SSD’s: What They Mean for Web Hosts & Customers Alike

Jeremy Zabel | Sunday 11 May 2014 | Editorials

The SSD, or solid-state drive, is a newer type of hardware technology that is popping up everywhere. With performance claims of being over ten times faster than the traditional spinning disk, the SSD has caused a significant disruption in the industry. The SSD has become a buzz-word. In this post, we’re going to examine the SSD beyond the hype — is it worth the additional cost?

Performance Bottlenecks in the CPU: Shared Hosting

On a typical shared hosting environment, the bottleneck source is the CPU. Of all the parts of a server, the CPU is the most sought-after. It, however, is also a source of bottlenecks. A clever system administrator may imagine that a faster drive may in fact be a nice way to remedy this issue.

The problem with this is that the bottleneck lies in the CPU, not the read/write speeds of the server. Although upgrading the storage device is nice, it would not create the marked performance enhancements that would be noticeable with an SSD.

On the other hand, if a CPU is not having issues keeping up but there are I/O wait times, an SSD would indeed be a great solution to this issue. Faster read and write speeds will be able to remove the wait time. If the server is severely overloaded, though, a powerful CPU combined with SSD’s won’t make a difference.

Read/Write Speeds Are Everything: VPS Nodes

VPS nodes suffer from different issues than shared hosting servers. Of course, this makes sense because the architecture for VPS nodes is different. VPS are full Linux servers running in separate containers, and they usually host websites that are too big or have outgrown shared hosting.

This means that system resources like CPU and disk read/write all come at a premium. But, VPS customers pay for a VPS, so they get additional resources and share the CPU among less people than in shared hosting. The most typical VPS performance issues are disk related.

In a VPS hosting environment, an SSD-cached (hybrid between SSD + spinning disk) solution is always advisable, at the least. This is possible on a software level through drivers like Flashcache. An SSD-cached VPS will provide much better performance, but for high-end clients seeking pure performance, only a pure SSD VPS will be able to accommodate the necessary disk speeds.

The Price Factor

SSD’s are significantly more expensive than traditional spinning drives. As time progresses, SSD’s have been able to come down in price, and at this point they are beginning to become standard in dedicated servers. Even with their higher price, the best thing that one can do to ensure that he or she is using his resources carefully is to confirm that the performance bottlenecks are indeed occurring at the disk drive.

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