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Backblaze Hard Drive Stats Q2 2019 (backblaze.com)
256 points by LaSombra on Aug 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 136 comments



I used to run a small hosting service and we standardized on Ultrastar disks. We would regularly have drives fall out of the RAID arrays, but when we ran badblocks on them to verify they were having problems they would always show up as good. After we put them back in production, they would always be happy from that point.

So we started going on the theory that there were some marginal parts of the disk during manufacture, and exercising them would allow them to be remapped to good parts of the disk. Once we started including "badblocks -svw -p 5" in the burnin procedure, our drive failure rates dropped to basically 0.

I wonder if backblaze does anything similar to provision drives.

Recently I replaced some drives in our old Dell R720 servers (5 years old). They were showing media errors over several months but never went degraded. During the replacement, each server had another drive fail. So I ran badblocks on the RAID arrays over the weekend, just to make sure any other marginal drives or sectors had an opportunity to remap. No other drive failures.

Aside: I didn't lose any data, the arrays never went FAIL, but also I had migrated all our services off these machines. Love virtualization!


Disclaimer: I work at Backblaze.

> I wonder if Backblaze does anything similar to provision drives.

We do different things for different drives, but ALWAYS have a "burn in" period for new vaults (group of 20 computers that files are Reed-Solomon encoded across) that come online.

When I say "different things", when we deployed a vault full of recent Toshiba (?) drives it came up "too slow" and we figured out the OS block size and drive block size wasn't lined up "by default". It "works" but essentially a single write required reading two blocks and then writing two blocks. (sigh) I always wonder how many mis-configured PCs exist in the world with little problems like this quietly slowing down some user who never figures it out.


>I always wonder how many mis-configured PCs exist in the world with little problems like this quietly slowing down some user who never figures it out.

All of them.


Argh, I got bit by a similar issue a while ago when I was expanding a zpool. The pool was originally created using 512b drives. After in-place subbing each lower capacity old drive for a new, bigger (and also 4k) drive and resilvering, I realized that the zpool was running with emulated 512b sectors. Since freebsd zfs doesn't let you modify ashift after pool creation, I was stuck. However, I had some benchmarks laying around and was able to determine that the perf hit wasn't that bad for my workflow (<10%). So, I figure I'll just live with it until I eventually have enough disk to create a new pool with correct ashift and be able to copy all the data on the missized pool without taking anything offline/going under-protection.

Definitely not the sort of problem I expected to encounter during that project, though, so I can totally see how even you guys would hit stuff like that.


Microsoft changed the default offset for volume creation to 1Mb (2^20 bytes) a while back, around Win7(? SP1)/2012R2 or so.

2^20 bytes lines up with any known disk sectoring at the expense of "wasting" 1 mb, which wrt today's capacities is trivial.

If you want to declare a smaller offset, you can, but absent an explicit value, one (binary) mb is what you get.


When you find issues like this, is it a manual detection process? Or do you have a set of tools? A set of tools that could be distributed to the public? (= You could save the world! Ha.


How would one go about finding the right block size?


> How would one go about finding the right block size?

From our IT guy who figured out the problem......

"If it's 4K native, then a multiple of 4K is a good starting point. If it's not then a multiple of 512 is ok. If it's SMR based then it's more complicated and depends on whether it's host managed or drive managed and the number of conventional PMR zones. The second part of the equation is alignment. If there's a partition table or logical volume mapping, then the partition or logical volume's offset needs to be a multiple of the native geometry otherwise the block size doesn't really matter because everything will be misaligned but it might be possible to use math to figure out a block size that cancels out the misalignment."

Sooooo..... consumers are hopelessly screwed and better hope Dell or Apple got it correct out of the factory.

More info from other IT guys.......

"These days I think parted gets it right most of the time, at least for individual spinning drives. SSDs are a bit weird because they tend to not want to share the erase block size, but I think the recent-gen ones tend to have enough firmware magic that it's OK. ... parted also has a flag for alignment type (--align optimal) which is supposed to choose an optimal multiple of physical block size."


I read a while ago that Samsung’s TLC erase unit size was 3MB, so I like aligning to multiples of 12MB. This covers 1.5, 2, 3, and 4MB. No one will miss a few megabytes, and you’re pretty much guaranteed that things are aligned, no matter what the underlying format is.


Did not know: thanks for sharing.

I may use 12MB going forward, myself (rather than the "1mb covers all ur bases" I cited in my upstream comment).


Is it easy to standardise on anything and then reliably get that product in the future? I would have thought supply would start and stop, prices would go up and down, quality would vary, etc.


For drives it was relatively easy, though we would have to eventually just use the next bigger size. All of our RAID systems would handle that just fine. Drive quality never really was an issue, even in the "Deathstar" days...

The bigger standardizing issue was the system. We use Supermicro barebones, and between memory and CPU changes, we would have to qualify a couple-three new chassis every couple of years. And those chassis were much more expensive than a disk drive.

Mostly, Supermicro quality was very good. With the exception of around a year or 18 months where the power supplies they were using all failed roughly a year after we bought them. We had older and newer servers with no problem, but around 30 in the middle all failed.


Thanks. I just found that macports has badblocks in the e2fsprogs package. I'm using it right now to scan a 3TB disk I had in a RAID6 array that has had 2 errors in the last 4 years. I'm currently using it as a cold standby, and this will give me more confidence in it!

EDIT: the RAID6 array is not on macOS, but Linux. I have a TB2 external enclosure that allows me to easily insert drives on my mac. Hopefully the macOS version is as good as the Linux version.


It's not a particularly researched area, but my impression is that HDDs can die prematurely or slow down to a crawl if you let them remap bad blocks. You should manage this in software yourself, don't risk overwriting bad blocks and letting the drive remap them.


Whaaaa?!? I've never heard this, or heard of anyone doing it, or even can imagine how I would approach this. References?


First time I suspected that problem, I wrote a tiny program that scanned the disk for slow blocks then marked as bad each block and extra megabyte to prevent disk's readahead from hitting bad blocks too. You are probably using a kernel filesystem, some of them let you provide a list of bad blocks to mark and avoid, I haven't tried that though.


I just tried to run that command on by 4TB HDD and 0,05% took 5 minutes, or like 7 days of continuous operation for the entire drive. And I suspect that it's just the fist pass, so 1.5 months of drive scrubbing. Is that expected behaviour?


That seems awfully slow. If I calculate that correctly, that is around 7MB/sec. Maybe that'd be right for an SMR, but I don't think so (from what little I know of SMR). I'd expect more like 100MB/sec, which would take around a day for one read/write cycle.

We started that burn in process when we could get "-p5" run in a day or two, maybe 120GB drives... Towards the end we were reducing it down to "-p1" and that took a week.

My 5 year old Dell R720s were running more like 2GB/sec, but that was across a RAID-10 array of 16x 10K drives.


I just destroyed my Backblaze buckets recently and realized they didn't have a "delete" button. You have to make a deletion API request for every single item in each bucket before you can delete a bucket.

I found that a bit ridiculous. My internet was so bad that I had to spin up an EC2 nano just to make a few billion requests and have them succeed. Took hours.

If backblaze wants to charge you on the way out (I wonder how much all those requests cost me), okay fine. But please just make a "delete bucket" button that does all this for us. If I was in a worse mood, I would've considered letting the account accrue balance until they did it for me.


They did an AMA on Reddit a few months ago[0]. I remember this AMA in particular because they thoroughly explained why they designed some features in certain ways. Overall they said their target customers are the ones with absolutely no IT knowledge.

I guess this part from one of their answers fits your complaint quite well: But here is the thing -> YOU can work around this problem, the naive customers CANNOT. Honestly, they are too computer-illiterate. But even computer illiterate people deserve to have their files backed up, and they are the target market for Backblaze Personal Backup. [1]

From this point of view, I guess a "delete" button could be fatal for some of the older folks out there. But I don't use Backblaze, I don't know if my comparison makes sense and we both talk about the same thing. The Reddit quotes refers to their "Backblaze Personal Backup".

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/b6lbew/were_the_backb... [1] https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/b6lbew/were_the_backb...


I'm the Backblaze employee that wrote that quote. :-)

> YOU can work around this problem, the naive customers CANNOT.

That was specifically in response to a Backblaze Personal Backup feature request.

> I guess a "delete" button could be fatal for some of the older folks out there.

Just to be clear, Backblaze offers two product lines: 1) Backblaze Personal Backup which is designed to be simple and easy to use, and 2) "Backblaze B2" which is designed as a toolkit for programmers and IT people. So in this particular case, we SHOULD have a "delete all files" button (for IT people), and we know this currently sucks (it's on a roadmap to add the feature).

You can select "some group of files" (like one folder) and delete them all at once from the web GUI, but if you have like 1 million files (which is a perfectly reasonable and normal backup) the web GUI will "time out" and fail to delete all the files in one operation.

The current recommended work around is to write a very short "life cycle rule" in the web GUI that deletes any/all files 1 day after it is uploaded and let it run for 24 hours and come back to an empty bucket. Yes, I know this is lame. https://www.backblaze.com/b2/docs/lifecycle_rules.html

To paraphrase my quote about computer naive users, the reason we don't prioritize this particular feature higher is the IT people (like yourself) are capable of doing the crazy work arounds like spinning up an EC2 instance. :-) But we will get to it, I promise!

In our defense, we have 5 open programmer job recs, and 5 open IT job recs, and we're having trouble finding enough (qualified) people who want to come help us build these features for customers. If you want to work in a really fun employee owned business in San Mateo, California where you can bring your dog to work, please come and join us! https://www.backblaze.com/company/jobs.html


There are all sorts of ways to created a delete-bucket button that avoids tech-illiterate fat fingering. Like simply burying it in options. Requiring end user to make a billion individual requests is almost as bad as making me call a number to delete my bucket.

I’m voicing this here because I was surprised at the UX. I was happy with my backblaze experience otherwise. My bill was incredibly cheap for the amount of data and access I was using. I’d consider using it in the future for things we generally default to S3 for.


Your casual substitution of "older folks" for "people with no IT knowledge" is ageist ignorance.


We all know the type of people OP is referring to. Pretending they do not exist does not really make anyone's life easier, especially when the discussion at hand is literally about trying to make their life easier by reducing the possibility of a mistake.


The people OP is talking about are ones who are not computer literate. Those people can be of any age. There's just no reason at all to related it to age.


With all due respect, if we were to plot age vs computer literacy, there would be a very high negative correlation.


Be that as it may, by jumping ahead, you miss out on the younger computer-illiterate, and alienate the older computer-literate.

There is zero benefit to over-generalizing that I can see, and it is very likely to lead to errors.


Or perhaps an overbroad generalization? If you work in adult day health dealing with backblaze personal backup IS in fact beyond the abilities or interest of many of the folks there.

Or do you not have personal experience working with the very elderly? The very elderly engineers are more into electronics (physical) and can run rings around younger folks on older electronics (repair / vacuum tube testing etc). But I've not seen high levels of interest in things like Backblaze personal backup API's.


"Very elderly" != "older" (folks).

People of all ages vary in their IT abilities, and IT abilities are obviously what matters in dealing with issues like backup.

There's just no reason to bring up age at all.


I'm 67 and did not take offense at the comment.


Very old folks can start to lose decision making capabilites. It has nothing to do with IT knowledge. It's why mostly old people fall victim to email and phone scams and refuse to believe the truth even after you show them mountains of evidence.

Is that ageism?


The ones I know that has lost money or been close to losing money to IT scams has people around my age.


"Very old" != "older" (folks)


Pedantry.


There are good UI solutions to this problem... For example, a dialogue box that asks you to type "Yes I am sure I want to delete all my data, forever". We do things like this for internal tools at work, seems to go pretty well.


Bear in mind the specific case being discussed is for B2 buckets, not Backblaze personal backup. Anyone using the B2 interface directly I would hope could be viewed as technically competent. If they can distinguish between the two on their end, it would make sense to provide it as an option for B2 at least.

The best way to deal with 'are you really really sure' is something like send an email with a link you have to visit as confirmation as that breaks you mentally out of the 'keep confirming without thinking' cycle which we are all at least slightly prone to given the number of confirmation dialogues we all see these days.


GitLab makes you do something similar to delete a repo, but not as explicit with the message. I think you just have to type the repository name in a box (to confirm you read the instructions) and click the delete button.


Wasn't that response talking about Backblaze personal backup, not B2? I would assume that B2 would be targeted at more technical users.


The personal backup product and B2 aren't the same thing and weren't developed with the same principles.


Then how do those customers ever delete anything? Click every single file and choose "Delete"?


Disclaimer: I work at Backblaze.

> How do those customers ever delete anything? Click every single file?

The current recommended work around is to write a very short "life cycle rule" in the web GUI that deletes any/all files 1 day after it is uploaded and let it run for 24 hours and come back to an empty bucket. Yes, I know this is lame. https://www.backblaze.com/b2/docs/lifecycle_rules.html

Just to be clear, there are two separate product lines at Backblaze: 1) Backblaze Personal Backup which is COMPLETELY automatic and you don't need to delete anything, ever, it is all automatic, and 2) Backblaze "B2" which is a toolkit for IT people and programmers. This is only a problem for the "B2" side, and the IT people and programmers (for now) can write a script or write the "life cycle rule". But we will get this fixed, it is on the roadmap.


Thanks! I wasn't clear about the distinction between those products. Given that information, it really isn't a major issue, if maybe a bit clunky.


I don't think that comparison does make sense. B2 is much more of a pro offering.


Looking at the pricing at: https://www.backblaze.com/b2/b2-transactions-price.html

It seems that calling b2_delete_key is free. It's just not conveniently abstracted. Listing the items however if you don't already have a catalog is $4/M items


> Listing the items however if you don't already have a catalog is $4/M items

That doesn't seem correct. Each call to b2_list_keys can return up to 10 000 results, so it's $0.40/M items.


Amazon S3 does the same thing. You can make bulk requests but you still are responsible for deleting all objects before removing the bucket.

Agree it's stupid.


Here's a video on deleting a bucket with a large number objects I just watched & found informative. It basically says something like you disable versioning, expire objects after 1 day, delete deletion markers, and delete deleted deletion markers (getting a little meta there).

https://youtu.be/TPavkqp-Ymo


You can nuke a whole S3 bucket. There's a switch in the cli and a checkbox in the GUI. I think there's another option for deletion protection that disables that somewhere else


I can't find the CLI option, the docs still say that the bucket must be empty[1]. There's something available in the management console but that doesn't really help with automated deployments and testing.

[1] - https://docs.aws.amazon.com/cli/latest/reference/s3api/delet...

Edit: Found aws s3 rb --force, but this just automates the process of listing/deleting objects then deleting the bucket. When you have 7 million objects in a cloudtrail bucket, that can take days.


No, you can nuke a bucket with stuff in it. I just realize I've never done this before, but the deletion screen calls out that all the contents will go away too.

https://i.imgur.com/j1av6iE.png


That screen will first delete all the items. It just issues the api calls for you. The amazon web interface is built on the API. It can’t do anything that you can’t do via the API.


Not all of those APIs are published or available via standard libraries...particularly with newer services.


That must be a somewhat recent addition - a year or two ago it wasn't possible (and the suggestion was what was posted in another comment - set the lifecycle rules to expire all the objects in a day)

edit: actually the "don't close your browser window" warning leads me to believe that's just a client-side JavaScript solution which doesn't work with massive buckets (we had one with millions of objects)


Why would the Javascript solution be inherently unable to deal with large buckets? Do we have to assume that they're taking some incredibly naive approach and trying to load every single ID into memory at once instead of streaming them out in chunks? It seems like Amazon should be capable of hiring an engineer who knows what they are doing.


It just seems like an inherently slow process. I remember at the time there was a python script someone wrote, which used the API to delete them in 1000 object chunks, and even running that with 10 threads the delete was going to take days and days.


The problem is the duration and durability of the exercise when you have millions of objects in the bucket. It could easily take days.


At least it's the kind of problem you can come back to and restart if the process dies in the middle. You're bulk deleting data so maintaining integrity isn't a concern.


This isn't strictly true - If you use the S3 dashboard the Delete Bucket button will abstract all the individual object deletes away for you.


I seem to remember the same experience (not completely sure if it was Backblaze, though).

Good to know I wasn't stupid. Couldn't shake the feeling at the time that I was missing something.


I was able to delete everything using their bucket browser UI. did you try that?


The web UI button specifically says the bucket cannot be deleted because it has contents.


You can set a lifecycle rule for the bucket to delete all objects after a number of days. This way they wil be deleted automatically.


A word of caution to anyone considering buying one of the 4 TB Hitachi drives listed in the report:

There are a lot of vendors selling “refurbished” HGST drives. Do not buy these. As I understand it, there is no such thing as a refurbished hard drive (not economical). They just zero out the SMART data and sell it as new/refurbished. They even look new, but they’re not.

I made the mistake of buying one. It had a ton of vibration and started reporting bad sectors immediately.

If you want one of these drives, you’re better off buying an actual used one off eBay or something.



Cannot say nowadays, but once defective multi-platters disks were "refurbished" (and "recertified") by simply disabling the couple of heads on the defective platter(s) in firmware and "downgrade" the capacity specs.

It simply makes no sense to actually open a US$ 100 (when new) disk drive to repair it (replacing parts that even in the factory cost money for the cataloguing and storage) to re-sell it at US$ 30 or 40.

If you go to the WD page mentioned in the article you linked:

https://www.wd.com/en-gb/products/wd-recertified.html

you will see how they are all "external disks in a case", those might be subject to a number of "returns" for reasons different from the actual disk inside (cosmetic damage, power adapter (if any), connectors, network card or wi-fi, etc.), so those may (while actually being defective as a whole) well have not a defective disk inside.

On the other hand, if they are so good, why would the warranty be limited to 6 months (or less).


Since people from backblaze will be reading this - what happened to the datacenter in europe? Last news I heard was Q2 2019 and we're already way past that


Yev from Backblaze here -> Still working on it ;-) You know, as a funny aside - it turns out that it's hard to open a data center in a different country. We're learning quite a bit about the process! Very fascinating stuff, will make for interesting blog posts :D


Great for blog posts but any ETA? I'd like to .. you know... start backing up my data with 3-2-1 rule :P


Hey, I wrote the blog on that (https://www.backblaze.com/blog/the-3-2-1-backup-strategy/) so I appreciate the desire ;-)

ETA...sooner than you may think, but not Today!


I know, that's why i HAD to make that reference :)


I would love to know that, too. Geographical distance to my data - and the potential bandwidth loss incurred by that - is what's keeping me personally (and, potentially, my current employer) from becoming a paying customer.


Yev from Backblaze here - oh? Where are you located!? We're working hard on EU - lots of meetings, tons of them!


Austria. Thanks for working so hard to make this happen, looking forward to pushing offsite backups to you in the future ;)


not a backblaze employee, just a keen eyed user

Blackblaze uses f00{0..9}.backblazeb2.com which represents different data centers.

Currently f003.backblazeb2.com is live and returns a IP based out of the Netherlands.


Huh! Would you look at that. We had some of our Operations Team go to the Netherlands a few months ago, but they swore they just wanted to see the Rijksmuseum...


They're hiring here in the Netherlands too.

https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/view/1351508643


That's not us - but easy mistake! I think Backbase is a NL ISP.


aye. My mistake. Keep up the awesome service btw :).


We shall, we shall! ;-)


I've been reading these reports since 2012(13?) and have used them multiple times to buy hard drives for my home storage systems, I haven't always had similar results however.

Does anyone else use these posts to pick their own personal disks? If so do you see the data given as a good indicator of lifespan or is the home environment vs DC just too different?


The statistics of small sample sizes comes into play here. The small sample size of a personal environment doesn't lend itself well to comparisons to a large sample size of a cloud storage provider.

For example, their 2% failure rate of Vendor X drives doesn't mean anything to you if you don't have enough drives. Your few drives might be in the 2% or the 98%. The 2% failure rate is only applicable to the population of drives as a total. It doesn't tell you anything about your drives in particular.

Now, on top of that, their usage patterns don't necessarily reflect what a typical user would see on their personal computer. I suspect that their read/write patterns skew towards the write-once, read-rarely category. Even for a typical enterprise datacenter, their usage patterns are going to be different.


I’m not really sure what you statistical point there is.

If Vendor A has a 2 percent failure rate and Vendor B has a 3 percent failure rate it’s still valid to conclude that you would be less likely to have a failure with Vendor A even if you only ever buy one drive.

Home use being not comparable to their usage patterns is a valid argument, but your statistical argument seems like nonsense to me.


Population level statistics aren’t informative at the individual sample level. If you buy 100 hard drives, a 2% failure rate makes sense and you can reason what it means. You’d expect two of those drives to fail in a year. But what does that mean if you only buy two drives total? An individual drive can’t fail by 2%. It has either failed or it hasn’t (ignoring bad blocks, etc). So, for home use, the Backblaze statistics are interesting, but can you really tell the difference between a 2% failure rate and a 3% failure rate when you buy a small number or drives (or likely just one)? You’re most likely to not see any failures from either vendor, as they have a success rate of either 97 or 98%.

It’s only when your sample sizes get sufficiently large that these failure rates start to have a good predictive value.


I've sworn by HGST drives since BackBlaze have repeatedly covered their impressively low failure rate. They've worked well for me.


Maybe i'll give these a try next, my slow lab environment is due a refresh around new years.

Thanks!


In my opinion, you really can't rely on statistics for personal drives because your sample size is so small. The important things for me when considering a drive are (in rough order of importance):

- warranty and customer service - price - noise - performance

You can get lucky and have a drive that lasts 10 years, or you can get unlucky and have a drive die in days. Either way, you'll need a solid backup strategy and be able to be without the drive for a week or two.

That being said, I appreciate the data that they put out, and it makes me want to use their service more. I think it's interesting that they continue to use Seagate drives more than most others despite them having higher failure rates, which reminds me that you really need to look at it from a cost/benefit perspective. It's also interesting to see just how reliable drives are (on average) even when used improperly.

In short, no, I don't think they should be used when deciding which drive to buy. All drives are pretty good, so find the one that's going to make ownership and replacement the most pleasant.


Disclaimer: I work at Backblaze.

> The important things for me when considering a drive are ... noise

For a drive in the same room as me, I TOTALLY agree and I'm surprised this isn't mentioned more often. Before I switched to all SSDs in my desktop computers I ran cables through the drywall in my apartment so I could put the (noisy) computer in a closet in the other room and put the monitor, keyboard, and mouse in the quiet room with myself.

Besides the wonderful performance, SSDs are magical to me because they are quiet. I am very willing to pay a premium just to be free of that drive seeking and grinding.


comparing the results of your small scale personal drive purchases to their larger scale won't perfectly align. Their numbers are an average over a large number of drives - your number is picking 1 of their drive randomly and giving the number etc..

it's shouldn't hurt to use their numbers to guide your decision it is no guarantee though.


I wish they were around when I bought 4x IBM Deskstar 60GBs in a RAID 10 in the early 2000s....


HGST has indeed come a long way since their Deathstar days.


I had a moment like that recently holding a 512GB micro sd card - recalled buying a pair of 40GB drives around that time to mirror using pre-mdadm linux raid.

Living in the future is cool.


I come here for the opposite: I've already picked my disks (HGST), and I read the Backblaze report to raise my fist and yell "Y U still use Seagate!?!"


Because Seagate is cheaper. If a drive dies 5% sooner and costs 10% less, you buy the cheaper drive.

For personal drives in small quantities, you're basically operating on luck. You can get a bad HGST drive just like you can get a bad Seagate drive. I've had drives from HGST, WD, and Seagate and all of them have lasted far beyond the warranty expiration.

When I look into drives for small-scale personal use (NAS, desktop, etc), I check recent reviews about warranty and customer service, then buy based on price and features. I also buy drives based on the use case (NAS drives for NAS, desktop drives for desktop, etc).


(Clarify: I agree with what you're saying, but...)

You need to add "cost to repair" into your equation. At my old job we used to figure $300 to replace a drive (scheduling maintenance window with customer, taking backup, migrating/quiescing services), replacing drive, verifying services were happy, wiping or destroying old drive, managing RMA, qualifying/burning in new drive).

YMMV depending on policies and procedures. If I were Backblaze, I'd design the system to work equally well with 40 drives as with 45, and consider just leaving bad drives in until a handful of them need replacing in a chassis. And the replacement be basically automatic.

This version of the report is much closer than they've been in the past. Seems like Seagate might be making some improvements. IIRC, it was not uncommon for Seagates to be a 10x higher failure than HSGT in the past.


Disclaimer: I work at Backblaze

> You need to add "cost to repair" into your equation. At my old job we used to figure $300 to replace a drive

This is TOTALLY true, and Backblaze does add in the cost to repair. At our scale, we have full time datacenter technicians that are onsite 7 days a week for 12 hours a day (overlapping shifts) so that we can replace drives and repair equipment within a certain number of hours.

Every single day our monitoring systems kick out a list of about 10 drives that need to be replaced, and the data center techs try to make sure there are zero failed drives when their shift ends. (We leave failed drives alone for up to 12 hours at night as long as it is just one failed drive in a redundant group of 20.)

But if you are operating with FEWER than our 110,656 drives then you can't have full time repair people standing around paying their salary. So you are really going to need to pay much more (per drive) than we do.

One of the absolutely amazing things about "cloud services" like Amazon S3 or Backblaze B2 is that (hopefully) we can actually operate it at a lower cost and higher durability than you can operate yourself. That may not be true at either end of the spectrum - if you have fewer than 10 drives it may be cheaper for you to operate it yourself, and if you have more than 1,200 drives (the deployment size of one of our vaults) you might want to consider cutting out the middle-man (Backblaze) and saving yourself money. But I make the bold claim we can save you money in that sweet middle ground.

One of the factors to consider is the cost of electricity in your area. Backblaze pays about 9 cents/kWh which is "pretty good". Up in Oregon you can get deals for 2 cents/kWh and beat our operating costs, but in Hawaii you are at 50 cents/kWh and unless you have solar panels you pretty much better host data on the mainland. :-) I think TONS of people (mistakenly) think that after they purchase a hard drive, operating it is "free". Electricity is one of Backblaze's major costs in providing the service. Our electrical bill is more than $1 million per year right now.

Some people think we (Backblaze) get "magical good deals" by purchasing drives in bulk, and it isn't as good as you might think. Sure, we get some bulk discounts, but think 5% or 10% better than your retail price for 1 unit. And you can probably get THE SAME DEAL as Backblaze if you are purchasing 1,000 drives in one purchase order.


"Disks are cheap but storage is expensive."

Backblaze is a pretty good deal. I'm currently trying to figure out if I should take my video files that I'm editing for my personal movies and store them on Backblaze (transmission time being the issue there) vs. getting a 10TB drive to put them on or a ZFS array, vs. just deleting the source. The latter has a very competitive price. :-D


I think you're over-estimating the work taken to replace a drive -- their storage is redundant using a custom Reed-Solomon error correction setup[1,2] (meaning no downtime while replacing a drive so none of the surrounding work you mentioned is necessary), and at the scale they're operating on they have staff just replacing drives (they are averaging 5 failures a day and from memory they had higher failure rates a few years ago) or bringing up new storage pods and other maintenance work.

While they do have multi-failure redundancy (17 data, 3 parity), it wouldn't be a good idea to push the limits regularly because that means you're risking the loss of actual customer data. And adding more parity to give you extra wiggle-room would result in both storage efficiency losses and performance losses. It probably wouldn't be advisable to expand the "stripe" size to cover an entire vault (to increase the independent disk failure tolerance without reducing the data-to-parity ratio) because you'd kill performance (the matrix multiplications necessary to do Reed-Solomon have polynomial complexity).

[1]: https://www.backblaze.com/blog/vault-cloud-storage-architect... [2]: https://www.backblaze.com/blog/reed-solomon/


When I said "just let failed drives sit", I didn't imagine loss of redundancy, I imagined that they would re-balance it to other drives.


Ah, okay. Unless you have hot spares already in the storage pod (which they might do), I don't think it'd be trivial -- or even a good idea -- to mess with the data/parity shards after the fact.


> If I were Backblaze, I'd design the system to work equally well with 40 drives as with 45, and consider just leaving bad drives in until a handful of them need replacing in a chassis. And the replacement be basically automatic.

They designed their own replication scheme which allows quite a bit of disk to fail. Considering that, using RAID would be absurd so I'm pretty sure they are all configured as JBOD, thus allowing this kind of replacement.


Not necessarily. You loose a bit of data reliability(which is an important quality for a backup provider) by using a drive that fails more often, and you have to pay wages to workers that have to replace those failing drives. At a scale 5% sooner means additional employees just to replace those drives.


Yev here -> Hah! It's less expensive and as long as failure rates are below a threshold for us - we will usually skew less expensive. Now, if failures start creeping up there's a lot more math involved, but since we're built for failure, we are very calm when a drive fails.

In some environments when a drive goes down, everyone goes into "red alert" mode and they have to rush to repair the drive or replace it. In our case we don't have to drop everything and run to it - so it helps keep the overall replacement costs down.


I would like to buy the drives they use... but they seem to only be able to be purchased from enterprise resellers in large quantities.


Seems that Seagate are the worst, even if it's a 2% failure rate.

And reality sucks: right yesterday I lost one hdd from Seagate and the second one is making noises. Ohh boy


I don't think personal results and Backblaze results are really comparable. I know plenty of people who have have a bad experience with WD drives, and plenty who have had a fantastic experience with Seagate drives.

Honestly, all hard drives are pretty solid these days, and I honestly don't think one manufacturer really stands out enough that individuals can really expect a given drive to last longer than another. Statistics just don't work on a sample size that small. You may get lucky, or you may get unlucky, it really just depends on which drive you happen to get.

I make my personal HD buying decisions based on:

- warranty and customer service - price - noise - performance

Both Seagate and WD have about the same warranty, and they both seem to be pretty good with customer service (check recent reviews though, this can change). If you consider them equal in that department, pick based on the other three metrics.

I was about to buy some Seagate drives for a NAS, but ended up with WD because they were on sale. I was a little worried about the noise from Seagate, but the price and performance won me over, but I switched at the last minute because the price changed.

Now, if you're going to build a data center with a large number of consumer drives, absolutely use Backblaze's results. If your just going to but a few, recognise that all drives the test are reasonably reliable, so whether your drive dies early is mostly luck (assuming you treat them nicely).


My favorite advice I've heard for home NAS drive buying advice is to mix brands so if you end up buying a lemon model/batch, at least you've lowered the risk of them all failing at once when repairing the RAID


If you're as big as Backblaze, it doesn't even matter if 2% of your drives fail (otherwise they wouldn't use Seagate)

They have the data spread out across enough drives with enough redundancy to live with it.


From my consumer-grade computer repair experience, if the hard drive is dead, it was a Seagate. WD failures are few and far between.

That being said, I had a pair of 1 TB Seagates in RAID 1 that had over 7 years of runtime, which I retired for a capacity upgrade.


Keep in mind there's no WD drives in the comparison, only HGST (reputed to be high quality), and tosiba (low sample count).


I've been a long time IBM/Hitachi/HGST fan, and agree with the "high quality" assessment. Nearly every time I've used Seagate I've had problems. There was one batch I put in a home storage server that I had no problems with, otherwise they seem to fail a lot. Over the decades I've probably had close to a thousand Ultra/Desk Star drives (personal and business).

We recently replaced all the 15K Seagate drives in our dev/stg 6 year old server with Samsung 860 EVOs, because I was replacing 1-2 a month (out of ~20 disks).

I've also had good luck with Toshiba disks, though I have a much smaller sample size.


I've had a similar experience with Seagate - the usual failure is bad-blocks or a huge number of G-list remaps while SMART claims the drive is fine. Also had a Barracuda 7200 with the bricking firmware bug and a 7200 which suffered spindle-lock on a test bench and launched itself off the bench, smashing the mounts and cables in the process and came to rest in my lap.

I could deal with their quality issues if their RMA process was at least reasonable. With WDC it's a credit card number (if you want an advance RMA) and a web form to request an RMA. With Seagate it's a game to try and buy "official" packaging, a tooth-and-nail fight for an RMA number and a long wait.

They actually refused to RMA the spindle-locked drive because the PCB was damaged (well, no duh). Thankfully the supplier was more lenient.


I've had highly divergent experience with WD drives.

My home system using WD Reds has been great. It is larger than a normal home storage box (24 drives), and it gets substantially more use than normal (backing store for a bunch of VMs, mostly). I've replaced one drive in five and a half years.

Contrast with storage servers built for work with WD Golds. Those are 45 drives each and used for database backup workloads. We replace about a drive a quarter (of the 90 total), and this has been pretty consistent for a bit over two years.

Not sure if I got great Reds or if Golds are just terrible, but that's what I've seen.


45 is almost twice that of 24, and WD Gold are 7200 rpm vs 5400 rpm for the WD Reds. So could be the Golds generate too much vibration for their own good?


Hmm, I've had pretty good luck returning Seagates. Which I'm thankful for, because I have to do it a lot. I pay the few bucks for the advance replacement, something like $7-$15 sticks in my head, and use the packaging that they send the new drive out in to return it.


I've been following these Backblaze reports for a few years now, and Seagate always seemed to do worse than other brands. HGST has consistently been at the top, rivaled only by Toshiba lately. No wonder Backblaze has replaced most of their inventory with these two brands.


Disclaimer: I work at Backblaze.

> No wonder Backblaze has replaced most of their inventory with these two brands.

We Reed-Solomon encode each file across multiple drives in multiple machines, and we always use "enough parity" that the failure rate won't result in data loss.

So for us, we have a (pretty simple) little spreadsheet that takes into account drive failure rate as a cost, along with drive density (more dense drives means renting less data center space) and we let the spreadsheet kick out which drives to buy based on the cheapest total cost of ownership. Honestly, we're not brand loyal AT ALL, and we're not afraid of a higher failure rate (other than that raises the cost because we have to buy replacements for failed drives).

With that said, if an individual purchases ONE DRIVE they might value a lower drive failure rate differently than Backblaze does. But honestly, if there is a 1% drive failure rate per year or a 10% drive failure rate in a year, you should still backup the data so you can sleep at night.


Yev here -> Yea, the HGST drives continue to do really well for us, but at around 2% the Seagates are no slouches - especially when you consider the sample size. That's a pretty darn good ROI from drives that also tend to be a bit less expensive!


Yep, I suppose that's why you continue to use Seagate drives. They're often more than 2% cheaper than the competition!

I think I saw double-digit failure rates from certain Seagate models a few years ago, though :(


Yea they went through a bit of a rough patch, but it's honestly been years since that was the case, they're more in-line with other manufacturers now and the pricing is very competitive!


The first thing I did was to reassure my prejudice towards Seagate. I recall similar stats over the years and Seagate made an impassion on me that they fail quite more often than the rest. I also had a personal Seagate drive failure so...


Can someone explain on the situation of "Western Digital". I am confused.

At first I thought Western Digital is retiring their WD brand for HDD, and focus on SSD, but that is not true I find no information on it. There are still Red, Blue, and others. As a matter of fact, it is the HGST brand that is getting killed, but the UltraStar range lives on.

So I am assuming the article is saying, the specific breed of HDD, Western Digital used to provided is no longer available, and it will be replaced by UltraStar, which used to be a HGST brand but are now under Western Digital ?

What happened to 20TB HDD which Seagate promised for 2020. Are we no where close to it? And MAMR Drive? Has Price / GB continued to decline, or given the situation of HDD market, the HDD maker are milking it? ( And I don't blame them )


I worked for a startup ten years ago that stored a lot of user data.

A batch of drives from the manufacturer had some sort of firmware issue. It affected a lot of users.

Essentially their data was put into read only mode by our service. Two weeks went by before the manufacturer came out and worked on replacing the drives and migrating the data over for us.

Unfortunately the data center admin at the time didn’t have backup servers and drives in place and lost his job over the snafu once the drives were replaced.

Always have backups of your data and make sure the drives are good quality.


I have a few drives with video files and I use Backblaze for Windows. But there is no local redundancy. What is a better solution?


Yev from Backblaze here -> If you have a lot of data (over 4TB) I'd recommend a local NAS or a simple Drobo to hold the data locally in addition to Backblaze for the computer. If you get a NAS we're integrated with a few NAS vendors with B2 cloud Storage so you can also have those NAS systems directly moving data to B2 as well (separate cost structure - but good stuff).


Are you saying to have a copy on the computer and also a NAS? How do you keep them in sync?

With 4TB and the price being $0.005/GB per month[0] that's $20 per month.

0: https://www.backblaze.com/business-nas-backup.html


All my data is on a Synology NAS. Can't think of anything better.


I was considering picking up one of these but they seem incredibly overpriced for the specs listed.


When you're buying a Synology you're not just buying hardware but also a pretty dang solid software suite. I've used several NAS products along with FreeNAS, Windows File Services, and plain old Samba. Synology has always been just about the easiest to use with excellent mobile and web apps for accessing your files on the go. It all depends on what you're really wanting out of your NAS.


in my experience it's really really really worth it, though.


Do you have an online/off-site backup?


(not OP) I have three of them (two off site backing up the primary) and it works great once you get it all set up!


On Windows, Storage Spaces works pretty well.


RAID


RAID give you in time redundancy, so your system doesn't fail while your working.

Most home users don't need this, it's cheaper and better to sync to a 2nd drive nightly. This gives you a local backup and redundancy, because you can swap to that drive if your first drive fails. If you're doing RAID, you still need a local and offsite backup.


How do you sync nightly? If a file is corrupted or a bit is flipped are you copying over a good copy?


I sync on linux, btrfs lets me take snapshots after each sync. I currently use rsync, but I'm thinking of setting my primary drive to btrfs so I can use btrfs sync.

I used to do this with windows. Yeah, if you have corruption, you copy it, but so does a raid? At least this way your safe from fat finger errors and you have a quick access backup.




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