What to look for when choosing SSD drives

For those who require a little more oomph from their computers, solid state technology present a golden opportunity to replace their sluggish hard drives with high-performance alternatives. More business users and consumers are turning to SSD drives to quickly boot up their machines and launch their most critical applications. According to statistics released by IHS iSuppli, SSD shipments increased 82 percent last year in the face of lower sales in the overall computer storage market, PC Pro reported.

"The storage industry continues to navigate multiple transitions that are affecting each segment's performance," said IHS analyst Fang Zhang, according to the source. "The SSD sector is easily the most promising, compared to a struggling HDD segment that remains huge but is still trying to find its footing in a shifting environment …"

Zhang stated that the SSD industry is currently operating in an "aggressive expansion mode." IHS analysts do not expect these trends to abate anytime soon, predicting that the SSD market will increase 50 percent in 2014 alone. Worldwide shipments of SSD drives will eclipse 190 million units within the next three years.

With so much interest surrounding the use of SSD drives, it's important that business users gain a proper understanding of the technology and the various components that lie at its core. Considering the wide array of options hitting the market to meet increasing demand, prospective adopters will want to be sure that they are valuing the most important factors that determine a device's performance. Gawker Media's Adam Dachis recently highlighted the many aspects of an SSD that people should take into account when considering a purchase.

MLC vs SLC
Newcomers to the world of SSD drives may be a little perplexed when they come across the designations "MLC" and "SLC." Whether a device has been built upon multi-level cell or single-level cell NAND flash memory can determine a great deal about its performance and cost. SLC devices represent the top-of-the-line in SSD technology, offering the lowest potential for read/write errors. However, that higher quality comes with a higher price tag. Because MLC drives store more data on each individual cell, they offer lower manufacturing costs. Dachis suggested that business users and consumers alike give MLC serious consideration as their SSD format, stating that the greater potential for read/write mistakes can be largely mitigated with error-correcting code memory.

ECC memory
Data corruption can occur at any time, resulting in unusable files, documents or other information. This can be extremely frustrating under normal circumstances, but for business users, the sudden loss of this data can be devastating. ECC memory features can salvage this information by identifying instances of data corruption and correcting them. By investing in an MLC SSD outfitted with ECC memory capabilities, individuals can enjoy the cost-saving advantages of the format without sacrificing data quality.

Reliability
In that same vein, prospective SSD adopters should take a hard look at the durability and reliability of a particular device. For many users, their SSD drives will be tasked with launching their most intensive and important applications and programs. A widely popular use for SSDs in the office is to store a computer's operating system on them so employees can boot up their machines in the blink of an eye. With more critical assets assigned to these devices, a sudden hardware failure could be devastating. That is why individuals who want to ensure their SSD drives continue operating without disruption should consider an industrial-grade model. Designed to handle the rigors of various inhospitable environments, these tools are built to last and are capable of weathering various harmful factors.

Maximum speed
If any one factor defines the appeal of SSD drives, it's speed. Traditional HDD devices rely on read/write heads and magnetic platters to copy and open applications or documents. As these components move into place, noticeable lag time is an inevitability. While HDD manufacturers have attempted to increase boot times by increasing the platter's RPMs, there' s a ceiling on how far these efforts can go. Solid state's NAND flash memory, meanwhile, is not beholden to these physical limitations, allowing SSD devices to access data within a much shorter window.

Dachis explained that when an organization installs SSD drives on their workstations, users can enjoy many performance-based benefits, including:

  • Near-instant launch times for applications
  • Reduced OS boot times
  • Dramatically improved file copying speeds

If individuals take these various factors into consideration when deliberating on an SSD purchase, they can ensure they invest in a high-quality solution that will provide years of reliable service.

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