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March 09, 2017

What is SSD? The Beginner's Guide

By Special Guest
Sophia Mixon, Content Writer

How ancient do the ideas of floppy disks and CD-ROMs seem? Incredibly, people still use them in some parts of the world, despite the fact that one 16GB USB memory stick offers storage equivalent to 11,000 floppy disks. Those same memory sticks themselves pale in comparison to some flash drives, offering up to several terabytes of space.

One of the most common types of flash drives are SSD drives, which stands for Solid State Drive. With no moving parts, these silent drives use a series of interconnected chips to retain the data. There is no need for a direct power line; instead, they are directly plugged into the USB port of a PC or Mac for power. They’re quieter, as there are no moving parts, utilizing integrated circuits rather than magnetic or optical storage.

The alternative to SSD drives is HDD (Hard Disk Drives), which use metal plates to store information magnetically. These plates revolve to then be read by a headpiece mounted on an ‘arm,’ which belies three disadvantages of HDD technology; it’s noisier, more susceptible to damage and slower, since the information can be stored in multiple locations across the disk as it begins to fill up. An HDD can fall prey to the process known as fragmentation, where large files start to spread across the disk – handicapping speed.

SSD can degrade over time but to a lesser degree, because there is no spin, or wear and tear from pure movement, you’re more likely to throw out the drive because you need something bigger and faster down the line rather than a drop in performance. Because information is laid out differently it is far quicker, as described here: “The lower latency is due to the ability of flash SSD to read data directly and immediately from a specific flash SSD cell location.” SSDs can also be installed within the system’s motherboard or in a specific box that’s designed to slot into a laptop or desktop’s hard drive.

HDD drives are generally larger than SSD drives to accommodate the moving parts; an SDD need only be as big as the microchips contained within, and the means to connect it. With technology generally progressing in the direction of ‘less is more’ when it comes to physical size, SSD is clearly in the driving seat when it comes to futureproofing. 

For these reasons, SSD drives are generally more expensive than their HDD counterparts. If the cost is a problem – and it can be five times more expensive - you might consider going remote and using VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosts to store your data and drives. These VPS SSD hosting solutions can be set up instantly and offer a huge range of facilities that also allow you to share information across your phone, tablet and PC. You’ll also have experts on hand from the Web server, enhanced security, and the option to increase your space instantly without leaving your armchair. However, you will pay a monthly amount for the privilege, rather than just a one-off payment for the hardware. Weigh up the alternatives and decide for yourself – SSD is surely here to stay. 

Edited by Alicia Young

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