How reliable are modern hard drives?

If you want to know how reliable modern hard drives are, ask a company that uses a lot of them.

All hard drive manufacturers provide reliability data for their offerings, but if you want to really know how well they stand up to use, ask a company that uses a lot of them.

Cloud storage specialist Backblaze is a good example.

The good news is that Backblaze publishes quarterly stats and reliability data for the drives it uses, and this data gives us a glimpse into real-world storage reliability.

The data for Q1 2019 contains some interesting tidbits. For example, the cloud backup company has 106,238 hard drives in three data centers. 1,913 of those are boot drives, while the rest are used for storage.

With that many drives in use, trends start to stand out. For example, over the past three years, the annualized failure rates for Seagate and HGST have improved, with Seagate failure rate down 50 percent in that period.

Quarterly failure rates for Seagate and HGST hard drives.
Quarterly failure rates for Seagate and HGST hard drives.Backblaze

But it’s also interesting to note that Seagate failure rates have started to steadily increase over the past three quarters. Backblaze doesn’t yet have an explanation for this.

As for future data, Backblaze is looking to roll out at least twenty 20TB drives for testing by the end of 2019, along with at least one HAMR based drive from Seagate and/or one MAMRdrive from Western Digital.

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