Who Makes the Most Reliable Enterprise Hard Drives?

In this article, we’ll dive into who makes the most reliable enterprise hard drives. Hard drives are the heart blood of the computer and as such, reliability is the critical key. As the ‘engine’ of our technologies, manufacturers are constantly reassuring us that theirs is the best. In the business world, enterprise hard drives are not just the mainstay of the business, they often are the business. Failure of any sort involves enterprise hard drive recovery and, depending upon the downtime, can be devastating for a company.

To find out the stats on which enterprise hard drive is the best, we must go to the experts. Backblaze is a company that tests and rates their hard drives. At any given time, they have over 41,000 hard drives in operation. They take hard drive purchases seriously, because when there is a failure, there is also a high cost of enterprise data recovery. The testing process incorporates a variety of hard drive sizes, ages and manufacturers, including Seagate, Western Digital, Hitachi, and Toshiba. However, the test results on the Toshiba are not available due to the small number in the testing bay. They purchase the hard drives based on the best price per gigabyte and in the last few years Seagate and Hitachi have offered the lowest pricing, with more a more recent entrance of the Western Digital Red and Toshiba DT01ACA.

Who makes the best enterprise hard drives?

Hitachi drives that are reflected in the data results are by far the most reliable at a 2% failure rate, even though the drives were several years old. The most updated information for 2015 is showing the failure rate to be even lower at 1.4%.

Western Digital comes in next; although lower in success, they are standing at a 92.4% operational for still up and running for the Western Digital Red 3TB, after a three-year testing period.

Seagate 3TB hard drives seem to be the worst of the group. The 2014 stats for failure stood at 40%; even though the failure rate was 9.6% in 2013. The latest 4TB version has improved the failure rate so that it is at 2.6%, proving that it took a few years to perfect, but they are on the road to improvement.

Best size for enterprise hard drive

When we narrow the manufacturers and hard drive size down even further, we can do a TB comparison between Hitachi and Seagate:

Reliability is the cornerstone to keeping the IT Department from devoting time and effort in enterprise data recovery.  The answer for the best manufacturer of enterprise hard drives would be Hitachi 4 TB. The Seagate 4 TB comes in at the next level of reliability.

If you are looking for a specific model as a price comparison, the Hitachi GST Deskstar 5K3000 3TB stands with excellence for reliability but is more expensive than other models by HGST. The reliability factor for this model is around 97%-98% for a three-year period. At the 4TB size, the Hitachi Deskstar 5K4000 has a failure rate that is a bit higher but still below the Western Digital and Seagate levels. However, to be fair, the Seagate 4TB 7200.15 is showing a lot of promise in the testing arena.

Other brands of enterprise hard drives

The fact that Backblaze doesn’t have enough drives installed for testing for Toshiba, Samsung or Fujitsu brings a bit of an offset for any comparison for those manufacturers. Seagate’s 2011 acquisition of the Samsung hard drive division may not play any role, although Toshiba and Fujitsu remain as some of the leaders with a larger market share. The next phase of testing for Backblaze will be involving the 6TB and, hopefully, representatives of all of the above manufacturers.

Enterprise hard drive reliability

In a 2014 ComputerWorld article, Backblaze reported that their testing of hard drive reliability demonstrated results that consumer drives are showing a higher level of reliability as compared to the enterprise levels. One would assume that the enterprise would fare better, due to cost, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

The 2014 statistics were based on data from 38,000 drives, storing over 100 petabytes in the Backblaze datacenter. The consumer drives demonstrated the same or better for reliability when compared to the higher priced enterprise-class drives. The CEO of Backblaze, Gleb Budman stated enterprise drives cost “over 2x more than a consumer drive” so that buying the higher priced drives, even if they did fail less, often wouldn’t make sense. He continued to say, “The assumption that enterprise drives would work better than consumer drives has not been true in our tests,” the company included this information in a blog post. “I analyzed both of these types of drives in our system and found that their failure rates in our environment were very similar — with the consumer drives actually being slightly more reliable.” Another of the company’s blog posts did support one important factor of warranty: “Most of the drives we get have a 3-year warranty, making failures a non-issue from a cost perspective for that period.”…”However, even if there were no warranty, a 15% annual failure rate on the consumer desktop drive and a 0% failure rate on the enterprise drive, the breakeven would be 10 years, which is longer than we expect to even run the drives for.”

The 2015 data is not yet completed or released, but it appears that if the information remains the same it may have an effect on how companies look at manufacturers, hard drive size and potential costs involved in enterprise hard drive recovery.

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