The Benefits of Solid State Technology in Mobile Computing

Rugged mobile computers can be customized to meet a users exact workflow, including options for solid state drive storage.

A solid state drive differs from a conventional hard drive in that it has no moving parts whatsoever. The fact that everything is done electronically means that data access is significantly faster than with a standard mechanical hard drive. Rugged mobile computers can be customized to meet a users exact workflow, including options for solid state drive storage.

The easiest way to visualize a solid state drive is as a big thumb-stick drive with much more storage space, though these drives do not use the same storage technology that the thumb drives do. Solid state drives are more durable and able to handle having data repeatedly written to them all thanks to a unique system of cells that data is continually rotated between. Exactly why they are commonly found in rugged tablets and laptop computers. Only in the last few years or so have these wholly electronic drives become able to hold enough data and to be produced inexpensively enough to compete with a mechanical hard drive. A solid state hard drive is actually like a number of smaller flash drives chained together to operate as a cohesive whole and provide a much more significant amount of data storage that is comparable to what mechanical drives can offer.

Extremely Fast Speed

As touched on at the outset, speed is the major advantage of the solid state drive. While the mechanical platters that have to spin up and be read by an arm on modern hard drives are very fast in current computers, they can still never hope to compete with a system that is made of nothing but electronics. You’ll notice that operating systems open up almost instantly from a cold boot on a solid state drive, usually taking no more than five seconds or so. Compare that to the full minute or so it can take for a mechanical hard drive to not only get the operating system up and running, but to get completely up to full speed for running more memory-intensive applications.

Ultra-light And Portable

Solid state drives were actually first conceived specifically for the ultra-light portable netbook computer market in the mid-2000’s. Naturally, the lack of mechanical parts and the larger protective housing that the standard hard drive has both reduces weight and allows the systems they are in to have a slimmer profile. Mechanical hard drives have a hard limit of space reduction to about two inches or so; beyond that it’s not feasible to include enough memory to keep up with other offerings on the market. SSDs are already smaller than this at a much higher capacity, and since they are entirely based on microchips the sky is the limit for reducing them in size even more in the future.

Data Reliability And Durability

A classic problem with mechanical hard drives is fragmentation. Since data is constantly being physically written to them, new data can end up in scattered “fragments” around large chunks of old data, reducing performance as the drive has to work harder to read all of it. SSDs don’t face this limitation; the data is entirely virtual and stored on chips, so writing and deleting data will not cause any performance reduction over time (and you’ll never need to let the computer idle for an hour running a “defrag” program again either).

Data loss is more of a mixed bag, but SSDs still have an advantage here provided you are performing regular backups. Early testing seems to indicate that SSDs have a higher rate of data loss than mechanical hard drives, due to individual chips going bad and creating “bad blocks” of memory. The upside is the chance of catastrophic failure (the entire drive dying) is greatly reduced. So, you have a little more chance of losing random individual pockets of data with an SSD, but less of a chance of the entire system going down.

Finally, the area most germane to rugged computers — durability. Since they don’t have any mechanical parts, SSDs are inherently less prone to damage from drops. This is particularly true of drops while the computer is in use, as the read/write heads on conventional hard drives are are especially vulnerable while they are in motion.

All-in-all, SSDs simply make more sense for a ruggedized computer in most circumstances. The only issue with them is a higher cost per amount of storage space than a mechanical hard drive, but this cost imbalance will likely improve over time along with technology. If you have any questions about solid state drives and how to configure your rugged tablet or laptop to your exact requirements, contact us.

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