Reviewing the Benefits and Drawbacks of Flash Storage

August 17, 2017
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Whether or not you realize it, you’ve likely used flash storage plenty of times in your life. If you’ve texted on a smartphone or browsed the internet on a laptop, then you’ve used devices that come equipped with flash storage. Advances in technology have made flash storage or solid-state drives (SSD) far more common. In fact, flash storage is slowly taking the place of the more traditional hard disk drives (HDD) people are generally more familiar with. That doesn’t necessarily mean that hard drives will go away completely, but it’s become clear that flash storage is trending upward and may one day become the dominant storage option for individuals and businesses. With this in mind, it’s important to note why flash storage has increased in popularity while also examining the drawbacks that might prevent it from receiving universal adoption.

Benefits of Flash Storage

When talking about the advantages of flash storage, it’s usually helpful to compare it to the attributes found in hard disk drives. This isn’t meant to renew the flash storage vs. hard drive debate, only to serve as a point of comparison between the two technologies. There are good reasons many businesses want to use it for their operations, and most of them come down to performance. When contrasted with hard drives, solid-state drives tend to have much better performance capabilities, in particular in relation to their speed. Whereas hard drives usually take a while to fully boot up whatever machine they’re attached to, it can get equipment up and running in mere seconds. Flash storage can handle larger workloads much more quickly, making them excellent choices for working with complex data sets and operations. Businesses that rely on fast processing for their applications and require quick access to stored data will likely go with solid-state drives over anything else.

Beyond the performance advantages, it also offers more durability. This comes from the fact that solid-state drives don’t have any moving parts while hard drives rely on spinning disks. So should some disaster happen to flash storage or if the equipment is mishandled, users don’t have to worry about losing data or damaging the storage units. Such an attribute can be especially important when data security is concerned. In addition to being durable, the lack of moving parts also leads to it performing more efficiently. That means solid-state drives use of fewer resources than competing storage systems, which can in turn save companies money. Most of those savings come from reduced energy costs since flash storage doesn’t need as much power to run compared to hard drives.

Drawbacks of Flash Storage

The advantages of flash storage can certainly be enticing, but as with most technology, there are tradeoffs to consider. Performance can be a compelling reason to use it, but all that processing power does come with a price. In some cases, it’s a very high price. Compared to hard disk drives, flash storage is expensive. Estimates put the price of solid-state drives at around $.60 for every GB, while price per GB of HDD is only about $.08. Hard drives have been around for longer and are generally less expensive to manufacture, so businesses with budget concerns will likely turn to HDD rather than SSD. The price of flash storage has come down in recent years and will likely continue to do so, but for the moment, SSD can still be pricey.

Besides price concerns, it also has capacity issues that prevent it from reaching the same size as higher end hard disk drives. Even the best solid-state drives have trouble reaching 1TB in size, and those that do are pretty rare. Flash storage that does have higher capacity also tends to suffer from performance issues, which can be a dealbreaker for enterprise-size organizations and negates one of flash storage’s major benefits. Businesses that need more storage capacity that still performs mostly the same when almost filled will more than likely choose to go with hard disk drives.

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Technology is advancing all the time, so many of the drawbacks now found in it may be solved with further developments. Already techniques such as storage efficiency technology like compression and data reduction technologies are getting even more benefits out of flash storage while addressing its disadvantages. Given time, its prices are expected to come down, making it more available to businesses of all sizes. It probably won’t be long before solid-state drives are just as common as HDD.