Choose the Right Hard Disk Drive for Your Servers

In this post, we’ll look at the many types of hard drives for servers, how they differ, and if they need to be from the same brand as the server. The hard drive on the server should always be ready to react to a large number of requests quickly and with good data integrity.

The hard drive on the server is almost always active, almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It reads and publishes data on a regular basis, therefore it should have low latency, high dependability, and enough speed and performance. The following are the most critical server Hard Disk Drive specifications:

Unrecoverable data loss can result in multi-million dollar damages as well as reputational damage.
Performance – servers are built to handle a high volume of requests that must be handled fast.
Users don’t have to wait for an HDD to “wake up” and process their requests because of the quick response time.

How to Choose Right HDD for Your Servers?

Let’s start with the key categories from which you can select a model for your server. The following types of hard disc drives are used in modern servers:

SATA. The operating speed ranges from 5400 to 7200 RPM. These drives are nearly identical to standard consumer-oriented HDDs. Seagate Exos 7E2 and Western Digital 6TB Ultrastar DC HC310 are both excellent choices.
SATA RAID Edition, often known as SATA RE. 7200 RPM is the operating speed. Special RAID-controller commands are supported by these discs.
SAS. For storing frequently utilised data, a specific type of HDD with extremely fast speed (up to 15 000 RPM) is used. Consider the Seagate Exos 7E8 or Western Digital RE SAS hard drives.

The SAS interface has better bandwidth than the SATA interface at first. SATA III, like the second generation of SAS, has a maximum bandwidth of 6 Gb/s in the third generation. Servers with a third-generation SAS controller with a bandwidth of up to 12 Gb/s are now available.

The SAS-disk server must be equipped with the right controller in order to connect. This provides backward compatibility interfaces so that SAS-controllers can link to SATA-drives, but not the other way around.

SAS enables full-duplex communication, which means the hard drive can handle two commands at once (one read and one write), whereas SATA-drives can only read or write. However, when comparing SAS NL to SATA RE, this advantage is only obvious if you have a large number of drives.

SATA-drives are suitable for building mass storage that does not require maximal performance, if we look at the intermediate results. If you require a fast disc subsystem, SAS is the best option.

Consumer-based HDDs should be avoided.

Sure, they’re less expensive and more accessible, but they’re not built for usage in servers. There are a few good reasons for this. An conventional HDD, for example, has a substantially lower vibration resistance. In other words, the same shock that a server-grade HDD can endure without damage could destroy a home-use HDD. Regular HDDs also have a high rate of non-recoverable faults and don’t allow RAID-controller commands.
At the same time, avoid going too far. Don’t spend a lot of money on a server-grade drive simply to build tiny server storage for your children’s pictures or home films; a standard HDD will suffice.

Server hard drives have many advantages comparing to regular ones:

  • The reinforced spindle shaft is more resistant to shock and vibrations.
  • Additional vibration control.
  • A special technology significantly increases positioning accuracy and the height of the flight above the heads.
  • Rich self-diagnostics software provides timely notifications about imminent disk failure.

Error Level That Cannot Be Recovered

The degree of unrecoverable mistakes is another significant distinction between server hard discs. The average SATA is around 10-14. This means that overwriting a 2 TB drive six times will almost always result in one unrecoverable error. This isn’t a problem for personal usage, but if you have to overwrite a critical database every month, things start to go wrong. The level of non-recoverable error for SAS discs is much lower — 10-16, and for SATA RE/SAS NL — 10-15.

Drive Form Factor (Drive Size)

Drive form factor directly determines the capacity of your server and energy efficiency. Currently, only two disk sizes are available: 3.5″ and 2.5″, also known as LFF and SFF.

The most common size is 3.5′′. It allows you to store the most info possible. For servers with higher storage requirements, 4 TB 3.5′′ hard drives (such as the WD Gold 4TB Enterprise Class Hard Disk Drive or the Seagate 4TB IronWolf) are commonly suggested. On the other hand, they use more power than smaller 2.5′′ drives. Also, SSDs are not available in this form factor, however a special 3.5′′ adaptor might be used. ORICO 2.5′′ to 3.5′′ Hard Drive Adapter, for example. The key advantage of a 3.5′′ hard drive is its huge capacity at a lower cost. Their pricing per GB ratio is the best in the industry.

Although these drives are only one inch smaller in size than their larger brethren, 2.5′′ is a common size for laptop HDD and a normal SATA-based SSD. Although these drives are only one inch smaller in size, they require substantially less power. The maximum capacity of these drives is now around 2TB (for example, DELL 2TB 7.2K SAS 2.5′′ or Hewlett Packard Enterprise 2TB SATA).

Capacity of the Drive

This is the most critical feature of any disc, whether it’s an HDD or an SSD, for household or business use. 3.5″ drives may hold up to 14 TB of data (for example, the Western Digital 14TB Ultrastar DC HC530), but 2.5″ drives can hold up to 2-4 TB of data (like SEAGATE 1TB EXOS 7E2000 HDD). Purchasing the highest capacity isn’t always the best idea. On a server, just one drive should be installed. To ensure reliability and redundancy, combine multiple (at least two). For a 4 TB server, for example, it’s better to buy four 1 TB drives or two 2TB drives rather than one 4 TB disc.

Hard Disk Disk Classification
The manufacturer often creates many classes for hard drives in order to summarise all of these factors and simplify the customer’s choice:

ECO (Economic) – discs in this category have a low per-unit cost. The purpose of these drives for entry-level systems is determined by their level of performance and dependability. They should be employed in non-critical applications with moderate speed needs and low I/O loads. High loads can cause them to lose their reliability. ECO drives use a SATA interface and spin at 5400 or 7200 rpm.

Business Critical (BC) or Nearline – discs in this category have a large capacity and a low cost per GB. They’re built to deliver excellent performance and dependability. “BC-disks” can be equipped with SAS or SATA interfaces and have a speed of 7200 rpm, depending on the server’s implementation.

Enterprise (EP) – discs in this category offer the highest levels of performance and reliability. They are built to handle a high volume of work. This class has a rotational speed of 10,000 to 15,000 rpm and uses the SAS interface.

SSD Enterprise Performance / Mainstream – these drives provide the best performance and durability in the SSD market, making them appropriate for systems with heavy I/O demands. With the SAS interface, Enterprise Performance SSDs (SLC or MLC technology) provide greater I/O performance. Enterprise Mainstream SDD (MLC technology), on the other hand, has a SATA interface and is less expensive.

For these tasks, an SSD with a Marvel chip, such as some Crucial SSDs (Crucial MX300 1TB) or at least OCZ on RD400, is better (Toshiba OCZ RD400 1 Tb). Disks on the SandForce (SF) chip should be avoided.

Choosing the Brand

Finally, the most important question: do you need to buy a brand drives? There is no secret that HP, IBM and DELL do not produce hard drives. They buy them from third-party manufacturers, and then test them, reflash and put their logos on them.

One hand, these drives have several advantages:

Firmware takes into account the characteristics of various server models’ controllers.
Purchase drives with concealed flaws are less likely with additional quality control and stress tests.
The brand drives come with a vendor warranty and full support.
However, “native” hard drives are roughly two or three times more expensive than the same model with non-native manufacturer’s insignia – you may buy Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, HGST, and we are confident that such a price difference is not justified for all the promises of enhanced dependability.

Examine Your Warranty

If you decide not to purchase a “non-native” hard drive, you must first inquire of the vendor about the warranty. Many stores, in fact, do not issue a guarantee on hard discs, instead relying on the manufacturer’s warranty. However, there is a nuance: the warranty period for some Seagate products, for example, begins on the date of manufacture. So don’t rule out the possibility of purchasing a brand new drive that is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

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