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Solid State Disks
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mwestfall
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« on: October 13, 2008, 03:05:50 PM »

Its time for another Tips and Tricks from ECAN Solutions!  Today we will be talking about:

Solid State Disks (SSDs)

An SSD is a storage device without ANY moving parts.  It uses non-volatile flash memory to store your information.  A USB Thumb Drive is an example of an SSD that we are all familiar with.  Some people call them USB Keys, USB Sticks, USB Memory Card, Etc. 

For a few years now they have been making actual system harddrives based on this same technology.  Only recently have the prices fallen down to where everyday consumers and small to medium businesses could even start to consider buying one.

Today I am going to address a few of the myths surrounding SSDs and provide a little technical insight.

How Long Will Intel's SSDs Last?

SSD lifespans are usually quantified in the number of erase/program cycles a block can go through before it is unusable, as mentioned earlier it's generally 10,000 cycles for MLC flash and 100,000 cycles for SLC. Neither of these numbers are particularly user friendly since only the SSD itself is aware of how many blocks it has programmed. Intel wanted to represent its SSD lifespan as a function of the amount of data written per day, so Intel met with a number of OEMs and collectively they came up with a target figure: 20GB per day. OEMs wanted assurances that a user could write 20GB of data per day to these drives and still have them last, guaranteed, for five years. Intel had no problems with that.

Intel went one step further and delivered 5x what the OEMs requested. Thus Intel will guarantee that you can write 100GB of data to one of its MLC SSDs every day, for the next five years, and your data will remain intact. The drives only ship with a 3 year warranty but I suspect that there'd be some recourse if you could prove that Intel's 100GB/day promise was false.

Intel actually includes additional space on the drive, on the order of 7.5 - 8% more (6 - 6.4GB on an 80GB drive) specifically for reliability purposes. If you start running out of good blocks to write to (nearing the end of your drive's lifespan), the SSD will write to this additional space on the drive. One interesting sidenote, you can actually increase the amount of reserved space on your drive to increase its lifespan. First secure erase the drive and using the ATA SetMaxAddress command just shrink the user capacity, giving you more spare area.

MLC vs. SLC

There are two forms of NAND flash used in SSDs today: Single-Level Cell (SLC) and Multi-Level Cell (MLC). The difference between the two is the amount of data stored per cell, with SLC it's 1-bit per cell and with MLC it's 2-bits per cell. The key here is that both SLC and MLC take up the same amount of die area, so MLC effectively doubles your capacity at the same price.

The Intel Drive discussed above is still pretty pricey.  $650 for an 80G version.  They are most ideal for laptops.  As a laptop you would be going from a 5400 RPM Mechanical Drive to the best of the best right now, an SSD.  The SSD is still an improvement over the faster 10,000 RPM Mechanical Drives, but it may be difficult to justify the $650 for anything other than a server system that demands the best performance you can get or a very high end work station where the increased performance would definitely allow higher levels of productivity.

The full article that explores this Intel SSD and compares it to other SSD and Mechanical Drives can be found at: http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/intel/showdoc.aspx?i=3403&p=1

We would also like to remind you of our special we are running until the end of October.  We are offering 1 hour of onsite time free.  Basically the initial site visit charge is $50 or $60 for residential and commercial respectively.  This includes the first half hour, the next hour is then free!!  This is a great way to have your system cleaned up and performance optimized without costing too much money!


*Did you know ECAN Solutions hosts game servers?  That's right, we can host almost any game server!! Including private World of Warcraft Servers!!
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