Hard 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.