August 23, 2014

Should Home Users Buy Enterprise Hard Disk Drives?

Ask a Pack Rat:

Reader Dave Emery asked a question that I’m sure many others have wondered:

Are “enterprise” drives worth the extra cost in a RAID enclosure? The reason I ask is I’ve had 2 of 4 Seagate ‘consumer’ (7200.12) drives fail in my (Other World Qx2) enclosure.  The two drives that failed were maybe a year old, well short of any ‘MBTF’ expectation. Enterprise drives cost nearly twice that of consumer drives.

Do you have any recommendations (for or against) consumer or enterprise drive brands?  I’ve generally had bad luck with Seagate over the years, but generally good luck with WD.  I don’t have enough service history with other brands to have an opinion.  Hitachi enterprise drives are the least expensive, and OWC said they’ve had good luck with that brand.

The first drive failed, I replaced it with a (Hitachi) drive, and the RAID 5 set rebuilt OK.  The second drive failed, and when I put a drive from another machine in it, the rebuild failed.  (Not sure why, maybe because this wasn’t a “bare” drive, it had been formatted and partitioned on the machine I pulled it from.)  I’m still talking with OWC about what happened with failure #2.  (They did not sell me the drives, just the bare enclosure.  The two drives that failed were ‘rescued’ from another enclosure, and I bought two more to match.)

p.s.  I think I have everything backed up & current, but I’ll find out when I go to rebuild the partitions in the RAID enclosure :-(  My goal is 3 copies of stuff, my problem has been getting the automated backup scripts to work correctly.

Stephen’s Stance

I don’t use enterprise drives in consumer RAID systems. My Drobo has two 1.5 TB Samsung EcoGreen F2 drives and two 1.5 TB Western Digital GreenPower drives, all consumer models purchased under $100.

I do believe that enterprise drives are more reliable, but not enough to justify the cost to me as a SOHO user. They are just so much more expensive! I can afford to replace a drive a year rather than spend much more on a drive that might fail half as often. Plus, consumer green drives use much less energy and produce much less heat and vibration (since they spin slower). I’m concerned that a desktop unit like a Drobo or OWC RAID might no be designed to handle high-RPM hot drives. Even if it can, it’s unlikely it will make any practical use of this extra performance.

On the other hand, enterprise drives have longer warranties and this offsets the replacement cost advantage if you take advantage of it. And most consumers don’t use RAID and routinely lose data due to drive failures…

Looking through my Hall of Shame (failed drives), I count 1 DOA Samsung F2, 1 flaky Seagate 7200.10, 1 dead-then-replaced-then-dead-again WD Caviar SE, and 1 dead Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9. That covers just about every major brand but Toshiba (I have one working drive) and Hitachi (I don’t own any). So I can’t say which is best, really. I generally buy WD or Seagate but tried the Samsungs and am not happy with a failure one day after powering on. I do like the WD green drives, though, and recently bought two. The Seagate 5900 drives are nice, too, and I’ve got four in my Iomega ix4.

Just be glad you have RAID and didn’t lose data. I was thrilled that the Drobo protected my data when the Samsung drive died! Good on you for the backups, too. I generally keep two or three sets of backups on different drives, including a copy in the cloud. But then I’m crazy for data protection!

David later clarified his drive failure:

I went with the OWC 4 bay enclosure over a Drobo for a couple of reasons:

  1. Bias against proprietary solutions
  2. The OWC box is a bit cheaper and supposedly has better FW800 performance (I sure wish Apple would adopt eSATA!)
  3. I’ve had great customer service from OWC on their products

This morning’s failure was a UPS, the one that I use for ‘infrastructure’ (cable modem, router, a couple of USB hubs, etc.)  It made a nasty non-localized noise and I had to stick my head under a bunch of desks to find which unit was complaining.

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  • http://naturopath4you.com Naturopath

    I am surprised that Stephen commented that DROBO might be be able to handle Enterprise drives since they CLEARLY recommend enterprise drives for their DROBO’s on their web site in their Choose the right drive area where it says-
    Grade – Quality is important when deciding what drive to use. If you will be actively using the drives most of the day in a business environment, for example, you should use enterprise-grade drives. Enterprise drives have higher MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures), which is a good thing when used with applications in continuous use.