What’s this SSD thing I keep hearing about?

Last week, we serviced a business that was having performance issues with their accounting software. It would take almost five minutes to open it in the morning. Strangely enough, the machine had pretty reasonable specs for an office machine, running a dual-core Intel Processor (a Core2Duo), 3GB of RAM and a recently upgraded 1TB HDD that was nearly empty.

After optimization, we were able to get it to open substantially faster, in less than two minutes with a very large database. That seems pretty good, but if the client had gotten a SSD instead of an HDD, he might not even had those performance issues.

The SSD technology is an evolution of the hard drive (HDD). Whereas the traditional HDD stored data on platters and read it using a fixed head (imagine an old vinyl disc player; the principle is the same), SSDs are very similar to flash drives and memory cards. There are no moving parts, which makes reading and writing data almost instantaneous, and reduces the chance of something breaking. As an added bonus, there is no noise.


Therefore, by upgrading to an SSD, you increase reliability and speed. There is a small downside; because of the technology, there is only a limited number of reads and writes that can be performed on the hard drive. Manufacturers estimate the life of the most recent SSDs at 10-12 years, which should be more than enough time for most users.

You may be wondering now “ok, this sounds good in theory, but do you have a practical example?”

As a matter of fact, I do. At home, we have an old Sony FZ Laptop. Core 2 Duo, 2 GB of RAM, bought in early 2008, so about six years old. We wanted to be able to use the laptop again, mostly because the screen is the best I’ve ever seen on a laptop: very bright, crisp colours. What’s not to like? However, it came with a regular Hard Drive, and even installing Windows 8 on it didn’t really improve the performance too much. It still took over 30 seconds to boot, never mind actually installing programs and using it. We installed a cheap Kingston SSD, and the performance difference was incredible. Boot time, from the moment the power button was pressed, was cut down to less than fifteen seconds. Applications opened without delay, and installing software was a breeze!

So, with a relatively simple upgrade, we were able to give a six-year old machine performance comparable to a brand new laptop, for a fraction of the cost!

Image by machu. (HDD and SDD) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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