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In November, cloud backup firm Backblaze posted some detailed data on the life expectancy of hard drives based on the company's experience with over 25,000 HDDs. One thing Backblaze found was that evaluating such a thing is bit tricky for a number of reasons, though it was able to make some observations. As a followup, Backblaze has posted another blog that examines how reliable enterprise drives are compared to consumer drives, and the results are surprising.
Enterprise drives have built in mechanisms that are supposed to make them better suited for the rigors of 24x7 operation than consumer based drives, but according to Backblaze, they not only fail just as often, but even at a greater clip. There's some qualifying factors that go along with that, however.
For one, Backblaze is comparing a sample of 368 enterprise class drives with 14,719 consumer drives. That's how many of each were added in the past two years since Backblaze began using enterprise-grade storage systems. The second thing to consider is that enterprise drives are used more heavily than consumer drives, though Backblaze points out they're also "coddled in well-ventilated low-vibration enclosures." In contrast to that, consumer drives are installed in Storage Pods with a fair amount of vibration.
All that said, 17 enterprise drives failed in the past two years, adding up to a 4.6 percent annual failure rate. During the same period, 613 consumer drives failed, which comes out to a 4.2 percent failure rate.
"So, are enterprise drives worth the cost? From a pure reliability perspective, the data we have says the answer is clear: No," Backblaze concludes. "Enterprise drives do have one advantage: longer warranties. That’s a benefit only if the higher price you pay for the longer warranty is less than what you expect to spend on replacing the drive."
Give Backblaze's analysis a once-over and then let us know what you think about the data and its conclusion.