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Whether you are configuring laptops, desktops, or servers, there are few components that are more important than the storage device (typically called a hard drive). Getting a good quality hard drive will not only help to ensure your data is protected but is also going to have a dramatic impact on how fast the system is able to perform certain key tasks.

This is why almost all IT professionals recommend getting solid-state drives (SSDs) for storage in almost all situations. Compared to a spinning disk drive, also called a hard disk drive (HDD), the SSDs are amazingly fast. Just upgrading from a HDD to a SSD can reduce the amount of time it takes to boot up a computer from well over a minute to just seconds.

Once you have decided that you definitely want to go with the solid-state drive for your systems, you will need to decide exactly which ones are right for your situation. While there are many great brands that make SSDs, the thing you really need to ask yourself first is whether you want to go with enterprise SSDs or consumer SSDs. Understanding the difference between these two options will help you to determine which is right for your business.

Enterprise vs Consumer

Intalling an enterprise SSD
These are the voyages of the USSD Enterprise

When it comes to computer components or entire systems, it is not at all uncommon to see the terms enterprise and consumer used to describe them (see: Enterprise vs Desktop Hard Drives as an example). While there is no industry standard on exactly what that means, the consumer grade products are generally designed for use in personal computers in people’s homes.

Enterprise products, on the other hand, are generally intended for use in business environments. This is because the enterprise systems are more robust and last longer, which also means they are more expensive.

Of course, there are many times when people will choose enterprise grade solid-state drives for their home computers, and many businesses that go with consumer grade drives for business. As with all purchases, it will come down to deciding when and where to allocate the available budget in order to get the desired results.

M.2 and NVMe drives are becoming more popular—and cheaper—all the time, and as of this writing they’re on the verge of becoming the standard recommendation for new PC builds. Unlike standard HDDs and SSDs, M.2 drives aren’t connected to a motherboard via a cable; they’re instead plugged directly into the motherboard using a dedicated M.2 connector slot and connect over a faster PCIe interface. Like standard SATA III drives, M.2 and NVMe SSDs are available in consumer and enterprise models.

Browse through our extensive selection of SSDs

Price Comparison

For most people and companies, the price difference between enterprise SSD and consumer SSD is going to be a huge factor. The specific price tag associated with each category is going to vary greatly based on a number of factors including the size of the drive, the brand name, what warranty is included, and much more.

If you look at two drives with similar specs from the same brand, however, you will find that enterprise grade drives can be hundreds of dollars more than consumer options. This can often add up to a price that is several times greater, so you really want to think through your decision. Especially if you are looking to make purchases for a large number of systems for your company.

You can save even more money buying Refurbished SSDs

Enterprise vs Consumer Speed

Intel Optane Enterprise SSD
High-Optane performance

Compared to spinning disk hard drives, all solid-state drives are going to be extremely fast, there will be quite a difference between enterprise and consumer grade speeds as well. There are several factors that go into the speed of an SSD, but the most important one is the input/output operations per second, or IOPS, of the drive.

Simply put, this is how many times the drive can send and receive data per second. The higher the number, the faster the drive. The IOPS of SSDs is constantly changing and improving as the technology continues to evolve, but you will typically see them in the following ranges:

  • Consumer Grade SSDs – Consumer SSDs are usually going to have an IOPS between 10,000 and 100,000, which is quite impressive.

  • Enterprise Grade SSDs – Most enterprise SSDs will have an IOPS rating of above 250,000 and modern drives can reach over 1 million IOPS.

As you can see, there is some gap between the ranges. This is because some brands have a category between consumer and enterprise (typically called ‘workstation grade’ SSDs). In addition, these are not industry standards so different brands can label their drives as consumer even if it is over 100,000 or enterprise when it is under 250,000.

Seagate Firecuda SSD
You’re gonna burn to the wick, Firecuda

For situations where you need the fastest drives possible, most people are turning to the M2 NVMe specifications. These are solid state drives that are plugged directly into the motherboard of a computer (or more commonly, server), which helps to maximize performance. These modern drives can reach IOPS ratings as high as 10 Million for the top-of-the-line options, with even mid-tier models getting over 500,000 IOPs.

Just to give you an idea of how fast even the consumer grade SSDs are, a high-end HDD is going to have an IOPS rating of only about 200. A normal HDD found in a personal computer will often be under 100 IOPS. For example, a good SATA III disk drive at 7200 RPMs will generally have an IOPS rating between 69 and 79.

Of course we also offer HDDs

Lifespan of the Drives

Corsair MP400
A breath of fresh Corsair

Another key difference between consumer and enterprise grade SSDs is how long they are able to last. The data storage technology for solid-state drives uses a massive number of memory cells to keep the data. The more of these cells, and the greater their capacity, the more data can be stored on the drive. There are limits, however, to how many times the data on each cell can be changed before it eventually goes bad.

Modern SSDs (both consumer and enterprise) actively monitor the ‘health’ of the cells, and will stop using them once they can no longer safely store data. In order to prevent these types of drives from slowly having less and less storage capacity, manufacturers actually include additional cells beyond the advertised capacity.

For example, a solid-state drive that is sold as 500GB might actually have 600GB of space, with the extra 100GB being set aside as spares. Some key differences in how consumer and enterprise drives handle this include the following:

  • Number of Spare Cells – The biggest difference is going to be how many spare cells are built into the drive. Enterprise drives often have dramatically more spare cells than consumer, which allows them to last much longer without experiencing any degraded capacity.

  • Data in Each Cell – Normally each cell holds one bit of data. There are technologies that let each cell hold multiple bits of data, but that reduces the lifespan of the cell since they need to be accessed more often. Consumer drives often have multiple bits per cell, which helps to keep costs down but can also reduce the lifespan of the drive.

  • Cleanup Process – When you delete or overwrite data on a drive SSDs don’t actually overwrite the cell with new data. Instead, they write the new data onto an open cell and then flag the old cell for later deletion. This deletion takes place during a cleanup process, which helps to improve the efficiency of the drive. With more spare cells, enterprise drives can perform the cleanup process less often, which can help to extend the lifespan of the drive.
Go for the Gold

Whether you choose consumer or enterprise drives, the lifespan is going to be determined more by how many reads and writes the drive has to perform rather than actual time. A drive that rarely has to change data, for example, can last for decades in many cases. Drives that experience constant changes to lots of data, on the other hand, will have shorter lifespans (though typically still many years). 

We also offer External SSD options

Size of the Drive

Most people would expect that the total amount of storage that an SSD can hold would be a big factor when comparing enterprise and consumer models. This, however, is not actually the case. You can find both consumer and enterprise grade drives with just about any capacity that you happen to need. While the capacity definitely does impact the price, it does not determine what grade the drive will be.

Seagate Nytro Enterprise SSD
The Nytro is too fast, but just the right amount of furious

You can find, for example, enterprise grade SSDs with 500GB of capacity that cost far more than a consumer drive with 2TB of space. Determining how much storage capacity you need should be thought of as an entirely separate decision from whether you want to go with an enterprise or a consumer grade solid-state drive.

Which is Right for You?

Both enterprise and consumer grade drives offer extremely fast and reliable data storage and delivery. In the end, you need to evaluate whether the boosted performance and added lifespan of an enterprise SSD is going to be worth the added costs that it will come with. For many businesses that rely heavily on their data and want to make sure they experience as few issues as possible, the enterprise SSDs are worth every penny.

For the average user, or for situations where having an occasional (though still quite rare) drive failure is more of an inconvenience than a disaster, it generally makes sense to go with a consumer grade drive. In the end, both are great options that you will undoubtedly be very happy with.

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Michael Levanduski

Author Michael Levanduski

Michael Levanduski is a writer with over 20 years of experience working in the IT industry. He regularly writes for a variety of different publications, providing content on a wide range of different topics, including multiple different niches within the tech field. He lives in West Michigan with his family where he enjoys camping, hiking, and of course, writing.

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • Brian Clark says:

    Actually, it seems like the more expensive SSDs don’t offer much benefit. I would rather go with the consumer-grade one, and if you manage to wear it out, it will cost far less to replace it with a new one, so it makes sense to go with it.

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