Solved

Do I need Enterprise Class Harddrives in a Non Mission Critical Server ?

Posted on 2010-08-25
18
502 Views
Last Modified: 2013-11-14
I have a SBS 2003 Server running in my office for about 3 users. It basically controls my Exchange accounts, Quickbooks & shared storage of various files. I currently have 2x Seagate  250GB Enterprise Class hard drives running in a Raid 1 configuration with 400GB  WD installed for backup and I am slowly creeping toward capacity on the Seagates.

I was wondering if there is any reason to spend 2x the cost of desktop drives for enterprise drives with this amount of redundancy if I need to upgrade in the near future ?
0
Comment
Question by:Bluelude1
  • 4
  • 3
  • 3
  • +5
18 Comments
 
LVL 18

Assisted Solution

by:exx1976
exx1976 earned 167 total points
ID: 33524637
If they say "Enterprise Class" on them, then that is your first indication that they are, in fact, NOT enterprise-class drives.  That tells me that they are SATA drives with some extra electronics.

Allow me to explain:

Consumer-grade drives do not perform the same types of error checking that "Enterprise Class" drives do.  Often times, they have a [much] lower spindle speed (5400 or 7200 compared to 10k or 15k).  "Enterprise Class" drives will have additional electronics on them to ensure fewer errors, and many can perform err-correction.  They also have a much higerh MTBF (mean time between failure) than do their consumer-grade counterparts.

That all sounds wonderful, right?  So why did I say that they aren't Enterprise Class?  Because it's nothing more than a marketing term.  In a larger company, with much busier servers, this type of drive is RARELY found in production equipment.  Most "enterprises" use SAS or FC disk, with some even using SSD.


So the short answer is that while you think those are twice the cost of something else, by way of comparison, they are only about 50% the cost of real enterprise storage.  But, for the size of your user base, I would say that the "Enterprise Class" SATA drives would be sufficient.  Mission Critical or not, it's still a pain to put back together again.  Being that small, and probably not having dedicated IT staff, a catastrophic crash would cost you likely a day or two's worth of downtime.  Is that much headache really worth saving $1-200?  I would say no, but that's for you to decide.


Just my $.02.  YMMV.


HTH,
exx
0
 
LVL 56

Expert Comment

by:Cliff Galiher
ID: 33524665
Quick answer: ****HIGHLY**** recommended. Desktop hard drives are designed with desktop use in mind. AKA, they aren't rated to be spinning 24/hrs a day because most desktops employ power management to spin them down. Wear and tear, thermal stress, and other factors come into play at that point. One of the more common service calls I used to go on when I still had to do hardware service calls myself were for "home built" or whitebox servers where the system builder skimped on hardware to save a buck, or worse, increase margins while giving the customer the shaft.
Regardless, the point is, desktop drives have a very high failure rate when used as server drives simply because of the harsh environment that they are being expected for perform in well outside of their design parameters. Even if the system isn't "mission critical" I assume that the data is important (quickbooks, etc) and the time you'll spend recovering from a failure would pay for the difference in drive costs.
-Cliff
 
0
 
LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 33524715
I don't think that you need particularly enterprise class drives if you use good backup strategy. Even enterprise class drives fail when you do not expect that.
IMHO WD Black Caviar drives in RAID1 mirror plus backup to external storage are enough for mission non critical server.
But these drives by WD are good: http://www.wdc.com/en/products/Products.asp?DriveID=503
Even if the server is not mission critical - is it business critical?
0
 

Author Comment

by:Bluelude1
ID: 33524785
I am a firm believer in preventative planning, but I was trying to figure out where I hit the point of diminishing returns.
0
 
LVL 18

Expert Comment

by:exx1976
ID: 33524849
Well, just look at it this way.


If the drives failed, and you had to recover from backup, how long would that take?  And we're assuming here that you don't actually lose any data in the process, the backup is successful.  How long would it take you to restore the system to it's previous functionality?  I'm betting you'd have to go and buy drives, because you probably don't stock spares.  So there's 2 or 3 hours before you can even get started, assuming you can find the replacements locally.  Then, maybe an hour to put the oeprating system back on, a whole bunch of configuration (another hour or two), and then begins the task of restoring the data.  By the time you're done, it could easily be 20-24 man hours of work.  Now, on the cheap side, figure out how much you're paid per hour.  If that number * 24 is more than the cost difference of the drives, it's a no-brainer.  If it's NOT, then consider this:  What other more valuable tasks could you be performing for the company that have the potential to generate revenue during those 24 hours, and what is the $$ value of those tasks?  Also consider that even though it's not mission-critical, the data is still useful and needed, and it will end up being an inconvenience for the other employees..   Factor that into the equation, and the cost difference begins to look a LOT smaller...


HTH,
exx
0
 
LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:dlethe
ID: 33524904
Nobody can predict the future.   Statistically, you don't have a large enough sample size to insure you make the proper decision.  All drives have 100% certainty of eventual failure.  Statistically the odds favor enterprise drives.

If you are the kind of person that buys auto insurance with a low deductible, then buy the more expensive enterprise drives, 'cuz you are a pessimist at heart, otherwise, be an optimist and roll the dice and maybe you will save some money :)
0
 
LVL 46

Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 33525157
=) agree with dlethe. As I told before - all drives die. And imho the Enterprise Class word combination is just marketing slogan.
0
 
LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:dlethe
ID: 33525200
In retrospect, I should have answered .. "Hey, if I could tell you whether or not your new disks are going to fail before you replace them, then I wouldn't be behind a keyboard, I'd be on my 500' yacht. "
0
 
LVL 1

Assisted Solution

by:MRolfs
MRolfs earned 167 total points
ID: 33525244
The previous point that all drives will fail eventually is absolutely true. NEVER trust data with any importance to a single hard drive, and the more drives you can spread the data across and the higher the RAID level (leading to more fault tolerance) the better.

Aside from that, I don't buy at all that desktop drives aren't designed to be spinning 24 hours a day and that letting the power management spin them down is good for them. Pardon my french, but that's absolute <profanity removed by page editor>. The biggest enemies to drive reliability are heat/temperature fluctuation, vibration/shock, and voltage abnormality. The riskiest time for a drive is at startup and specifically at spin-up since all three of these are in play and that is when you'll see by far the largest percentage of disk failures occur. In years past the bearings would tend to eventually go out but now with better bearings or even FDB bearings, this has greatly decreased. Additionally, having them spun up 24/7 will actually be BETTER for thermal management, since you'll get the drives to a constant temperature and keep it there.

That being said you should get the best disks you can afford. Certainly you don't need to unnecessarily throw $$ at fancy hard drives. These days in non-speed-critical servers I usually deploy near-line SAS drives or just regular SATA drives. As long as you treat the machine as a whole well, I haven't really found a higher failure rate for either type under normal circumstances.
0
Maximize Your Threat Intelligence Reporting

Reporting is one of the most important and least talked about aspects of a world-class threat intelligence program. Here’s how to do it right.

 
LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:RGRodgers
ID: 33525424
I find the debate between the terminology of "enterprise class" and the marketing hype of "enterprise class" to be hilarious.  The OP didn't ask anything about whether enterprise class was stamped on the drive or not.
Anyway, the key to using less expensive equipment is redundancy, thus RAID.  
And, of course, backups but more importantly the known ability to restore efficiently.  I have been in situations where the client never tested the restore and they should then assume their data is not backed up.  I am working with another customer *today* whose restores run nearly 10x the time required to perform backups, so it took them the entire working day to restore a database that should have taken 2 hours.  If you can't restore it, it isn't backed up.
 
0
 
LVL 18

Expert Comment

by:exx1976
ID: 33525453
Excuse me, but actually, that's the entire content of the question - Enterprise class drives vs consumer-grade drives.  Perhaps re-reading the original question would help you formulate a more on-point answer?


-exx
0
 
LVL 1

Expert Comment

by:MRolfs
ID: 33525470
True enterprise-class drives are neither faster nor bigger.  Rather they are generally single platter, one-side, and slower spindle speed.  This reduces vibration and temperature build-up as well as reducing the number of moving parts to a minimum.  
0
 
LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:dlethe
ID: 33525488
Well, Mrolfes, I am in the storage biz for over 20 years, working for manufacturers.   Desktop drives are NOT designed for 24x7.  I have been field engineers for companies that ship over a million drives a year, and know what the numbers are for various makes and models.   You are also quite wrong on one of the reasons for drive failures .. heat is actually a friend, cold is the enemy. (Up to the point).  


Sorry, didn't mean to flame you, but if you don't think there are real differences in data integrity, reliability, duty cycle and environmental tolerance (forget performance benefits) , between enterprise & consumer class drives, then you need to read up.



0
 
LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:RGRodgers
ID: 33525515
Certainly didn't mean to ruffle any feathers, I just read it differently.
An interesting point is that RAID is currently defined to mean a "redundant array of independent disks".  I say currently because the original definition was "redundant array of INEXPENSIVE disks".  The manufacturers didn't like the implications of that terminology so they modified the definition, but the facts still stand.
Good luck....
0
 
LVL 70

Accepted Solution

by:
garycase earned 166 total points
ID: 33525809
"... Do I need Enterprise Class Harddrives in a Non Mission Critical Server ? "   ==>  By definition, if it's not "mission critical" then you CAN take some risk IF you're willing to.

However, Enterprise class drives have several features that are much better for RAID systems than a typical desktop-class drive:

(a)  They are generally optimized for RAID environments, so you won't get drive dropouts while a drive is doing a reset to retry a read operation.    The WD RE3 and RE4 series or the Seagate ES series drives are both excellent for this.

(b)  The Enterprise class drives have higher vibration tolerances than the desktop series.    In high-transaction environments (such as database servers) where you're doing a high IOPS rate, this can be very important.

(c)  The Enterprise class drives have 1/10th the unrecoverable read error rate of the typical desktop drives.    For example, both the WD RE3 & RE4 series and the Seagate ES series have unrecoverable bit error rates of < 1 in 10^15 bits.     The desktop class drives -- even the excellent Caviar Black series (my favorite desktop drive) have error rates of < 1 in 10^14.

Since you've got a simple 2-drive RAID-1 configuration and are (apparently) well backed-up, you could reasonably use a pair of Caviar Blacks ... but personally I'd spend the money for the RE3 or RE4 drives.   Contrary to what was said above, these drives are absolutely designed for 24/7 operation -- but it IS true that the high-end SAS and FC drives have even better bit error rates (e.g. the Cheetah SAS drives are rated at < 1 in 10^16).     But for a simple 2-drive RAID-1 with non-mission-critical data the cost to move to SAS or FC is not, in my opinion, worth the difference.    But I would go for an RE3, RE4, or ES series drive.
0
 
LVL 1

Expert Comment

by:MRolfs
ID: 33525817
Woohoo flame war!  Bring it on!  Oh wait this isn't 4chan, nevermind...

I'll admit it's been a few years since I've been out of working directly with storage at a low level, but as far as I know the basics haven't changed appreciably.  Also I'm not sure where I said heat is the enemy, rather I said temperature fluctuation is the enemy.  Also I don't have as big of a sample size to work with, however my observations from experience point to the most common cause of accelerated drive failure (remember they will all fail at some point) is environmental.
0
 
LVL 56

Expert Comment

by:Cliff Galiher
ID: 33525851
"Enterprise class" is definitely not marketing hype. If you actually read specifications, you will see, as mentioned in one of the very early posts, that even enterprise SATA drives vs consumer SATA drives have different MTBF statistics.
In short, do all drives fail eventually? Of course. But when and how they fail is consistent enough that manufacturers can actually generate statistical numbers to attach to those failures. And enterprise class drives are engineered to run longer, hotter, and thus have a longer average (mean) time between failures. In most countries, when numbers such as these are published, LAW SUITS can be filed if they are proven to be false. Non-numerical data can be hype, but hard numbers are factual, testable, and in our litigious society, not usually disputed unless fraud is occurring.
With that said, I will re-iterate, this has been born out in "real world" experiences. You talk to any IT service provider who has technicians doing significant hardware support. Look at production hard drive failures (even in desktops where usage patters are lower than that of a server) and see what types of drives fail the most, taking into account the ratio of drives in use (obvioulsy desktop drives are more deployed so their rate of failure failing to take that into account will be skewed.) But if you break it down by product type, desktop drives fail more often.
---
On a complete aside, it is clear from some of the posts that not everybody understands hardware and storage. Without naming names, claims that desktop drives are designed to be run 24/7, that enterprise drives are generally slower than desktop drives, and a multitude of other claims have been made that can be patently disproven by browsing drive specs, a quick wander to any technical forum written by professionals who are hired to know these things (not a sleight on EE, but here anybody can contribute, and there is no decisive distinction of someone's technical proficiency either way, whereas you can usually rely that the technical specs you get from, say, ars technica or tomshardware has been vetted). So take everything you read here with a grain of salt. The waters have been so clouded now that I wouldn't trust anything here (even the stuff I just wrote, classic catch-22), but turn to 3rd-party sources to verify each claim.
---
And on a much further aside, while it is true that the definition of RAID did change, at the time that RAID was defined, "inexpensive" was not meant to convey desktop vs enterprise, or even ATA/IDE vs SCSI. Back then, mainframes were still prevalent and many companies still had completely proprietary schemes for data protection and the drives were very proprietary and *very* expensive. So "inexpensive" only meant that you could purchase a replacement disk without jumping through hoops, going through a specific vendor, matching serial numbers, and other such nonsense.
As those other systems died, there was a desire to change RAID to more accurately reflect the market changes that had occurred.
And strangely, we've come full circle. New HP and Dell servers require specific drives on their RAID controllers, so buying a generic add-on or replacement is not an option anymore. While the connectors and instruction sets are no longer proprietary, the lockdown is performed by the RAID firmware and thus the restriction from generic disks is a throwback to the days gone by. What was old is new again.
And now I'm done walking down memory lane.
Hope some of that helps, or at least helps shine a light on what has become a ridiculously complex answer to what should have been a simple question. And I hope the original poster can find some value in the mess of responses s/he got.
Thanks,
-Cliff
 
0
 
LVL 1

Expert Comment

by:MRolfs
ID: 33525944
We're geeks, we have to make simple things complex.  It's what we do ;)

For an extremely good (if slightly dated) reference on storage technology, I would highly recommend reading through Storage Review's Reference Guide located at:

http://www.storagereview.com/storage_reference_guide
0

Featured Post

Give your grad a cloud of their own!

With up to 8TB of storage, give your favorite graduate their own personal cloud to centralize all their photos, videos and music in one safe place. They can save, sync and share all their stuff, and automatic photo backup helps free up space on their smartphone and tablet.

Join & Write a Comment

Suggested Solutions

Title # Comments Views Activity
esxi kickstart script /w iscsi 3 64
Funa@india.com 6 394
USB Key with Secure software for Windows and IOS IMac 11 74
exchange 2010 1 45
In this article you will get to know about pros and cons of storage drives HDD, SSD and SSHD.
In this article we have discussed the manual scenarios to recover data from Windows 10 through some backup and recovery tools which are offered by it.
This tutorial will walk an individual through the process of installing the necessary services and then configuring a Windows Server 2012 system as an iSCSI target. To install the necessary roles, go to Server Manager, and select Add Roles and Featu…
This Micro Tutorial will teach you how to reformat your flash drive. Sometimes your flash drive may have issues carrying files so this will completely restore it to manufacturing settings. Make sure to backup all files before reformatting. This w…

757 members asked questions and received personalized solutions in the past 7 days.

Join the community of 500,000 technology professionals and ask your questions.

Join & Ask a Question

Need Help in Real-Time?

Connect with top rated Experts

19 Experts available now in Live!

Get 1:1 Help Now