A question at EADR we get asked frequently by customers who have suffered data loss from a mechanical hard drive is “should I use a Solid State Drive instead?” In the majority of cases for data back-up and storage we would still recommend an external hard drive (mechanical) or if the data volume is small enough, a USB Flash drive. So if the customer has just suffered data loss from one mechanical drive, why go down this route again? Why not a solid state drive?
Solid state drives are known for their speed and performance. They are very different from mechanical drives in that there are no moving parts involved; no motor, head stack or platters. Solid state drive data is stored on NAND based chips, so they are very quick to boot up and data access speeds are greatly improved. Their best application, therefore, is for housing an operating system and associated program files.
The advantage of a solid state drive is that if they are dropped or suffer a shock then nothing can be easily broken. However, they are subject to their own types of failure, such as Firmware failures, the chips dying, the semi-conductors failing or other components wearing out. This can happen at any time and usually without any warning! With mechanical hard drives, although they can also go wrong quite suddenly, this is usually down to a trauma such as being dropped or knocked, or indeed being ejected from your computer incorrectly.
From a data recovery perspective, if a solid state drive is extensively damaged and requires chip removal and reconstruction, then costs can very quickly escalate. Purchase price is a big factor too, at the time of writing, portable solid state drives are approximately 4.5 times the price of mechanical portable hard drives, so with mechanical, you indeed get more ‘bang’ for your buck!
On the whole, mechanical hard drives, if used correctly and handled with care, are an excellent way of storing data. Although more vulnerable, they are easier and cheaper to repair and indeed replace. The ideal combination would be to use a Solid State Drive as your boot drive for your operating system, with a mechanical hard drive to store your frequently accessed data away from your solid state drive. If it’s not practical to use this combination, then a very stringent backup routine would need to be put in place. We often have clients that only require their email files from their failed SSD in their Laptop that they last backed up 2 weeks ago, and the emails that they urgently require were, yes you guessed it, received in the last 2 weeks.
Remember – If it’s your only copy, it’s not a backup, no matter where it’s stored…