Installing an SSD in a Server, NAS, or Workstation

Unlike traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), a solid state drive (SSD) is composed of flash memory that stores data. When you erase data from a flash device it doesn’t immediately go away. This data is flagged for deletion, and processes like Trim and garbage collection will remove this old data to make room for new data. In an HDD when you erase something, it is flagged for deletion like a SSD, but it is simply overwritten with new data when it becomes available.Now that we have a basic understanding of how HDDs and SSDs manage data differently, we can begin to understand why installing consumer grade SSDs into anything like a server, workstation, or network-attached storage (NAS), is not always such a straightforward option, and might not be recommended.

Understanding the differences between consumer and enterprise grade SSDs

Installing consumer SSDs into a server environment may be a bad idea because not all SSDs are created equal. Crucial® sells consumer grade SSDs which are designed for standard day to day use, like you would find in a personal desktop or laptop, other smaller mobile computing devices, and high-performance gaming/work systems. In an enterprise environment like a server, a drive can be subjected to 24/7 operation, often with a combination of high writes and erases. Enterprise drives like the Micron® 9400 or 7450, for example, are designed to handle continuous operation, with high amounts of erases and writes. A consumer drive will lose performance drastically when subjected to continuous writes, an enterprise drive will have a steady level of performance over the given period. This can also be said about the number of erases that an enterprise drive can handle compared to a consumer drive. 

All flash devices, including SSDs, have a limit to the amount of data that can be written to the memory before reliability of that data will be lost, and the memory starts to go into read-only mode. Different drives will have different endurance ratings: our BX500 drives are rated at Up to 240TB, an MX500 drive will be rated up to 360TB, and a Micron Enterprise 9400 series is rated clear up to 140,160TB depending on capacity size. Enterprise drives are rated for significantly more endurance life. For most users, endurance is something they shouldn’t worry about; it would take a typical person many years to use up all of the 240 TB write life on a standard drive. A server that is filling a drive several times every day and could theoretically use up the entire life of a consumer drive in less than a year. This sort of wear is not covered under warranty. An enterprise drive will typically have more advanced protection for data on the drive and extended wear life.

At a basic level, a consumer grade drive will protect only data at rest, while an enterprise drive is going to cover data in motion as well. Data in motion is data that is in the process of being transferred, or on the drive buffer. With a traditional drive, if the system were to lose power during a write sequence, any of this data on this buffer would be lost. This could  cause serious data corruption. This link goes to a Micron document which goes into great detail about these data protection differences. 


SSDs in workstations

A workstation in most cases is considered a server. It has a motherboard that is a server board because it uses ECC (Error Checking and Correction) memory. Crucial does not list drives as compatible with servers or workstations. However, most people will not use their workstation as a server. Most will use it for heavy office work for applications like Adobe Illustrator®, Adobe Photoshop®, 3D rendering, or other types of visual editing. As long as you aren’t using your workstation for around the clock data management like network caching, virtual machine hosting, and things a server would typically manage, then any of our 2.5” SATA SSD offerings should be fine in the system.

By installing a consumer grade drive in a server, you are getting less than ideal performance, risking the reliability of your data, using a device with a shorter wear life, and possibly voiding the manufacture warranty on the drive. It is crucial to install a storage device that is designed for the type of environment you are going to use it in. If you have any questions or concerns about using a Crucial SSD in your system, please contact our support.

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