Hitachi tops hard drive reliability report

January 22, 2014 // 10:46 a.m.

Tags: #backblaze #brian-beach #hard-drives #hitachi #samsung #seagate #storage #toshiba #western-digital

Cloud storage giant Backblaze has released the results of an internal report into hard drive reliability, with Hitachi topping the charts as the most reliable brand across all capacities.

Offering web-based unlimited backup for its clients, Backblaze - as you might imagine - requires plenty of spinning-rust storage in its data centres. The company claims to have finished the year with around 27,134 active hard drives, the majority of which - around 13,000 each - were of Seagate and Hitachi manufacture, with a further 3,000 Western Digital drives and a small number of Toshiba and Samsung units - the latter excluded from the reliability report due to their statistically insignificant numbers.

'Why do we have the drives we have? Basically, we buy the least expensive drives that will work,' explained Backblaze's Brian Beach in a blog post on the results. '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.'

The result, Beach claims, is an insight into just which drives respond well to the high-stress environment of a Backblaze storage pod - where drives are frequently spun-up and spun-down - and which fail sooner than expected.

According to its internal statistics, Backblaze found that Hitachi drives were by far the most reliable, with failure rates well below two per cent across all storage capacities. Western Digital closely followed, with sub four per cent failure rates. Seagate, meanwhile, saw only its newest and largest 4TB drives managing a sub four per cent failure rate, with its 3TB drives hitting almost 10 per cent and its 1.5TB drives hitting a whopping 13 per cent.

Beach claims that the older Seagate 1.5TB drives - the Barracuda LP models - were fine, but recent replacements in both non-LP 7,200RPM and energy-saving Barracuda Green models have been causing no end of trouble - although there may be an explanation for the latter's terrible showing in the report. 'We got [the Barracuda Green drives] from Seagate as warranty replacements for the older drives, and these new drives are dropping like flies. Their average age shows 0.8 years, but since these are warranty replacements, we believe that they are refurbished drives that were returned by other customers and erased, so they already had some usage when we got them.'

Beach's recommendation? 'If the price were right, we would be buying nothing but Hitachi drives. They have been rock solid, and have had a remarkably low failure rate.' Sadly, the higher cost of Hitachi units means the company is currently using 4TB Seagate Desktop drives instead. 'We’ll have to keep an eye on them, though,' admitted Beach. 'Historically, Seagate drives have performed well at first, and then had higher failure rates later.'
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