Quick Tip - Solid State Drives (SSD) are better - Orlando's Best IT Support and Managed Services Provider

Quick Tip – Solid State Drives (SSD) are better

Posted by Timothy Platt on Mar 2, 2017


Solid State Drives (SSD) – Faster, Lighter, and More Reliable

Here at Virtual Operations, Orlando’s best Managed IT Services provider, we are often asked to make recommendations for new computer purchases. One piece of advice we consistently give: for mass storage, order a Solid State Drive (SSD). In this article, we’ll discuss why this technology is better than the legacy option – spinning hard disks.

NOTE: This explanation is targeted to consumer and business users. We won’t overload you with the latest tech details – just the core concepts you need to know to make a good decision.

First, a little history…the hard disk

Record PlayerHistorically, the primary form of mass storage in a computer has been the hard disk or hard drive. This device consists of several magnetic platters (the “disk” of “hard disk”) that rotate on a spindle. The information stored on the device is magnetically coded onto the platters and is accessed by a “read head”. This is a sensor, on an armature that can be moved across the platter to access a specific location for data. Close your eyes and imagine a record player – very similar layout. The vinyl record is the platter and the needle is the read head. The most striking difference is that in the hard disk the “needle” can be moved to any location on the “record”, in any order desired. The other significant difference is any modern hard drive will have 4 or 5 or more platters, all stacked on top of each other, with a read head for each. Imagine 5 record players piled up vertically. Also, the “read head” is also a “write head”, meaning it can be used to read or write data from the platter. So far so good. Let’s talk about the limitations of this technology.

Hard disks have several moving parts…and those limit ultimate performance

Hard DiskContinuing with our record player example, the platter spins and the read head must be moved. This is physical movement, that can occur only at some set speed. Hard disks for desktops are typically available in two platter speeds: 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM. As you might imagine 7200 revolutions per minute offers higher performance, the platter is spinning faster, so the data can be read faster. Secondly, the read head needs to move in a “random” fashion – meaning it might have to read data from the outer edge of the platter, and then rapidly move to the inner edge of the platter. If there’s less physical distance to move, the read of data will happen faster. Hard disk performance is usually better if the disks (platters) are smaller, because there is less distance for the read head to move. This can also be accomplished by storing the data more densely, meaning less platter spin must occur to read the same set of data. This is all well and good, and the technology for hard disks gets better every year – smaller and with more capacity. But a few considerations…

Hard disks are heavy and those moving parts are slow and prone to failures

Everyone is familiar with the dreaded “hard drive crash”. In the simplest terms this can be a mechanical failure where the read head “crashes” into the platter and damages physically the underlying magnetic recording. This can render the data unusable. Why would this happen? If you’ve ever dropped a laptop with a hard disk this may have happened to you. Other failures include failing to spin and other such problems. Secondly, if you’ve ever picked up a hard disk, they are very dense, almost to a surprising degree. Lastly, it takes a good deal of power to keep that disk spinning continuously at those speeds. ┬áTry to spin them faster, and that’s even more power required.

How can we improve upon this?

Let’s look at how SSDs improve upon the fundamental problems of hard disks:

Solid State Drive - Samsung

SSDs leverage all those factors, to provide a solution far better than the traditional hard disk, especially for mobile devices such as notebooks and laptops. But there are some drawbacks. Let’s discuss those next.

The drawbacks of SSD…

Firstly, we should state that the state of the art in SSD is improving rapidly every day. Most of these drawbacks were significant “show stoppers” a short few years ago, but are less of a concern every day. With that caveat out of the way:

To sum things up, the dramatic differences with SSDs come with some extra considerations. But the tech is approving rapidly every day, and in most scenarios SSD is a solid choice. We hope this article has been useful to you. If we can help with your next computer selection, please reach out to us. By the way, these sorts of simple and in-depth explanations are all part of the service we offer continuously to our clients. We pride ourselves on simple, understandable explanations.

IT Support by Virtual Operations

Virtual Operations provides IT support for small businesses in the Orlando and Central Florida area. Our managed IT services offering provides the expertise and quality care your small business needs. Please contact us today to find out how we can help with your computer support and network support needs.

Quick Tip – In this weekly series of articles, we’ll provide a quick, simple overview of an IT related topic – relating complex topics in easy to understand terms. This particular topic is part of our computer repair series, which includes what to do if you’ve got a slow computer, among other topics.


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