Hard Drive Failure Rates: Seagate Faces a Class Action Lawsuit
A February 2016 class action lawsuit argues that one manufacturer is responsible for selling hard drives that failed at a rate substantially higher than the industry average. The lawsuit targets HDD manufacturer Seagate over a 3TB model, arguing that the replacement of failed drives with the same model was inadequate in fulfilling warranty obligations because the failure rates on the replacement drives were so high. The lawsuit cites information from cloud storage provider Backblaze which claims the 3TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 failed at a staggeringly high 43.1% annual rate. Within three years only 68% of the drives Backblaze installed were still operational.
Data Center Concerns
Hard disk drive failure rates don’t offer a lot of peace of mind for data center operators and consumers alike. Not only does a failed HDD mean potentially replacing a modestly expensive piece of hardware, but it also means investing time to replace the drive and potentially losing valuable data. The HDD mentioned in the lawsuit is not a concern for data centers running enterprise-grade HDDs. However, it could be a problem if your business is running servers using consumer drives. Additionally, it’s possible non-server computers your company relies on are using the drives.
Backblaze calculated an average annual failure rate of 4.81% across over 49,000 HDDs used in their servers. Google’s long-term study “Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population” was a bit less optimistic, calculating the average annual failure rate around 7.4%. HDD failure rates are a big enough deal even on enterprise-level hardware, that storage redundancy is a must in the event of a breakdown. According to Google, HDD cumulative failure rates are around 7% over the first year, rising to a 15% fail after 2 years, and upward to a 37% fail after 5 years. The 3TB models named in the Seagate lawsuit allegedly feature a higher failure rate in the first year than the industry average over five years, if not longer.
Enterprise HDDs in Data Centers
The good news is the HDDs in use in your business’ data center are typically built to a higher quality standard than the average consumer model. According to Intel, enterprise-grade hard drives are built to withstand a 100% workload seven days a week whereas desktop and laptop hard drives are built to work between 10 to 20% capacity for about 40 hours a week. Additionally, an enterprise hard drive has a maximum safe operating temperature of 60 degrees Celsius, whereas its desktop countertop may shorten its lifespan when working at higher than 40 degrees Celsius. These are storage devices built to last and are unlikely to fail from demanding use.
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