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Back in IT’s early days, the ‘floppy’ was a disk that could hold up to 1.2mb of data. At 8cm across, it looked like a badly burnt piece of toast, but to casually pull a few of these from the pocket of your elbow-patched jacket showed you were going places.
The 90s brought the sleek and slender CD-ROM, and memory capacities skyrocketed but in the 21st century, these are so close to being obsolete that most new PCs don’t even come with optical drives.
On the one hand, storage has evaporated to the cloud. On the other, most of the world’s data are still stored on physical hard disk drives (HDD). But in flash storage, business has found a very useful middle ground and it’s increasing in popularity for reasons that are outlined below:
The primary advantage of using flash storage is speed, with benchmark testing revealing that data access speeds can be more than 100 times greater than average HDDs, and this performance is only improving as time goes on.
This attribute alone has serious implications on start-up times for individual PC and laptop units, as well as on the performance rates of larger networks that support high numbers of users. This dynamic will be of great use to businesses in which speed of data access brings added value.
Pure solid state drives (SSDs) can degrade over time, a process that becomes exacerbated by incessant read/write commands and they will become slower the fuller they get. Free of moving parts, flash storage is immune to spontaneous malfunctions in the way that HDDs are, such as the drive head breaking down or the disk scratching.
This has huge implications for disaster recovery, as it brings down the likelihood of mass data loss in the event of a catastrophe such as fire or flood.
The cost of flash storage can be a sticking point for IT staff; admittedly, the price may sting at when the initial purchase is being made because HDD storage is typically cheaper. On the other hand, costs can be offset by much lower maintenance demands.
HDDs have constantly spinning disks which use much more electricity than similarly sized SDDs. Furthermore, cooling large hard server rooms is expensive, so switching to flash saves money as flash drives produce hardly any heat. The change also negates costs incurred through wear-and-tear on cooling equipment.
Nearly all handheld devices rely on flash storage today, while laptops are increasingly jumping on the SSD-unique bandwagon. For managers who are constantly on the move, flash storage means a very light, powerful computer unit can be carried easily at all times.
For big business meanwhile, server rooms shrink in size and become easier to manage, which frees up time and resources that can be put to better use in other areas of the organisation.
In recent years, the demand for all-flash-arrays – SSD systems that hold multiple flash memory drives – has grown dramatically. Paul Harrison, director of storage at Dell UK is clear sighted as to why this is the case.
“The performance benefits of flash storage – primarily its ability to handle data at much faster rates in a smaller form factor with excellent reliability compared to traditional spinning disks – coupled with the decreasing cost of SSD memory per gigabyte has changed the game,” he says.
As such, flash has usurped more traditional data storage techniques. All-flash-arrays are simply more cost effective than traditional data storage techniques, offering very scalable storage solutions, and straightforward installation and support processes. The advantages apply to all strata of business.
The noble hard disk drive still plays a key role in IT infrastructure, so don’t throw them on the pile with the floppies and the CDs just yet. Just be prepared to embrace solid-state storage, because the future looks flashy.