Enterprise vs. Client SSDs – what is best?

Thursday, February 24, 2022 by Michael Nuncic

Why have solid-state drives (SSDs) captured worldwide attention? Unlike hard disk drives (HDDs), SDDs deliver 100x greater throughput and last 25% longer – that’s an average of 2-million hours before failure (HDDs offer 1.5-million). However, what makes SSDs really hard to resist is the solid performance they deliver when compared to HDDs. Add an SSD to your current environment and it will provide a greater performance boost than upgrading the central processing unit (CPU) or increasing the random-access memory (RAM).

Research from Statista indicates that as shipments of HDDs continue to fall, they are quickly being replaced by shipments of SSDs. Currently growing at a rate of 14.94% CAGR, the market is estimated to be worth an incredible $80.34 billion by 2026.

But despite the impressive market growth, the big question still remains: which hard drive should you buy?

SSDs: back to basics

SSDs fall into three categories:

  • Consumer: used in tablets, cameras, and mobile phones.
  • Client: such as desktop PCs, gaming kiosks, and digital signage.
  • Enterprise: including HPC and data centre servers.

At first glance, these may appear as separate, distinct categories, but in reality, the lines are blurred. SSDs are typically more expensive than HDDs, and many organisations will choose to install cheaper client-grade drives into enterprise-class hardware to save money. But while this may successfully minimise the initial investment needed, do you really want to be the one to admit you lost data because you chose a cheap drive?

To help you navigate the complex world of SSD, we will highlight three key areas for you to consider: performance, endurance, and reliability.

Enterprise and Client SSD Performance

Take a moment to think about the data your company needs to process everyday…

Perhaps your core activities require storage-hungry CAD drawings, or you rely on a bottomless vault of ‘big data’ to support the customer experience, you might operate globally, need to access sensitive customer or financial data, or maybe you have multiple users attempting to use the same data sets simultaneously. Your data affects the type of SSD your business requires. Choose poorly and it will negatively impact your storage and its service quality too.

SSDs can achieve impressively high read-write speeds because they are built using a multi-channel architecture. The best performance is delivered by an enterprise SSD since it is optimised for peak performance in the first few seconds, as well as over longer periods. This enables you to guarantee your performance remains consistent with your expected quality of service - even at peak loads.

Greater performance is also achieved because the drives are over-provisioned. Only a portion of the SSD’s capacity is ever in use, so as older cells wear out, unused cells are bought into play. Typically, enterprise SSDs contain more spare capacity than client SSDs, which enables them to perform better for longer.

Additionally, enterprise SSDs deliver predictable performance because of the way new data is written to the drives. Unlike an HDD where new data simply writes over the old, in an SSD, old data must first be completely erased. To avoid delay, an enterprise SSD writes new data to unused capacity and deletes old data later as part of the ‘ garbage collection’ process.

Endurance

With every new data write/erase cycle, the reliability of storing data bits decreases until the cell cannot take any more. At this point, it is replaced by the redundant, over-provisioned capacity to keep the SSD operational. To ensure your SSD lasts for as long as possible, it’s important to think about what’s required of that component:

It is running in a standard application, like a laptop, desktop or mobile phone, which is primarily being used during office hours? ( client SSD)

Or is it required to be fully operational 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, like a server or mission-critical application? ( enterprise SSD)

Understanding the write-resistance of SSDs is quite complex. However, the important metrics to consider when looking at your options are:

  • The ‘TeraBytes Written’ (TBW) value: shows the volume of raw data that can be written to an SSD before it becomes unreliable and needs to be removed.
  • The ‘Write Amplification Factor’ (WAF) value: as this increases it can lead to uncontrollable wear over time and slower performance.
  • The ‘Mean Time Between Failure’ (MTBF) value: all enterprise SSDs should be rated at least one million hours MTBF (equal to more than 114-years!).

Once you’ve made your choice, these three key performance indicators should be monitored so you can spot any early signs of wear. Additionally, predictive warnings help notify you of potential failures - such as bit errors occurring on the physical interface or uneven wear - so you have time to act and mitigate the risk before it negatively impacts your operations.

Furthermore, enterprise SSDs will typically come with enhanced support because the business is more reliant on them to remain operational. Therefore, you may find that a client SSD offers fewer services to monitor performance (although perhaps adequate to meet your requirements).

Reliability

One of the biggest issues with SSD is life expectancy. Manufacturers increase the capacity of their SSDs by increasing the number of bits that can be stored within each cell. An enterprise SSD usually contains 1-2 bits per cell, whereas a client SSD contains double. While the bit depth increases the capacity, it also shortens the overall lifespan because the component is required to work harder, which is why an enterprise SSD tends to outlive a client one.

To gauge the life expectancy in advance of adding it to your environment, look at the bit raw error (BRE) rate – a metric to define the rate at which errors normally occur. An enterprise SSD is capable of recovery of a higher BRE when compared to a client SSD. However, even with an enterprise SSD, you are likely to still incur one uncoverable bit error per 1-quadrillion bits (~ 0.11 petabytes). While it might not sound that much, for some sectors the prospect of losing ANY data can have catastrophic consequences. Thankfully, you can employ additional technologies to recover lost data or corrupted bits.

SSD data recovery

Since we performed the world’s first data recovery in 1987, Ontrack has developed unmatched expertise to solve the most complex data challenges – even encrypted SSD data.

SSD data recovery requires special knowledge to avoid further data loss. From electronic component failures to power surges, damaged connectors and data corruption after firmware updates, there are many potential sources for data loss. We work in close collaboration with all major SSD manufacturers, as well as with the world’s largest R&D engineering team, to acquire the tools and skills needed to recover data – regardless of whether it’s stored on an individual drive or enterprise storage system.

Find out more about our SSD data recovery service here. 

Make the right SSD choice

SSDs are not all created equal and are therefore not suited for all applications - long-term the cost of a wrongly chosen SSD can outweigh the original cost-saving.

The difference between a client SSD and an enterprise SSD is vast. Take the time to understand the differences and how each will impact your specific IT infrastructure, so you know how to properly protect your mission-critical systems, reduce unnecessary downtime and maximise your investment.

Start by asking yourself three important questions:

 What data does your organisation need to process on a daily basis?

  • Is the infrastructure required to run during office hours, or continually?
  • How much data can your business afford to lose? What is the RPO/RTO?
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