​Reliability: Understanding the critical factors behind disk storage

Consumers and businesses are increasingly leaning towards hybrid strategies: cloud-based and direct storage

The need for more storage across every market segment is overwhelming. Source: Herman Turnip (Flickr)

The need for more storage across every market segment is overwhelming. Source: Herman Turnip (Flickr)

In the tech world it can be easy to focus on spec sheets but in reality a tech spec sheet will never tell you the full story about whether a product will meet your needs or miss the mark. This is particularly true when it comes to making decisions about your storage requirements where reliability is king.

From streaming cell phone video to machine-to-machine Internet of Things (IoT) data streams, the need for more storage across every market segment is overwhelming. Consumers are increasingly leaning toward hybrid strategies, employing both cloud-based storage services as well as more quickly restored direct- and network-attached storage solutions.

Businesses have even more diverse needs. Some data must be secured. An increasing amount must be made available to fast, real-time analysis. And with every passing month, ever more data must find its way into affordable long-term storage that can still make any file available to users within seconds.

Against this backdrop of broad applications and skyrocketing capacity needs, we have a complete spectrum of storage environments. Consider all of the places in which people deploy hard drives: laptops, surveillance appliances, kiosks, hot data centres, Arctic research outposts, airplanes, cars, small business storage closets, and large-scale university research clusters. Data lives everywhere. In turn, the storage market must meet data where it lives, not only where it’s convenient. The digital universe is far, far bigger than PCs and server racks.

Additionally, within each environment, different systems will face different workloads. Will storage be subject to a heavy, random workload or a light, sequential one? Will that use occur only sporadically during the workweek or constantly around the clock, year in and year out?

This diversity leads to two inescapable demands. First, like a fine suit to a body, storage must be tailored and tweaked if it’s going to deliver the desired results. One design does not fit all and a spec sheet won’t always tell you the full story. Secondly, storage must be reliable. This is the most important reality of all storage, because if you don’t have reliability, everything else, from uptime to data protection to total, long-term solution cost, falls apart.

That is why Seagate recently began offering annualized failure rate (AFR specs) on some drives in addition to conventional mean-time between failure (MTBF) ratings. Annualized numbers are key when discussing reliability. Because MTBF numbers can vary depending on how manufacturers test, AFR is increasingly used as a measurement of drive reliability. In turn, AFR dovetails with workload duty cycle and ultimately yields a drive’s workload rate limit (WRL), meaning the number of terabytes a drive can be expected to read and write over both its lifespan and on an annual basis.

A Seagate desktop drive, for example, offers a WRL of 55 TB/year while an enterprise-grade nearline drive boasts 550 TB/year. Given that enterprises are storing 85 percent of the digital universe, it makes sense that they should reliably accommodate 10X more data traffic.

That’s why companies like our take such herculean measures involving thousands of steps and countless hours to design and test our drives to deliver consistent quality over time.

In a sense reliability is the driving force behind all hard drive market segmentation, so when you’re next making a decision about your storage requirements don’t just rely on the numbers on a drive spec sheet. Make sure you look for a truly reliable storage solution by digging deeper to learn the whole story.

Goodbye, optical; hello, hard drive. This IDC graph of the number of installed bytes by media type clearly shows that the world’s craving for high capacity digital storage dominates storage adoption.

Sandy Sun is vice president and general manager of Sales, Asia-Pacific and China, Seagate Technology

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags storage backupstorage marketstoragestorage virtualisationstorage hardwareStorage Devices

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sandy Sun

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?