What is SSD Hosting? How Do I Choose a Good SSD Host?
What You’ll Learn
Solid state drives (SSDs) are making dramatic inroads into the world of web hosting. In this article, you’ll learn what benefits they provide and how they differ from traditional HDD (hard disk drive) hosting.
Should you choose SSD hosting over HDD hosting? You’ll receive guidance on how to make a good choice for your project or enterprise.
And I’ll share my personal recommendations for SSD hosting, drawn from my experience as a software engineer.
What is a Solid State Drive?
SSD hosting plans run on servers that store your data on solid-state drives (SSDs). SSDs are the latest big advancement in data storage technology, resulting in faster and more reliable hosting for your website than servers with traditional hard-disk drives (HDDs).
SSD stands for solid state drive, which is a data storage device that uses integrated circuit assemblies to store data.
Solid State vs. Traditional Hard Disk Drives
SSDs can replace traditional hard disk drives (HDDs), which store memory using electromechanical magnetic disks with spinning drives and movable read/write heads.
Solid State Drive
Hard Disk Drive
Smaller power draw
Larger power draw
Tends to be more expensive than HDDs
Tends to be less expensive than SSDs
Average Time Until Failure
~2 million hours
~1.5 million hours
Up to 500 MB/sec for consumer-grade devices
Typical range is 50 – 120 MB/s
Unlike HDDs, SSDs don’t have any moving parts and can access their stored data completely electronically instead of electromechanically.
That means they work faster and more efficiently and are less prone to mechanical failure. And because they use the same interface technology as hard disk drives, it’s easy to upgrade from HDD to SSD.
SSDs have a host of benefits over HDDs, mainly due to their superior speed and lack of moving parts.
Compared to HDDs, SSDs:
Are more resistant to physical shock
Run almost completely silently
Don’t get as hot
Have lower access time
Are less prone to mechanical failure
Use less power
Have no need for defragmentation
Improvements in SSDs
People used to think of SSD drives as having limited storage, but in recent years, they’ve actually surpassed hard drives in capacity. The highest-capacity solid-state storage drives can hold five times as much data as the highest-capacity disk drives.
At the same time, they require less electrical power and generate less heat than equivalent disk space. These considerations are especially important in large cloud datacenters, power and cooling costs are a significant part of their operating costs, and cooling requirements limit the density of hard drive storage.
SSDs in Datacenters
A datacenter with higher-capacity, cooler solid-state drives can hold more terabytes in the same amount of real estate with lower maintenance costs.
Higher drive reliability gives web hosts better uptime. Storage drives don’t just stop working; most often, they gradually become unreliable.
Until a flaky drive is identified and taken out of service, it will cause intermittent data errors and crashes. The longer MTBF of SSD storage means fewer problems of this kind.
Do You Need SSD Hosting for Your Website?
Do you want the fastest loading website possible? Tests on web pages hosted on SSD servers typically load 300% faster than those hosted on hard drive servers.
How SSDs are Faster
That’s because whenever an HDD needs to access its stored data, it needs to physically spin around to locate the information it needs to read or modify.
This usually adds just a few milliseconds to its access time, but those milliseconds add up quickly depending on the amount of traffic your website gets, or the data that needs to be accessed.
Why Speed is of the Essence
When your website traffic spikes, that additional loading time gets noticed by your visitors. Most web users expect a page to load in 3 seconds or less, and when it takes longer, they’re quick to hit that “back” button.
Benefits of a Fast E-Commerce Site
The additional speed granted by SSD hosting is especially critical for e-commerce websites, whose bottom lines are hit when they slow down. Even just a 4-second load time results in 25% fewer sales, according to KISSmetrics.
If your website gets a lot of traffic, or you want it to be able to handle big traffic spikes without slowing down, SSD hosting is the way to go.
SSDs with Databases
Dynamic websites driven by databases will also benefit from SSD drives, which are much faster to access all the information they need in your database, shaving critical seconds off your page load time.
How much of a benefit you’ll get depends on whether disk speed or connection speed is the limiting factor.
SSDs with Dynamic Websites
If your site is highly interactive but doesn’t pull a lot of data from the drive, then you’ll be more concerned with processing speed and server bandwidth.
If it has to pull a large amount of information from a database to build a page, the speed of solid-state storage will be a major help.
CMSs like WordPress and Drupal tend to make heavy use of their databases, so an SSD can speed them up significantly.
When are SSDs Essential?
In short, SSD hosting is almost essential for sites that:
Get a lot of traffic
Are dynamic in nature
Rely heavily on database returns
Serve up large files (such as those for podcasts or videos)
SSD Downside: Cost
The only downside to SSD hosting can be the price. Though the price of SSDs has gone down in the past few years, they’re still about seven times more expensive per gigabyte of storage than HDDs, and that’s typically reflected in SSD hosting plan pricing.
So if you’re on a tight budget and your site speed isn’t critical to your success, or if you place a higher priority on storage space than speed, you may want to stick with HDD hosting.
Hybrid Drives: A Budget-Friendly Alternative
Another option for those on a budget who still want the advantages of SSD hosting are plans that use hybrid drives, also called solid state hybrid drives (SSHD).
SSHDs combine features of SSDs and HDDs in one drive, so you get the large storage space of HDD, and some of the improved performance of SSD in the form of an SSD cache for frequently accessed data.
How SSDs will affect web development
Servers with SSD and clients on mobile devices are shifting the balance of resources on the web. Solid-state storage gives the servers a big speed boost, but they’re often communicating with devices that have slow processors and data rates. This will affect the future of web development.
SSDs Aren’t Cure-Alls
SSD speed shouldn’t be a license to deliver bloated pages with lots of big image files. They still have to travel at internet speeds to the device. That means a cell or WiFi connection more often than a broadband one. Restraint is still necessary.
The real win in SSD web hosting will come from server-side performance. Database access is much faster, and web applications load more quickly. A website with SSD storage, especially if it’s on a dedicated server, will be able to process huge amounts of data with impressive speed.
Reading vs. Writing Data
SSDs are better at reading than writing, both in speed and in the wear the operation puts on the drive. Application developers will learn new techniques to take the best advantage of SSD performance.
The competition to develop faster, denser, and more durable solid-state technologies is fierce. Chip designs with esoteric names like NAND and Intel’s new 3D Xpoint deliver a performance which approaches main computer memory while breaking records for storage density. The potential for further advances in the next few years seems almost unlimited.
Are HDDs Obsolete?
Will the SSD make the hard drive obsolete? Probably not for quite a while. Hard drives are better for archival purposes since an SSD left on the shelf for years will experience gradual data decay.
But once solid-state storage achieves price parity, perhaps by 2025, spinning disk drives will become a niche product like vinyl records.
Choosing an SSD Host
Many hosts provide SSD hosting for their VPS and dedicated hosting plans. If you have the budget and want the fastest, best-performing hosting you can get, look for a VPS or dedicated SSD hosting plan.
Factors Influencing SSD Performance
The storage system is only one factor in a getting high performance and speed from SSD web hosting. Some companies make out-of-context boasts about the speed improvement from SSD storage, but even under the best of circumstances, a 20x boost in data access won’t give you a 20x boost in throughput.
Processing Power for SSD Hosting
Fast drives demand lots of processing power to make full use of them. A top-quality SSD web host should have the latest and fastest processors as well as the latest drives.
It should allocate a generous amount of main memory to each account.
If you go with a shared host, you want one that doesn’t load too many customers on one server.
SSD Drive Quality
The quality of the drives is important. SSDs have a finite life, because every time a data location is written, it accumulates a little bit of electrical charge. A web host’s drives get heavy use, and a consumer-quality drive that’s fine for your laptop won’t stand up under it.
The best drives can be written over many times, and they use complex logic to minimize the amount of writing and evenly distribute the use of storage cells. They’ll last for years, surpassing the typical life of a hard drive.
In practice, more SSD drives fail because of circuitry issues or firmware bugs than wear. A good SSD host won’t skimp on drive quality.
Datacenter Location and CDNs
Proximity to your site’s audience is important. If you’ve got a localized audience, web hosts with a datacenter within a thousand miles or so are best. If it’s widespread, you should look for a cloud hosting service with a CDN so that no one is too far from an edge server.
Also take general factors, such as support, security, and uptime into account. Pick a hosting plan with all the resources you need. Speed is important, but so is keeping your site up and working properly. The quality of the host company and its suitability for your needs come ahead of any other considerations.
Price Trends and SSDs
SSD prices had an upward blip in 2017, but the overall price trend is downward. International Data Corporation, a well-regarded market intelligence company, predicts that by 2021 the price premium for SSD over disk drives will be only a factor of 2.2.
Lower power, cooling, and real estate costs will further close the gap. As costs fall, more and more datacenters will adopt SSD in the coming years. Don’t feel you have to jump immediately if you can’t find the right host.
If you’re on a tight budget, another option is SSD shared hosting. Be sure to research the hosting company before you purchase a shared SSD hosting plan. If the host oversells shared hosting, or you get a neighbor on your server that hogs all the resources, you won’t see any of the benefits of SSD hosting.
Our Top 3 SSD Hosting Choices
When looking for SSD hosting, check out of top three options:
A2 Hosting gives its customers SSD speed, guaranteed 99.9% uptime, and 24-hour support. If you want the fastest speed possible, you can go with their Turbo Servers. These combine SSD storage with proprietary web server software, a limited number of users per machine, and several software optimizations.
You’ll have to stick with the standard servers if you want Python or Ruby, though. A2 guarantees 99.9% uptime, with credit to your account if it falls short.
GreenGeeks offers an extra measure of reliability by using solid-state drives in RAID-10 arrays for VPS and shared hosting.
Its main focus is shared hosting, with datacenters in the USA, Canada, and the Netherlands. The VPS option is available only in its United States datacenter. Either way, the Cloudflare CDN is available as an option.
At InMotion Hosting, the focus is on business hosting, but the entry-level plan is affordable. New customers get free advertising credits as part of their package, and all hosting plans include unlimited storage space and bandwidth. The shared business hosting plans and VPS hosting use solid-state storage.
Customers can choose between datacenters on the east and west coasts, but there aren’t any outside the US. Support is solid and available 24 hours a day, and 99.9% uptime is guaranteed for shared hosting.
Pros of SSDs
Higher read and write speed
Lower power and cooling cost
Greater reliability, since there are no moving parts
Cons of SSDs
SSD Frequently Asked Questions
What is an SSD?
SSD stands for Solid-State Drive. It is system that stores data on programmable memory that is read from and written to electronically. Because there are no moving parts as in a hard disk drive (HDD), SSDs are very fast.
Why do people prefer SSDs for web servers?
SSDs are great for hosting a website because, generally speaking, they are more efficient than their alternatives disk storage options. By more efficient, we mean they don’t get as hot, have lower access times, and use less power.
If those reasons aren’t good enough, they are also more resistant to physical shock, less prone to mechanical failure, and have no need for defragmentation.
And while it won’t have any impact on you, they run almost completely silent — which should make the men and women in the datacenter performing your managed services happier!
Are there any reasons not to use an SSD?
Cost. SSDs cost roughly five times more per gigabyte than hard disk drives (HDDs). While you may not see that cost directly, it will be reflected in higher hosting costs. If you are looking for hosting on a budget, disk storage with SSD may not be the best hosting solution for you.
How do SSDs compare to HDDs as data storage?
SSDs are roughly 2-4 times faster than HDDs in terms of reading and writing. They are also faster at simply opening files.
In addition, SSDs are more reliable. They last longer than HDDs. Finally, they produce less noise and vibration, although these are not issues that will directly influence web hosting customers.
What are the alternatives to SSDs?
The main alternative is the hard disk drive. HDDs are the traditional form of data storage, and they are cheaper, but slower.
Do I need to be concerned about installing an SSD on my server?
No. SSDs will be pre-installed by most of the hosting providers that offer hosting. SSDs are more and more common, even on shared hosting plans. So your main concern will be whether you want to pay slightly more to have it.
Can I use the SSD on a shared hosting plan?
Yes. There are many hosting providers who offer shared plans with SSD storage. There are also providers who only provide SSD storage.
Do I have to know how to program to use an SSD?
No. Unless you are developing a very specialized application at a very low level, a solid state drive will be just like any other storage device.
What is a SSHD?
SSHD stands for Solid-State Hybrid Drive, generally known simply as a hybrid drive. They combine an SSD and an HDD. Basically, the SSD acts as the cache for the HDD. They work very well, being much faster than HDDs but not all that much more expensive. However, they are not widely available in web hosting plans.
About Gary McGath
Gary McGath spent years as a software developer before turning to writing. In addition to writing many articles on technology, he's the author of two crowdfunded e-books. His tech passions include data security and digital preservation.