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BackBlaze 2014 Report

 

Highlights:

 

HGST (previously Hitachi) 2T-4T excellent (0.7% - 1.4% annualized failure rate)

 

Seagate 4T decent - 3% AFR

 

WD Red 3T bad - 8.8% AFR

 

Seagate 1.5T-3T varies from bad to sucky by model - 6.7% - 24.9% AFR

 

Consumer drives slightly more reliable than enterprise drives at more that 2x the price.

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I thought they had some WD Green 3tb in their pods?  Maybe not enough to be statistically significant? 

 

What's going on with the WD Reds?  I can confirm that the 3tb Seagates are not as good as the Hitachi drives, but the Reds should have done better.

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I'm also a bit surprised at the relatively high failure rate for the Reds.    I've certainly not seen that with the ones I've purchased -- both for myself and others.    They've actually been exceptionally reliable ... I hesitate to jinx myself, but I'll say it anyway:  Out of perhaps 40 drives in 2 years, I've seen ZERO failures of those in service.    I HAVE had a couple that failed my initial testing that I returned for replacement, but none of the drives that passed my initial testing [WD Lifeguard short test; extended test; write zeros to the whole drive; then repeat the two tests] have had any issues since they've been put in service.    And those that I had to have replaced may have been damaged by poor packaging during shipment, as I've not that issue in over a year (since Newegg started packing their drives much better).

 

Nevertheless, I just ordered a 3TB HGST to add a bit of storage to my wife's computer  :)

(This is the first non-WD Red drive I've bought in a while excluding SSDs)

 

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I have 2 Seagate 4T drives and rest are 3T and 4T Hitachi/HGST. They stay away from the bleeding edge, so density is not as high, but reliability is outstanding.

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I wonder if the learning here is that the 3tb drives, (all of them) were the low point of the quality curve. Remember how cheap they were?  Perhaps it's simply a case of you get what you pay for. 

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I wonder if the learning here is that the 3tb drives, (all of them) were the low point of the quality curve. Remember how cheap they were?  Perhaps it's simply a case of you get what you pay for.

 

Prices for various drives bounce all over the place. I bought a 4T HGST for $129.  My approach is to wait for a good deal on a drive I want and then buy them, whether I need the space right then or not. Obviously you can overdo, but 2 or even 3 drives in reserve is not a bad thing IMO. Right now is a pretty dry time to be buying - no good sales recently. But black Friday and Xmas are coming. Keep your eyes open.

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I wonder if the learning here is that the 3tb drives, (all of them) were the low point of the quality curve. Remember how cheap they were?  Perhaps it's simply a case of you get what you pay for.

 

I really don't think that's likely -- the 3TB WD Reds have 3 platters; the 4TB have 4 platters.  I very much doubt there's any quality difference in the platters themselves, or, for that matter, in the electronics, actuators, head assemblies, etc.    It MAY be true that this failure data is based on relatively early units in the production cycle -- since BackBlaze had them long enough to get statistically valid data.    If that's the case, then later 3TB units, and the 4TB units (which came out later, after I'd assume production improvements were already in place) should be more reliable ... but we'll need NEXT year's report to see if that's the case.

 

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... 2 or even 3 drives in reserve is not a bad thing IMO.

 

Not only is it not a bad things, but any UnRAID'er should have at least one, if not two, drives on the shelf as spares for the inevitable day when a drive fails.    If the spares "age" to the point where they're not large enough anymore (due to increased drive sizes), just use them as backups  :)

 

 

... no good sales recently. But black Friday and Xmas are coming. Keep your eyes open.

 

Indeed, there are often some really good buys during those few weeks.    I'm definitely watching the pricing for 6TB Reds -- may just have to buy a few if they drop under $240  :)

 

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My theory is that the 3tb Reds are just greens with a red sticker. That is why I was looking for the data on 3tb greens.  Or maybe a better way of saying it is the greens are likely even worse than the Reds from a quality standpoint. My very limited data would suggest that.

 

Bjp999, I also have been waiting for better deals. Do you have a price projection for 4tb this year at BF?

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My theory is that the 3tb Reds are just greens with a red sticker.

 

I REALLY doubt that.    WD isn't a fly-by-night company, and I just don't think they'd resort to that level of deceptive marketing.    I think it's much more likely that the statistics are based on drives from early in the 3TB Red production cycle; and it's likely that things have improved a good bit since then.  It'll be interesting if NEXT year's stats show this to be the case.

 

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I think it is certain that the 2 drives are close cousins if not identical twins. Manufacturing costs favor very similar designs.  I have seen the WD greens being very questionable quality wise, but I don't have enough of them to be statistically significant. I have no reds.

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Close cousins for sure ... but NOT twins.  WD did make some improvements in vibration control and tolerance; and modified the firmware to implement NAS-specific optimizations.  In addition, the Reds use less power than the Greens.      I think there's no doubt that the Reds are worth the modest price difference for the nominal power savings; the NAS-related optimization and vibration control technologies; and the longer warranty.

 

 

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Bjp999, I also have been waiting for better deals. Do you have a price projection for 4tb this year at BF?

 

Unfortunately my crystal ball is acting up lately. :) I would not be surprised to see 4T drive hit $99 on an outstanding sale. So far the best I've seen was $129 from Fry's (which usually provide only in-store discounts, but this one time it was allowed for mail order, but quantity was limited to 1). I am not sure how aggressive WD is going to be with the HGST brand, though, as I've seen signs of models being discontinued and prices rising not falling.

 

Personally I'll be holding off before adding 6Tb drives to my array. Nothing has proven itself so far. 4T is relatively enormous when you compare it to the 500G drives in my array a few years back. Don't get me wrong, If I saw them on sale for $199 I might try one, but not holding my breath.

 

...  I think it's much more likely that the statistics are based on drives from early in the 3TB Red production cycle; and it's likely that things have improved a good bit since then.  It'll be interesting if NEXT year's stats show this to be the case.

 

Reading a little wishful thinking in there. :) We have certainly seen signs that price and capacity are driving the market more than reliability. I put more stock in your positive experiences than some guess that BackBlaze's inventory is an early production model. It does appear that the 3T Reds get dramatically less reliable over time, so I am concerned for people that use them suddenly having issues around the time the warranty runs out.

 

Close cousins for sure ... but NOT twins.  WD did make some improvements in vibration control and tolerance; and modified the firmware to implement NAS-specific optimizations ...

 

Traditional RAID arrays stripe data. If a drive is slow to respond the RAID firmware (or software) will kick a disk from the array. Desktop hard drives aggressively try to detect and correct errors, which can take too much time for the RAID subsystem, and result in a drives being kicked from an array too frequently. NAS firmware will therefore seek to REDUCE the error correcting features of the drive in favor of a quicker response. This is what you get with a NAS drive. Since unRAID does not stripe, the quicker response is NOT needed. So I could easily argue that NAS "optimizations" are actually a slight negative for unRAID. Combine that with the fact that BackBlaze is reporting worse reliability on even Enterprise drives than desktop drives, despite their premium price and warranty, leads me to believe that NAS drives are not going to offer any longevity advantage.

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Gary and I have a friendly dispute over whether to pay more for NAS hard drives. I subscribe to the back blaze strategy. Buy the cheapest highest capacity drives available that you are comfortable buying.  It looks like back blaze wanted to test their strategy hence the fact that they have any NAS drives at all.  Interesting results.

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I don't think Backblaze changed their method, it just happened at the time the NAS specialty drives were as cheap, or cheaper than anything else. They continue to purchase the least costly drives available. If you shop long enough, you'll find moments when "consumer" drives are more costly than specialty drives.

 

The pricing for drives in quantity has been very good recently. They've purchase 8,000 4TB drives recently, likely below what you expect.

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I'm happy paying extra for the warranty alone.

 

You can pay a little extra and get a 4th year's warranty for the WD Reds.

 

Compare that to the cheap Seagate DM I bought a year ago with a 1 year warranty, which do you think is the better deal?

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I'm happy paying extra for the warranty alone.

Think of hard drives like disposable cutlery. When you are done with it, toss it. My 2tb and 3tb drives will never be replaced. They will be upgraded to 4tb and 6tb when necessary.

 

DOA is the only exception to this.

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... I'm happy paying extra for the warranty alone.

 

Absolutely agree.  And in addition to that you get a drive that uses less power; runs cooler; and is optimized for vibrational control.    Definitely worth a few extra $$ in my opinion.

 

 

... A 4TB drive that's dead after a year is not in my plan!

 

Ditto.  I certainly agree I'll never replace my older, smaller drives when notably larger sizes are available; but it's certainly reasonable to expect you won't need to do this every year.  3 years is a good interval for this.  One other thing I've noted:  It is VERY likely that if you have a drive fail after a couple years and RMA it for replacement that you will receive a LARGER drive in return for it.    Both WD and Seagate do this routinely; and I assume others do as well.    So a longer warranty not only means you won't have to buy a new drive for that slot for longer; but it may also mean that if it DOES fail you'll get a larger drive without the need to buy one  :)

 

 

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... I'm happy paying extra for the warranty alone.

 

Absolutely agree.  And in addition to that you get a drive that uses less power; runs cooler; and is optimized for vibrational control.    Definitely worth a few extra $$ in my opinion.

 

 

... A 4TB drive that's dead after a year is not in my plan!

 

Ditto.  I certainly agree I'll never replace my older, smaller drives when notably larger sizes are available; but it's certainly reasonable to expect you won't need to do this every year.  3 years is a good interval for this.  One other thing I've noted:  It is VERY likely that if you have a drive fail after a couple years and RMA it for replacement that you will receive a LARGER drive in return for it.    Both WD and Seagate do this routinely; and I assume others do as well.    So a longer warranty not only means you won't have to buy a new drive for that slot for longer; but it may also mean that if it DOES fail you'll get a larger drive without the need to buy one  :)

 

Don't forget the extra year of warranty you get with Amex (and some other credit cards too).

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Don't forget the extra year of warranty you get with Amex (and some other credit cards too).

 

Yes, that's easy to overlook.  This is also a feature of the Gold & Platinum MasterCard and Visa cards.  It's been around for a LONG time ... at least 25 years, and perhaps longer.    Originally it was "double your warranty" ... then it was restricted so it can't add more than a year [i.e. a 3 year warranty would have originally been doubled to 6 years;  then after the change it was covered up to 4 years].    Finally, they all added a maximum total warranty time of 5 years, which is what most of them now provide.

 

... but for hard drives that works fine ==> since most have warranties between 1 & 3 years, you simply get one additional year.    If the drive fails in the actual warranty period, you get a free replacement from the manufacturer; if it's during the year after the warranty expired, you get your money back from your credit card  :)

 

One important caveat:  The credit card extended warranties work well (I've used them several times), BUT they have very precise filing procedures for claims, so be sure you keep (a) your receipt for the drive;  (b) the credit card statement that shows that specific charge; and © a copy of the manufacturer's warranty in effect at the time you bought the drive.    As long as you have those, it'll be very simply to get reimbursed if you should have a problem.

 

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Loves me some HGST drives.  When a customer purchases a server and wants 4TB drives in it I always suggest going with HGST drives over any of the others.  It is ultimately up to the customer but providing my opinion can't hurt.

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BackBlaze 2014 Report

 

Highlights:

 

HGST (previously Hitachi) 2T-4T excellent (0.7% - 1.4% annualized failure rate)

 

Seagate 4T decent - 3% AFR

 

WD Red 3T bad - 8.8% AFR

 

Seagate 1.5T-3T varies from bad to sucky by model - 6.7% - 24.9% AFR

 

Consumer drives slightly more reliable than enterprise drives at more that 2x the price.

 

Glad you posted this.  I was hoping they would do another report this year and was looking two months ago for it, with nadda.  Then I totally forgot about looking.  Looks like HGST is the new standard for my unRAID's.

 

Good information regarding the extra coverage when using Visa/Mastercard (would that apply to Visa Check Cards as well I wonder?  I'll read up on mine).  I never would have thought to look.  Fortunately, I ensure I keep 8 years worth of receipts, just in case the IRS "makes and error NOT in favor of me" (think opposite of the Treasure Chest card, lol).

 

Great post.

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Good information regarding the extra coverage when using Visa/Mastercard (would that apply to Visa Check Cards as well I wonder?  I'll read up on mine).  I never would have thought to look.  Fortunately, I ensure I keep 8 years worth of receipts, just in case the IRS "makes and error NOT in favor of me" (think opposite of the Treasure Chest card, lol).

 

Great post.

I use Amex. I just gave them the model number, serial number, purchase date, and purchase price. They didn't ask for me to send any of it. In fact, they didn't even ask me to send back the drive. They just credited my account for the purchase price. Newegg and Amazon keep e-purchase receipts forever, so I was able to find my receipt pretty easily to give exact date and price.

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