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Digital Signage Players - SSD or HDD?

Aug 9, 2008
If you are involved in implementing a digital signage network, you know that the digital signage player is the heart of the system. Before you decide on which digital signage player to use, you need to learn all you can about SSD and HDD.

What are SSD and HDD?

HDD stands for hard disk drive. If you own a computer, and who doesn't these days, you'll likely be familiar with HDDs. They consist of two platters with magnetic surfaces. The platters rotate at very high speeds. Read/write heads in the drive mechanism either read or write data to the disk.

SSD stands for solid state disk (or solid state disk drive). The name comes from a term in the electronics industry that refers to circuitry built entirely of semiconductors. In the context of computer drives, the term SSD refers to the fact that storage is done through semiconductors rather than the magnetic media used on a hard drive. Because they do not rely on spinning platters, SSD drives contain no moving parts.

Storagesearch.com describes SSD as follows: "... the storage medium is not magnetic (like a hard disk) or optical (like a CD) but solid state semiconductor such as battery backed RAM, EPROM or other electrically erasable RAM-like chip."

Now that you understand the differences, you might be wondering what any of this has to do with digital signage players.

Data Storage Methods and Digital Signage Players

The type of memory used in your digital signage player can have a tremendous impact on life span and performance.

Consider the mechanics of a typical HDD and you'll understand why. With all of those moving parts, wear and tear is inevitable. Some experts estimate HDD lifespan to be about 3 years.

On the other hand, SSD drives can last up to ten years, an important consideration when you are investing a significant sum in your digital signage player. Typical SSD Flash chips have around 300,000 write cycles (the number of times data can be copied to them), but some have up to one million write cycles. Most chips also include a "wear-leveling" algorithm that balances the data storage across all of the blocks in the drive.

Response time is another area where HDD and SSD differ. When data is retrieved from a hard disk drive, the motor needs to start so the platters can spin and the heads can read the data. All of those mechanics take time, which makes data retrieval from an HDD much slower than from an SSD. Mark Kyrnin, writing about SSD on about.com, cites a study using laptops that showed a 20% speed increase on SSD versus HDD.

With their many tiny moving parts, hard drives are also very fragile. There is a higher risk of mechanical breakdown in digital signage players using HDD, and a small glitch is all it takes to bring down an entire digital signage network.

Although the technology is superior, users of digital signage players may find the cost of SSD something of an issue. SSD drives are more expensive than HDD, even when you factor in the costs of repairing and replacing hard disk drives. Despite costs, according to Digital Signage Today, most experts still prefer SSD for digital signage players, and they certainly see SSD as the way of the future.

As with all computer technology, new efficiencies are being developed to lower the cost of SSD and make it more affordable for retailers of all sizes. When the economics become more manageable, SSD is expected to dominate the market for digital signage players because of its longer life span and better reliability.
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