Cloud backup outfit Backblaze runs its business by buying large quantities of mostly consumer-grade hard drives, running them in close quarters, and planning around the failure of those spinners when they do croak. Along the way, the company releases quarterly reports about the failure rate for the tens of thousands of drives it uses. The company released its latest report just yesterday, and as always, the results are worth a read.
Overall, the company says hard drive failures were down to 1.95% in 2016, compared to 2.47% in 2015 and 6.39% in 2014. HGST drives once again took home the reliability crown with a failure rate of 0.60%. Toshiba drives came in second with a 1.27% failure rate, but the company's 237 deployed drives were a drop in the bucket compared to the total drive pool of over 72,000.
Seagate drives achieved a massive reliability improvement in 2015, with failure rates dropping from 10.68% to 3.48%. That trend continued in 2016, as 2.65% of Backblaze's Seagates checked out. WD's failure rate also fell, from 6.55% to 3.88%, but that was not enough to keep the company from being at the back of the reliability pack again. We must note that WD drives represent only 2.25% of Backblaze's drive pool, though. The least reliable single model in the company's stable was a Seagate 4TB unit, with a failure rate of 13.57%.
The company includes a special section devoted to 8TB drives, which have so far shown themselves to be fairly reliable in Backblaze service. A particular Seagate 8TB drive accounts for 22% of the company's total drive pool capacity, and shows a lower-than-average failure rate of 1.65%. The company has a few other enterprise 8TB drives from Seagate in its inventory, and future comparisons of enterprise and consumer-targeted disks of the same capacity could be interesting.
While Backblaze does use a lot of the sort of drives an enthusiast might use to hold the Steam library in a desktop PC, the operating conditions are quite a bit different. Backblaze packs as many as 60 drives into a 4U server chassis. A desktop PC probably endures more power cycles than a Backblaze server, and the company operates its drives in a narrower temperature window than a computer in a home or office. With all that said, the company's reports are one of the best available resources for comparing hard drive reliability.
The company's report contains detailed information about how the company accounts for its constantly-changing pool of drives and how it calculates failure rates. If reading the report is not enough, the company provides the raw data behind the report on its Hard Drive Test Data page.