SSDs are more reliable than hard drives in latest Backblaze study

Addlink S70 SSD vs Seagate Firecuda 510

Cloud storage company Backblaze looks into the reliability of the hard drives in its servers on a regular basis, but its latest study also includes the failure rates on its solid state collection, too – and the surprising results show that the best SSD for gaming could outlast your conventional mechanical HDD.

The lifetime failure rates of its SSDs and HDDs are rated at 0.65% and 6.04% respectively, which is a pretty significant win for solid state at first glance. It’s not as simple as that, however, as the two devices are used in separate applications. Hard drives store petabytes of customer data, while SSDs have the less taxing job of booting servers.

Plus, the average age of an SSD in Backblaze’s servers comes in at 12.7 months, compared to 49.6 months for hard drives. It mentions this could also go some way to explain the disparity, but it’ll continue to study solid state reliability over the coming quarters to see if there’s a pattern.

While SSDs should be more reliable with no moving parts, that theory can’t be applied to every solid state drive. Factors such as terabytes written (TBW) ratings, which quantify how much data devices can hold before they’re expected to give up the ghost, also plays a large part.

Graphs from Backblaze showing SSDs with a lower annual failure rate than HDDs
Graphs credit: Backblaze

So far, Seagate fares the worst with the failure rate of its 14TB hard drives reaching above 2.43% in the first four months, closely followed by 1.08% of Toshiba’s 14TB HDDs dying in the same time frame. On the flip side, all 886 of Samsung’s 6TB drives are intact with an average age of six years between them and Toshiba’s 16TB models are also sitting pretty with a 0% failure rate.

Backblaze doesn’t say what brand or form factor of SSDs it uses, but they are far more consistent, being 18 times more reliable in the first quarter of 2021 with just two failed drives compared to 44 HDDs. Only time will tell if this continues as NVMe becomes more common in servers and capacities keep climbing higher.

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