SSD vs. HDD — 5 Differences and How to Transfer Data

Time for a vacation! Most people opt for steady and usually reliable air travel when taking long trips, even with the threats of canceled flights or lost luggage. But what if teleportation could deliver you to the beach in a flash of light?

Believe it or not, there are similar considerations with storing information. As with air travel, hard disk drives (HDDs) are the more established devices, even though they’re slower and tend to break on occasion. Travelers or site owners who opt for solid-state drives (SSDs) may spend more money up front, but the gained speed and reliability make the drives (and teleportation) plenty worthwhile.

The HostingAdvice team constantly touts the prowess of SSDs, but we decided to dive into the differences between the two storage devices in terms of read/write speed, capacity, power consumption, and durability. Read on for a guide to help you seamlessly switch from HDDs to SSDs, along with our top picks for best hosting plans with SSDs.

What’s the Difference Between HDD and SSD?

Whether you’re buying a new laptop or shopping for a web server, you’ll want to know how your files will be stored and accessed. Hard disk drives store large amounts of data very cheaply, but the mechanical nature of a spinning disk and read/write head hampers performance and makes the units more susceptible to failure.

Solid-state drives are more expensive but provide a noticeable boost to performance. By storing information on interconnected flash-memory chips, SSDs have no moving parts. The newer technology means that storage capacity of SSDs tends to be lower, but hosting providers often tout how the upgraded hardware can make page loads up to 20 times faster.

5 Comparisons Measuring SSD and HDD Performance

As the price-per-gigabyte chasm between SSDs and HDDs continues to shrink (experts expect the gap will close between 2018 and 2020), more and more people are flocking to SSDs in a variety of uses. In 2014, SSDs powered 21% of all laptops; researchers forecast that number would double by 2017. Conversely, HDD implementation was expected to fall from 79% in 2014 to 59% in 2017.

Hard disk drives (left) typically come in standard sizes, while the appearance of solid-state drives can vary slightly.

With SSD pricing quickly becoming a non-issue, here are five other ways to compare HDDs and SSDs to see which option might be best for you.

1. SSD vs. HDD: Speed

When comparing the two storage drives, the speed at which data is written and read is the distinguishing factor between HDDs and SSDs. The former uses magnetism to store data on a rotating platter; the faster the platter spins determines how quickly information can be stored. SSDs, however, use flash memory and an embedded processor to store data.

SSDs provide noticeable performance upgrades, both for consumer-grade computers and web hosting servers. Many of our favorite hosts that operate all-SSD infrastructure, including InMotion, A2 Hosting, and DreamHost, say the configuration leads to page loads that are up to 20 times faster.

2. SSD vs. HDD: Reliability

Because there are no moving parts, SSDs tend to be more durable and can better withstand the various bumps or jolts your computer experiences. The read/write process doesn’t degrade, and SSDs will maintain data integrity for more than 200 years.

With platters that spin at 7,200 rotations (or more) per minute, the mechanisms inside HDDs are not only subject to more wear and tear, but they are more susceptible to damage if dropped or bumped.

3. SSD vs. HDD: Lifespan

You know the saying, “speed kills.” While that may be a little exaggerated when it comes to storage devices, it does hold a grain of truth. SSD cells can wear out over time, slowly losing performance before dying. According to many, though, SSD users are far more likely to replace their storage drive because of obsoleteness than for suffering from a shorter lifespan.

As for HDDs, the argument is much the same with durability: Moving parts leave more room for things to fail. With only a few nanometers separating the platter and read/write head, any accidental contact can lead to data loss or complete failure.

4. SSD vs. HDD: Power Consumption

This comparison can be illustrated pretty simply. Which takes more energy: running a marathon or tapping buttons on the remote while lying on the couch? HDDs need to spend extra electricity spinning up a stationary platter and moving the read/write head around, while the electricity SSDs use is solely devoted to storing data — no movement, friction, or extraneous noise.

For desktop computers and servers, SSDs equal lower energy bills. On laptops or tablets, users can typically squeeze out a few extra minutes or hours of battery life with SSDs.

5. SSD vs. HDD: Gaming

Resource-intensive computer games provide an excellent test of pushing both storage devices to the limit. However, SSDs make very little difference in gameplay performance. Framerate issues won’t be solved by a storage device; those require an upgraded graphics processing unit, or GPU. Some gamers have reported that SSDs can reduce hitching, or the brief pauses when the games can’t pull assets from the hard drive fast enough to keep up with the player.

Overall, SSDs and HDDs are effectively the same when it comes to the action on the battlefield. The SSD benefits to gamers, however, are the same experienced by other PC users: faster boot times and quicker game loading.

How to Transfer: Migrate or Clone HDD to SSD

Web hosting customers looking to switch to an SSD will have a much easier time of things, as many hosting providers will migrate your websites and domains for free. If you’re feeling brave and feel like tackling the transition yourself, we’ve compiled some information to help you transfer your files and databases to a new host.

Free software, such as EaseUS Todo Backup, can help users upgrade their personal hardware to SSDs.

However, Windows and PC users often struggle with fitting the operating system and personal files onto a smaller-capacity drive when upgrading their desktop or laptop storage. Typically, the easiest way to move an existing Windows installation without reinstalling the operating system is by cloning the drive. With the storage restrictions, though, everything might not fit. Here are the steps to fix that:

  1. When moving to an SSD, you’ll probably need to start by cleaning up your current HDD: Delete files you don’t need, uninstall programs you don’t use, and run the disk cleanup utility to remove any lingering clutter. You might need to offload personal files to an external hard drive, a second internal storage device, or cloud storage.
  2. Once your system is ready to move, you can use a backup and disaster recovery program to clone your information to the SSD. We’re partial to EaseUS Todo Backup, which is a free program that can optimize disk images specifically for SSDs. EaseUS provides instructions for both Windows 8 users and those on Windows 7.
  3. Now that the cloning is complete and you’ve verified that all your files made the move to your SSD, boot your computer from the new drive and reformat the HDD to remove your files. If you had to remove your documents, images, and videos in Step 1, you can restore personal files on the HDD. That way, you can deploy SSD speed for booting up the system and loading applications while still enjoying easy access to your data.

Although balancing the two hard drives can be tricky at first, PC users will certainly benefit from the noticeably upgraded SSD performance and stability. By sharing the work and being properly maintained, both drives stand to last much longer.

Best SSD Hosting Options

As SSD prices drop and capacities increase, more and more hosts are incorporating the storage drives into their infrastructure. The mantras in web hosting are alliteratively amazing and accurate: Speed sells, performance is pivotal, and milliseconds matter. Google has begun penalizing slow sites in search rankings, and one in four visitors will give up on a site if it takes more than four seconds to load.

Hosting providers also experience the same capacity-versus-performance dilemma as their customers.

High-performance SSDs are available at all levels of hosting, but SSD plans do tend to be slightly more expensive and have stricter storage limits than hosting packages powered by HDDs. As with personal computing, however, the benefits are well worth the investment to most users and site owners.

Shared SSD Web Hosting

SSDs gained initial hosting popularity in the more luxurious VPS and dedicated server realms, but we’d argue they make even more of an impact in shared hosting. Notoriously the most sluggish of the three services, shared hosting attracts the most customers.

Aside from first-time site owners who might not understand or even need faster performance, SSDs will provide a critical boost to mom-and-pop small businesses and individual developers looking to stand out from the crowd. Below, we’ve highlighted our favorite choice for SSD-powered shared hosting:

SSD RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • Shared business hosting with FREE SSD storage
  • FREE website migration with zero downtime
  • Develop in PHP, Ruby, Perl, Python, and MySQL
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $2.95
Money Back Guarantee 90 days
Disk Space Unlimited
Domain Name FREE (1 year)
SSD Hosting Plans www.inmotionhosting.com/ssd
Our Expert's InMotion Review
InMotion trailblazed the SSD hosting space, including free SSD storage in all server plans for maximum performance. Existing websites experience no downtime as InMotion transfers your site to its new home on InMotion’s network, and you can choose a West... read more + InMotion trailblazed the SSD hosting space, including free SSD storage in all server plans for maximum performance. Existing websites experience no downtime as InMotion transfers your site to its new home on InMotion’s network, and you can choose a West Coast or East Coast datacenter location… collapse info -

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SSD VPS Hosting

Once you get a taste of SSD hosting, you’ll probably never turn back. As your performance-minded site grows beyond shared hosting resources, you’ll find even more acceleration with a virtual private server, or VPS.

With managed services, cloud infrastructure, and full root access commonly included in the best SSD VPS plans, hosting providers enable customers to truly put the pedal to the metal. Our favorite host for SSD VPS hosting, displayed in the table below, excels in all phases of high-speed hosting.

SSD VPS RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • FREE SSDs for 20x faster VPS hosting
  • Enterprise-grade CentOS and FREE security patches
  • Root access, SSH access, and reseller access with WHM
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $19.99
Money Back Guarantee 90 days
Disk Space 75 GB - 260 GB SSD
Domain Name New or Transfer
SSD VPS Hosting Plans www.inmotionhosting.com/ssd-vps
Our Expert's InMotion Review
InMotion hosting packs a ton of performance into VPS plans, featuring secure solid-state drives (SSDs) for up to 20x faster hosting. The enterprise-grade cloud infrastructure powers your virtual servers and the InMotion team is on call 24 hours a day,... read more + InMotion hosting packs a ton of performance into VPS plans, featuring secure solid-state drives (SSDs) for up to 20x faster hosting. The enterprise-grade cloud infrastructure powers your virtual servers and the InMotion team is on call 24 hours a day, monitoring your network and administering server and operating system patches… collapse info -

See more SSD VPS hosting options »

SSD Dedicated Server Hosting

Dedicated servers are already known as being the cream of the crop for handling high amounts of traffic and delivering optimal load-time performance. Plus, its status as the most expensive hosting server configuration probably indicates that the added cost of an SSD is not going to be an issue.

Hosting providers that offer the best dedicated server space will also likely include the ability to customize your configurations and infrastructure, along with speedy provisioning and support. Admittedly, it’s hard to go wrong with any dedicated server and SSD, but the host below stands above the rest for balancing price and power, and including services such as proactive monitoring, automatic backups, and multi-layer security solutions.

DEDICATED RATING
★★★★★ 4.9/5.0
  • FREE incoming bandwidth and choice of operating system
  • Custom configurations with SSDs and instant provisioning
  • Auto-migrations, backups, and 24/7 Sonar Monitoring™
(read more)
Starting Price/Mo. $79.00
Money Back Guarantee N/A
Disk Space 211 GB - 1,775 GB SSD
Domain Name New or Transfer
Dedicated Hosting Plans www.liquidweb.com/dedicated
Our Expert's Liquid Web Review
Liquid Web's strong suit is their managed dedicated server hosting. They own and operate three state-of-the-art datacenters in the US and have over 50 developers working tirelessly to build and maintain custom solutions for added... read more +

Liquid Web's strong suit is their managed dedicated server hosting. They own and operate three state-of-the-art datacenters in the US and have over 50 developers working tirelessly to build and maintain custom solutions for added performance and security.

Fully, Core-, or Self-Managed — Plus Storm® Servers

Liquid Web offers single, dual, and quad processor servers with fully, core-, or self-managed plans. All dedicated server customers reap the benefits and support of the Heroic Support® team and the 24/7 protection of the Sonar Monitoring™ team.

Redundantly Built, Multi-Tiered Network

Featuring top-of-the-line Cisco equipment, the Liquid Web N+1 network is redundantly built to allow routing devices to quickly self-heal. They're designed to bounce back and correct system failures without interrupting the customer's connection. With the integration of premier providers, Level 3, Verizon, Comcast, Cogent, and Equinix, the Liquid Web network is optimized for rapid and fault-resistant performance.

Highly Available Sites with the Tech of 50+ Developers

Liquid Web boasted an incredible 99.995% uptime rate in 2014, a bragging right that's helped shape their reputation for performance. With the maintenance of 50+ developers, the Liquid Web infrastructure is engineered to evade and survive typical site disasters.

24/7 Proactive Protection from the Sonar Monitoring™ & Heroic Support® Teams

Should disaster strike, the Sonar Monitoring™ team is trained to catch the issue first, performing system-level health checks and patches 24/7, so they can hopefully have it handled before you're even aware of the situation. Meanwhile, the Heroic Support® team of 300+ experts is available anytime to help with any troubleshooting need.

Storm® Servers & Add-Ons

For the dev nerds out there, one of our favorite facets of Liquid Web as a hosting provider is the commitment to in-house-built technology. All of their team members' experience and expertise becomes very evident once you check out their custom Storm® Platform.

All the Power Plus All the Flexibility

If you're in need of dedicated resources, drawn to the customization of the Cloud, and know you need screaming fast performance, the Storm® Dedicated Server may be your solution. These custom server systems allow for cloud-like flexibility that traditional dedicated servers aren't capable of, like instant provisioning and automatic migrations.

Added Extras Make the Dedicated Cost a Done Deal

The Liquid Web development team is constantly coming up with new Storm® Add-Ons, like Load Balancers, Block Storage, Object Storage, and a VPN. Think you can't afford such full-featured and flexible hardware? Think again. With pricing starting around $110/month, the Storm® Platform is great for the cost-conscious dedicated server shopper.

Liquid Web Dedicated Servers in Review

If you want feature-rich dedicated resources and relentlessly reliable technical support, Liquid Web should be on your short list. They're known for strong managed service offerings, but the drawback to managed hosting is usually the cost. Liquid Web doesn't leave you hanging there though — in-house solutions like the Storm® Dedicated Server keep the cloud-level flexibility and performance up and the cost down.

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Best of Both Worlds? SSD and HDD Combo Hybrids

You’ll have to spend a lot of time reading the fine print to find a web hosting plan with both HDD and SSD storage, but they do exist — particularly at the VPS and dedicated server levels, which allow for much more flexibility when crafting your hosting architecture.

For personal computing, however, you don’t necessarily have to choose between storage capacity or speed. We’ve already shared how you can create your own hybrid desktop or laptop when upgrading your operating system to an SSD, but hardware vendors have begun manufacturing and selling combination drives, sometimes called SSHDs for solid-state hybrid drives, as individual components or as a feature on a full computer. With computer storage, hard disk drives and solid-state drives are a win-win situation — stronger together than apart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Stamey

Laura Stamey is a multi-talented communicator with a master's degree in web design and online communication and extensive experience creating web, print, and multimedia products. As a Contributing Editor for HostingAdvice.com, she combines her communication skills with web design experience, a passionate love for WordPress, and a strong desire to continue learning. When she's not addressing user questions via helpful how-to guides, you'll find her connecting with the folks behind companies that are powering the Web — covering their innovative technologies and the teams that engineer them.