SSDs aren’t new, but with the recent spike in platter Hard Disk pricing due to flooding in Thailand they’ve been an increasingly common choice in our builds. Depending on your use of the machine, it may make sense for you too even as pricing on Hard Disks (HDDs) come down.
The main difference between HDDs and SSDs is what your data is written to and how. In Hard Disks, data is stored on rotating, disc shaped magnetic platters. A moveable arm moves the head to read/write to various sections of the platter, akin to moving the arm on an old school vinyl record player to the desired location of your favorite track in the old days
There are a couple of problems with this. Needing to move the arm to read/write the desired data takes time and you can only read/write to one area of the disk at once. If you have a big file, program or other data stored or written to different parts of the disk, your head will be seeking all over the place (see: Fragmentation) to access or write the requested information. The end result is you waiting longer for your computer to boot, your programs to launch and your projects to be saved to your hard drive.
SSDs offer a different way of reading and writing data. Instead of moving assemblies based on physically moving platters and heads you essentially have something like a memory card that you’d use in your cell phone or digital camera… just on steroids. A digital controller directs data to the various ‘sections’ of the non-volatile, nonmoving storage ‘chips.’ Since there are no moving parts there’s no physical lag as with a hard disk spindle and head. With modern SSDs, it’s possible to saturate SATA 3/6 Gbit/s with real work. In other words these drives may outperform or nearly outperform the capabilities of the computer it’s connected to. This is not altogether a bad thing. Often people's feeling that their computer is "slow" has a lot to do with the hard drive that's in that machine and it's having to move around to save/store/find data.
While the reliability of SSDs vs HDDs is subject to controversy and we won’t get into that here it should be noted that ANY data of any importance ALWAYS needs to be backed up. Theft, physical damage, accidental deletion, etc. are all real possibilities that can occur irrespective of the storage media and their inherent qualities.
Of course, with the good comes the bad. Currently, SSDs on a per capacity basis are nowhere near as cost effective as HDDs. While the gap is closing at ever increasing rates the technology is still far from a mainstream product, so volume and competition haven’t driven the prices down quite yet. However, for those of you who don’t need a lot of space (or have other places such as a NAS to store the bulk of data), or are willing to pay for that space to be as fast as possible SSDs offer some huge advantages that you should look into.