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Posts Tagged ‘SSD’


Breathing New Life into Middle-Aged Computers

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

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Your employees’ computers may not be up to speed anymore after two or three years of use, but in many cases your staff can upgrade or tune up these devices to keep pace with work demands. Upgrades can often be purchased and installed for under $100 a system, offering an inexpensive way to extend the life of a desktop or laptop computer.

Talk with your IT staff or your IT managed services partner to learn more about your options for addressing the classic employee complaint “My computer is too slow.”

Upgrade to Solid State Drives for Faster Loading

Outside of cost-per-gigabyte storage rates, Solid State Drives (SDDs) are a comprehensive upgrade to traditional hard disk drives. If your employees are complaining about long load times when opening programs or accessing files, an SSD upgrade can make a world of a difference. According to the manufacturer Crucial, SSDs are more durable, faster, lighter, and more energy-efficient than their disk-based predecessors.

A few years back, the opportunity cost may have been prohibitive, especially when it comes to your entire staff. But now that prices have dramatically dropped, going SSD makes financial sense.

RAM Upgrade

While CPU upgrades are usually impractical, a computer’s other main performance component often represents a simple, far-reaching upgrade option: RAM. The RAM, or the system’s main memory, handles all the active applications on the system; when it runs out, the computer has to fall back on the far slower HDD/SDD storage. However, the law of diminishing returns applies to this upgrade, and adding more memory than the computer utilizes at a maximum won’t improve performance. Your business may be able to upgrade a few computers’ RAM for free by pulling compatible modules from decommissioned, broken, or unused machines.

Newer Laptops = Fewer Upgrade-Ready Parts

Desktop computers are still the kings of upgrade-ability, but their portable counterparts can’t say the same. The industry is trending toward integrating parts together instead of in a modular configuration, so the RAM and storage may not be upgradeable on some devices. For example, as of 2015, Apple started using soldered RAM and proprietary SDDs, making upgrade-ability and repairs extremely difficult (if not impossible).

Backup and Reinstall Windows/Other Software

This tip applies specifically to Windows devices that are approaching the middle of their lifespan: Back up all important data, nuke the main hard drive, reinstall Windows, and restore all useful applications. Because of the way Windows operating systems work, a part of the code called the “registry” is changed over time with newly installed/updated applications, leading to slower performance. While newer iterations of Windows aren’t affected as badly by this problem, it still exists—and the best way to fix it is to reinstall Windows.

If you’re looking for ways to ensure employee devices keep up with workload demands, the IT experts at MPA Networks are ready to help. Contact us today to get started.

Think Manually Running Hard Drive Defragmentation Is a Big Deal? Think Again

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

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Good news: Your IT staff can stop running regular hard drive defragmentation on your office computers. Improvements in technology have rendered this decade-old practice largely irrelevant. One less thing to worry about, as far as we’re concerned.

Hard drive defragmentation is a process in which files that have been split apart across a storage device are reassembled as contiguous, individual files.

This adjustment improves load times and reduces wear on the storage device because the hard drive only needs to “seek” or relocate the reader arm once to load an individual file. Regular hard drive defragmentation has long been considered an easy way to increase productivity by decreasing computer load times.

Modern File and Operating System Changes

That old Windows XP system you’re running in the back corner of the office still probably needs to be defragmented—but the rest don’t. From Windows 7 onward, Microsoft implemented changes that streamlined the defragmentation process. Modern Windows computers are better at keeping files together, automatically waiting for the computer to go idle to run defragging processes in the background.

Mac OS X uses a process called “Hot File Adaptive Clustering” in the HFS format that automates the defragging process when writing new data to the hard drive. You can see for yourself how jumbled the hard drive is by opening the defragmentation tool and checking the “Current Status.” Unless the drive is 10 percent fragmented or higher, there’s no need to run the tool.

Modern HDD Changes

Modern HDD technology unintentionally resolved many of the problems with fragmentation simply by expanding capacity. When saving a file, the computer searches for the largest available contiguous space to store it—and if it can’t find a space big enough, it breaks up the file into the fewest possible pieces. Less contiguous free space means those files get split up more and the situation worsens. Larger storage devices can save more data before having to split files, and they’re more likely to have contiguous available space to store a file in the first place.

The SSD Clause

Defragmenting an SSD can actually wear down the device faster. Additionally, SSDs do not need to move a physical part to seek data, so file fragmentation does not impact performance. For these reasons (and more), it’s widely recommended that SSD storage devices should not be defragmented.

Attn: Large File Power Users

Despite all the improvements in technology, power users that work with large numbers of massive data files can run into problems with file fragmentation. According to OSX Daily, this is more of an issue for pro users who work with multimedia files. Fragmentation can also be an issue on shared storage servers where many users are constantly saving and editing work. These computers and servers may need regular defragmentation.

Get in touch with MPA Networks to take advantage of reliable IT managed services that help you make the most of your time. Old habits, including good ones, may become obsolete over time. Let us help you create better ones in their place.

Looking at Data Storage Longevity

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

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Not all storage devices were built to stand the test of time, so it’s important for every business to ensure its data is backed up on a reliable platform.

If you’ve ever needed to reference financial records or court cases from a decade ago, you’ll know how much easy, reliable access to data can boost productivity.

All the work that goes into your storage solution could turn out to be a waste if that 17-year-old CD-R no longer works. But don’t worry—we’re here to help you decide which storage medium is right for you.

USB Flash Drives

Flash drives can last for decades. Their lifespan is determined in read/write cycles instead of in years since manufacturing. If someone backs up data to the USB drive once, stores the device in a safe location, and uses the drive ten years later, the data will still be there. However, it is important to note that flash drives are not a viable storage option when exposed to extreme temperatures, humidity, dust, contaminants, frequent re-writing, and/or improper disconnection.

Optical Discs (CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray)

Optical disc-based storage can be a mixed bag because manufacturing quality varies wildly. Cheaper, off-brand discs are notorious for degrading over just a few years—so, in big picture terms, you’re looking at a lifespan range of between 2 and 50 years. (Not very helpful, to say the least.)

Higher-quality discs made with gold or silver instead of aluminum are much more resistant to corrosion, and can last as long as 300 years. If your business has important data stored on aging, lower-quality optical discs, it’s a worthwhile investment to move that information to a more reliable medium. According to NPR, leaving discs in climate-hostile environments (like in a car over the summer) can contribute to significant wear and tear, so it’s important to keep the discs stored in a cool, dry room away from intense light exposure.

Hard Disk Drives and Solid State Drives

HDD and SSD lifespans are measured in usage versus time since manufacturing, so the devices work well indefinitely for long-term storage as long as they are not used too frequently. According to a widely referenced BlackBlaze study, around 26 percent of HDDs fail within a four-year high-use testing period. Using a server or NAS-based drive to perform constant backups can wear down the device, but both formats work well for periodic backups. One option is to save backup data to an external HDD until it’s full, then put that device into storage until you need to access the data.

No matter which platform you use to back up data, multi-site redundancy remains important. Many businesses opt to use both a Cloud backup and a local, physical backup. Reliable long-term data backups are an important part of the disaster recovery process—and the experts at MPA Networks can help your business devise a long-term data backup strategy that caters to your unique needs.

Is It Time to Switch to Flash Storage?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

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More and more businesses are switching their storage solutions from hard disk drives (HDDs) to solid state drives (SSDs) for one simple reason: the appeal of faster loading times and increased productivity. However, HDDs can still be the better choice in cases where maximum capacity is more important than performance. Your local managed service provider can help your company determine whether making the switch is worth your while.

Changes in the Market

All the performance boosts in the world won’t matter if the device is prohibitively expensive.

However, SSD prices are quickly falling while HDD prices remain stagnant, making flash storage an increasingly attractive option.

In 2012, SSD storage cost about ten times as much as HDD storage for the same capacity. According to a PC World, the price difference has decreased to four times the cost in 2016, with projections narrowing the gap to three times by 2017. Price-parity could occur between 2017 and 2019.

SSD: Performance, Durability, and Physical Space

Most of the excitement around SSD storage comes from its ability to access data at speeds of up to 100 times faster than HDDs. In addition to faster access, SSDs do not need to move a read/write head around while reading and writing data, so seek times become negligible. This is helpful when working with a massive amount of smaller files, as well as with larger, fragmented files. SSDs are a more durable solution, ideal for devices that move around because they have no moving parts.

HDD: Affordable Capacity and Rewriting

HDDs currently offer the most possible storage space for the lowest possible cost. While HDDs have longer load times than SSDs, comparative performance losses can be minimal, especially in workflows where the storage device is rarely accessed. Flash SSDs aren’t built to handle constant re-writes over the same space thousands of times like HDDs. So HDDs will last longer if your business works with large amounts of data that is constantly overwritten.

Recommendations

Ultimately, your IT consulting firm will make different recommendations depending on the types of devices in use and how those devices are used. When it comes to laptops, the extra investment in an SSD is almost always worth it, especially if the employees are unlikely to use the extra storage space afforded by an HDD of similar cost. Thirty percent of shipped laptops come equipped with an SSD.

With desktop computers, it comes down to the need for a performance boost. If employees aren’t working with a lot of locally stored data on their desktop systems, SSDs afford an impressive performance boost, and the lost storage capacity will go unnoticed. However, HDDs may still win out when it comes to server-based storage. While servers running high-demand applications will see substantial performance boosts when switching to SSDs, the cost difference can still be a hurdle. HDDs still dominate in cases where performance isn’t an issue, as with cold storage.

MSPs are a great asset for determining your company’s optimal data storage solutions. HDDs still have a place in the business environment—but given the current trends, they could be obsolete within a decade.