As noted by DPReview, Backblaze reports that 39,792 hard drives were added to its assortment in 2020 and by the end of the year, the number of drives under its management reached a total of 165,530. Out of those, 3,000 were boot drives and the rest of the 162,530 were hard drives. For this report, the company omitted 231 hard drives in its research as they were used for testing or if the company did not have at least 60 drives of a certain model.
The company explains that the reason for excluding boot drives from gathering this data is simply because their function is greatly different from that of a typical hard drive, however, if any useful data is gathered in the future, Backblaze intends to publish it. After all exclusions, the company was left with 162,299 hard drives that it used to compile the data below.
Somewhat unexpectedly, for drive models with over 250,000 drive days over the course of 2020, the Seagate 6TB drive (model ST6000DX000) led the way with a 0.23% annualized failure rate (AFR) despite it being the oldest model of all the drives listed on the table.
AFR refers to the estimated probability of a hard drive failure during a full year of use. While there are other drives that may show a lower failure rate, such as Toshiba, the number of drives tested was too low or the amount of time they have been active was too short to assume the AFR would be consistent over a larger number of drives. That said, Backblaze has high hopes.
“The new Toshiba 14TB drive (model: MG07ACA14TA) and the new Toshiba 16TB (model: MG08ACA16TEY) were introduced to our data centers in 2020 and they are putting up zeros, as in zero failures,” the company writes. “While each drive model has only been installed for about two months, they are off to a great start.”
Close runners up to Seagate were two HGST 4TB drives (models HMS5C4040ALE640 and HMS5C4040BLE640) with 0.27% AFR, followed by the 8TB drive (model HUH728080ALE600) at 0.29% AFR, and the 12TB drive (model HUH721212ALE600) at 0.31% AFR. An improvement compared to the year prior, the AFR for all of the models included in the 2020 report was 0.93% which was less than half the AFR for 2019 which stood at 1.89%.
So while Seagate led the way, just about everyone saw marked improvements.
Backblaze describes the notable improvement of AFR across the board as “a group effort.” On one hand, older drives as a group — which consists of 4TB, 6TB, 8TB, and 10TB capacity drives — improved in 2020 by going from 1.35% AFR in the year prior to 0.96% AFR. On the other hand, 30,000 larger drives were added to the list — of capacities 14TB, 16TB, and 18TB — and as a group, they too improved to achieve 0.89% AFR. Overall, regardless of the drive capacity or its age, the improvements were visible throughout the entire range of different hard drive models in 2020.
Backblaze set a goal at the start of 2020 to diversify the drive models it offered, which came in useful later on when COVID-19 began affecting the world economy and consequently the supply chain. This particular tactic helped the company to navigate the market needs and limitations during a global pandemic. Although such extreme implications, like those experienced due to the global pandemic, couldn’t have been predicted, Backblaze had already gone through a supply chain disruption in 2011 when severe flooding affected Thailand. Since then, particular attention was paid to improving supply strategies.
If you are interested in deep diving into all of the data collected, you can visit all previous Backblaze reports, ranging from 2013, on their statistics page. While it might not seem like something a non-Backblaze user would be interested in, these failure rate statistics are very useful in determining which drives to invest in for home or office use, especially for photographers who regularly have to expand storage in order to accommodate growing image libraries.
Image credits: Header image by Anete Lusina