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Major cloud service provider publishes HDD reliability chart

by Mark Tyson on 22 January 2014, 11:11

Tags: Seagate (NASDAQ:STX), Hitachi (TYO:6501)

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Backblaze is a major cloud service provider which, being in the mass storage business, uses a huge amount of HDDs in its equipment. Computerworld reports that the company has been releasing data over the past few months about its experience with HDDs including the fact that just over one in five of the "consumer-grade" hard drives it employs in its Storage Pod RAID racks has failed over the past four years. Yesterday Backblaze published its most thought provoking chart yet - which correlates HDD brands and disk failure rates.

Backblaze's Storage Pods, made up of arrays of RAIDed disks adding up to as much as 180TB of storage each, contained over 27,000 drives at the end of 2013. The firm used drives from all the major manufacturers including Seagate, WD, Hitachi, Toshiba and Samsung. However the numbers of Toshiba and Samsung which drives it employed are statistically insignificant so aren't part of the table below. Let's cut to the chase and take a gander at the table (below).

click to zoom-in

Following previous blog posts by Backblaze on the topics of drive lifetimes and drive reliability readers were keen to see these figures tallied into charts with manufacturer names against them. Pulling no punches Backblaze has published its information in a blog post called "What Hard Drive Should I Buy?"

Commenting upon the graph depicting the 36 month survival rate Backblaze says "Hitachi does really well. There is an initial die-off of Western Digital drives, and then they are nice and stable. The Seagate drives start strong, but die off at a consistently higher rate, with a burst of deaths near the 20-month mark."

Despite the charts above Backblaze's current favourite purchase is a Seagate drive; the 4TB Seagate Desktop HDD.15 (ST4000DM000). However it does note that "We’ll have to keep an eye on them, though. Historically, Seagate drives have performed well at first, and then had higher failure rates later." Another favourite is the Western Digital 3TB Red (WD30EFRX), we are told.

With the WD acquisition of Hitachi around 18 months ago it will be interesting to see if the union of these two storage providers will produce even better reliability. Also I note that the relatively tiny amount of Samsung brand drives used by Backblaze look very promising in the stats that are available.

HEXUS Forums :: 48 Comments

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Very interesting. I've never had much faith in Hitachi before.

Previously all my drivers where the Samsung F series and after being on 24/7 for nearly 3 years they are still going strong *touch wood* shame you can't get them any more - Experience before that seems to agree with their findings of WD drives, long as it didn't die quickly then it was generally good for a long time ;)
Very interesting. I've never had much faith in Hitachi before.
I still don't have any faith in Hitachi. I seem to have a laptop with a failed/failing hard drive land on my desk a few times a month, and it's scary how many of them have Hitachi hard drives.

That said, up until last year I'd seen one Western Digital drive fail (and that was about 7 years old and absolutely coated in dust), but in the last year I've had 3 myself (I use a lot of hard drives in my respective machines at home and work) and a few from laptops too.

The shocking level of reliability in hard drives is what irks me most about the computer industry at the moment. You can stress to people the importance of backups, but hard drives are getting less reliable as technology (in theory) improves, and for me that is unacceptable.
Hmm.. Seagate failing around the 20 month period. That's one to watch out for.
The only HDDs I've used were WD and Samsung and both have served me quite well. Honestly have not considered getting Hitachi before in buying HDDs. And I'm quite impressed with Hitachi's figures. Let's see what will happen with WD & Hitachi…
Well, I guess that explains why Seagate dropped their standard warranty period down to just 12 months!
I still don't have any faith in Hitachi. I seem to have a laptop with a failed/failing hard drive land on my desk a few times a month, and it's scary how many of them have Hitachi hard drives.

Ah but do you have a comparable bunch of other laptops? Because the way (some) people treat their laptops I am not surprised their HDDs fail. Whereas most desktop HDDs never get moved while on and that makes a big difference. Of course, Hitachi are very common because they are cheap. The caveat with the small sample size people are likely to come across is that there may be very big reliability differences between different models from the same manufacturer or even batches. Certainly those IBM ‘DeathStars’ skewed the results for DeskStar and similar that Seagate Barrucada a few years ago did too. Having said all that, Hitachi may very well be unreliable…