SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment and it is a type of interface for a hard drive. Whilst SATA is the name of the interface it is generally used to describe the type of hard drive being used, eg: 7.2K SATA.
The low cost and high capacity of SATA drives results in a low cost per gigabyte which makes them ideal for home users or data storage and backup services.
Nowadays the most common type of SATA based drive is the 7.2K SATA although older drives are 5.4K SATA. The K refers to the rotational speed of the hard drive, i.e. 7,200 revolutions per minute.
In terms of speed the best measure is IOPS (Inputs Outputs Per Second) which measures the data throughput which defines the rate at which data can be read from or written to the hard drive.
A typical 7.2K SATA drive operates at around 80 IOPS. This compares to around 120 IOPS for a 10K SAS Hard Drive and 180 IOPS for a 15K SAS Hard Drive. Solid State Drives can operate at a range between 4,600 to 75,000 IOPS depending on the type of SSD.
SATA disks can range from 500GB to up to 8TB. Typically though a good option for cost and capacity is between 1TB to 3TB.
SATA hard drives are not intended for use for high demanding applications where speed and high availability are the primary concerns. SATA drives are great workhorses for lower demanding uses such as home or data storage and backup.
SATA drives have a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) that is generally accepted to be around 700,000 hours which compares to around 1.2 million hours for SAS Drives and over 2 million hours for SSD drives.
SATA Power Consumption
SATA drives typically consume between 4 to 6 Watts when idle and between 10 to 12 Watts in normal operating conditions.
SATA comes in 3 main variations described below.
Also previously known as SATA 1.5Gb/s, SATA I operated at 1.5Gb/s and could handle bandwidth throughput of up to 150MB/s.
Also previously known as SATA 3Gb/s, SATA II operated at 3Gb/s and could handle bandwidth throughput of up to 300MB/s.
Also previously known as SATA 6Gb/s, SATA III operates at 6Gb/s and can handle bandwidth throughput of up to 600MB/s and is backward compatible with SATA II.
SATA cables can be up to 1 metre in length. At one end is the data connector which has 7 pins (3 grounds, 4 active data lines) and the other end is the power connector with 15 pins providing electricity, grounding and drive spinup capabilities.
SATA Drives are reliable, proven technology. They are ideal for non demanding uses such as home users or data storage or backups. They are not best suited to supporting high demanding applications or situations where speed and performance are the main criteria. For these SAS or SSD drives are the best option.