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Solid State Drives: Website Hosting Without the Spin
Web Hosting with Solid State Drives (SSD)
If you’ve looked into web hosting recently you may have noticed that many web hosts are offering SSD hosting options. This may leave you with a few questions: What is an SSD and what is SSD-based hosting? How does this technology stack up compared to web hosting on traditional hard drives? Is SSD hosting a good idea for my website? We’re here to address these questions and offer insights into current website hosting options.
What is an SSD? What makes it special?
A Solid-state drive, or SSD, is a hard drive that does not have moving parts and that can read and write data more quickly than a traditional spinning hard disk.
Picture it this way: a vinyl record stores audio “data” at a given point on its surface in the form of physical depressions and bumps. In order to access a given section of a song, the needle of a record player must navigate to a particular physical location where the information is held. CDs work almost the same way, only instead of reading physical grooves that you can see with the naked eye, a laser reads tiny “pits” and “lands” (in other words, depressions in the surface of a polycarbonate disc layer).
Traditional hard disc drives read and write data in a similar fashion to vinyl and CDs – on spinning platters. Like a record player, a hard disk drive has an actuator arm that seeks to the correct sector of a hard drive where desired data is stored or where data is to be written. Because the arm needs to physically move into place to access a hard drive sector, the initiation of data read and write calls is time-intensive. Additionally, data cannot be read AND written simultaneously, as only one part of a hard drive can be accessed at a given time.
Solid state drives solve many of the physical limitations that classic hard disc drives suffer from. They do not store data on a rotating disc (thus Sold Sold Drive is more accurate than Solid State Disc), but rather store data within a grid of transistor cells. These cells provide non-volatile, rewritable memory, meaning that the data they hold is not lost when the SSD is powered down and that each block of data can be rewritten to hold different information. Data on an SSD is represented by transistors that either do conduct current (representing a 1) or do not conduct current (representing a 0).
Pros and Cons of Solid State Drives versus Traditional Hard Drives
As suggested above, there are many advantages to SSDs over hard disc drives – though there are also some drawbacks. Let’s explore what some of these are:
Hard Disc Drives (HDD)
Solid-State Drives (SSD)
In short, SSDs offer faster operating system boot times, faster access to data, and faster program load times, while hard disc drives are more cost efficient for storing large quantities of data. To give some idea of SSD storage costs compared to hard disc drive (HDD) storage costs, consider the following:
As the above chart shows, the maximum capacity of SSD drives is still around four times less than the maximum capacity for hard disc drives. And the cost per gigabyte is hardly comparable, with equivalent SSD storage space still costing around ten times more than storage space on standard hard drives at the $250 price point. This comparison is based on consumer-grade drives available on Newegg. Admittedly, web hosts and data centers will likely not be purchasing these exact drives, but the principle remains: SSD storage is pricey!
Understanding the pros/ cons and costs/ benefits of hard disc drives compared to solid-state drives is necessary when considering the advantages and costs of SSD-based website hosting. Here’s why.
What do SSDs have to do with Website Hosting?
The total time that it takes for your website to load is – in a general sense, though the entire process is rather complex – a factor of the following three steps:
1) DNS Lookup
A domain name server resolves a website’s text-based address (for example www.google.com) to the domain’s associated IP address, or the actual address of a/the server that hosts the website (for example typing 220.127.116.11 into your browser address bar will take you to the Google search homepage).
2) Server-side Data Retrieval and Processing
Once the website’s host server receives an HTTP GET request from a client, it needs to retrieve the necessary data from its physical storage location, process that data in some fashion, and then send website information back to the client.
3) Client-side Browser Rendering
Finally, a web browser needs to interpret and render the website data sent by the server. This is when the website is displayed visually on a client’s computer, phone, tablet, or TV screen.
As we can see, data retrieval on a site’s server is not the ONLY factor in a website’s overall load time. But is IS a critical component! When your website is hosted on an SSD, your site benefits from the increased speed that a solid-state drive offers.
Optimizing website performance at the level of server-side data retrieval may be highly desirable in many use cases, particularly for sites that fall into the following categories:
- ecommerce/ online retail;
- web apps (online productivity tools, games, web-based media players);
- popular blogs and high-traffic news channels;
- corporate/ company websites;
- and other high-value online ventures.
How Substantial are Potential Speed Gains for SSD-hosted Websites?
At this point you may be wondering just how substantial the potential gains are from SSD-based website hosting. Maybe your current site is stable, and it seems to load just fine when you test it out on your home PC or tablet. Why should you consider upgrading your hosting solution when everything seems to be working?
First, let’s take a look at what differences in speed you may be able to experience with an SSD-hosted website. Speed gains will vary for every site and host, but here are some claims that different hosting providers make concerning their SSD offerings:
|Web Hosting Provider||SSD Speed Claim|
|MonsterMegs||Page loads up to 300% faster|
|Inmotion Hosting||20x faster data access during periods of heavy I/O requests|
|A2 Hosting||Page loads up to 300% faster|
|CrocWeb||IOPS up to 100% faster|
|Asura Hosting||Page loads up to 300% faster|
|Wire Nine||Up to 300% faster performance|
As you can see, the industry consensus seems to be that SSDs can make your website about 300% (or 3 times) faster than it would be on ‘standard’ hosting.
While SSD hosting will certainly speed up your site, the degree of improvement will vary depending on particular use cases. As suggested in this article on MakeUseOf, the benefits of fast SSD access times can be appreciated the most “for dynamic data-driven websites and those with high concurrent traffic (such as Facebook or Twitter).” The only way to truly determine the potential gains for your particular site is by trying out an SSD hosting solution and running your own performance comparison.
Note: Solid State Drives are likely expensive overkill for massive data storage, virtual web drives, large collections of video, photos, or music, or other storage-intensive applications. An SSD will allow faster page loading and initial access to a video stream, for example, but is unlikely to affect the actual sustained data transfer rate for a client who is streaming or downloading a large piece of content.
What is the Current Pricing for SSD Hosting?
Pricing for SSD hosting typically starts at just dollars per month. Here is a breakdown of entry-level pricing options for the six hosts mentioned above:
|Web Hosting Provider||Pricing (Cheapest)||Storage Included|
|MonsterMegs||$5.95/ month||10GB SSD storage|
|Inmotion Hosting||$4.19/ month||Not listed|
|A2 Hosting||$3.62/ month||Unlimited RAID-10 storage (not clear if this is all SSD-based)|
|CrocWeb||$4.95/ month (annually)||10GB SSD storage|
|Asura Hosting||$1/ month or $10/ year||3GB SSD storage|
|Wire Nine||$25/ month||15GB SSD storage|
In short, mere dollars per month can get a small-scale website online with up to about 10GB of SSD-based storage. Pricing will obviously be higher for sites that require additional storage space, bandwidth, dedicated processor cores, or other features- but SSD-based web hosting seems to be an affordable option if your total storage needs are relatively low.
Milliseconds Make all the Difference for Ecommerce…
Though it may sound alarmist, every additional millisecond that an ecommerce site takes to load translates directly into lost potential revenue.
With online shopping, even small improvements to a website’s speed can have huge results. Shaving off milliseconds can:
- lower your site’s bounce rate;
- attract more customers;
- increase average time spent on your site;
- and lead to increased site revenue.
… but businesses and blogs can lose money from slow-loading sites as well!
Customers who are researching insurance options, browsing real-estate listings, investigating showtimes for the latest Marvel comics film, or looking at silly pictures of cats wearing pajamas are likely to abandon slow-loading sites faster than attractive, responsive, and fast competitors. Losing website viewers can mean fewer business inquiries, fewer prospective homebuyers, fewer theatre-goers, and lower advertising revenue.
While some blogs do not make much (or any) money from ads, others represent people’s livelihoods. On-site ad revenue can decrease significantly if visitors get frustrated with how long a site takes to load or simply spend less time and click on fewer links during each visit. And with relatively low prices for SSD hosting, even minimal speed gains have the potential of paying off in noticeable dollar terms.
Conclusion: To Spin or Not to Spin?
SSD hosting is not compulsory for every site, but it is worth considering for online shops, corporate and company websites, and even blogs. To recap, here are a few of the reasons why SSD hosting may be a good investment:
- faster page loads lead to more visitors and more on-site clicks;
- more visitors and clicks translates into increased sales and/or ad revenue;
- server-side data access can be a significant bottleneck for overall website performance;
- and SSD hosting offers a speed advantage vis-a-vis competitors.
While you might not adopt SSD hosting right this moment, make sure you don’t fall behind as other sites adopt faster web hosting technologies in the coming months and years. If your competitors’ sites all start loading faster than yours, you may be in for some trouble down the line.
The Internet is growing and so are Internet-based businesses: if you want to build your dream project online, the first thing that’s needed is web hosting. Here is the guide for both first-time and experienced entrepreneurs who wants to capitalize on the power of the Internet.
Solid state drives offer a significant performance upgrade for desktops, laptops, ultrabooks, mp3 players (even iPods started out with spinning hard drives!) and now internet websites. If you would like to learn more about SSD hosting or have any questions or comments related to this article, please get in touch with our team! And if you found this article helpful, then share it with your friends using the links below!