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Hello, I'm a Seattle-based site reliabililty engineering manager, I get paid to do what I love, I like Python, I'm in an abusive relationship with JavaScript, I'm a fan of good design, and I don't think things always have to be so stupid.
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Consumer-grade Hard Drives In A Server Environment

Brian Beach over at Backblaze has been doing some great analysis on their hard drives lately. It’s good to see respectable reliability numbers from the Western Digital drives since I use them as well. Backblaze, famously, doesn’t use enterprise-class drives for their Storage Pods; they instead use consumer-class drives from Hitachi, Western Digital, and Seagate to reduce costs. So far, the data seems to suggest that using consumer-grade hard drives in a server might actually be a good choice.

I’ve been criticized by some folks for using Western Digital Green 3TB drives in my server (which hosts this website) given that they are apparently the duds off the assembly line that cannot spin up to 7200 RPM, or so I’ve been told. However, that drive isn’t used in production by Backblaze for different reasons.

The drives that just don’t work in our environment are Western Digital Green 3TB drives and Seagate LP (low power) 2TB drives. Both of these drives start accumulating errors as soon as they are put into production. We think this is related to vibration. The drives do somewhat better in the new low-vibration Backblaze Storage Pod, but still not well enough.

Ouch. Doesn’t sound too good for their setup, but my situation is a bit different.

These drives are designed to be energy-efficient, and spin down aggressively when not in use. In the Backblaze environment, they spin down frequently, and then spin right back up. We think that this causes a lot of wear on the drive.

All I use my Green drives for is media storage, so as far as I’m concerned, going with the Western Digital Green 3TB is a decent choice. Past the initial drop-off (usually still under warranty), the reliability of WD drives seem pretty acceptable for the associated cost. I’ll revisit this once I have a drive fail, but in the mean time, I’m backing up my drives to Crashplan (sorry, Backblaze, but Crashplan supports Linux distros).

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