Solid State Drives in Business Laptops Are a Cost Advantage

Paul Mah

Much has been written on the topic of SSDs, or Solid State Drives, in the last year or so. Inexorably, they are increasingly showing up in high-end laptops, as well as on enterprise file servers and SANs. What makes SSDs all the more attractive is the fact that most of the initial teething problems have been ironed out, and explicit support has been built into Microsoft's eagerly anticipated Windows 7 operating system.


Even though it took me a fair amount of trouble to disassemble my Sony laptop to swap in a high-end Samsung SSD recently, I can say from actual experience that upgrading to one was akin to switching to a new laptop. While prices of SSDs have been steadily decreasing, conventional wisdom has so far dictated that the higher priced SSD is not practical from a business perspective.


New research is now saying solid state drives in business laptops are a cost benefit, however. Titled "Solid State Drives in Business Notebooks: Cost Benefit or Cost Burden," the study by J. Gold Associates concluded that SMBs and enterprises buying business-class laptops with SSDs installed will save $214 over 3 years, or $493 if the machine is kept in service for five years.


I contacted Jack E. Gold, founder and principal analyst of J. Gold Associates, and he elaborated on the seeming paradox of how laptops fitted out with the more expensive SSDs will cost less to maintain than a laptop with a standard hard disk drive.


According to Gold, the lower cost is primarily due to lower failure rates compared to traditional hard disk drives. He added, "The actual cost to repair an SSD failure is less than a HDD because of the requirements to recover data from the HDD, which is quite expensive... with SSDs, you are either able to get to the data or not."


As yet, there is no expensive data retrieval procedure available for the retrieval of data from flash memory. This is to say that either the solid state memory works, or it doesn't. Still, this is mitigated by the higher reliability of SSDs -- indeed, the average failure rate of a laptop is reduced by one-third as a result. With secure disposal of SSDs also costing much lesser, the total cost of repairing a failed laptop under warranty with an SSD is just $715 compared to $970 for a similar laptop equipped with a HDD.


Of course, this still leaves us the unspoken understanding that lost data on an SSD is more likely to be irrecoverable. With the cost advantage of SSDs, though, I'm all for the lower failure rates and increased performance.

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Jul 22, 2009 7:47 AM Leslie Satenstein Leslie Satenstein  says:

I really doubt the premise that the author presented. It may be true that SSDs are more reliable then hard disks,  but ssd's are mounted on mechanical card(s). Cards  can crack if the laptop is dropped or shocked badly.  And that data loss using SSDs is total.

Most of the time, data on a laptop is worth many times more then the laptop itself.  To suddenly have no recourse to recovery due to a failed SSD is a comparison that should be made against the cost of corporate data recovery. We know that data from a hard drive can be recovered, although at some cost. If a laptop is subject to shock, it is probable that only one track on a platter would be damaged.  Compare the recovery of the balance of the hard disk information to the SSD failure when it is corporate data.  And yes, because of lower failure rates for SSD's, employees will become sloppy about taking backups.   Human nature will prove the author wrong.

Jul 22, 2009 9:44 AM Paul Mah Paul Mah  says: in response to Leslie Satenstein

Dear Leslie,

Excellent examples of situations which will destroy an SSD; shrewd observation too on the fallacy of general human nature! I suppose it will take a little while yet before SSD becomes de facto storage standard for user laptops/desktops.

A more optimistic possibility is that administrators will warn end-users that their data will be completely irrecoverable in the event of failure, prompting everyone to do proper data backups. Just a pipe dream?

Jul 23, 2009 3:56 AM Rhys Sharp Rhys Sharp  says:

Whilst I understand the possible cost savings relating to the use of SSDs I did not expect that to relate to the reliability of the devices.

In my experince I have seen the cost savings realte more to the softer elements in realtion to performance and power consumption. The improved boot up speed and extended battery life deliver greater productivity so for the truly mobile individual the ability to be working quickly and having longer on battry is a real cost benefit. This relates directly to the power consumed during charging so effectivley delivering a better carbon footprint.

If there are real savings in the long run on hard savings as described what do the soft savings also deliver?

Aug 17, 2009 12:28 PM Senthil Kumar (SK) Senthil Kumar (SK)  says: in response to Paul Mah

The research provided in your article didn't address the cost involved in running different type of business application on a SSD VS HDD. The cost of data loss and recovery is going to be high until the data recovery tools for SSD technology matures.

The cost benefits are already realized in server side for quick data access using SSD in RAID devices to run i/o intensive database and number crunching application. With Virtual desktop infrastructure technology catching up most corporate users will be using their business application via a virtual desktops running on their server.

The cost benefit of using SSD on most of the business notebooks may come from data reuse, because it will be easy to sync data by connecting to corporate networks. Due to security concerns, corporates will enforce all application data to be wiped out from business notebooks at the end of the day or after they unplug from the network. Or only provide application interface to sync up with servers where only limited data will be made available.  SSD will turn out to be more cost effective, reliable and safe for such applications. 

Imagine using SSD and expanding the current techology used by handheld devices that are currently used by field operators ( like FedEX/UPS, meter readers ).  They currently review the data and collect the data and sync it back.  Once the data is synced back to main office, the devices is ready for fresh data to be loaded back into the devices for next day 


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