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ISSUE 18.22.F • 2021-06-14

In this issue

HARDWARE: Terabyte update 2021

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

LANGALIST: Readers speak: How-tos, tips, and troubles with OneDrive

PUBLIC DEFENDER: Amazon quietly halts arbitrations — consumers can now sue

PATCH WATCH: Targeted zero-day vulnerabilities; will more attacks be seen soon?

MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center

The last few years have been difficult for the hard of hearing.

Recently, I volunteered at the local Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center. It reminded me that the hard of hearing have a great reliance on technology. For example, Zoom is used to teach sign language online and to assist seniors with adaptive technologies.

If you can help in your community, I urge you to do so. Donations and support to my local organization will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Susan Bradley, Publisher


HARDWARE

Terabyte update 2021

Will Fastie

By Will Fastie

The price of storage is in flux for a variety of reasons, making predictions extremely difficult.

In my previous article on this subject about a year ago (AskWoody 17.21.0), I wrote an expanded version of an article I have been writing on my personal site for a number of years. The article attempted to illustrate the difference in price between hard disk drives (HDD, rotating magnetic discs) and solid-state drives (SSD, flash memory). The goal was to establish that HDD had a significant price advantage over SSD; over the period of time covered, SSDs were small, very expensive, and primarily used as small boot drives in PCs needing high performance.

The situation has changed.

I hope to repeat this article annually to provide an update on storage pricing, making useful comparisons between the various technologies and offering predictions about what the next year will bring. But it’s time to change the format a bit. Two tables should suffice, one showing the prices of various memory types and one showing the cost per gigabyte for those same types. Each year the tables will get a bit wider, and we’ll keep a five-year running tally.

There is one memory type I will no longer mention — hybrid disks. Hybrids are HDDs with a modest amount of SSD that is used for caching. Hybrids were a good idea when SSD was very expensive, but today they are of interest only in niche markets.

The first table is shown in Figure 1.

Storage Prices
Figure 1. Prices as of June 2021 for the memory types shown  Sources: Crucial.com, BHPhotoVideo.com, Newegg.com.

These prices are not particularly informative; they are simply what you will pay to buy such a device. For individual types, the trend line is obvious; however, for comparison between types a common metric is needed.

Thus the second table (Figure 2) shows the cost per gigabyte for the same items shown in Figure 1.

Cost per Gigabyte
Figure 2. Cost per gigabyte for the items shown in Figure 1

RAM may seem like an inappropriate memory type to compare to the secondary and tertiary storage types represented by HDD, SDD, and SD, but it is informative on a cost per gigabyte basis. By a huge margin, RAM has the highest performance over any other type, accounting for its premium price. The comparison simply shows how cheap ordinary storage is, even in large SSDs.

What can we glean from Figure 2?

  • Mechanical hard drives have leveled out. Devices slightly larger than the 1 TB size offer a 20 percent better cost per gigabyte, but what this table does not show are the much larger HDDs (4 TB and up), which can get expensive. Their cost per gigabyte, however, is mostly level as well.
  • SSDs are now only twice as expensive as HDDs. Just four years ago, they were seven times more expensive.
  • SD cards are getting slightly less expensive but are three times as costly as SSDs.
  • SD cards are included on this list because they are increasingly being used by small devices such as phones and tablets as add-on storage and thus qualify as secondary storage.
Analysis

Most important, there is a giant caveat to all of this. In my previous article, I suggested that predictions about storage pricing were difficult to make due to the global pandemic. We are nearing the end of that terrible time, but it is clear that the logistics of storage manufacturing have been affected. I believe we are now seeing the early stages of those effects and that it will take time for them to dissipate. I predict prices will hold steady or rise in the next six to twelve months, going against the historical grain.

The YouTube channel Wendover Productions makes videos explaining how things work on a global scale. The recent Why There are Now So Many Shortages is worth your time and will give you some insight into logistics. What is documented is how the supply chain has been disrupted in strange ways, inducing shortages and increasing costs. This is one factor making predictions about storage difficult.

In the United States, inflation is upon us. Even if goods are manufactured overseas, the businesses here will be raising prices to compensate. It will touch storage, just as it touches everything else. (My budget for Coke Cherry Zero Sugar has taken a hit already.)

In Brian Livingston’s recent column Buy the drives you need before ‘chia’ gets them all, he points to demand created by the new chia cryptocurrency for disk storage space. He observes that producer prices have already risen due to the demand.

These factors point to rising costs. To date, it is not evident in consumer-grade drives, but because the cost per gigabyte between HDDs and SSDs has become closer, demand for SSDs is rising across the board. I do not think consumer prices will be immune.

My buying recommendations

If you are thinking about switching from an HDD to an SSD as your boot drive, don’t wait. One-terabyte SSD drives are affordable. HDD-to-SSD upgrades, when possible, breathe new life into older PCs, desktop and laptop alike.

Don’t buy new PCs based on HDDs. In the long run, it’s not worth it.

Don’t go small on an SSD. Service lifetime for an SSD is dependent on how many times it is written and how much reserve space has been set aside to replace bits in the drive that have gone bad. A quirk of the way reserve space works is that the larger the drive, the longer the probable lifetime of the drive. I tell friends and clients to replace HDDs after five years, and that has also been my recommendation for SSDs of 500 GB or less. For larger SSDs, seven years might be safe. Yes, SSDs wear out. And they can “crash.”

Buyer’s remorse can be a factor. Let’s say you go small and purchase a 500 GB drive, then later upgrade to 1 TB. It used to be the case that you wouldn’t feel too badly because in the meantime, the 1 TB drive had dropped in price. For now, don’t expect that. Think ahead and buy bigger — buy one drive now instead of two over the near term.

I have been watching storage pricing for about 15 years. There has never been a time when I have been so uncertain about what comes next.

See you next year.

Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback about this topic are always welcome in the AskWoody Lounge!

Will Fastie is editor in chief of the AskWoody Plus Newsletter.

Stories in this week’s PAID AskWoody Plus Newsletter
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LANGALIST

Fred Langa

Readers speak: How-tos, tips, and troubles with OneDrive

By Fred Langa

An outpouring of reader mail turned what was planned as a one-off item into a multi-issue conversation!

In today’s column, readers share their experiences in working around some of the worst omissions in Microsoft’s thin OneDrive documentation.

PUBLIC DEFENDER

Brian Livingston

Amazon quietly halts arbitrations — consumers can now sue

By Brian Livingston

With no announcement, Amazon.com has changed its terms of service, which previously compelled aggrieved consumers to submit their claims to mandatory arbitration. But last month, the retail giant eliminated arbitration as a requirement and now allows customers to join in class-action lawsuits.

PATCH WATCH

Susan Bradley

Targeted zero-day vulnerabilities; will more attacks be seen soon?

By Susan Bradley

Months like these always leave me in a quandary. Sometimes fixes appear before anyone in the wild has been affected, but sometimes there are users who have been impacted. Should I urge everyone to immediately patch without testing? Or should I keep with my tried-and-true recommendations — don’t panic, and wait to ensure there are no side effects with these updates.


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