Backblaze: Here's how reliable high capacity drives are

Backblaze, the cloud backup provider, has released its latest drive reliability numbers, including 8, 10, and 12TB drives, as well as older 4, 5, and 6TB drives. "Consumer" drives continue to beat, slightly, "Enterprise" drives in reliability. Here's what you need to know.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor
Backblaze Storage Pod 6.0 with 60 hard drives

Backblaze Storage Pod 6.0 with 60 hard drives

Photo: Backblaze

Backblaze released their Q3 2017 drive reliability findings this morning, and the news is good. They have over 86,000 drives installed in their own Storage Pods.

Hard drive sales may be slowing, but hard drive reliability is rising -- as measured by annual failure rate (AFR) -- even for the newest 8TB drives. In fact, the Backblaze drive failure rate -- 1.84 percent -- is their lowest quarterly failure rate ever. Disk drives really are getting more reliable.

The best news is that the latest 10, and even a few 12TB drives, are all performing flawlessly. It's too early to draw hard conclusions, but 1,220 Seagate 10TB drives were put into service without a single failure. Congrats to the manufacturing and engineering teams that made that possible.


Disk drives are mechanical devices with bearings and lubricants that wear out, so age is a factor. Nearly 80 percent of all the Backblaze drives are less than three years old.

BB is retiring their oldest drive, super-reliable HGST 3's, which is actually raising their cumulative failure rate, because the larger, newer drives are slightly less reliable.

Even the new -- whose manufacturing processes are still being tweaked -- 8TB drives are proving quite reliable, with only 46 failures among 24,328 drives. That's a 0.89 percent AFR for the last three months.

Commercial vs Enterprise drive reliability finds that Seagate's consumer 8TB drives had a 0.1 percent AFR advantage over the enterprise 8TB drives. They also note that the enterprise drives come with 5 year warranties, and features such as higher performance sequential writes and power management features that datacenters can use.

If these matter to you, go for it. But it is pretty clear that if reliability is your #1 priority, you lose nothing by going with a consumer drive -- and you save a few bucks.

The stats

Here's Q3:

Courtesy Backblaze.

And here's cumulative stats:

Courtesy Backblaze.

The Storage Bits take

It's very good to see that hard drives are getting more reliable, even as capacities double and triple. We've also known for a decade that "consumer" drives are pretty much as reliable as "enterprise" drives, and that is also confirmed.

It would be good if Backblaze would follow some families of drives into old age. Consumers would like to know how long a reliable drive is likely to last. Five years? 10? Three?

I keep about a dozen old drives -- some over 10 years old, both 3.5 and 2.5" -- around that I occasionally plug into an excellent Inateck drive dock, SD card reader, and USB 3 hub. They keep powering up, despite my less-than-ideal environment. Perhaps old drives are a reasonable archive medium.

Thanks to Backblaze for continuing to issue these stats.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. My consulting firm uses Backblaze at their standard prices, and has for years.

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