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Consumer vs. Enterprise Hard Drives

Over the last 12 months, the computing hardware market has seen dozens of new product launches and announcements. Intel and AMD recently released powerful new CPUs aimed at the workstation and server markets. Interest in artificial intelligence, crypto-currency mining and machine learning has driven demand (and prices) for NVIDIA GPUs to unheard-of levels.

We’ve covered some of the recent innovations in hard drive technology. We mentioned how other components garner more headlines, but storage technology continues to improve as well. This makes sense because storage is not as headline-grabbing, and yet it is one of the few components every IT department upgrades or replaces regularly. Even if you move all company storage to the cloud, you still have desktop and laptops to upgrade and repair.

When it comes time to upgrade your storage, you have a choice of consumer or enterprise-grade models. By using confusing model numbers and brands, hard drive manufacturers don’t make it easy to differentiate between enterprise and consumer drives. This article will look at offerings from Western Digital and Samsung, with the goal to help you select the best drive for your workstations and servers.

Introduction

To illustrate the differences in drives, we will use two reputable and popular names in the mechanical and SSD business: Western Digital and Samsung. Both Western Digital and Samsung offer a wide range of consumer and enterprise drives. They also build application-specific drives mostly found in data center environments.

While Western Digital and Samsung make excellent drives, they are not the only ones to do so. Companies such as Toshiba, Seagate, HGST, Intel, and Kingston make excellent products. If you have had good luck with another brand we have not mentioned, that is great. Go ahead and stick with what works best for your company.

Western Digital and Samsung Overview

Western Digital uses color schemes to differentiate their line of hard drives.

Consumer Models: Blue, Black, Green
Enterprise Models: Red, Purple, Gold

The consumer line focuses on features such as quiet operation, low price per GB, and overall performance. You find these drives in desktops and laptops as well as some lower-cost workstations. Of the consumer drives, the black drives are the most popular because they perform the best, but they also run the hottest and are not as quiet as the blue or green drives. But they provide a lot of drive for the money and have a very good reputation with enthusiasts.

The enterprise line focuses on reliability, larger capacities, and higher performance when used for specific applications such as NAS or data center operation. Red drives are built for use in NAS units, while Purple drives work best in surveillance systems that require excellent write performance. Gold drives are built for reliability and longevity.

Samsung produces a line of consumer drives under their Evo and Pro lines. The Evo line offers a good “bang for the buck,” while the Pro line offers a little more performance and longer warranty.

Like Western Digital, the models in Samsung’s enterprise line offer the highest performance, best reliability, and applications-specific tuning for the most intensive enterprise applications.

Enterprise Drive Features

Enterprise drives cost more than consumer drives, sometimes as much as 3X the price of a consumer model with the same capacity. What do you get for the extra cost? The primary feature of enterprise drives, across all makes and models, is increased reliability. Enterprise drives are built to run in workstations, servers, and storage devices that are operational 24/7.

Western Digital and Samsung use top-quality materials to build their enterprise drives. This helps keep out dust, minimize vibration, and reduce heat. You can purchase drives with high read speeds that work well in storage servers or with high write speeds for those saving large video streams found in video production and surveillance servers.

But the main difference comes down to reliability. You are paying more for a drive that should last longer. If your server runs a RAID configuration, it might not be an inconvenience to swap out a dead drive. Today we see a lot of workstations configured with an SSD for Windows or Linux and a large capacity mechanical drive for project storage. The peace of mind that comes from using an enterprise drive helps mitigate the higher upfront costs.

Warranty

Consumer drives have shorter warranties. Bargain models might have a 1-year warranty. Avoid them. We recommend avoiding any drive, mechanical or SSD, with a warranty shorter than 3 years.

It is unusual to find a drive with a warranty longer than 5 years. If you stick with a reputable company, expect a 3-year warranty on consumer mechanical drives and a 5-year warranty on enterprise models.

Samsung offers a 10-year warranty on their Pro line of consumer drives. Keep in mind that SSDs are more reliable than mechanical drives because they have no moving parts and generate far less heat. If your goal is to build the most reliable server, stick with SSDs if at all possible.

Conclusion

There are not a lot of reasons for laptop and desktop users to use enterprise-grade drives. If you are upgrading your desktop or laptop, stick with a reputable brand such as Western Digital or Samsung, which offer many options and long warranties. Both brands cost a few dollars more than bargain brands you find on Newegg.

If your company risks coming to a stop if your server, database, or application server goes down due to a drive failure, you should consider an enterprise-grade drive such as the Western Digital Gold or Samsung PM series. The increased reliability offsets the costs of employees who are unable to work.

Drives are not as flashy as CPUs or GPUs, but they continue to play an integral part of every desktop, workstation, and server. No component causes more downtime and frustration than a drive when it dies, thanks to the chance of data loss. Purchasing a high-quality drive is a wise investment no matter how you look at it.

View Comments

    • Hi John,

      I'm glad you asked! I believe your company is in New Zealand, is that correct? You'll probably want to contact our sales team in Australia at sales[at]storagecraft.com.au or call +61 2 8061 4444. If you are interested in signing up in the United States or Canada, you can either submit an inquiry here: http://www.storagecraft.com/shadow-protect-msp.php or contact our sales team directly at 801.545.4700 or via email at sales[at]storagecraft.com.

  • This is good news that Shadowprotect will be supporting Linux OS. What if we use the current iso to take backup of linux OS, can it work for backup and restore? Let me know.

    • Hello Vinod,

      Yes, we believe this is great news that StorageCraft will be releasing a CrossPlatform version of ShadowProtect which supports both the Windows and Linux platforms. We're very excited about this news.

      The current release of the ShadowProtect Recovery Environment - CrossPlatform is a positive step towards supporting the Linux OS. Currently this CrossPlatform Recovery Environment is intended only for backing up and recovering Windows OS systems (including Windows 8 and Server 2012). Another release will have the complete tools for backing up and recovering both Linux and Windows systems. I can tell you that this later release will be out before the end of the year. Until then, thank you for your kind comments and we we're looking forward to providing you with more information about this exciting update in the near future. Check back with us again soon.

  • Thanks, Casey. This was a really interesting take on the NSA's new local data center. Despite the privacy concerns, I'm excited to see what this means for the state. Silicon Slopes is definitely filling up with some great names!

  • Rather than placing it somewhere that looks nice or aesthetically pleasing, make sure that it is located at a place that allows proper circulation of air.

  • Wow is this for real? You cover how easily a host can get a virus and how the tech runs at the base level?

    Has a vmware host ever gotten hacked or got a virus?

    Has a windows computer ever gotten hacked or got a virus?

    I almost spit out my water when I read the part about Hyper V and stability. We have both Hyper V (2008 R2/2012) and VMware. Some REAL facts.

    * We have gone over a year on some of our vmware clusters with out patching or rebooting a host. NONE of our Hyper V hosts have reached 90 days.

    * Install and setup of a clustered Hyper V host takes about 10 times longer than a clustered VMware host.

    * Upgrading a Hyper V cluster....IS NOT POSSIBLE. You cant have two versions in the same cluster so you must build a new cluster and migrate the VM's over. The migration requires downtime for all VM's on a SAN volume. Ugrading a typical 8 node VMware cluster takes about 90min as upgrade the hosts one at a time and reboot them. (VMware supports mixed versions on a cluster.)

    * Many functions in Hyper V are POWERSHELL only. For instance you cant mass upgrade the "VM additions" in SCVMM unless a guest is off. In VMware you can highlight 50 (or more) running VM's and update the vm tools. It requires a reboot but the effort is 10x easier to complete.

    * We have NEVER had a VMware host go down, at all, not once. We have had MANY hyper v hosts drop all of their VM's for many different reasons. 99% of the time its YET ANOTHER hotfix you cant get from Windows update, to fix a storeport driver, or a MPIO issue, or a failover cluster issue. There is NO WAY we would run our production servers on Hyper V.

    * Drivers....for Hyper V you can get them from your hardware vendor (Dell, HP, etc) or Microsoft, or right from say Intel or Broadcom. Often MS Premiere support will tell us to go to the NIC drivers sight and get the driver vs the Microsoft driver or the Dell driver when we have a problem. VMware.....gives you the ONLY drivers you need. Yes they re-package the vendor drivers but you get them from one source, they are tested and supported.

    A real comparison is not a technical white paper, its in the trench usage of these products.

  • Casey, congratulations on this blog post -- I could not agree more. I am the editor of the Varnex Insider magazine, and would like to talk with you about the possibility of publishing this blog in our next issue (with full credit to you and StorageCraft, of course). Please email me at the address I provided so we can talk about this. Thanks very much. -- John

  • Great post, thanks Casey Morgan for writing such an informative post. Every body knows the importance of backup but no one takes care of it. Thanks fro reminding and guiding for backups.

  • Another win-win with image-based backups which ShadowProtect delivers is the ability to take a full "base image" backup and then "incremental" backups which only capture the changes that have occurred -- greatly reducing the storage requirements for image-based backups.

    Then with ImageManager, you can consolidate the image chain over time, set retention policies and even take advantage of the new rolling consolidation feature in ImageManager 6.

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