I’ll bet that if you run a business website you probably haven’t considered the type of hard drive that your hosting company uses.
After all, hosting is hosting is hosting. Isn’t it?
But what if I was to tell you that the choice of hard drive matters? It matters a lot. In fact, choosing the wrong type of hosting could be one of the biggest mistakes you make in business.
You see, if your criteria for choosing hosting is based purely on cost then guess what? You’re not alone. Plenty of people love a bargain. You know them. Always looking for the lowest price they can get.
And to make sure they get what they want, corners have to be cut somewhere. One of the easiest ways to achieve that is by choosing the cheapest type of hardware. That means a slow hard drive that is packed tight with those bargain hunters.
That’s bad news for your business because you’re all fighting for the server’s key resources. Something has to give and the first thing is speed. The net result? A slow website that your customers won’t appreciate and downtime that will probably infuriate you.
But there is an alternative. It’s called Solid State Drive or SSD Hosting for short. In this post, we’ll explore the differences between traditional storage media and SSD and we’ll outline four business reasons that you should consider switching to SSD.
SSD vs. Traditional Hard Drives
In industry jargon, traditional hard drives are called "spinning" disks and aside from constant tweaks and enhancements they are essentially the same as the first hard drives that appeared in the 1960s. They use a magnetic spinning data platter with a data arm that reads and writes data to the drive. Over time these disks have increased in speed and capacity to the point where a 3.5-inch hard drive can store up to 8TB of data.
That is truly incredible and that type of storage is perfect if you run your own systems and you need data density for a particular business reason. In this case, it could be data backup for such huge volumes.
The trouble is that when it comes to hosting it can be tempting for hosts to use these disks to get more data and hence more customers and more profit per server (or per rack). That’s good news for the host but bad news for your website as it is packed in as tight as a sardine along with thousands of other websites.
These days spinning disks come in three main variations:
- 7.2K SATA (SATA = Serial Advanced Technology Attachment)
- 10K SAS (SAS = Serial Attached SCSI)
- 15K SAS
The letter ‘K’ denotes the speed that the disks rotate per minute and is expressed in thousands, i.e. 15K = 15,000 revolutions per minute.
Typically the faster the drive spins the better the performance but the lower the capacity. Therefore the 7.2K drives tend to be slower but they have higher capacity. They are solid workhorses and are used for less intensive applications or for data backup. The 10K and 15K drives tend to be more expensive and are usually used in more mission critical applications where speed and reliability are both required.
In terms of performance, hard drives are measured in terms of the speed that they can read data from the disk and write data to the disk. This is measured in Inputs Outputs per Second or IOPS for short. As a general rule of thumb you can expect the following performance:
- 7.2K SATA: +/- 80 IOPS
- 10K SAS: +/- 120 IOPS
- 15K IOPS: +/- 180 IOPS
Remember these are approximate figures. Some specifications will be higher or lower but these give us a good feel for the overall performance. Let’s now turn our attention to SSDs. The major difference is that whereas a traditional hard drive is a mechanical device with spinning parts, spring loaded data arm, etc. an SSD is 100 percent electronic. There are no moving parts.
As a consequence, SSDs are fast. Seriously fast. To illustrate this let’s compare IOPS. previously we saw that the best performing disk is the 15K SAS drive with +/- 180 IOPS. If we take a typical data center ready SSD drive we can expect IOPS up to 75,000 IOPS and above. Yes, you read that right that’s an order of magnitude in the hundreds of times faster. And speed is important for a number of reasons as we shall now see.
Here are four compelling reasons to switch to SSD Hosting:
1. Better Rankings
For some time now Google has been quite open about the fact that website load speed is a factor in their ranking algorithm. The principle reason behind this is because faster websites tend to offer a better user experience (UX). Google wants to reward websites that offer a better browsing experience so it makes sense to make sure you speed up your website.
Now if you run a busy, complex E-commerce website with tens or hundreds of thousands of visits each week or month then there are dozens of ways to speed up your website.
However, if you are a smaller business and you want a quick, easy and low-cost way to speed up your site then you should switch to SSD. The reason is that your web hosting is where the rubber hits the road. Switching to SSD will allow you to get an instant advantage over your slower competitors.
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2. Better Conversions
If you’re selling online then one key indicator you’ll be keeping an eye on is shopping cart abandonment. This can occur for a variety of reasons including complex or long order pages and process, insecure order pages and lack of instant support to assist the shopper.
But another important factor is load speed. In fact, it has been estimated that slow websites can result in an 87 percent level of cart abandonment. You can check your website’s load speed with a number of free tools. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights or you can try pingdom.
One factor that is really driving the need for speed is mobile. Simply put mobile usage is growing exponentially. It is where the action is right now and will be from now on. Don’t think that your customers are sitting at a desk at home or in the office browsing. Those days are long gone.
These days your potential client is on the move and they’re using their favorite mobile device whether that’s a phone, tablet or laptop. Either way, they expect fast, instant access and that means you need to deliver a fast website for them or they’ll be off to a faster competitor.
And this doesn’t just apply to E-commerce stores either. Check your website stats and look at the device analysis and you’ll see that desktop is on a downward trend while mobile is on the up. Again, the fastest, cheapest and least complex way to speed up your site is to migrate from traditional to SSD hosting as soon as you can.
3. More Uptime
Traditional Hard Drives are mechanical devices. Moving parts means friction, vibration and heat. That’s not a good mix when you’ve got valuable data stored there. Of course, these days hard drives have been tweaked and improved beyond all recognition over the years to the point where their failure rates are extremely low. For traditional drives, failures will be in the region of three to five percent whereas SSD failure rates will be in the region of 0.3 percent.
Of course, there are ways to minimize downtime caused by hard drive failure aside from switching to SSD. Things like using RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) especially setups like RAID10 which permit hot swaps without downtime mean that these are largely academic points.
However, using RAID such as RAID10 is expensive. It requires a minimum of four hard drives to ensure complete protection. Low-cost hosting and high-quality infrastructure tend not to go hand in hand though so do make sure you check with your hosting company on that point. However, the headlines figures clearly show that SSD offers far higher levels of reliability and uptime than traditional storage devices.
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4. Green Credentials
Finally, SSD’s have exceptional green credentials. In terms of energy use SSDs are more than five times more efficient using on average 1.19 Watts vs 6.43 Watts for SATA on a typical workload. Therefore on average SSDs consume around one fifth of the electricity that traditional hard drives consume.
In one drive that might not be much of a saving but spread that across a data center with potentially tens of thousands of drives it soon adds up.
Now, a note of caution needs to be struck here. Hosting companies aren’t about to completely remove all their SATA or SAS drives immediately. The initial capital expenditure to replace all of the older drives means that it will be a gradual replenishment program rather than a complete switch.
Also SSD capacity is gradually increasing to match low-end SATA drives but a typical SSD is in the range of 160GB to 480GB rather than the 8TB behemoths of the SATA world. That means that SSDs don’t offer the same level of data density and require a larger physical footprint in the data center as a result.
However, the direction of travel is clear SSDs represent significant ongoing cost savings due to their lower power consumption and with electricity costs rising and the need to consider environmental factors, SSDs offer compelling costs saving to hosting companies and their customers.
When choosing your web hosting you need to make an informed decision. Cheap hosting can be a false economy. One way that hosts will attempt to make their offer attractive is to use high capacity, slow performing hard drives.
The fastest types of hard drives are SSD. They outperform traditional hard drives by a factor of hundreds. They offer several distinct advantages. Faster websites can rank better than slower websites. Website load speed is a Google ranking factor.
Faster websites offer a better user experience. For an E-commerce site, that means better conversion rates. SSDs have no moving parts so they are more reliable. They also consume around one fifth of the electricity that traditional hard drives use. If you are looking to future proof your website then switching to SSD is an easy decision.