A very important but sometimes neglected aspect of a hosted website is the infrastructure on which it is built. No matter what degree of virtualization is used to construct your web server, it is supported with physical components such as CPUs, networking cables, and storage devices. Data needs to be stored on a storage medium such as a hard disk drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD). The equipment used to provide a website may not be evident to the customer or end-user; however, the hardware is meticulously selected for certain key reasons.
In some cases, the server design may be just the way the client likes it or specially designed for a certain piece of software. With other scenarios like mainstream web hosting, it is irrelevant to these customers how the systems are implemented as long as they perform up to expectations. They may not be interested in what type of drives are used in the storage arrays that hold their data.
This article is for readers interested in the differences between the various types of storage drives that may be used by your hosting provider. It’s also good for anyone wanting a little in-depth information about how data is stored on your website or even on your laptop.
Comparing HDDs and SSDs
Let’s look at the differences between HDDs and SSDs. While both types of devices store and provide access to data resources, they do it in very different ways.
HDDs are a legacy storage solution that makes use of spinning disks that store data magnetically. Mechanical arms, similar to those of a record-playing turntable, are used to position read and write heads over the disk to transfer data.
SSDs do not have moving parts and store data in flash memory cells. The lack of moving parts is responsible for the majority of the other differences in the two types of storage devices.
SSDs offer better read/write speeds than HDDs for two main reasons. The first is the time spent moving the mechanical parts to access or write data on HDDs that is not necessary with the flash memory of SSDs. The second reason is the degraded speed caused by file fragmentation that affects HDDs but not SDDs. If you have ever forgotten to “defrag” your Windows XP or Windows 7 system, you will know what it is like when your file system is fragmented across your drive and loading times seem to get longer and longer. With SSDs, TRIM is built-in along with garbage collection, which takes care of all these issues hand-in-hand with your operating system of choice.
HDDs for the consumer market are available with greater capacity than SSDs. Large HHDs designed for enterprise use can reach 18 TB in capacity or more. SSDs intended for the consumer market are usually 4 TB or less, though Nimbus does make a 100 TB SSD drive that will only set you back $40,000. For consumers, enterprises, or hosting providers, the criteria of capacity and which drive to select remains the same. If you require to just back up data, the slower spinning HDD will be an ideal choice. For larger data sets in a database or possibly your PC gaming system then you would opt for the faster SSD to cut down on loading times.
Durability and Reliability
The lack of moving parts makes SSDs more durable and able to withstand a level of physical misuse that cannot be matched by HDDs. Dropping an HDD will probably damage it since the metal platter inside is spinning from 5400 RPMs to 10,000 RPMs and the drop will have the reading head hit the platter on occasion. This will cause damage up to destroying the HDD. An SDD can handle a little rough treatment without any performance degradation. This characteristic, combined with their smaller form factor, is why SSDs are so popular for supplying storage space in laptops, cellphones, action cameras, etc.
Noise and Energy Use
HDDs make more noise and consume more energy than SSDs. This again is due to the mechanical moving parts associated with hard disk drives. High-performing HDDS may make even more noise than slower models since they are spinning faster. Think of your gas-powered car when it is idling vs when you are at a higher RPM; the engine will make even more noise the faster it goes. SSDs operate silently and use less energy, extending the battery life of laptops and mobile devices. For a fair comparison, an SSD can be likened to a Tesla electric car since there is no loud gas engine that makes noise as it spins. It is much quieter and is more efficient overall.
Lifespan and Recoverability
Both SSDs and HDDs will wear out over time. The mechanical components of an HDD can fail, and each flash memory cell in an SSD can only be written to and erased a limited number of times. Some data recovery techniques are only possible using the remnants of files left on an HDD and while the same can be said for SSDs, it is much more difficult since the failures are not mechanical like an HDD but rather corruption in the data will start to occur. There are different levels of both HDD and SSD for consumers, pros, and enterprises, so if you require a higher level of endurance and lifespan then the extra cost of a higher level drive will be worth it.
Due to the necessity of providing room for its moving parts, HDDs are limited in how small they can be designed. The most common form factors are 2.5-inch drives and 3.5-inch drives. SSDs are not constrained by this design limitation and can be made much smaller than HDDs. This fact makes SSDs the logical storage choice for mobile devices and any system that needs a custom-built storage requirement. For SSDs, the common size for laptops are 2.5” or M.2 which is the smaller drive size about the same size as a large thumb.
HDDs are less expensive on a per GB basis than SSDs with the same storage capacity. This is one of the reasons laptops with SSDs cost more than a similarly performing desktop machine that can use HDDs. This has been changing through the years, and while HDDs still hold the crown for the lowest price, SSD technology is gaining momentum toward price parity between HDDs and SSDs.
What are the Differences Between SATA SSDs and NVMe SSDs
Now we will look at the differences between SATA SSDs and NVMe SSDs.
SATA and NVMe refer to the interfaces that connect hosts to SSD drives. The interface governs how data flows between hosts and storage.
SATA, which stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, was introduced in 2000 to provide connectivity to the mechanical HDD drives that existed at that time. SATA makes use of the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) to access data. AHCI features Native Command Queuing (NCQ) which speeds up mechanical drives and enables hot-swapping to be performed.
NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express. It is a host controller interface designed explicitly for PCIe SSDs. NVMe addresses many of the issues associated with using the SATA interface with higher-speed SSD devices.
Let’s take a look at the differences between SATA and NVMe and how those differences might impact the type of interface that best suits your specific situation.
A SATA interface can be used with both HDDs and SSDs and is supported by older computers and hosts. NVMe is only used with SSD drives and may not be supported by some older machines.
There are two distinct differences in how the two interfaces perform. As far as straight speed goes, SATA SSD read speeds top out at about 600 MB/s. The top speed of an NVMe SSD is around 3,500 MB/s. That means the NVMe SSD is almost six times as fast as one connected via SATA.
The second aspect of the two interfaces that affects performance is their very different queue depth capacity. SATA uses a single command queue with a capacity to store 32 commands. Conversely, NVMe supports up to 64k queues each of which can contain 64k commands. This fact allows NVMe SSD drives to run multiple threads simultaneously, thereby increasing processing speed.
The third which is more important for hosting and enterprises are IOPS. Input/output operations per second (IOPS) is a key performance matrix for when you are trying to retrieve more than one file at a time. This comes into play when loading the operating system, a program, or a PC game; in the enterprise world, it would affect the hundreds of users accessing a software program that ties to a large database. SATA SSDs max out at around 75,000 read IOPS (depending on the drive) while NVMe drives are now pushing over 1,500,000 IOPS on both reads and writes (depending on the drive).
SATA SSD drives are generally less expensive than comparable NVMe devices. When deciding on a disk storage solution, the performance gains available with NVMe drives need to be reconciled with any budgetary concerns that may impact the purchasing decision. Also, if you are looking to upgrade that old system, chances are your system will support a SATA SSD; you will have to verify whether it will support an NVMe SSD.
NVMe is preferable for environments that require high-performance data processing and store large amounts of information. Systems that can tolerate slower access slower speeds and perform mostly sequential reads will find SATA satisfactory for their needs.
Examples of high-performance systems include the online commerce sites of busy retailers like Walmart. Financial institutions need the ability to execute transactions as quickly as possible and benefit from NVMe technology.
Sites hosting purely informational applications can tolerate the slower speeds of SATA devices. Research libraries or data archiving services are examples of sites that can use SATA technology.
What Disk Storage Solution is Right For My Business?
Based on business requirements, either a SATA SSD or NVMe SSD implementation may make the most sense. When engaging with a hosting provider, it is essential that they understand your needs and can provide the necessary infrastructure to fulfill your company’s IT vision.
Atlantic.Net offers RAID arrays featuring both of these types of storage devices. Their standard dedicated host offerings include SATA SSD RAID 1 and RAID 10 storage options as well as an NVMe SSD RAID 10 option. You can also take advantage of Atlantic’s bare metal dedicated server hosting which allows clients to fully customize their storage environment.
Based on the kind of processing your business needs, one type of storage system may make better sense than the other. Understanding the processes that will access the storage system is a critical aspect of making the correct choice. We hope that the information we have provided here helps you decide which type of storage best serves your business.