Why Enterprise Hard Drives Might Not Be Worth The Cost

Why Enterprise Hard Drives Might Not Be Worth The Cost

Hard drives designed for businesses are generally considered more reliable than consumer drives — after all, they’re used in company servers and important storage arrays. Don’t let the “enterprise” label fool you, though. Data from Backblaze suggests consumer hard drives might be more reliable.

Photo by SebastianDooris

In addition to recording failure rates of thousands of consumer grade hard drives, the online backup company has also been keeping tabs on the enterprise-class drives used in its servers. (The consumer grade drives store customers’ backup data, while the servers from Dell and EMC store Backblaze records that run the business.) The analysis found that the failure rate of the enterprise drives is higher than the consumer ones — 4.6 per cent annual failure rate versus 4.2 per cent.

The consumer drives are up and running all the time, but the enterprise drives are used more heavily and not subject to the vibration that the consumer drives are. Backblaze doesn’t have data on failure rates for the enterprise drives beyond two years, but right now, the company concludes that enterprise drives aren’t worth the extra cost if you’re going for reliability alone:

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 that what you expect to spend on replacing the drive.

This leads to an obvious conclusion: If you’re OK with buying the replacements yourself after the warranty is up, then buy the cheaper consumer drives.

Enterprise Drives: Fact or Fiction? [Backblaze]


  • It would also be interesting to ask the consumers themselves. As a company, if the hard drive fails, I will return it. As a consumer, it is always faster to go and buy a new one as getting a replacement one will take weeks … So the numbers may not be that accurate.

  • I believe Google does this. I remember reading a story about their datacentre that said their philosophy was “buy cheap and replace regularly”.

  • Also keep in mind that most enterprise drives are designed to fail as loudly and obnoxiously as possible so that somebody notices and replaces it (so that if you have one drive fail in a RAID array for example, you replace it before the next one dies). Consumer drives will try to keep on going for as long as possible, meaning you might not notice that it needs replacing until after it is too late. This just happened to a friend of mine: http://www.jethrocarr.com/2013/11/17/enterprise-or-consumer-spinning-rust-platters/

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