I guess. Asking what the best hard drive is is like asking what the best car is. It's been a while since I've bought any but I tend to have affinity for the pro grade or at least prosumer grade versions from Western Digital and Hitachi. If that has changed in recent years, someone let us know.

SSD's, under the right conditions, can outlast HDD's. Having no moving parts is an advantage. They are probably more susceptible to power problems and are definitely less susceptible to vibrations. But, as you said, they're write limited. Every time the memory cells are written, they punch electrons through an insulator on top of a microscopic capacitor. All those lovely terabytes of data are just a bundle of electrons in trillions of little capacitors. As the storage medium ages and gets used, those insulators degrade. Once the write limit is reached, the data is more likely to encounter bit rot or literally just fade away. That doesn't happen nearly as much with HDD's. You have to look at the SSD's Drive Writes Per Day or Total Bytes Written or Terabytes Written specification. This MAY be different from the warranty. While in operation, that limit should be monitored. That can sometimes be done with software for drive maintenance from the manufacturer. IE, Samsung Magician, etc. Once you get close to the drive's write limit, the data should be removed and it should be decommissioned. I've read that some drives will shut down when the limit is reached. That would be an unpleasant surprise. I would, again, look for pro or industrial grade units with long warranties from reputable companies. I like Samsung SSD's, but I'm sure there are other good ones too. This is controversial, but I also burn in my SSD's by filling it with data and doing either a level 2 or level 4 pass with SpinRite. Note that doing this with level 2 will use up 1 full drive write cycle and doing it with level 4 will use up 3 full drive write cycles. Filling it with data takes 1 and level 4 SpinRite adds 2 more. It is important to leave SSD's at least 10% empty and unpartitioned so the drive can do it's housekeeping work and maintenance work better. This is called overprovisioning. Some drives have this built in. Some don't.

Also, in some cases, it's possible to dramatically reduce the writes to an SSD with write caching and storing temp files on a ram disk or a separate HDD, etc. The more things you cache, the more you have to be concerned about power protection and not allowing ungraceful shutdowns. Whether SSD or HDD, it's a good idea to do a level 2 SpinRite check one or two times per year.

Given the state of the world and the universe, the following might be relevant from a physics, not political, point of view. Should one find themselves in the midst of excessive solar storms or nuclear weapons attacks (far away), the media of a HDD may be more survivable than the media of an SSD. Of course, if that's happening, we may have bigger fish to fry than what's on our storage drives. Depends on how important the data is. The electronic controllers and the computer itself will be much more vulnerable to such things.

Hope this helps. There are always many ways to solve a problem and many pros and cons.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 
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SeanBZA

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Oct 1, 2020
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Yes I use security rated drives in computers, and they are generally a lot more reliable, slower though, and with less error correction and much slower seek times, because they are optimised for doing track to track stepping more than large seeks. However I also use SD card media in car DVR units, and there I find that the SD card will last around a year in use, generally starting to go read only after around 18 months of use, which is pretty much around 200 times around the full storage space. However do a single format pass, and they work again, though that is probably because then the FAT area is being replaced with a newer set of memory with less write and erase cycles, because the FAT file system does tend to do a lot of writing to those FAT sector copies.

Only time I killed a SD card stone dead was when I deliberately used it as the hard drive in a system, with swap enables, and a minimal install of Debian on it, where it ran for nearly a week just writing logs and such, before that card went totally non responsive.
 

Dave New

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Nov 23, 2020
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Raspberry PI's are notorious for killing SD cards. That's why radio clubs tend to not use them to run remote repeater sites, because after about a year, they go bad, and it becomes a pain in the tuckus to have to go up to the site to replace the cards.
 

PHolder

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Sep 16, 2020
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Raspberry PI's are notorious for killing SD cards
The PiKVM has two executables "rw" and "ro" and runs in read-only (ro) mode. I donno how much writing this blocks, but I really do like the idea that such a system is designed to NOT write to flash at all. On the other hand, wouldn't that mean no logs, no software updates, no user content creation (because "rw" is a root only command.)

I don't know if this works or is what they did, but it seems possible:
 

Ralph

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Sep 24, 2020
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It seems I left out that important detail. Yes. the disk does get accessed regularly. Here's the exact use. I was curious enough to buy an Embassy server (Raspberry Pi4 based) from Start9. The HDD is the primary storage device with the usual Pi microSD card holding the OS. What I am almost certain keeps the HDD working most is I have it running a full Bitcoin node. It constantly mirrors the blockchain, no mining. Judging from the LEDs on the enclosure it accesses somewhere around every 10 or 15 seconds once in sync. So far about 500GB is in use out of 4TB and it doesn't seem to increase much so I assume it is reading a lot. Once the blockchain syncs fully (it's about 80% done) I'll have a better idea of what's going on.

I also have a self hosted Bitwarden service running as a backup to the online one on my PC but I doubt it does much sitting idle. I also have SyncThing running but that should not amount to much use. Once the blockchain is in sync I plan on running a backup of the HDD. Eventually I hope to run SpinRite to it as a precaution. I have a copy of the OS for flashing and did a backup of the microSD card.

On the Pi SD card killing, the latest OS ( a Ubuntu customized OS ) moved much of what was SD card use to the HDD, and the card is a high endurance. I have no idea of any details on what or how OS use was moved. I still have to check out the original 2TB HDD that failed to see if it was a matter of corruption or an actual drive failure. Hopefully that answers the details left out of my original post. Thanks to everyone for their input.
 

PHolder

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Sep 16, 2020
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Embassy server
$550 US for a RPi and a SSD? Wow! That's quite the markup. Stock issues aside, you can get a RPi for under $100 ( https://www.pishop.us/product/raspberry-pi-4-model-b-8gb/ ) and a case (with heatsink and a proper fan) for $60 or less ( https://www.pishop.us/product/argon-one-m-2-case-for-raspberry-pi-4/ ) and the SSD for a little over $100, depending on availability ( https://www.amazon.ca/Blue-NAND-1TB-SSD-WDS100T2B0B/dp/B073SB2MXT/ ). And paying $250 for someone to configure a free Linux OS with free software... ouch!

Anyway, I presume it's meant to be plug and play... so if it suits your needs and you have the money to spare, have at it, I guess.
 

Ralph

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Sep 24, 2020
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Actually I got it at a discount and did not get the SSD. Yes, it would have been cheaper to build it myself, the site has the instructions. It is plug and play. For now at least I don't have the time to put into building it or something similar myself. Buying the kit and using an existing HDD I had it up and running in less time than it probably would have taken to read the DIY instructions.

All that aside, I like it. I still have a few things to iron out with SyncThing, but reading the docs (eventually) I am sure I can fine tune it to do what I want. Now that you mention it I should check on R Pis again. Last I checked almost everyone was out of stock. I have one I accidentally zapped with static that runs but with messed up video output.
 

rfrazier

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Sep 30, 2020
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messed up video output
Don't some Pi's have two HDMI ports? Perhaps you could run video through the USB port?

PS I run a "high endurance" Samsung memory card in my Pi. But, I rarely run the machine. Presumably that memory card will be more robust.

Ron
 

Ralph

Well-known member
Sep 24, 2020
129
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The one I zapped was a Pi 3B+ with one HDMI port. I haven't looked into it much, but I think the Pi4 may have 2 ports. A quick look at Amazon seems to show there is still something of a supply issue. Apparently a company called Digishou is now manufacturing a Pi 3B+ for $200, about the same price as the original manufacturer's. Model 4 is also about $200. I didn't do an extensive search but it seems the supply/ demand issue is still at play. The Pi shop has a version 4 for $75 but it's out of stock.

With everything in sync and SyncThing running, the time between disk accesses is 5 seconds, maybe less. This use is going to put the NAS HDD to the test. I don't think a SSD would have been a good choice with that kind of use. What I do know for certain is after some changes to SyncThing regular backups are a must.

I finally checked the 2TB drive that failed in use. After running ReadSpeed to it Windows recognized it again. I made an image backup to it as a test with no issues, a SpinRite pass to follow. The 2TB was powered through the USB3 port which was not recommended- my fault for not reading all the documents before setting it up. The 4TB enclosure is externally powered. Depending how the NAS drive holds up, a security drive as mentioned previously would probably be a good choice.
 

rfrazier

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Sep 30, 2020
492
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rfrazier

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Sep 30, 2020
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Microcenter
Good point. They ship too.


May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 
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