The state of data storage is constantly changing. Just like every aspect of technology, data storage has evolved significantly in the past couple of years and continues to do so. Whereas CD and DVD-ROM’s were among the most commonly used media devices even until five years ago, they’re close to being obsolete now. In fact, most new and upcoming laptop devices don’t even come with the necessary hardware for accessing CDs and DVDs. If marketing hype is anything to go by, in a few years, the entire data of the world will be hosted in the cloud. That, however, is a rather simplistic evaluation of the forces at play in the data storage market. Businesses, in particular, need a lot more control over their data than the cloud offers, at least for some components of their business-critical data. This makes options such as flash storage and hard disk drives useful for enterprises. Among these, flash drives present significant benefits, because they don't have any moving parts, and hence perform the data operations electronically and silently. We will cover this in more detail, along with some of the other benefits of flash storage for businesses.
Speed of data access is a critical parameter for enterprises to evaluate different options on, particularly while making enterprise-level data storage method decisions. In solid-state devices, the performance is governed by the time taken for the read/write head to move from one position to another. For even the best-performing HDDs, this time comes to be around 5 milliseconds. Flash storage devices perform much better.
Flash devices can reduce the access time to as little as 20 microseconds. Theoretically, that's 250 times faster than HDDs. However, on a more realistic basis, it's estimated that flash storage devices are close to 100 times faster than comparable HDDs. Some important aspects of flash drives, in terms of their speedy data access operations, are:
- With every year, technological advancements and innovations by market leaders in flash storage market are driving performance ratings up.
- Flash drives enable quick boot up of machines, which is a critical requirement in enterprises with hundreds, if not thousands of devices.
- In networks with a large number of users, flash storage can perform much better than any other storage medium, as far as data operation efficiency is concerned.
Safety of the storage media
Inherently, flash storage devices are much safer than solid-state devices. HDDs have many moving parts. They're prone to two kinds of spontaneous breakages:
- Scratching of the disk.
- Breaking of the drive head.
Particularly when they're subjected to a lot of read/write requests, HDDs tend to falter and break down. For an enterprise, this could be catastrophic. Recovery of data from a physically damaged HDD is not only very difficult but can be highly expensive.
Flash drives, over the past few years, have established a strong reputation for device stability and durability, and there's little to zero risk of any spontaneous damages occurring to these devices. This makes them a reliable mechanism of data archival and storage within a business setting.
In spite of the obviously crucial nature of any decision around the choice of storage media for a business, decision makers tend to oversimplify things and only consider the cost of storage. Several enterprises continue to commit this mistake, and choose hard disk drives over flash-based storage drives. Chief technology officers tend to support budget cases made with cost as the key focus; that certainly isn't the best way forward when it comes to procuring storage for your business.
Even for a business adamant on securing the most cost-effective data storage solutions, it's paramount to truly factor in all the costs to compare flash storage with hard disk devices.
Traditional storage costs about 7 to 8 cents per usable GB. Compared to this, flash storage costs anything close to 40 cents per usable GB. However, prices of flash storage are falling. More importantly, enterprises need to consider price per GB per second, because that's a parameter that factors in the operational efficiency of flash storage. The seemingly 5x differential between traditional hard disk storage and flash storage suddenly sounds a lot less daunting when you consider the performance aspect.
Also, enterprises need to consider the maintenance costs associated with HDDs. Because they have many moving parts, HDDs not only undergo wear and tear much faster than other storage devices, but also consume a lot of electricity. Also, flash-based storage hardly produces any heat, which makes them a salient choice for reducing the cost of cooling in large server rooms.
Ease of portability
We are on the cusp of the IoT revolution. Enterprises can safely assume that the number of connected devices operating inside their networks will significantly increase very soon. Many of these will be handheld devices, and much like the current breed of handheld devices (smartphones and tablets), they will also use flash storage. Not only does flash storage mean future-readiness for enterprises, but also implies current portability of data assets. For large enterprises, this even boils down to smaller and more easily manageable server rooms.
Just do not lose one of them or accidentally sit on it and it breaks! That will certainly not impress the team you are on! Hopefully, your boss does not scream like Steve Jobs used to scream at his employees.
Improvements in large-scale flash storage tech
All-flash arrays have been the buzz in the storage industry for some time now, and the market for these AFAs has witnessed stellar growth, kind of like young people are inexplicably buying SUVs now, but let’s get back on track here. Such a solution has the potential to deliver highly scalable and cost-effective solutions to enterprises. Also, AFAs can prove to be less complicated to install and support compared to any other storage medium. All these factors make the transition to flash storage a viable option for most enterprises.
One potential downside
As flash storage costs continue to fall, more and more enterprises will start adopting flash-heavy storage strategies. Even otherwise, the powerful performance, stability, security, and future readiness that flash storage options deliver make them a terrific choice for storing enterprise data in a physical location.
Hopefully, all your employees are trustworthy and none of them choose to walk off with vital data! That is the downside to portable flash drives. Still, the upsides trump the downsides.
Photo credit: DC Comics