The SSD experiment
by, 22nd September 2010 at 11:07 AM (9503 Views)
So recently our main ICT suite came up for its 4 year renewal. We use ACER 6410 laptops in there and they have done a good job over the years. Now I like these laptops a lot but they are showing signs of age with 512mb or Ram and slow 5200rpm hard disks. I didn't really want to scrap them as the laptops are working well, they just needed a significant speed boost. The first thing I did was to obviously upgrade the ram. I went with a 4gb upgrade which cost around £75 per machine. A nice speed boost but things were still a little slow. I have used SSD drives in servers and my home HTPC computer for a long time and they work very well . I've never had a failure and the speed boost is incredible so its about time to look at rolling them out properly around the school.
I use the Intel X25-M 160gb drives in a couple of servers and they are blazingly fast so Intel are the obvious choice for laptops being the market leader. Intel only do one value drive, the Intel X25-V 40gb which seemed to fit the bill nicely. The capacity may seem a little small but looking at our client machines the hard disk is just over 11gb full and that's for the entire suite of software that we use as well. We use mandatory profiles and don't store the internet cache so there is very little need for additional storage.
I went ahead and bought 30 of these drives as an experiment. They cost £73 each I think the total cost was around £2200 so not too difficult to justify. If you add the Ram and SSD upgrades together its just shy of £150 per machine which seems a reasonable cost to me for what basically amounts to a brand new ICT suite.
The 2.5" drives slotted into the laptops no problems at all and it was a simple procedure to image the old drive with Acronis and transfer to the SSD. The process took less than 20mins for each drive. I have a new USB 3.0 hard disk dock that I copied the images with so it took less than a day to upgrade all the computers. The retail packs of the Intel SSD drives come with a 3.5" plate and since they are SATA they will work in laptops or workstations just fine. I even did a few new images on these and its amazing how much time you save simply installing windows or doing automatic updates.
I'm not sure I need to explain this side of things as the increases in speed from SSD drives are well documented. I'll simply write down a few benchmarks to show you. The speed was stunning.
Original Hitatchi 5400rpm - 80.82 seconds
Intel X25-V SSD - 39.19 seconds
Original Hitatchi 5400rpm - 25.20 seconds
Intel X25-V SSD - 5.68 seconds
Photoshop elements load
Original Hitatchi 5400rpm - 24.67 seconds
Intel X25-V SSD - 7.52 seconds
Simply put, SSD drives are the single best upgrade you can give a computer. I've used them reliably in servers, home computers and now and entire software suite at work. The costs are finally coming down to a level that makes them realistic in a school environment. I would personally wait for the new generation of Intel devices to come out in Q4 this year as they may bring some cost benefits but its nearly time to go all in on this technology in my opinion. The benefits are just too large to ignore.
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