Why I Will Never Buy a Hard Drive Again

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Giroro

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When you spend $100 on a hard drive, you only have to pay that once, and you own the drive forever and nobody can take that away from you - or at least every few years at which point you get a larger and more efficient drive for a lower price.

When you pay $80 for Office 365, you have to pay that fee every year, forever. You don't own anything, not even your data, technically. But lets ignore the obvious massive privacy and data security issues and focus on how Microsoft REALLY loves to raise prices and increase profit margins. So when that $80 goes up to $90 then to $100, $120, and beyond you either have to keep paying it or be left with nothing. Nothing is really stopping Microsoft deciding to charge you per megabyte for downloads, either. If tomorrow Microsoft decides they only care about enterprise users and gives you the choice of paying $1 per gigabyte to make a local copy of your data or lose it... then goodbye data?
Then again, I'm biased. since pretty much every version of Office in the last 15 years has done everything i need it to do, I think the idea of continually paying to buy progressively uglier version of the same software with a couple online features shoved to be a pretty terrible value.

Which brings me to the other giant issue with cloud-anything right now: bandwidth and internet connectivity. In most of America (outside of a handful of elite neighborhoods in some major cities), Internet quality and availability is beginning to degrade, not improve. Bandwidth caps were unheard-of 3 years ago, but now they are ubiquitous (and shrinking). Data rate is going down or staying level, at best. Prices are increasing dramatically. Competition is non-existent and net neutrality is dead. Cloud storage has an expiration date, which is this November when Comcast shakes off the last neutrality provisions of their NBC merger and they can legally start choking out nearly the entire country.
So, yeah, I'm not so optimistic about cloud storage in a post-net-neutrality post-privacy post-data-security world - hopefully something changes and those problems start getting better instead of worse.

And, since I'm piling on, QLC flash is a garbage product that will never significantly reduce the cost of SSDs. The cost of SSDs is going down right now because we are still recovering from the last NAND shortage/price fixing - it has nothing to do with a (small) increase to the storage density of the raw parts. Even a minor process shrink has a more significant gain to density than the jump to QLC.
The drop in price is a good thing, but it's driven by supply and demand not technology.
Planar TLC had better performance, better endurance, and the same promises of price reduction - and it was universally hated. But an inferior product comes out 2 years later and it is supposed to kill HDDs? I don't get it.
If anything, I get the impression the push for QLC is some weird planned-obsolescence scheme: storage companies want you drive to break more quickly, so they can sell you a replacement SSD more often.

3D XPoint exists now, we shouldn't have to accept that companies are pushing technology backwards to chase higher margins.
 

alan.campbell99

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My Desktop has been all-SSD for probably a year now. Presently it has 512GB nvme as a boot volume, 1TB nvme for games library [mainboard has 2 x m.2], another 512GB nvme on a PCIe card for additional storage and a 256GB SATA from a previous build for documents. Only mechanicals I have now are in a small NAS. I love having Windows boot in 5-10 seconds.
 

To be fair, @Giroro is responding to the article. The author explains that his setup doesn't require a backup because he's using his Cloudstorage through the Office 365 subscription.

@Giroro's point, and it's a fair one by all accounts, is that Microsoft can change their pricing structure any time they want which might make a USB HDD backup option start looking far more cost effective.
 

magnus909

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Anything but a real spining hard-drive is just too expensive when dealing with lots and lots of big files when doing music production or video editing.
Sample libraries takes up a lot of space.
Video clips is even worse.
Still I also own four SSD:s in addition to all the hard drives....
(All for OS:es, programs and the libraries I want really fast access to, Spectrasonic Omnisphere for example which is still a mere 70 gigs or so).
 

USAFRet

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Fair enough.
 
Get open office and buy a hard drive to backup. One time price and far less likely you will see all your business posted all over the internet for the world to see. The only issue I have with hard drives is price per GB has come to a stand still. The 1 and 2TB drive capacity is a decade old obsolete capacity. Before 2012 per GB prices were falling by 1000's of percents every few years. Since 2012 its moved only a penny or 2.
The problem with hard drives isn't speed but lack of capacity increase driving down prices plus the industry stuck in a survival mode for no reason. SSD's cant replace hard drives for large data storage that doesn't require fast retrieval. For video, music, picture, and many others storage price per GB is the only thing that matters.

I will buy hard drives again unless the industry prices itself out of the market.
 

panathas

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HDDs will always be useful for cold/bulk storage. Last month I tried to access an HDD that I haven't used for 10 years and it still worked and all the files were intact. Try to do that with a QLC SSD and you'll likely loose everything after 1-2 years. Even an MLC SSD can't keep its files after being offline for more than 2-3 years. On the other hand external HDDs are too convenient and perfect for archival purposes. They offer large storage capacities, they are cheap and you can buy them in pairs (for back-up), if you don't have a NAS device, or just want to keep some of your files offline.
 
Interesting article, thanks!

I still think the flash/HDD transition point for bulk storage is quite a few years away. I'm a huge fan of SSDs and was a relatively early adopter. I paid around $350 Australian way back in 2009 for a 64GB SSD, didn't regret it once! (It's still driving the HTPC under my bed, by the way, hasn't missed a beat, and it ensures the system boots almost as quickly as the TV turns on).

But today (or in the next few years), ditching HDDs completely? There's some problems I think with that approach.

If we look at pricing today:

  • -> If you only ever need ~500GB or less - for sure go all flash, no question there.

    -> If you only ever need ~1TB or less - SSDs are still around the ~$170 mark, and that's generally for the bargain basement SSDs. You'd save money on a higher quality ~250GB SSD and a 1TB HDD. Having said that, you could absolutely make a good case for a single 1TB SSD.

    -> As soon as you need 2TB or more though, the price of the all-flash solutions start looking pretty terrible.
Let's suppose SSD prices halve, at that point (whenever it is) 2TB all flash solutions might start making sense, but for anything 4TB or more, all-flash solutions will still be vastly more expensive than an SSD + HDD mix. In other words, even if SSDs halve in price, 4TB and larger HDDs will still play an important role in the market. Even when SSDs drop to a quarter of current pricing, an 8TB and larger HDD will likely still be vastly more cost-effective than going all-flash storage.

I also have my suspicions with the proposed "solution" of a single, large, budget SSDs, over the current SSD + HDD combination that so many of us currently rely on. There's very little perceived difference between mid-range and high end SSDs even with most intensive desktop workloads these days. HOWEVER, the performance gap between the budget and mid-range drives is noticeable and I think there's reasonable signs that the gap will grow in coming years. We're going to see budget drives increasingly ditch on-board RAM, move to QLC and use cheaper/simpler controllers with fewer channels and slower response times. Intel's new 660p gives us a good example. Once the write buffer is full the sustained writes to the drive drop to ~100MBps. That's slower than a cheap laptop drive and could rear it's head doing something like copying video footage off a camera over USB3. Other drives which rely on system memory and/or ultra-budget controllers show different, but also tangible, performance limitations.

To be clear, I have no issue with these budget drives existing on the market. The point is that there are genuine performance penalties in driving SSD costs down. I also think that anyone profiting from selling SSDs and SSD components are going to want clear market segmentation between budget and mid-range drives. They want those of us who care about performance to have to spend more money on a mid-range drive. That happens less if budget drives become fast enough for the needs of enthusiasts (whatever "enthusiast" really means!?).

So thinking about replacing the SSD + HDD mix with a single SSD: any setup that is even remotely cost-effective generally requires you to look at the cheapest of the cheap drives and use a single drive for the entire system. But then your system is booting and running applications off one of those ultra-budget drives. Do we really want that?

Sure, you could stay with a two-drive solution and have a lower capacity but higher end SSD for system + programs and a cheap SSD for bulk storage, but I don't think that makes sense in most cases either. It costs more, for a start. You're still stuck with the hassle of managing multiple drives (like a standard SSD + HDD setup). Finally, even if you were prepared to pay more for this sort of setup, you might find you'd be better off swapping out the large & (relatively) cheap SSD for a HDD and use the (significant!) money you saved getting a higher capacity mid-range SSD for the system, programs and games, with the HDD for things like videos and photos which rarely benefit from flash storage anyway. The author has identified an interesting benefit for a photo library on an SSD - generating thumbnails for a folder with thousands of photos - that makes sense, but I sort my photos so I've never run into that issue. I suspect it's a bit of an edge-case. In my experience, once the photo, audio or video editing is done and those final files are simply sitting there waiting to be viewed or listened to, there is very little if any benefit to those files sitting on flash rather than spinning metal storage.

TLDR:
A single, large, mid-range SSD is going to be very expensive into the future
A single, large, budget SSD is going to perform worse in some situations over the common mid-range SSD + HDD combo
A small, mid range SSD and large budget SSD is also more expensive and IMHO doesn't make sense over the common SSD + HDD combo in lots of circumstances anyway.
 

bit_user

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Oh, and I almost forgot: one place SSDs lose out big-time is power-off data retention. For cold and near-line storage applications, HDDs are still the way to go.
 

nobspls

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10TB SSD are way too expensive except to the extreme wealthy. When you want have servers backup whole machine builds, Windows, Linux, VMs, all the HD video, music, etc. etc. you still have to go with the spinning platter solutions. Raid 1 2x10TB on a NAS, file server and you can have a place for all your data.
 

USAFRet

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Regarding "space" needs....we here are out on the fringe, with our multiTB NAS boxes and such. That is a looong way off from being affordable with all SSD.

But the average user? A single 250GB or 500GB SSD is just fine. They're not storing 5TB of movies. That's what Netflix, Amazon, and utube is for.
Music? Spotify.
Storing and using 6 different VM's? Whats a VM?
Backups? When they do think of it..a cloud solution probably works. That's what they do with their phone already.

"OMG!! The price for Office365 might increase next year!! Better not go down that road."
That's like not buying a house because the property tax might go up.

Either you accept that the price might rise, or you buy a standalone version.
If the price rises too much for you to bear, then you move to something else.
For some people, a small monthly (or yearly) fee is preferable to a $400 wallet hit. For some people.
Me, I get Office for $10 through my workplace. If I didn't, it would simply be OpenOffice or LibreOffice.

My wifes system lives happily on a single 250GB SSD. Email, facebook, a couple of small games.
Full backup for that lives in a little Qnap box under the TV. But it just as easily be on Mars...it just goes 'somewhere'.
 

I don't know agree that multi TB requirements are out on the fringe. NAS, for sure, I agree, but plenty of people need more than a standard 250-500GB SSD.

Every time I go to one of my children's music/dancing/whatever-else concerts there's a mass of parents with DSLRs taking copious photos and, increasingly, video of the event. There's always many phones and tablets being held aloft too, but everyone there with a DLSR's has to be storing that data somewhere and it doesn't take long before a 500GB SSD isn't enough.

PC gaming is another relatively common use-case where a sensibly-priced SSD can quickly run out of space.

I totally agree with you that many people are just fine with an SSD. But there's also plenty of mainstream situations where more storage is required. It's hardly fringe or niche IMHO.
 

Blytz

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Yeah, until you can get double digit tb SSD's and for similar to mechanical prices you're still going to see storage junkies needing mechanicals. I presently have 70tb of local storage space and even @ 150 a tb (Australian pricing) it's 10 grand to replicate that level of storage with SSD.

In my pc though, I'd happily use just at most 1 tb of SSD (maybe a cheap 2tb if I was a steam junkie)
 

hannibal

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I think tuhat the Main point of author was not the price of storage. It was the safety. HD can die and take everything.
Any normal people can buy nas and replase the HDs one per year to be pretty sure or buy cloud storage. To most people that cloud storage is easier.
So if some one other takes care of backup it is easier, but if you take care of it self, it will be cheaper.
Most normal people the first option is better.
 

rantoc

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Got 2TB ssd for bulk and 480gb optane as boot/work in my machine so wont look back on HDD's but for my nas the story is different and its a perfect backup/bulk storage thats occasionally used. Just wish 10GbE would become the lan norm... 120ish mb/sec is slow on a nas that's capable of around 800mb/sec on raid5
 

DSzymborski

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If your backup is only Office 365, you have a 2-1-1 backup strategy, not a 3-2-1. Cloud services are great -- I've got terabytes of data being checked every night -- but it's also smart to have a local backup as well and unless you only have a small amount of data or you've invested a lot, that's largely going to be some kind of HDD.
 

TMTOWTSAC

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If you play games, don't expect to give up your spinning disks anytime soon. We're only now seeing what kind of sizes high res texture packs require. As 4k adoption grows, 50-100 GB installs are going to be the rule, not the exception. I think Gears of War 3 went from ~8 GB to ~100 GB for 4. While I doubt 5 will make the same jump, if they ever make 6 you might need USAFret's NAS to install it.
 
For many people, this could be true. Most simply don't need terabytes of local storage, and even 500GB might be more than enough for their near-future needs. At this point, decent 500GB SSDs are dropping under $100, placing their price within reach of the lowest capacity modern hard drives, which bottom out around $50. And for someone with very basic storage needs, who doesn't need to store lots of video or modern games, 250GB SSDs are already directly competing against the lowest-cost hard drives, while offering far greater performance. The extra capacity of the hard drive won't mean much if the owner never actually uses it. So I could definitely see hard drives becoming more of a niche product for consumer systems relatively soon.

Hard drives can still be good for the storage of games though. If someone has a large extended library of games, and wants to keep most of them installed, that could easily consume terabytes of space. While it might be nice to keep regularly-played titles on an SSD for faster load times, unless someone is building a very high-end system where they are not compromising on any other components, they are probably going to be a lot better off putting their money toward something like a higher-end graphics card than multiple terabytes of SSD storage. A decent 500GB SSD + 2TB HDD can be had for not much more than $150, while a 2TB SSD alone would set you back at least around $400, just to get moderately faster load times in games you might not often play. Of course, it could also be argued that you don't actually need terabytes of games installed at once, due to the ease of re-downloading them on an as-needed basis. However, with most typical broadband connections, newer games are likely to require an hour or more to download, which arguably defeats much of the purpose of shaving seconds off of load times.

And for bulk storage of large files, like video or backups, hard drives are still pretty much indispensable. For those uses, performance typically won't matter that much, and cost-per-gigabyte is what matters most. Even value-oriented SSDs are still around 6 times as expensive as a hard drive. As for online backups, in addition to recurring fees and security concerns, most people's Internet connections might not make that entirely viable, at least for larger amounts of data. For most broadband users, it would take days to download a terabyte of data. And outside of fiber connections, low upload speeds are the norm. Uploading a terabyte of data at 5Mbps would take weeks, making at least the initial backup pretty impractical, and tying up network performance in the interim. Sure, you could subscribe to a higher-end broadband plan if one is available in your area, but that would likely cost hundreds of dollars more per year, making the total cost more expensive than even SSD storage.
 
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