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The Week In Storage: Please Delete Your Data Properly; Storage Game Of Thrones Unfolds

We'll start on a few good notes, and end on some bad ones.

The week in storage began with news that SanDisk is challenging Samsung for the density crown with its new MicroSDXC Extreme and Ultra cards; just don't expect any details on how it is accomplishing it, because it is not revealing the type of NAND used in its diminutive 256 GB SDXC cards. The SanDisk cards most assuredly do not employ 3D NAND (or it would brag), but MicroSDXC supports up to 2 TB of storage, so we can expect capacities to continue to skyrocket.

Unfortunately, many of today's phones still ship with an insulting amount of storage (e.g., 16 GB). There are 256 GB phones in the pipeline, but it is still good to have the option to slip in 256 GB of storage goodness. It is disappointing that there are no mainstream UHS-II cards at hefty capacity points, but this is due to the extra row of connectors required for the ultra-fast 312 MB/s connection. OEMs are slow to adopt anything that increases the cost of a device, so we shouldn't expect to see widespread support anytime soon, which constrains us to the UHS-I imposed speed limit of 104 MB/s.

Seagate updated its Backup Plus Desktop products to include a USB 3.0 Backup Plus Hub model, which ships with capacities up to 8 TB and adds in two USB 3.0 ports on the front of the unit. USB-starved MacBook and notebook users will find the ports a welcome addition. The hub has an MSRP of $250 for the 8 TB model.

Chris shattered the glass ceiling of reasonable storage performance with 340,000 IOPS and 3 GB/s of throughput from a gumstick 1 TB Samsung SM961 SSD (what wonderful times we live in). Chris gave the speedy SSD the Tom's stamp of approval; head over to the full review for the breakdown.

In the meantime, join me as we take a closer look at a few other, less pleasant topics.

Dispose Of Your Data Correctly - Deleting And Quick Format Do NOT Count

Several years ago I purchased a WD Raptor HDD (how's that for a necro link?) from a forum, and it was shipped to me in a plain box with absolutely no insulating packaging material. In fact, the box was exactly the size of the drive, so a few millimeters of cardboard were the only thing between the HDD and the USPS. Remarkably, the drive worked great.

Even more remarkably, so did all of the personal data that was still on the drive.

I learned that the previous Raptor owner had used it as a boot drive simply because my computer attempted to boot to it when I installed the drive. The drive was from a nice young man who lived in an idyllic Midwest town, as evidenced by the numerous family pictures on the drive; there were even a few mildly risqué shots of his wife (at least by Midwest standards, which means she was fully clothed but had bared ankles). I could have learned much more about the man, as his tax returns, resume and many other documents were also still on the drive.

I fired off a private message to him outlining the perils of his blasé approach to data security, and also informed him that I sold his data to the highest bidder had done him the service of permanently destroying his data. I even decided to forgo a speech on the merits of correct HDD packaging in the hopes that he would take the data protection issue more seriously.

Is there a reason for my storage musings? Yes, for once, there is. Blancco Technology Group (a data erasure company) conducted a rather informal data recovery study. The study provides us with valuable data about data security, and it also feeds my obvious confirmation bias.

The company randomly purchased 200 used HDDs and SSDs (93/8 percent mix, due to rounding) from eBay and Craigslist. The company employed its forensic data recovery specialists to extract information from the resold drives, and was able to recover residual data from 78 percent of the drives. 67 percent of the data contained personally identifiable information (67 percent photos, 21 percent financial data, 23 percent social security numbers, and 10 percent resumes), and 11 percent of the drives contained corporate data.

It is important to note that the company specializes in data erasure and recovery, so some of the techniques it employs to recover data will not be available to the general population.

36 percent of the data was improperly deleted by moving it to the recycle bin (we should empty the recycle bin after doing this), which is easy for even a layman to recover using simple downloadable tools.

All drive format operations are not created equal, and 40 percent of users deleted data with the quick format command, which simply creates a new file table and does not actually delete the files on the drive. Again, downloadable tools allow even those with very little knowledge to easily recover the data. Users erased only 25 percent of drives with the safest measures, such as full format, secure erase or encryption techniques.

Data destruction companies degauss and physically crush storage devices before discarding them, but there are a few bulletproof techniques we can use to assure the data is unrecoverable before we either sell or discard our computing devices. The best method is to conduct a full format of the drive, and then actually overwrite the data.

There are several free utilities available with these features, such as CCleaner, which overwrites the entire volume. It even offers options for multiple iterations of the overwrite process. A single pass is fine for most devices, although two might be advisable for SSDs due to hidden overprovisioning areas. There is also the option for 35 overwrite passes, which should assuage the tinfoil hat-wearing crowd.

Data proliferates everywhere in today's digital world, and these same concepts for data erasure apply to other seemingly innocuous devices, such as thumb drives, tablets, phones and SD cards. Destroy your personal data before disposing of devices or you may find yourself the latest victim of identity theft or blackmail or worse.

Storage Game Of Thrones - Yes, Everyone Dies

Micron, Seagate and Intel began (or continued) their firing sprees as yet another spasm of layoffs embraced the industry in a manner reminiscent of the latest Game Of Thrones episode.

SSDs are the hottest segment in storage, but Micron announced yesterday that it is the latest company to spin the layoff wheel. Micron, already in the midst of a restructuring, suffered a net loss of $97 million in Q3. Micron experienced a 20 percent decline in bits sold into consumer SSDs, and the enterprise SSD side of the company also declined by 10 percent.

Micron will send an undisclosed number of employees off to the guillotine, but it expects $300 million in savings from the head-rolling exercise, which indicates the layoffs will be substantial. Micron indicated that its new 3D NAND products would revamp its sales in the future. The company has 3D NAND-powered MX300 SSDs shipping, but its latest enterprise SSDs are of the planar variety, so this may foreshadow a 3D enterprise product announcement.

Seagate encountered severe turbulence earlier this year and is still struggling to pull out of the desktop PC market nosedive. The company issued an SEC filing yesterday that revealed it has committed to a restructuring plan, appropriately named "The Plan," which includes reducing headcount by 1,600 workers (or three percent of its global workforce) by the end of September, thus saving $100 million. Seagate is slowly climbing its way back from its white-knuckle descent earlier this year, and jettisoning some human cargo should help accelerate the recovery. The company plans to share more information on The Plan as it develops.

The doctor ordered Intel to take several rounds of layoff medicine to recover from declining sales, and it already swallowed the first two doses. The third round of medicine is underway with Intel confirming that it is restructuring its sales and marketing units, which followed the previous cuts to the mobile device and business product lines. There is not a clear indication if there will be any further rounds before Intel reaches its goal of 12,000 layoffs (out of 107,000 employees).

Storage is such a promising industry, and if one were to read the continuous onslaught of information claiming that we are running out of enough storage capacity to store the world's data, you'd believe that the industry is awash in cash. Reality is a bit different from perception, however; companies still have to manage their multi-billion dollar empires effectively.


MORE: Best SSDs


MORE: Best Enterprise SSDs

Paul Alcorn is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. 

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  • jimmysmitty
    Dispose Of Your Data Correctly - Deleting And Quick Format Do NOT Count

    I like to do what is called a Guttman which is 33 passes of writing 0s to the entire drive. Takes forever but you can't find anything after that.

    It is better than even government standard, which is 7 passes.
    Reply
  • Haravikk
    I like to do what is called a Guttman which is 33 passes of writing 0s to the entire drive. Takes forever but you can't find anything after that.
    This seems wasteful; encryption is the best technique IMO, as it's something that's worth doing anyway, and all you have to do is destroy the password-protected key (if it's even on the same device, if you use Bitlocker it may not be). Of course you could use your 33 pass erase on the key if you like, and it'll be significantly faster than for the full drive.

    Once the key is gone the data may as well be unrecoverable. If you require more protection than that then the next step is destroying the drive really, which will likewise be much faster.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    .
    Reply
  • wussupi83
    Wow Tom's, Seagate sales are down and you avoid every possible way of saying it had anything to do with the fact that their drives were failing at rates much higher than their competitors in Backblazes environment. The fact that you avoided this MAJOR detail and the fact that just days after that Backblaze data was released you ran a huge article praising Seagate up and down after a visit to their factory is pretty good evidence, in my worthless opinion, that there was some advertising dollars thrown your way to sweep it under the rug (not to mention the background of your site right now is advertising a Seagate drive). I suppose you're just a business at the end of the day and one can't take it too personal but seriously, when it gets in the way of journalistic integrity it's hard to look the other way.
    Reply
  • PaulAlcorn
    18213675 said:
    Wow Tom's, Seagate sales are down and you avoid every possible way of saying it had anything to do with the fact that their drives were failing at rates much higher than their competitors in Backblazes environment. The fact that you avoided this MAJOR detail and the fact that just days after that Backblaze data was released you ran a huge article praising Seagate up and down after a visit to their factory is pretty good evidence, in my worthless opinion, that there was some advertising dollars thrown your way to sweep it under the rug (not to mention the background of your site right now is advertising a Seagate drive). I suppose you're just a business at the end of the day and one can't take it too personal but seriously, when it gets in the way of journalistic integrity it's hard to look the other way.


    If we were beholden to Seagate we would not be mentioning the fact that Seagate is having severe issues, a fact that I have covered in many dedicated stand-alone articles as the news progressed. You will not find articles from a reputable source that draw a direct line between Seagate's current situation and the Backblaze tests, as the real reason is the declining PC market, as we cite in every piece (and as many other sites report).

    I have criticized the Backblaze findings at another site that I worked for, long long before I ever came to Tom's. If you wish to find said articles, a simple Google will suffice. I am not influenced in any way, shape, or form by advertising dollars. The site where I published the previous article exposing the incorrect Backblaze test methodology has never received any advertising money from Seagate, to this day (to my knowledge).

    Tom's Hardware has never attempted to shape/alter my coverage, and frankly, I do not appreciate the suggestion that it has.

    I cannot speak to the article about the factory visit, but if it is the one I am thinking of, that was published years after the initial Backblaze "reports", which began several years ago.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    18215384 said:
    18213675 said:
    Wow Tom's, Seagate sales are down and you avoid every possible way of saying it had anything to do with the fact that their drives were failing at rates much higher than their competitors in Backblazes environment. The fact that you avoided this MAJOR detail and the fact that just days after that Backblaze data was released you ran a huge article praising Seagate up and down after a visit to their factory is pretty good evidence, in my worthless opinion, that there was some advertising dollars thrown your way to sweep it under the rug (not to mention the background of your site right now is advertising a Seagate drive). I suppose you're just a business at the end of the day and one can't take it too personal but seriously, when it gets in the way of journalistic integrity it's hard to look the other way.


    If we were beholden to Seagate we would not be mentioning the fact that Seagate is having severe issues, a fact that I have covered in many dedicated stand-alone articles as the news progressed. You will not find articles from a reputable source that draw a direct line between Seagate's current situation and the Backblaze tests, as the real reason is the declining PC market, as we cite in every piece (and as many other sites report).

    I have criticized the Backblaze findings at another site that I worked for, long long before I ever came to Tom's. If you wish to find said articles, a simple Google will suffice. I am not influenced in any way, shape, or form by advertising dollars. The site where I published the previous article exposing the incorrect Backblaze test methodology has never received any advertising money from Seagate, to this day (to my knowledge).

    Tom's Hardware has never attempted to shape/alter my coverage, and frankly, I do not appreciate the suggestion that it has.

    I cannot speak to the article about the factory visit, but if it is the one I am thinking of, that was published years after the initial Backblaze "reports", which began several years ago.

    100% this. The Backblaze data is useless since there are so many unaccounted variables.
    Reply
  • wussupi83
    18215384 said:
    18213675 said:
    Wow Tom's, Seagate sales are down and you avoid every possible way of saying it had anything to do with the fact that their drives were failing at rates much higher than their competitors in Backblazes environment. The fact that you avoided this MAJOR detail and the fact that just days after that Backblaze data was released you ran a huge article praising Seagate up and down after a visit to their factory is pretty good evidence, in my worthless opinion, that there was some advertising dollars thrown your way to sweep it under the rug (not to mention the background of your site right now is advertising a Seagate drive). I suppose you're just a business at the end of the day and one can't take it too personal but seriously, when it gets in the way of journalistic integrity it's hard to look the other way.

    If we were beholden to Seagate we would not be mentioning the fact that Seagate is having severe issues, a fact that I have covered in many dedicated stand-alone articles as the news progressed. You will not find articles from a reputable source that draw a direct line between Seagate's current situation and the Backblaze tests, as the real reason is the declining PC market, as we cite in every piece (and as many other sites report).

    I have criticized the Backblaze findings at another site that I worked for, long long before I ever came to Tom's. If you wish to find said articles, a simple Google will suffice. I am not influenced in any way, shape, or form by advertising dollars. The site where I published the previous article exposing the incorrect Backblaze test methodology has never received any advertising money from Seagate, to this day (to my knowledge).

    Tom's Hardware has never attempted to shape/alter my coverage, and frankly, I do not appreciate the suggestion that it has.

    I cannot speak to the article about the factory visit, but if it is the one I am thinking of, that was published years after the initial Backblaze "reports", which began several years ago.


    Paul,

    I appreciate your response but if the avoiding the mentioning of the Backblaze data was not deliberate than it was very poor oversight on your part considering that it was major headlines on your site less than 6 months ago and also on many other major tech sites; Therefore, I advise you to perform more research before publishing such data while neglecting a major data point. Also the article was published right after the latest scandal headlines, you may have ran one years ago but that is not the one I am referring to.

    Source:Tom's Article On Seagate Class Action Published Feb 2, 2016: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/seagate-hdd-failure-lawsuit-3tb,31118.html
    Tom's Article On "How Seagate Tests It's Hard Drives" Factory Tour Feb 9, 2016: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/how-seagate-tests-hard-drives,4408.html
    Reply
  • wussupi83
    18215394 said:
    18215384 said:
    18213675 said:
    Wow Tom's, Seagate sales are down and you avoid every possible way of saying it had anything to do with the fact that their drives were failing at rates much higher than their competitors in Backblazes environment. The fact that you avoided this MAJOR detail and the fact that just days after that Backblaze data was released you ran a huge article praising Seagate up and down after a visit to their factory is pretty good evidence, in my worthless opinion, that there was some advertising dollars thrown your way to sweep it under the rug (not to mention the background of your site right now is advertising a Seagate drive). I suppose you're just a business at the end of the day and one can't take it too personal but seriously, when it gets in the way of journalistic integrity it's hard to look the other way.


    If we were beholden to Seagate we would not be mentioning the fact that Seagate is having severe issues, a fact that I have covered in many dedicated stand-alone articles as the news progressed. You will not find articles from a reputable source that draw a direct line between Seagate's current situation and the Backblaze tests, as the real reason is the declining PC market, as we cite in every piece (and as many other sites report).

    I have criticized the Backblaze findings at another site that I worked for, long long before I ever came to Tom's. If you wish to find said articles, a simple Google will suffice. I am not influenced in any way, shape, or form by advertising dollars. The site where I published the previous article exposing the incorrect Backblaze test methodology has never received any advertising money from Seagate, to this day (to my knowledge).

    Tom's Hardware has never attempted to shape/alter my coverage, and frankly, I do not appreciate the suggestion that it has.

    I cannot speak to the article about the factory visit, but if it is the one I am thinking of, that was published years after the initial Backblaze "reports", which began several years ago.

    100% this. The Backblaze data is useless since there are so many unaccounted variables.

    Anyone who actually has taken the time to read the data on Backblazes website about their storage pods and hard drive usage knows that answer is a complete cough out and you're plain wrong.

    First of all, Backblaze ran enterprise drives in the exact same configuration as these consumer drives and there was absolutely not a shred of difference in failure rates for the 3 years the study ran vs their consumer counterparts. Seagate's drives experienced high failure rates within the same 3 years.

    Second of all, Seagate's competitor's consumer drives were performing statistically significantly better. Therefore, even if you say it had to do with the environment, Seagate's drive quality was still way below their competitors and deserved the bad press.
    Reply
  • PaulAlcorn
    18218741 said:

    Paul,

    I appreciate your response but if the avoiding the mentioning of the Backblaze data was not deliberate than it was very poor oversight on your part considering that it was major headlines on your site less than 6 months ago and also on many other major tech sites; Therefore, I advise you to perform more research before publishing such data while neglecting a major data point. Also the article was published right after the latest scandal headlines, you may have ran one years ago but that is not the one I am referring to.

    Source:Tom's Article On Seagate Class Action Published Feb 2, 2016: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/seagate-hdd-failure-lawsuit-3tb,31118.html
    Tom's Article On "How Seagate Tests It's Hard Drives" Factory Tour Feb 9, 2016: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/how-seagate-tests-hard-drives,4408.html


    Yes, I wrote the piece on the class action lawsuit that the firm was attempting to drum up. Note, there has been no news on their attempts since (ie., it failed).

    It was not poor oversight to not mention it. The vast majority of Seagate's sales are in OEM contracts into the consumer notebook and PC market. These buyers are not concerned with the Backblaze findings, as they are all too aware that the "findings" are inherently flawed.

    Perhaps you should go read some of the latest updates, which now have WD in the lead position as the worst for 2016 - in fact, the WD failure rate is double that of Seagate. Don't you think I would have jumped on that and written that for the world to see if I was attempting to glorify Seagate?

    I cannot speak to the release of the factory tour article, as I was not involved in that project and had no knowledge of it. However, I know that piece was likely not done in 7 days (visit, writeup, edit). It would be hard for our edit team to schedule the piece around a time that does not coincide with a Backblaze update, if you keep track of them then you would be aware that they occur frequently.

    The outline of the Seagate issues in this piece was brief, as it is merely an update to an ongoing issue that we are covering. If you click the link I provided in the text it will take you to an article, written by myself, that goes into the full outline of just what market forces are causing Seagate to plunge, and why. You will also note that I did not dive in to the Intel reasons either, as I provided a link to further analysis I had already written. I did break down Micron a bit, but merely because I had to, as I had not covered the issue before.

    Backblaze certainly hurt Seagate's reputation badly, there is no doubt of that. However, if you go and read market breakdowns that show the decline in units shipped, as I do on a quarterly basis, then you will see that the WD and Seagate sales and units shipped are declining in lockstep (at nearly the same rate). If Backblaze had caused the Seagate plunge, dont you think it would have not affected WD, in fact, would WD not have TAKEN those sales? Well, neither happened, because it just is not a factor in the larger scheme of things.

    As much as I am loathe to link another site, please go to the second chart on this article to see the progression (and first chart on page 2). This type of data, and cold hard facts, are what I base my analysis upon, not simply because someone wishes that I mention something. http://www.anandtech.com/show/10315/market-views-hdd-shipments-down-q1-2016

    Please note that article does not mention Backblaze once. Also, note that if you read ANY analyst, or perhaps sourced paid analyst reports (some of which we have access to) they do not mention Backblaze.

    You claim that my non-mention is due to either "oversight" or "poor research". In fact, it is due to actual reasearch that goes beyond reading articles on the flawed Backblaze test from writers that wouldn't know the difference between a SATA or SAS HDD if I smacked them upside the head with it.
    Reply
  • PaulAlcorn
    18218784 said:

    Anyone who actually has taken the time to read the data on Backblazes website about their storage pods and hard drive usage knows that answer is a complete cough out and you're plain wrong.

    First of all, Backblaze ran enterprise drives in the exact same configuration as these consumer drives and there was absolutely not a shred of difference in failure rates for the 3 years the study ran vs their consumer counterparts. Seagate's drives experienced high failure rates within the same 3 years.

    Second of all, Seagate's competitor's consumer drives were performing statistically significantly better. Therefore, even if you say it had to do with the environment, Seagate's drive quality was still way below their competitors and deserved the bad press.



    Sorry, but every professional that I know that has examined the Backblaze methodology agrees it is flawed. If you read the current updates you will note that WD is failing at double the rate of Seagate in 2016.

    I wouldn't put too much stock in that, either, as you have no idea which chassis they are using, the data is worthless. They had several prior revisions that are inherently flawed and resulted in excessive failures. In fact, they provide well-documented updates on that - YET they continue to use the old chassis.
    Reply