If you've browsed technology-related online forums, deal sites or comment sections then you've likely already encountered Backblaze in some form. The cloud-storage company is well-known for its report on consumer hard drive reliability, the first of which was published in January 2014.
The latest report delivers more of the same and throws up some thought-provoking results if you're in the market for a new hard drive. The Backblaze analysis of consumer hard drives is all internally-conducted and as of the end of 2014 the company had 41,213 hard drives in its primary datacentre.
Backblaze makes use of consumer hard drives in an enterprise environment to reduce purchasing costs. As such, its results should be taken with the relevant caution - consumer hard drives shouldn't normally be used in an enterprise environment. However, for the purposes of comparing different brands of hard drives against each other all drives face the same enterprise conditions, so the comparison is apples-to-apples for the drives that are tested. It is worth noting that many lower capacity and energy-efficient drives are not included in the comparison since they do not meet the needs of Backblaze.
The graph above shows the reliability of a variety of drives in 2013 (grey bars) and 2014 (coloured bars) for the three main hard drive vendors - HGST, Seagate and Western Digital. Alarmingly the Seagate 3TB Barracuda 7200RPM drives stand out with a failure rate of 43.1 per cent, while the 1.5TB variants have a failure rate of 23.5 per cent.
In the entire tested population only Seagate drives exceeded a 10 per cent failure rate, with the highest failure rate among non-Seagate drives being 6.9 per cent for the Western Digital 3TB Red drives. The story isn't all bad for Seagate though, Backblaze came away recommending the company's 4TB drives which had a failure rate of 2.6 per cent and were noticeably cheaper than the HGST-equivalents that had an average failure rate of 1.4 per cent.
In response to the publication of Backblaze's latest findings Seagate issued a public statement where it expressed its disdain for the use of consumer drives in enterprise environments, along with other cautionary notes.
"We always value our customers’ feedback and take it very seriously. It appears that Backblaze is reporting data from the same sample of drives from last year, which continues to be inconsistent with data received from other customers, and our large OEM installed base.
We absolutely stand behind the quality of our products with a best-in-class warranty, and we relentlessly test our drives for the workloads they were designed to support. We highly recommend that our enterprise and data center customers use the appropriate class of product to handle the workloads of enterprise environments.
Yet, as with previous data reported by Backblaze, desktop-class drives and some external drives were purchased and used in enterprise-class workloads – which they were NOT designed for nor tested to support. Therefore, we agree with Backblaze's comment that "It may be that those drives are less well-suited to the data center environment. Or it could be that getting them by drive farming and removing them from external USB enclosures caused problems."