Enterprise-Class Hard Disk Drives

enterprise hard driveHard drive makers like to make a distinction between Desktop-Class hard drives and Enterprise-Class hard drives because, in most instances, there ARE significant differences in the ways they’re used and the ultimate cost to a user that failure of the drive can cause.  The usage model that manufacturers apply to the two different types of drives couldn’t be more different.  For example, according to Intel, a desktop drive is designed to be available 8 hours a day, five days a week.  In contrast, Enterprise drives are meant for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week availability.  Putting even more strain on the drive than their constant availability is the issue of how they are worked.  Typically, an Enterprise drive may be performing read/writes close to 100% of the time, while a desktop drive usually sees a workload of 10-20%.  Because of the extra wear, continual use of the drive to provide data, constant stress on heads, positioners, motor, and other components, Enterprise-class drives are made using more durable components.

Plus, because organizations are running applications, databases, and other tasks that rely on rapid access to data, there is a greater need for high performance from Enterprise-class hard drives than from desktop drives used by an average consumer.  For this reason, Enterprise-class drives often have drive rotation speeds (7200 RPM or higher) that are higher than the Desktop-class drives (typically 5400-7200 RPM).

Reliability is a major factor for Enterprise-class drives.  The failure of a single drive on a network could impact many users.  For example, a drive in an organization’s network may serve application data across the network – if the drive goes down, it could bring application processing by users on the network to a halt.   By contrast, although a failure of a drive on a desktop computer could be somewhat traumatic to the desktop user, the impact is much smaller.

There are quite a few other differences between Enterprise-class and Desktop-class drives, most of which are designed to handle the different requirements of the environments in which they’ll be used.  For example, the electronics in Enterprise-class drives feature performance optimization and advanced error handling components that are missing from Desktop-class drives.  Further, the actuator mechanics (which position the heads on the platters) use larger magnets in Enterprise-class drives and are designed to suppress the effects of vibration from other drives, while the Desktop-class drives use smaller magnets and don’t have the vibration suppression capabilities.

Enterprise-class drives cost more than Desktop-class drives.  They are faster, and are designed to work almost twice as long as their Desktop-class counterparts.  Finally, quality control testing, even before the hard drive makes it out of manufacturing, is more rigorous than that for Desktop-class drives.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and technology consultant who specializes in explaining and interpreting new technologies, and clarifying how to integrate these new products into current systems. He has been Editor-In-Chief at computer technology and networking publications, has held significant editorial positions at major technology magazines, and is a frequent contributor to various technology magazines. He has written seven books. He is Microsoft Certified, and spends much of his time testing hardware and software products, running his own networks, and learning the best ways to get computer systems running and to keep them running.

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