By Ricardo Bilton International Business Times 2/21/11
Hard drive manufacturer Seagate has been known for sprinting ahead of the competition by being the first to offer products featuring new technologies. But the company has stumbled in recent months with the news that one of its most hyped products, the Momentus XT, hasn’t fared well with some users.
The XT is Seagate’s second attempt at a hybrid drive combining solid-state storage with the more conventional spinning disk hard drive, a combination promising both increased performance and reliability. The hybrid drive was also cheap, and offered advanced software aimed at quickly fetching users’ most frequently-accessed data.
But that very same technology has frustrated users, some of whom have been dogged by the device’s frequent buzzes, freezes, and spin-downs. Seagate’s online forums have been inundated with users seeking help with their Momentus drives, which the company moved to fix via firmware upgrades. Those attempts, however, were largely in vain, and many consumers continue to experience issues with a device that was aimed at being the first in the next generation of information storage.
But in spite of the performance concerns, Chris Bross, Senior Enterprise Recovery engineer at DrivesSavers Data Recovery, sees the Momentus as a significant product. “A lot of people trying to determine the future of the solid-state drive,” he said. “Are hard drives all going flash? I give Seagate credit for being first to try to figure this out.”
The question of the solid-state drive’s future is particularly relevant ahead of Apple’s imminent Macbook Pro update. Apple has been characteristically mum on the topic, but many see the Macbook’s future as one based almost entirely on solid-state drives.
While Apple is very unlikely to completely drop disk-based hard drives from their computers, the benefits of solid-state drives are too great for the company to ignore. Compared to hard drives, solid-state drives promise greater power efficiency, performance, and resistance to physical shock. They also run more quietly and contain no moving parts.
But one area that solid-state drives do not improve on their spinning predecessors is in their inevitable movement towards failure. “SSDs are going to fail just like hard drives will,” Bross said. “Every storage device will have issues regardless of their underlying technology.”
Even cloud computing, the frequently-touted solution to hard drive failure, is prone to its own set of drawbacks — many of which revolve around extensive data requirements for companies that offer online back-up service. Mozy, an online backup service founded in 2006, scrapped their unlimited data subscription earlier this month, citing concerns over the large amounts of data some subscribers used.
“The great majority of customers are growing at manageable levels, while the heaviest users bring up the average for the entire group,” said Russ Stockdale, Mozy vice present of product management.
This is in large part why DriveSaver’s Chris Bross sees online backup services as only a partial solution to the question of data security. “The cloud offers some backup to some users, not all back up to all users,” he said.
Bross noted that he and DriveSavers are strong advocates of cloud-based backup, providing that online backup is only one layer of a more complex backup plan. “The issue is the human, not the hardware,” he said. “Nothing is a silver bullet.”
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