What Are the Highest Capacity, Least Expensive, & Most Reliable Hard Drives for Backup?
Dealing with video these days usually means working with lots of data, and when you’re working with a lot, it usually means you’re backing up even more. One solution for backing up is to buy drives that already come in a RAID (like the popular G-RAID, and another is to either purchase or make your own with bare drives (and yes, before going further, RAID itself is not necessarily backup depending on how it’s configured and where the physical drives are). If you’re going to be putting together your own RAID system, click through for which drives might be a good buy.
Thanks to Backblaze for doing the heavy lifting, we’ve got an idea about what you might want to be looking at if you’re building your own system. It should be noted that Backblaze is running these hard drives through the toughest situation possible, but they should be a good indicator of the kind of performance you’d get:
Why they have the drives they do:
Why do we have the drives we have? Basically, we buy the least expensive drives that will work. When a new drive comes on the market that looks like it would work, and the price is good, we test a pod full and see how they perform. The new drives go through initial setup tests, a stress test, and then a couple weeks in production. (A couple of weeks is enough to fill the pod with data.) If things still look good, that drive goes on the buy list. When the price is right, we buy it.
And the drives that aren’t great for their use (or most RAIDs in general):
The drives that just don’t work in our environment are Western Digital Green 3TB drives and Seagate LP (low power) 2TB drives. Both of these drives start accumulating errors as soon as they are put into production. We think this is related to vibration. The drives do somewhat better in the new low-vibration Backblaze Storage Pod, but still not well enough.
The Hitachi drives they’ve tested have consistently done the best, but they also happen to be more expensive compared to the competition. While the Seagates haven’t done as well over an extended period of time, they do seem to at least hold up over the first year. By the third year (36 months), however, the Seagates are down around to around 73% survival, while the Hitachi and Western Digital drives are around 94% or higher.
Which Drives Are Currently the Favorites?
Right now their favorite drives are the Seagate Desktop 4TB HDD.15 (ST4000DM000) and the Western Digital 3TB Red (WD30EFRX). You might think the Seagate is an odd choice based on the failure rate of past drives, but it’s all about the bang for the buck. In their environment, it makes sense to try out a new drive like this, and if it doesn’t work out in the long-term, replace it with something else. If you’re putting together your own system, this may also be a possible solution, especially since over a long enough period of time, all drives do fail. Though if you’re interested only in reliability, the Western Digital and Hitachi drives might be the better options.
In my limited experience, I’ve had very, very good luck with the Caviar Black series of drives from Western Digital. These are going to be the more costly, but if you’re trying to run a system for speed and not necessarily just for backup, those might be a better solution. I’m also starting to experiment with the Seagate 4TB drives, so we’ll see how they last over the next few years from a regular amount of abuse.
Your Mileage May Vary
It’s tough to argue with hard evidence, but these results don’t necessarily mean any of these drives are bad. If you want to run them a lot for long periods of time, however, it might be worth it to run some of the same drives they have had success with. If you’re wondering where Toshiba and Samsung fit into the mix, Backblaze doesn’t run enough of them to have solid numbers on their failure rates, so they were excluded from their charts.
If you’re wondering about Solid State Drives (SSDs), for lots of storage they don’t make much sense, as you can get significantly more value for your money with regular spinning drives. They are certainly much faster, but if you’re looking at a backup situation, it’s going to be prohibitively expensive to build it out of SSDs (even if it’s possible that their failure rates are lower).
Head on over to the post at the Backblaze blog as there is so much more in-depth information about the exact hard drives and how they perform over time.
What has your success rate been with certain brands? Have you seen any trends with your own hard drives?
- Which Hard Drive Should I Buy? — Backblaze
- Seagate Desktop 4TB HDD.15 (ST4000DM000) — B&H
- Western Digital 3TB Red (WD30EFRX) — B&H
- Hitachi Hard Drives — B&H