When your business value proposition is delivering inexpensive, reliable cloud backup for thousands of customers, you're going to learn a thing or two about drive reliability. The Backblaze team has been sharing that HDD savvy (gleaned from several years' experience and more than 75 petabytes of storage) in a series of blog posts over the past couple of months, and we've been fascinated to note their discoveries. Now Brian Beach at Backblaze has addressed the eternal question: What hard drive should I buy?
BB's StoragePods are packed with consumer-grade hard drives just like the ones you'd buy at Costco or Best Buy, so it's reasonable to use Backblaze's failure stats as a proxy for how these drives might perform on your very own desk with your very own Mac. Granted, drives in a StoragePod are in more continuous use and subject to more vibration than a home-use drive, so your mileage may vary.
Of the 27,000-plus drives running in Backblaze's server racks, the vast majority (almost 13,000 each) are Seagate or Hitachi models. There are only a couple of drives that Backblaze won't buy or try -- WD's Green 3TB drives and Seagate LP (low power) 2TB models -- because the BB StoragePod environment doesn't agree with them, possibly due to vibration sensitivity on spin-down/spin-up. Other than that, the company buys drives on a commodity basis, going with the best GB/$ ratio available at a given point in time.
Best of the BB batch? Hitachi/HGST's Deskstar 2 TB, 3 TB and 4 TB models. Beach says, "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." At the moment, due to price fluctuations, the drives of choice are a Seagate HDD.15 4 TB unit and the Western Digital 3 TB Red.
As Beach notes, however, Hitachi's storage unit (originally purchased from IBM in 2002) has been bought (and split) in the past two years, with the 3.5-inch business going to Toshiba and the 2.5-inch product line going to WD. Although HGST is still marketing and making the Deskstar line, it's likely that technology will settle under the Toshiba brand in the future.