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Do enterprise-rated drives really hold up better? Backblaze finds the truth

Last month we covered a study by online backup provider Backblaze in which the company looked at statistics for all of the hard drives used in their storage facilities and determined -- among other things -- that the median lifetime of a hard drive is about six years. There were a number of other fascinating tidbits, like the fact that the consumer-grade drives used in Backblaze's Storage Pods show three distinct failure rates over their lifetimes. Now the company has revealed statistics showing that more expensive enterprise-rated drives actually have a higher failure rate than much less expensive consumer drives.

Backblaze uses many more consumer-grade drives than those enterprise drives, but it does have a number that are used in server and in one Backblaze Storage Pod that was specifically set up to test enterprise drives. When the company looked at the annual failure rate of drives, enterprise drives failed at a rate of 4.6 percent per year, while consumer drives showed a rate of 4.2 percent.

It should be pointed out that Backblaze does not have data on enterprise drives older than two years, so they're not sure if the failure remains constant or begins to increase (as with consumer drives) as time passes.

The bottom line? When the question "are enterprise drives worth the cost?" is asked, Backblaze's answer is that from a reliability perspective, the answer is no. The company's report points out that enterprise drives do have longer warranties, which is a benefit only if the higher price of the drive and its longer warranty is less than the drive replacement price. Backblaze concludes that "If you're OK with buying the replacements yourself after the warranty is up, then buy the cheaper consumer drives."

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