When you are setting up a website there are so many different choices for you to make, from deciding between VPS, dedicated and shared hosting, to which content management system you want to work with. Then there is your content – should you add video content, images and other visual elements to your website? How much text should you add and what pages do you need? Then there is the navigation around your website, the theme/colours designs… so many things to think about!
There are also a whole host of technical choices to make, one such decision being whether to opt for SSD or HDD hosting. If this is a question that you have been pondering, then this article should be able to help you make the right decision for your business.
Let’s assume that you are completely new to the subject and start off by looking at the difference between the two types of hosting.
The difference between SSD and HDD hosting
SSD and HDD are different storage options that are available for storing server data. So in other words, where your website software, data, content and operating system is stored. If you have a website then you will be using either SSD or HHD storage already.
What is an SSD?
SSD stands for Solid State Drive and it is made up from flash memory chips. SSD’s were first brought into the world in 1978 and they have no moving parts, unlike HDDs. They provide quicker access time compared to HDD, which can experience a delay in retrieving data. SSD can serve data up to 100x faster than HDD can, making it a whole lot faster, not just a little bit faster.
Historically, SSD was a significantly more expensive option than HDD but now that technology has moved on, costs have been able to be reduced significantly. SSD has become more popular and affordable in the last few years.
What is a HDD?
HDD (Hard Disk Drive) uses magnetic storage, which consists or one or more rotating disks. Because the disks need to spin round to retrieve data, the access time is slower for HDD. IBM first introduced HDDs in 1956 and they are still well used today.
Also given that HDD has moving parts, it is more prone to wear and tear, so they can start failing after a while. SSD is more reliable than HDD due to this problem. If your HDD fails then your website will go down and be unavailable until it gets fixed.
The impact of choosing SSD or HDD for a website
Page loading speeds
If you choose a SSD your website can load faster in your website visitor’s browser. Loading speed is a major factor in choosing any kind of hosting solution because it hugely impacts the user experience. If your website takes a while to load pages up then this will frustrate your website users and usually leads to them abandoning your website.
Research shows that 40% of users will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. So if you are relying on your website to generate sales, SSD is going to be the best option in terms of loading speed.
Just a one second delay in page response can lead to a 7% in conversions, so when you are deciding between SSD and HHD, keep stats like this in mind. Can you afford to be losing out on missed conversions because your page is loading slowly?
When you are reading about different hosting options, you might see the term ‘disk I/O’, which relates to disk input/output to describe the speed that data transfer takes place. It might not be immediately obvious whether the hosting provider uses SSD or HDD but you can ask about this or check the speeds that they deliver.
As an example, HostGator extended their hosting offerings last year to provide dedicated hosting that gives 16 cpu threads (better processing power), 32GB memory and 1 TB SSD storage. They also offer HDD for people who want a lot of storage but don’t necessarily need super fast speeds. This kind of approach is common across most of the big web hosting providers, as they try to accommodate the needs of all kinds of different sizes of businesses and websites.
When you are looking at your hosting solution options, take a look at the different speeds and other specifications that each different web hosting provider offers before you make a choice regarding the best option for your needs.
Search engine rankings
One important consequence of page loading speed is search engine rankings. The algorithms used by Google and other search engines want users to get the best possible service from websites. They do not want to send users to a website that does not function well, or has long delays to wait for content to load.
So the algorithms mark websites up or down depending on important UX factors like how quickly pages load up. If you want to ensure that your website comes up as high as possible in searches, then the faster loading capability of solid state storage devices will help with this.
Security of data and reliability
When making any sort of decision related to your website hosting needs, security should be one of your key priorities. Keeping your data as safe as possible might cost a bit extra but it is important in times where cyber attacks are commonplace.
The major difference between SSD and HHD when it comes down to security is that the HHD’s moving parts make them more susceptible to failing, which compromises the security. Also, one of the biggest causes of server failure is overloading hardware, which can happen when the processing ability is not very good. As SSD is generally a lot faster at processing, the chances of failure are much less.
SSDs have a failure rate of around 0.5% compared to a HDD’s failure rate that can be somewhere between 3-5%. Uptime is a very important factor in website performance, as if your website is offline for regular periods of time then it will cause problems for your website users. If your website is not available, then the visitors are not going to keep coming back to check whether the issue is fixed, they will go for the quickest solution, which is to find another website that offers the same products or services.
Data storage consumes a lot of power, particularly when handling large volumes of data. The cost of powering servers can therefore be very expensive in the higher power consuming levels of HDD.
SSD consumes around 0.38 watts per hour when idle, whilst HDD will use up around 15 times more power when idle. The amounts used for reading data are also much higher for HDD. Whilst the energy cost savings might not be a major factor in the decision for a small website, hosting companies can save a lot of money running data centres that use SSD. It is also a lot better for the environment to use less energy, so from that perspective SSD is the more environmentally friendly option of the two.
What is best for your requirements?
Like most decisions around your website and around your hosting requirements, your choice should be based around your specific demands. If you have an ecommerce store that is selling hundreds of products per day and attracts large volumes of visitors, the price of losing out on revenue from poor performance outweighs the additional cost of SSD storage.
If you just have a small website that you’re not heavily relying on driving large volumes of sales/contacts from then there is not the same need to pay for SSD and you might be perfectly fine going with a HHD.
Most web hosts now offer predominantly SSD standards, although companies might save money to store backups on HDDs, so that they can get the cheaper level of storage but not at detriment to the performance they provide to their customers.
Now that SSD storage is available at a more reasonable cost than ever before, it makes good business sense to opt for the more expensive but increased benefits of SSD over HDD. If you have been using HDD servers for some time on your websites because you did not want to pay the extra cost of SSD then you might be surprised at how far the costs have come down. Cloud hosting options pretty much all run using SSD, so if you are debating changing over to cloud hosting then you will usually migrate onto SSD as part of that process.
Choosing between SSD and HDD is just one of the many hosting dilemmas that you will face, so never rush into a decision around your hosting provision. As well as performance, security and reliability of a hosting service, you need to factor in the cost, the customer service and how easy it is to set up your website.
Made the decision to go with SSD? Or perhaps you’ve decided that HDD is the best option for you.
Luckily, at UKHost4u we offer plenty of options for both technologies. Our UK Dedicated Server packages offer unbeatable customization with the latest in server hardware, hosted on our superfast network.