Which Type of Dedicated Server Storage to Choose: NVMe, SATA SSD, or HDD?

When renting a virtual server, you should pay attention to the type of server drive. This is crucial for performance, as access to information should be uninterrupted and response time should be minimal. The main function of a server hard drive is to store large amounts of data. HDDs, SATA SSDs and NVMe SSDs offer different levels of performance. In this article, we will look at the differences between the drives and explore their unique features, advantages and disadvantages to help you make an informed decision.

What is HDD?

HDD is a data storage device that uses the principle of recording based on reading data from magnetic metal plates at an enormous speed. It is a classic format of storage device where the speed of information exchange depends on the speed of rotation of the spindle. A magnetic disc is attached to this spindle. It ranges from 3,600 to 15,000 rpm. The faster the disc spins, the better everything works (faster loading of the operating system and files, opening of programs, etc.).

What is SSD?

  • SSD is a Solid State Drive for data storage. Its architecture eliminates the main drawback of HDDs - the need for mechanical rotation of platters with read/write heads. Instead, SSDs use arrays of flash memory chips with no moving parts. SSDs offer significantly better performance than HDDs for most workloads. This is achieved through a number of advantages of SSDs:

  • Speed: SSDs can be 20 to 100 times faster than HDDs due to their parallel NAND memory architecture and lack of moving parts.

  • IOPS: SSDs have much higher IOPS. This is a critical performance factor in random read/write operations.

  • Reliability: SSDs have a much higher mean time between failures (MTBF) due to the absence of the mechanical components that are the most prone to failure in HDDs.

  • Low power consumption: SSDs do not use power to spin the HDD spindle.

  • Independence of read speed from file fragmentation. If a file on an HDD is heavily defragmented, this will have a noticeable effect on read speed. This is not the case with SSDs.

SSDs are ideal where performance and low latency data access are critical:

  • Highly loaded OLTP systems: databases, transactional order processing systems, etc.

  • Web servers for high-traffic websites.

  • Virtual server environments to accelerate the work of multiple virtual machines

  • High performance computing, machine learning, big data analytics.

  • Transactional trading systems where minimal latency is critical.

What is NVMe?

The term NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface Specification) refers to a protocol designed for use with high-speed storage media. It is typically an array of SSDs.

NVMe SSDs can read data up to six times faster than conventional SSDs. This is because earlier generations of SSDs connect to devices via SATA, a Serial ATA computer bus interface, or SAS, a Serial Attached SCSI interface. NVMe arrays, on the other hand, use the more modern PCI Express bus with an M.2 connector and are capable of handling many more commands simultaneously than previous versions of the drive. For example, SAS can handle 256 requests, while NVMe can handle up to 64,000 requests simultaneously. SATA drives, unlike NVMe SSD M2 and SAS, are even slower and can only handle 32 requests.

The NVMe protocol improves reliability and overall server performance because the PCIe bus controls the integrity of the data being transferred and allows the drives to handle greater workloads. This results in lower response times and latency, which means faster performance.

Server Disc Connection Interfaces

There are several types of server drive connection interfaces, each offering different levels of performance, bandwidth and cost. The most common include

SATA (Serial ATA). SATA is one of the most common interfaces for connecting discs in home and small office systems. It provides a reliable and easy way to connect discs. It is often used to connect HDDs and SSDs in small servers where high performance is not required.

SAS (Serial Attached SCSI). SAS is an evolution of SCSI technology and offers higher bandwidth than SATA. It also supports the connection of multiple devices to a single controller. It is often used in enterprise servers and storage where high performance and fault tolerance are required.

PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express). PCIe is an interface used to connect various devices, including NVMe drives. This interface offers high bandwidth. NVMe drives are connected via the PCIe interface for maximum performance. This option is often used in high-load servers.

Fibre Channel. Fibre Channel is a high-performance interface for connecting storage to servers. It offers high throughput and low latency. It is used in large enterprise deployments where data storage performance and fault tolerance are required.

U.2 (SFF-8639). U.2 is an interface designed to connect high-performance SSDs. It provides high bandwidth and supports the connection of multiple devices to the same controller. U.2 is used to connect professional and enterprise SSDs and provides high performance when multiple devices are used simultaneously. U.3 is an evolution of the U.2 format with the same size but with additional pin groups on the connector.


Let's look at specific examples to see which drives are the best option:

To store large amounts of data, we recommend using SATA (preferably SAS) drives in a RAID array. This is not a very expensive investment, but it is simple and reliable.

For e-commerce applications where fast load times are important, renting a server with SATA SSDs is the best option.

If it is important to reduce response time when accessing databases or a website, we recommend choosing NVMe versions of PCI-E 3.0.

SaaS requires reliable data storage and fast query processing. NVMe SSDs and hard disk servers are ideal for these tasks.

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author: Martin Evans
published: 04/18/2024
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