The ABCs of SSDs

Today everything is about speed. You have to work fast, because there is always a chance that there is someone out there who can beat your work speed. You have to eat fast, because the work is waiting. In addition to that, we are forced to sleep less in order to spend more time at work or doing another job to provide everything necessary for our families. Since everything is about speed, we also need to access information at the fastest pace possible. For those using HDDs, it is only a matter of milliseconds to load a document from a hard disk drive. But that has become too slow. Now the latest buzzword is the solid state drive, aka the SSD. Thanks to its improved technology, this device loads documents and other content in nanoseconds and it is replacing HDDs bit by bit (or rather byte by byte). But how do SSDs actually work? What makes them so advanced?

In the matter of flash

The concept of every solid state drive is based on the flash memory. The flash memory works on the basis of transistors and cells which do not move, as it is the case with the components of the HDD. The memory flash features stay solid, which is why the whole type of storage drives is called the solid disk drive. The cells and transistors that make the flash memory can be in form or the NOR flash memory type or the NAND flash memory type. NAND cells are easier to build and they can accept more chips than NOR flash memory, so they are used for the SSD.

As the information approaches the flash memory of an SDD, it is looking for the appropriate slot to be stored.  These slots can be pictured as free pages of a book, which then make up whole chapters of data storage space.

Thanks to all these features, the main advantage of the SSD is the speed at each they write and read information. Unlike hard disk drives, where physical parts, i.e. platters and magnetic heads need to be launched to give you the data you need, in solid state drives everything is happening in the electronic way.

How to know its limits

Although the speed benefits of SSDs are obvious, they are still quite expensive when compared to the amount of data that can be stored on them. And, more importantly, their life span is still a fragile issue. As opposed to HDDs, where you are informed if the storage space has been filled to the brim, the duration of SSDs depends more on the number of times you have and delete data. Due to the concept of cells and transistors and the electronics storage space, you have a number of storage operations. When you have used all the pages and filled all the chapters, the electronic parts, i.e. the cells need repeated resetting. With every new reset, the voltage needed for storing data on the cells rises. After thousands of these repetitions, the voltage becomes so high that there is no use of the cells anymore.

A compromise solution could be to use your SSD for storing the operating system, so as to increase the speed of your work and to save the media content on an HDD or even an external hard drive.

Although SSDs offer unparalleled speed at which they store and give access to data saved on them, they are still pretty vulnerable and pricy for some uses. If thinking about switching to an SSD, get a second opinion and do all the necessary comparisons to be sure that this device is what you really need.

About The Author: Dan Radak is a hosting security specialist. Currently employed as a consultant in couple of ecommerce companies. In his free time, he likes traveling around or making beer at his home. You can reach him on Twitter.

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