SSD vs HDD Hosting: What’s the Difference

SSD vs HDD Hosting: What's the Difference

When selecting a fast hosting solution, you must consider many factors. Among them: choosing the right type of storage – SSD or HDD.

Historically, hard disk drives (HDD), also known as magnetic storage devices, have been the most common type of storage available. These drives have been around for decades and can store large amounts of data very cheaply. Magnetic storage devices include hard disk drives, magneto-optical drives (e.g. CDROMs, DVDs) tapes, and floppy disks.

In regards to hosting, you will normally only be looking at hard disk drives for your service. However, in recent years, solid-state drives (SSD) have gained increased popularity.

When selecting a hosting service, knowing the difference between SSD and HDD storage can help you make an informed decision that will best meet your business needs.

Comparing Magnetic and Solid State Storage Solutions

When you’re looking at storage options for a hosting service, it’s important to understand the technology that your host is using for storing your data. With the knowledge of the different storage devices, you will be better able to judge how your storage needs affect the performance and cost of the services you’re comparing.

Magnetic Storage Devices

Picture of a Hard Disk Drive
HDD platters

If you are using a personal computer at home, or if you have a larger set-up at your office acting as your network server, then chances are you have a magnetic storage device in the form of your computer’s hard drive.

Magnetic storage devices include hard disk drives, magneto-optical disks, floppy disks, and tapes. For hosting services, you will normally only see hard disk drive solutions.

Magnetic storage devices use magnets to record data onto metal platters inside the drive’s casing. These metal platters rotate, causing the whirring sound that you may hear coming from the computer’s hard drive.  

These are the most cost-effective forms of data storage as it costs mere pennies for each gigabyte of storage. In fact, most magnetic drives in today’s computers have storage of at least 1 TB with 4 TB drives becoming more common.

The performance of these drives depends on the size, configuration, and technology used to access the data. Accessing the data from the drive(s) is still relatively fast, but does require mechanical means to spin the disks holding the data.

Magnetic storage devices have a drawback in that they are subject to mechanical failures. Multiple moving parts from the mechanical portion of the drive will wear down over time leading to malfunction.  

Hard disk drives are susceptible to dust and external magnets. This requires that the drive platters be hermetically sealed. Heat is also another important factor that affects the performance and longevity of the drive. The use of cooling solutions like fans and air conditioners helps to keep them from overheating.

Magneto-Optical Drives

There are also magneto-optical (MO) drives where lasers are used to record or read the data. Capacity is limited per disc, but the durability and longevity of the medium used for the recorded data is their main advantage.

Though MO drives are a form of magnetic storage device, you will generally not see them used in hosting services. They are normally for static data that is recorded once and then used for archival purposes.

Solid-State Storage Device (SSD)

Solid-state drives are becoming more popular and you will probably be seeing the term SSD more than MO or HDD in the coming years.  SSDs use flash technology, the same basic set-up as the thumb drives or flash drives that people have been using for years to back up data or transfer it from one computer to another.

An SSD is preferred over a magnetic storage drive because they operate faster as they have no moving parts. As a rule, they are also significantly faster in terms of data transfer as well. SSDs do not have an infinite life span, but they do last longer than typical HDDs because they have no mechanical parts.

This also keeps their heat transfer down. However, the comparative costs based on the storage sizes still favor magnetic storage solutions. Magnetic drives can be multi-terabytes of storage. Most SSDs are realistically priced for up to 4 terabytes. However, as the technology improves, it is expected that the prices will go down and the storage size will increase.

Hopefully, you now have a clear idea of the differences between magnetic and SSD drives for your data storage needs. In this day and age, data is king. Having quick and dependable access to your data helps you make informed decisions that lead to success.

The Impact of Speed on Your Website

SSDs are 20x faster than HDD
SSD hosting is 20x faster than servers with HDD storage

Does selecting SSD or HDD make a really big difference in the performance of your website?

Amazon has calculated that just one additional second of loading time could cost $1.6 billion in fewer sales each year. If Google delayed displaying search results by less than half of a second, it would lose more than 8 million searches a day.

Believe it or not, you can dramatically impact your website’s speed without diving into the nitty-gritty, technical details of your web server. Solid-state drives, like those installed in InMotion Hosting’s infrastructure, can make websites exponentially faster than traditional hard disk drives.

I have come to expect performance extras from the best SSD hosting services on the internet and have outlined the four biggest impacts these perks can have on your company’s performance and profitability.

1. Website Speed Sells: Fast Page Loads Increase Your Conversions

Although the almighty Amazon and Google measure the burden of slow performance in terms of millions and billions, small businesses and individual developers bear the brunt of sluggish sites, as well. On a smaller scale, page load speeds can impact a company’s conversions and profitability. Nearly half of web users expect a site to load in two seconds or less, and 40% of people have said they would abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.

Never fear, — there are many ways to optimize each step of your speedy success. First up, examine your hosting setup. Popular with many businesses for their scalability, Virtual Private Servers with SSD options are up to 20x faster than servers powered by HDDs.

Websites running a content management system, such as WordPress, are rife with opportunities for acceleration. For starters, be sure to keep your software and plugins up-to-date with the latest versions. Strong, modern code takes advantage of new technologies and protects your site from malicious code injections.

Continue lightening the load by optimizing images and videos for web publication. Heavy media files can chew up a lot of your infrastructure’s processing power. Finally, invest in upgraded services such as a content delivery network or a caching plugin. These services provide servers around the world that store website data for easy access by nearby visitors (as opposed to loading every image, JavaScript, and article from scratch every time).

2. Always Available: More Reliability Extends Your Website’s Uptime

How can you grow your business if visitors cannot reach your website? Downtime, or unplanned data center outages, can cost mid-size companies $1 million per year — and only 5% of that bill gets spent fixing the cause of the problem. Businesses lose money on lost employee productivity and sales opportunities every time a website goes offline.

In addition to choosing a hosting provider with at least a 99.9% uptime guarantee, SSD vs. HDD comparisons cites reliability as a key difference between the types of hosting hardware. Because SSDs have no moving parts, the storage devices prove much more durable and can maintain data integrity for more than 200 years.

Hard disk drives, conversely, consist of thin, metal platters that spin at 7,200 rotations or more per minute. A carefully placed read/write head hovers just a few nanometers away from the surface of the platter. As such, HDDs are more susceptible to failure, risking data loss. HDD failures can also create costly downtime while your disaster recovery solution (if you have one) restores your systems.

With equipment failures accounting for close to 40% of all reported data center outages and service providers responsible for a quarter of all downtime, business owners would be wise to align their company’s online presence with a reputable host with plans powered by all SSD hardware.

3. Ranking Rewards: SEO Value Enhances Your Position

While strong keyword research drives so much of an organization’s search engine optimization strategies, Google values many other aspects of a website’s success when calculating its rankings. The search engine giant has included speed in its algorithm since 2010, and timely page loads impact other aspects of SEO and user experience, as well.

As discussed above, visitors quickly abandon slow-moving websites. That impatience contributes to higher bounce rates, lower conversions, and less-than-average time spent on each page. In addition, sluggish sites slow down the bots search engines send to crawl your pages, meaning fewer pages are indexed.

Even though the mere presence of SSDs will not automatically get you a higher spot in search results, the increased traffic and user satisfaction will resonate greatly. The boost from the optimized infrastructure extends to performance improvements in mobile or responsive sites: another easily attainable SEO box for site owners to check.

4. Cost Consideration: SSDs Do Not Bust Your Budget

Yes, hard disk drives still hold a slight edge over solid-state storage when it comes to the upfront price tag. Instead of continuing to pay for that early investment decision with slower performance and SEO penalties, however, SSDs will pay dividends in the long run.

The slight price advantage HDDs have over SSDs is shrinking. Although the cost of SSDs used in web hosting may cost only slightly more than HDDs, it is worth the cost of data security and reliability for your website.

The Use of SSD or HDD in Website Hosting

For any business, keeping your data safe and accessible is essential. However, the use of SSD or HDD might be a decision based on cost. If you have data needs that exceed your budget for SSD hosting, then you will need to consider ways to mitigate the risk of data loss. This means using backups that are both timely and offsite.

Losing your website data (and the website itself) is a catastrophic loss if your business depends on your website. So, you should always consider backups as insurance to help prevent this possibility no matter which solution you choose.

Most web hosting services are moving to SSD drives as the main storage solution. However, HDD storage is still very common and can cost less. If you opt for a service using HDD storage, make sure that your backup solution is kept current and stored offsite.

If the storage of your backup is offsite it won’t be on the same drive where a hard drive failure could cause the loss of the backup. A backup that is kept up-to-date, will result in a quicker recovery and involve less loss of data.

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