What is SSD? Explained…

SSD Hosting

What Is SSD?

SSD stands for Solid State Drive. They are the latest type of computer storage device. These days you will find them in many high end desktops & laptops & they are increasingly being used in the hosting industry & by large corporations to store data within their server infrastructure.

In today’s post we’ll look at the differences between traditional hard drives & SSDs & how they can help you improve your online presence.

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Listen to the following audio where we explain the benefits of ssd.

The Main Differences between Traditional Hard Drives & SSD

Whilst they are the latest in a long line of innovations in data storage SSDs represent a significant departure point from the traditional architecture of hard drives. The major difference is that whereas traditional hard drives are effectively “mechanical devices”, SSDs are completely electronic – there are no moving components.

Traditional hard drives have been with us since the explosion of personal computing in the late 1970’s & early 1980’s. During that time they have got physically smaller, exponentially bigger in terms of data capacity & much, much faster.

These days you can buy 3.5 inch hard drives with 6, 8 or even 10 Terabytes (TB) of space in a 7.2K SATA format. They are starting to fill them with helium which offers less resistance than air, but in essence they are just tinkering with a tried & tested design.

Traditional hard drives are limited mainly by their ability to read or write data to their disk platters. They way they work hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 30 or so years. They have an arm (actuator) which reads & writes data to & from a spinning disk (platter).

The speed that the disk rotates determines the speed at which data can be read or written. These days the most popular (traditional) disks used in Enterprise situations like datacentres will tend to be 7.2K, 10K or 15K (the K represents the number of thousands of rotations per minute, i.e. 7.2K = 7200 rotations per minute).

With SSD there are just no moving parts to have to deal with the data. Data is just sent (written) electronically to the storage space or retrieved (read).

The net result? SSDs are significantly faster & more reliable than their SATA or even SAS predecessors.

How Fast are SSDs?

When considering the speed of a hard drive, one key metric is called Input/Output or IOPS. According to Wikipedia, this is the definition of IOPS.

IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second, pronounced eye-ops) is a common performance measurement used to benchmark computer storage devices like hard disk drives (HDD), solid state drives (SSD), and storage area networks (SAN).”

Basically, it specifies the speed at which data can be written to or read from the disk. All we need to remember is that the higher the IOPS, the faster the disk.

If we use that as our benchmark then, we can first look at the speed of traditional hard drives like SATA and SAS. It is generally accepted that the most popular types of disks in use today have the following IOPS:

7.2K SATA – around 80 IOPS

10K SAS – around 120-130 IOPS

15K SAS – around 180 IOPS

With an SSD we need to look at the Read IOPS & Write IOPS separately because SSDs are manufactured for specific uses depending on whether they will be write intensive or read intensive.

If we take a typical SSD such as the Intel DC S 3500 then these figures look like this:

Random Read IOPS: between 4,600 to 15,500 depending on disk capacity

Random Write IOPS: between 65,000 to 75,000 depending on disk capacity

Without reaching for your calculator you can see that whichever way you cut it SSDs are seriously fast when compared to their mechanical ancestors.

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Watch this quick video on how to make your website faster…

SSD Advantages

OK, so we have established that SSDs are fast. That’s great. We all love speed, especially when it comes to computing & hosting.

But speed is not an end in itself. But growing your business & getting an advantage over the competition is definitely an end in itself. It’s tough out there & you need every advantage you can get.

This is especially so when Google has admitted that the speed that a page loads is one of its ranking factors.

SSD Means More Business

OK, it is not the ONLY factor, but speed counts. The main reason it counts & why Google takes this into account is because a faster website offers a better experience for the visitor & Google wants to offer the best possible experience for people using its search tools.

 Not only that, think about it. When you visit a slow website, do you enjoy it? Unless it has some amazing gossip or news, probably not. Slow websites tend to annoy people & this results in less engagement & ultimately less sales. This applies whether you sell online or use your website as a brochure to introduce your company.

 This is where SSD can help. Most hosting companies will not have deployed SSD across all of their servers due to the prohibitive cost of replacing their existing hard drives. Often you will find that you are hosted with hundreds or thousands of other customers on a shared server that will use 7.2K SATA drives (see above). (Incidentally, we only use 10K SAS drives as a minimum for our entry level on Pickaweb´s hosting plans).

 7.2K SATA is fine, if you just want a basic web presence & you are not too worried about speed. But if you want a better ranking in Google, if you want to offer a better experience to your visitors then switching to SSD should be a no brainer.

SSD is More Reliable

Reliability is another factor to bear in mind. Naturally, with any mechanical device such as a traditional hard drive there are likely to be hardware failures from time to time. Usually it is to do with the platters or the data arm or a spring breaking somewhere in the gubbins.

Whilst hard drive reliability has steadily improved over the years, it will always be open to lower reliability than a purely electronic device such as an SSD.

Obviously there are ways to mitigate this such as using hot swap disks in RAID Arrays (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks), but ultimately failure will occur at some point as components wear out.

Now, that is not to say that SSD has got it all solved here. This is a relatively new type of storage device & over time the storage modules where the bits of data are stored do degrade over time.

However, the generally accepted measure of Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) shows a significantly longer lifetime for SSDs when compared to traditional hard drives.

That said, SSD has got off to a flying start in terms of reliability & that will only improve over time.

SSD is Greener

Another point worth considering is that SSDs require much less energy than traditional hard drives. In fact, they typically consume about one fifth of the electricity that traditional hard drives use.

Not only that, they generate much less heat than normal hard drives. If you ever enter a datacentre you will be surprised at how chilly & how noisy it can be. That is due to all of the cooling equipment required to keep the servers at an optimum temperature.

When you scale that all up to the size of a datacentre & when you consider the amount of data centers globally that are required to cope with all the extra data we are all either consuming or producing then it is clear SSD technology has a central role to play in helping the industry to reduce their carbon footprint.

SSD – The Verdict

It seems clear that SSD is the future for data storage & in particular for web hosting.

Sure, it is a relatively new technology, but it is like the arrival of jet engines over propellers – it is the future.

But right here, right now it has several clear advantages over traditional hard drives, namely:

  • SSD is much faster than traditional data storage
  • SSD hosted sites offer a better user experience
  • SSD hosted websites have the chance to win more business
  • SSDs are more reliable than traditional hard drives
  • SSD use much less energy than mechanical hard disks

 So, if you want to sell more, experience less downtime & be kinder to the planet then it makes sense to switch to SSD.

Thanks for reading and leave your questions below to keep the conversation going.


  1. 1

    Very helpful post.

    Is the price for SSD’s falling as the technology matures? If so, are we likely to see the price of SSD hosting fall as the competition between different ISPs offering the service increases? What do you think?

  2. 2

    Hi Rob,

    Brilliant quesiton. In a nutshell, yes. Storage technology respects Moore’s Law so costs will come down over time.

    However, there are a couple of considerations right now that mean that prices will remain relatively high compared to traditional drives.

    First is Capital Expenditure. Hosts have made a huge investment in storage over the years & they are extremely reliable. Don’t expect them to be ditching them all overnight – it will be a gradual transition.

    Second is physical space in the Datacenter. Whilst some new SSDs are getting up to 1TB capacity when you consider that some SATA HDDs can reach 8 or 10TB capacity then there is a huge mismatch.

    For example if we were to take an 8 bay, 2 processor, 750GB RAM, 2U server that could potentially have 50 to 80TB of pure space before applying any RAID. Therefore in a 42U rack you could theoretically have say 15 production servers with say 50TB per server = 750TB space with loads of RAM in one rack.

    Now let’s compare that to the SSD option which would have say 15 servers with 8TB SSD space per server = 120TB pure space (before RAID). Therefore you would need around 7 physical racks to get the equivalent SSD space. The racks take up floor space & require networking equipment so that is a real cost.

    Sure, there are significant power savings using SSD but that doesn’t come near the extra space cost in the datacenter.

    Finally, there probably are cheaper SSD options & some providers will be using eg: desktop or laptop SSDs. These are not to be confused with Datacentre ready Enterprise SSDs, so you need to ask the right questions. Right now we are using Intel DCS3500 & 3700 SSDs.

    So in summary, it will happen but the density of GB per SSD needs to improve first.

    Great question though & sorry for the rambling reply!

  3. 3
  4. 5

    Hi Tony
    I have always used shared web hosting but after reading this article I’m thinking of moving to SSD hosting.
    Thank you for explaining this in a clear way.

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