SSD : A Solid Choice for Efficiency

Want to add an extra hour to each employees timecard every month for free?

Technology often promises to save time and money by making us more efficient, but sometimes it's cumbersome to quantify. Other times a technology is a clear winner in efficiency. SSD's are one such technology.

 Internals of a Traditional Spinning Hard Drive

Internals of a Traditional Spinning Hard Drive

SSD is an acronym for Solid State Drive.  SSD's are a replacement for traditional hard drives. A computer's hard drive is the part that stores files and data. Hard drives store nonvolatile information, information that is preserved even when the computer has no power. Traditional hard drives have spinning discs, called platters, and a magnetic mechanical arm that moves over the platters to read and write the data. Watching them in action reminds me of an extremely high speed record player. SSD's on the other hand have no moving parts making them more reliable. SSD's are also MUCH faster at reading and writing data. Current high speed SSD's are 5-6 times faster than their traditional hard drive counter-parts. A good quality traditional hard drive averages about 80mb/s (megabytes per second) for reading and writing data. As of this writing, a quality SSD is capable of more than 550mb/s.

In fact, traditional hard drives have become the biggest bottleneck in most modern computers. Much of the time a computer feels slow is due to waiting to read or write from the hard drive. SSD's change all that.

How drastic is the change? It's a big deal. A SSD will speed up almost everything you do on your computer. However, I'm going to focus on one quantifiable aspect; how a SSD can give you and your employees an extra hour of productive work time each month. 

My first mass SSD deployment was an office with about 70 employees. It was a typical office with cubicles and computers for each employee. It may be larger or smaller than your office, but it doesn't really matter for this conversation.

When employees arrive in the office to work they turn on their computer and then...

...WAIT and WAIT and WAIT...

 

How long does your computer take to go from "completely powered off" to "on and ready to work"? Have you ever timed it?

For this office, it was nearly FIVE MINUTES. That's five minutes each-and-every work day. That doesn't sound like much, but multiple it by 5 days a week and then by 50 weeks per year and it's 1,000 minutes per year. Multiple that by 70 employees and we're looking at noteworthy payroll numbers.  

how does SSD speed translate into computer boot-up time? 

In my real world experience computers upgraded with SSD's average 45 second boot times. I measure from completely off to ready to work.

At our example office that's a saving of over 4 minutes per day, five days a week. That's over an hour per month! An extra hour of productive computer time per employee. Remember, this was ONLY counting the time it takes to START the computer. 

Not to Mention..

...other benefits of the SSD throughout the day. It doesn't account for the fact that opening, saving, or copying a huge .pdf file (or whatever you're doing) is also 5-6 times faster. Or that a virus scan that previously slowed down the machine as it scanned files is no longer perceivable. Or that you might have to reboot during the day for some reason. With a traditional drive you might as well go to lunch. 

So, where's the catch? What's this going to cost?

It depends on the data capacity you require. In our example office, based on the average salary per employee, they recouped their SSD investment within six months. Again, that was ONLY factoring the savings in computer boot-up time. We didn't take into account any other time or frustration savings. 

We also didn't factor in the savings compared to purchasing a new machine. You see, I could set a 3 year old SSD based computer in front of you and a brand new computer with a traditional spinning hard drive next to it for a "Pepsi challenge." You won't be able to tell the difference. For standard office tasks, nine times out of ten you'd tell me the older machine is faster.

If I had to choose between the two computers for my desk, I'd take the older one with a SSD. It's that big of a difference for the majority of tasks. 

At our example office the performance improvement of the upgraded computers allowed management to hold-off on purchasing new machines for another few years saving tens of thousands of dollars. 

SSD Myths

There are some myths floating around about SSD's. Among the most common is that SSD's wear out with use. It's true SSD's do have a useful lifespan, there is a limit to the number of times you can write data to them, but the limits are WAY higher than an individual will encounter during the useful life of the computer. Techreport.com did an amazing torture test with 6 SSD's from different manufactures. They worked them to the maximum 24/7 for over 6 months before the first one wore out and died. The strongest contender lasted 18 months of continual usage. The "worst" of them successfully wrote nearly 1 Petabyte of data, enough data to equal 13.3 years of HD video, well exceeding the manufactures expectations. Long story short, it will take decades to wear out a SSD even for power users. 

You may have heard SSD's are too expensive, we touched on that earlier, but it's more cost effective than you might imagine. Most users don't need as much storage space as they think. Marketing has lead us to believe we need 1TB or more of drive space, but the majority of systems I see day-to-day are utilizing less than a quarter of 1TB. The average cost of a SSD including professional setup and installation is less than 1/3 the price of a new PC. 

Next myth, if I buy a new computer it will come with a SSD. This myth is true ONLY for Apple computers. Most, but not all, new Mac computers come with SSD drives. Some new Windows computers include SSD drives, but most do not. At this point, it's highly unlikely the PC on sale at your local big box store will include a SSD. That will change over time, but as of this writing you've got to seek out a SSD if you want one. 

I guess the only question left is Do You Want One?