The performance enhancements offered by solid-state drives (SSDs) have been known and written about for some years now. Despite that, I do continue to bump fairly regularly into IT professionals exhorting their newfound enthusiasm of SSDs based on recent experiences. Clearly, misconceptions about SSDs do exist, and it could be holding businesses back from testing or deploying SSD-based systems in their organizations.
To present the case for an SSD upgrade, I shall attempt to address some of the most common notions about it.
As you are no doubt aware, an SSD ditches the spinning platters of traditional hard disk drives (HDD) for a much faster storage drive based entirely on NAND flash memory. The key factor preventing more widespread adoption though, is its high cost per megabyte relative to an HDD. It is important to understand, however, that the cost of SSDs have declined steadily over the years to a much more affordable level today. Indeed, a quick check shows that it is possible to get an entry-level SSD of 120GB for about $125 from Newegg.
Instead of focusing on the costs, one way that businesses can rationalize the viability of an SSD upgrade is to examine it from the perspective of an impending PC refresh. For example, small businesses may want to ask themselves if an SSD upgrade could allow them to put off the purchase of new systems while delivering adequate performance.
Even if it would only delay a system refresh for an additional year, it still offers an excellent upgrade option for SMBs looking to lengthen the lifespan of their existing machines. As an anecdotal example, Ultrabooks equipped with SSDs that I had the opportunity to test felt just as responsive as more powerful machines.
One concern about flash memory is its limited lifespan in terms of the number of writes it can sustain before its cells start degrading. Moreover, MLC NAND found in consumer SSDs do come with far fewer write cycles than enterprise-centric SSD with SLC NANDs. To be clear, data recovery experts that I've spoken to have actually shared how their experiences to date have showed SSDs to fail less frequently than HDDs in general.
To put things into perspective, it is important to remember that typical PC usage such as word processing, browsing and checking emails imposes an extremely low number of write operations on an SSD. Businesses that do dabble in large files such as video editing and graphic design may have more cause for concern; though there is no reason why a typical MLC-based SSD should not last more than 2-3 years outside of a server environment.
Finally, SMBs concerned about the complexity of installing an SSD should rest easy – setting one up is no harder than installing or replacing an HDD. Most SSDs today come in a 2.5-inch form factor, which fits into the standard drive bay on laptops and desktop enclosures.
As such, small businesses with no IT employees may approach their regular IT vendor or service provider to get the installation done. Because there is nothing special about installing an SSD, they should not expect to be charged more than standard rates.
Like every technology, no one solution may be suited for every business. While I have attempted to set the stage for the use of SSDs, SMBs that require substantial amount of local storage space may find high-capacity SSDs to be outright unaffordable. A final consideration is that flash-based storage is also constantly evolving too; faster PCIe card-based SSDs for servers and workstations are starting to enter into the mainstream even right now.
Having used laptops equipped with SSDs for the last three years, however, what I can say is that I would never go back to one with a standard HDD. As such, I would strongly encourage a thorough evaluation of using SSDs in your SMB if you have yet to do so.